Dennis Caplan Print E-mail
By Joel Benjamin   
October 5, 2006
Dear Joel,

The final game of Spassky-Fischer in 1972 ended with a position that could have continued. Was Spassky out of time or was there a point differential that caused the resignation? I analyzed this game and it seemed to be a draw. Can you enlighten me? The final move by white (Fischer) was move 41. Bd7:


Without mentioning positions Bobby had 4 pawns and a white bishop protecting 3 pawns and 1 pawn protected by the king. Boris had one rook and 2 pawns unprotected, which in itself appears a lost cause for Boris, but the black rook had threatening power. Maybe there is text explanation, but I have not found it yet.

Thanks, Dennis Caplan

This is the final position of the match, after white's 41.Bd7.The explanation you are looking for is that Fischer was BLACK in this game. Spassky sealed his last move (adjournments after forty moves were the custom of the day), but realized after Fischer's likely reply 41... Kg4! the passed h-pawn would decide the game in Black's favor.

You would think that with the match on the line, Spassky would fight tooth and nail to save the game. Instead he literally phoned in his resignation! Spassky played several poor moves in an endgame that should have been drawn. With the score of the 24-game match at 11.5-8.5, Fischer only need one more point to win the match. Spassky knew that a draw would only prolong the inevitable. Understandably, he didn't defend with the greatest tenacity.

And that is the first - and possibly the last - Bobby Fischer question I answer in this column!

Joel Benjamin