- Boris Spassky
Infobox chess player
playername = Boris Spassky
caption = Boris Spassky, 1989
birthname = Boris Vasilievich Spassky
Soviet Union, France
datebirth = birth date and age|1937|1|30
placebirth = Leningrad, Soviet Union
title = Grandmaster
worldchampion = 1969-1972
rating = 2548
peakrating = 2690 (January 1971)
Boris Vasilievich Spassky (also Spasskij) ( _ru. Бори́с Васи́льевич Спа́сский) (born
January 30, 1937) is a Russian-French chessgrandmaster. He was the tenth World Chess Champion, holding the title from 1969 to 1972.
Spassky won the
Soviet Chess Championshiptwice outright (1961, 1973), and twice more lost in playoffs (1956, 1963), after tying for first during the event proper. He was a World Chess Championship Candidateon seven occasions (1956, 1965, 1968, 1974, 1977, 1980, and 1985).
He was born in Leningrad, (now Saint Petersburg) and learned to play chess at the age of five on the train evacuating from Leningrad during World War II. Spassky was the most impressive Soviet
chess prodigysince Mikhail Botvinnik. He first drew wide attention in 1947 at age ten, when he defeated Soviet champion Botvinnik in a simultaneous exhibition. His early coach was Vladimir Zak, a respected master and trainer. During his youth, from the age of ten, Spassky often worked on chess for up to five hours a day with Master-level coaches. He set records as the youngest Soviet player to achieve First Category rank (age 10), Candidate Master rank (age 11), and Master rank (age 15). At age 15 in 1952, Spassky scored 50 percent in the Soviet Championship semi-final at Riga, and placed second in the Leningrad Championship that same year.
At age 16, Spassky scored very impressively in 1953 at a strong international tournament in
Bucharest, Romania, finishing tied 4th-6th with 12/19, as the winner was his future trainer Alexander Tolush. He was awarded the title of International Masterby FIDE. In his first attempt at the Soviet Championshipfinal, URS-ch22, Moscow1955, at age 18, he tied for 3rd-6th places with 11½/19, as the joint winners were Vasily Smyslovand Efim Geller. This excellent result qualified him for the Goteborg Interzonallater that year.
At age 18 he won the
World Junior Chess Championshipheld at Antwerp, Belgium, with a dominant score of 14/16, and became a Grandmaster, the youngest ever at the time. Spassky competed for the Lokomotiv Voluntary Sports Society.
By his tied 7th-9th place, with 11/20, at the 1955
Goteborg Interzonal, he qualified into the 1956 Candidates' Tournament, held in Amsterdam. There, he finished in the middle of the ten-player world-class field, tied 3rd-7th places with 9½/18, astonishing for a 19-year-old. Expectations for him were very high, and this put pressure on the young star. At the 1956 Soviet final, URS-ch23, held in Leningrad, Spassky tied for 1st-3rd places on 11½/19 with Mark Taimanovand Yuri Averbakh, but Taimanov won the further playoff to become champion. Spassky then tied for first with Tolush in a strong Leningrad tournament later in 1956.
But Spassky then went into a comparative slump. Failing to qualify for the next two
Interzonals (1958 and 1961), the first step to the World Chess Championship.
In the 1957 Soviet final, URS-ch24 at Moscow, Spassky finished tied 4th-5th with 13/21, as
Mikhail Talwon. Tal and Spassky were roughly the same age, and Spassky had up to then outperformed Tal, but in the next few years it was Tal who was excelled, winning the World Title in 1960.
Spassky failed to qualify for the 1958
Interzonalafter losing to Tal in a very nervy last-round game in the 1958 Soviet final, URS-ch25 at Riga. He had the advantage for much of the game, but missed a difficult win after adjournment, then later refused a draw. A win would have qualified him for the Interzonal, and a draw would have ensured a share of fourth place with Yuri Averbakh, with qualification possible via a playoff.
Spassky tied for first place at Moscow 1959 on 7/11 with Smyslov and
David Bronstein. He just missed winning the title at the next Soviet final, URS-ch26 at Tbilisi1959, finishing half a point behind champion Tigran Petrosianand in a tied 2nd-3rd place with Tal, on 12½/19. Some consolation was provided by his impressive victory at Riga1959 with 11½/13, well ahead of Tal, who had in the meantime qualified for a 1960 World title match with Champion Mikhail Botvinnik. Spassky was in the middle of the pack at the next Soviet final, URS-ch27 at Leningrad, with 10/19, as fellow Leningrader Viktor Korchnoiwon. Spassky journeyed to Argentina, where he tied for 1st-2nd places at Mar del Plata 1960 with Bobby Fischeron 13½/15, and he beat Fischer in their head-to-head game, their first meeting.
Another crushing disappointment for Spassky came at the qualifier for the next Interzonal, the Soviet final URS-ch28 at Moscow 1961, where he again missed advancing by one place, finishing tied 5th-6th with 11/19, as Petrosian won.
Resurgence with trainer change
Spassky decided upon a switch in trainers, from the volatile attacker
Alexander Tolushto the calmer strategist Igor Bondarevsky. This proved the key to his resurgence. He won his first of two USSR Championships, URS-ch29, at Baku1961, with a powerful 14.5/20. Spassky tied 2nd-3rd at Havana1962 with 16/21, behind winner Miguel Najdorf. He placed joint 5th-6th at Yerevan1962, URS-ch30, with 11.5/19. At Leningrad 1963, the site for URS-ch31, Spassky tied for 1st-3rd with Leonid Steinand Ratmir Kholmov, but Stein wound up the playoff winner. Spassky won at Belgrade1964 with 13/17, ahead of Korchnoi and Borislav Ivkov. He was fourth at Sochi1964 with 9.5/15, as Nikolai Krogiuswon.
Then, in the 1964 Soviet Zonal at Moscow, a double-round event and one of the strongest tournaments ever organized, Spassky won with 7/12, to advance to the
Amsterdam Interzonalthe same year. At Amsterdam, he tied for 1st-4th places, along with Tal, Vasily Smyslov, and Bent Larsen, on 17/23. He qualified for the Candidates' Matches the next year. With Bondarevsky, Spassky's style broadened and deepened, with poor results mostly banished, yet his fighting spirit was even enhanced. He added psychology and surprise to his quiver, and this proved enough to send him to the top.
Spassky was considered an all-rounder on the chess board, and his adaptable "universal style" was a distinct advantage in beating many top Grandmasters. In the 1965 cycle, he beat
Paul Keresat Riga1965 with careful strategy, triumphing in the last game to win 6-4 (+4 =4 -2). Also at Riga, he defeated Efim Gellerwith mating attacks, winning with 5½/8 (+3 =5 -0). Then, in his Candidates' Final match (the match which determines who will challenge the reigning world champion for the title) against Mikhail Talthe legendary tactician ( Tbilisi1965), Spassky often managed to steer play into quieter positions, either avoiding former champion Tal's tactical strength, or extracting too high a price for complications. He won with 7/11 (+4 =6 -1). This led to his first World Championship match against Tigran Petrosianin 1966.
Spassky won two tournaments in the run-up to the final. He shared first at the
Chigorin Memorialin Sochiin 1965 with Wolfgang Unzickeron 10½/15. Then he tied for first at Hastings 1965-66 with Wolfgang Uhlmannon 7½/9.
Spassky lost the final match in Moscow narrowly, with three wins against Petrosian's four wins, with the two sharing 17 draws. However, a few months after the match, Spassky finished ahead of Petrosian and a super-class field at
Santa Monica1966 (the Piatigorsky Cup), with 11½/18, half a point ahead of Bobby Fischer. Spassky also won at Beverwijk 1967 with 11/15 ahead of Anatoly Lutikov, and shared 1st-5th places at Sochi1967 on 10/15 with Krogius, Alexander Zaitsev, Leonid Shamkovich, and Vladimir Simagin.
As losing finalist in 1966, Spassky was seeded into the next Candidates' cycle. In 1968, he faced Geller again, this time at
Sukhumi, and won by the same margin as in 1965 (5½/8, +3 =5 -0). He next met Bent Larsenat Malmö, and won with 5½/8. The final was against his Leningrad rival Viktor Korchnoiat Kiev, and Spassky triumphed with 6½/10.
This earned him another challenge against Petrosian, at Moscow 1969. Spassky's flexibility of style was the key to his eventual victory over Petrosian by two points in the 1969 World Championship. Spassky won with 12½/23.
During Spassky's three-year reign as World Champion, he won several more tournaments. He placed first at San Juan 1969 with 11½/15. He won a very strong tournament at
Leiden1970 with 7/12. Spassky shared 1st-2nd at Amsterdam1970 with Lev Polugaevskyon 11½/15. He was third at Goteborg1971 with 8/11, behind winners Vlastimil Hortand Ulf Andersson. He shared 1st-2nd with Hans Reeat the 1971 Canadian Open Chess Championshipin Vancouver.
Spassky's reign as a world champion only lasted for three years, as he lost to
Bobby Fischerof the United Statesin 1972 in the "Match of the Century". The contest took place in Reykjavík, Iceland, at the height of the Cold War, and consequently was seen as symbolic of the political confrontation between the two superpowers. Going into the match, Fischer had never won a game from Spassky in five attempts, while losing three times. In addition, Spassky had secured Geller as his coach, and Geller also had a plus score against Fischer. However, Fischer was in excellent form, and won the title match convincingly, with 12½/21. Although Spassky did lose the title match, he performed much better than had the three other Candidates ( Mark Taimanov, Bent Larsen, and Tigran Petrosian) whom Fischer had defeated convincingly on his approach to the finals.
Continued to challenge
Spassky continued to play some excellent chess after losing his crown, winning several championships. In 1973, he tied 1st-3rd at
Dortmundon 9½/15, along with Hans-Joachim Hechtand Ulf Andersson. A very important victory for him was the 1973 Soviet Chess Championshipat Moscow(URS-ch41). He scored 11½/17 to finish ahead of a super-class field.
In the 1974 Candidates' matches, Spassky first defeated American
Robert Byrnein Puerto Ricowith 4½/6 (+3 =3 -0). But he then lost the semi-final match to the up-and-coming Anatoly Karpovin Leningrad, (+1 -4 =6). Karpov had publicly acknowledged that Spassky was superior, but had nevertheless outplayed him over the board. However, Spassky's chances were badly damaged by the defection of his coach Efim Gellerto Karpov's side before the match. Spassky's play lacked its usual assuredness in this match; he had to be wondering whether Geller had betrayed his secrets to Karpov.
In 1976, Spassky had to return to the Interzonal stage, failed to qualify from the
Manila Interzonal, but was seeded into the Candidates' matches when Fischer declined his place. Spassky won an exhibition match with rising Dutch Grandmaster Jan Timmanat Amsterdam1977 with 4/6. He triumphed narrowly in extra games in his first Candidates' match over Vlastimil Hortat Reykjavík1977 with 8½/16. This match saw Spassky fall ill, exhaust all of his available rest days while recovering; then the healthy Hort, in one of the most sportsmanlike acts in chess history, used one of his own rest days, to allow Spassky more time to recover; Spassky eventually won the match.
Spassky won an exhibition match over
Robert Hübnerat Solingen1977 with 3½/6, then defeated Lubomir Kavalek, also at Solingen, by 4/6 in another exhibition match. His next Candidates' match was against Lajos Portischat Geneva1977, and Spassky won again with 8½/15, to qualify for the Candidates' final. But at Belgrade1977, Spassky lost to Viktor Korchnoi, +4 -7 =7.
Spassky, as losing finalist, was seeded into the 1980 Candidates' matches, and faced
Lajos Portischagain in Mexico. After 14 games, the two players were tied at 7-7, but Portisch advanced since he had won more games with the Black pieces. Spassky missed qualification from the 1982 Toluca Interzonal with 8/13, finishing half a point short in third place behind Portisch and Eugenio Torre. The 1985 Candidates' event was held as a round-robin tournament at Montpellier, France, and Spassky was seeded in as an organizer's choice. He scored 8/15 to tie for 6th-7th places, behind joint winners Andrei Sokolov, Rafael Vaganian, and Artur Yusupov, but only four players advanced to matches. This was Spassky's last appearance at the Candidates' level, 29 years after his first qualification in 1956.
International team results
Spassky played five times for the USSR in Student Olympiads, winning eight medals. He scored 38½/47 (+31 =15 -1), for an outstanding 81.9 percent. His complete results, from http://www.olimpbase.org/playersy/59pz3v1e.html (1955, 1957, 1958, 1960), and from http://www.olimpbase.org/1962y/1962urs.html (1962), follow.
Lyon1955, board 2, 7½/8 (+7 =1 -0), team gold, board gold;
Reykjavík1957, board 2, 7/9 (+5 =4 -0), team gold, board gold;
Varna1958, board 2, 6½/9 (+4 =5 -0), team gold;
Leningrad1960, board 1, 10/12 (+9 =2 -1), team silver;
Marianske Lazne1962, board 1, 7½/9 (+6 =3 -0), team gold, board gold.
Spassky played twice for the USSR in the European Team Championships, winning four gold medals. He scored 8½/12 (+5 =7 -0), for 70.8 percent. His complete results, from http://www.olimpbase.org, follow.
Vienna1957, board 5, 3½/5 (+2 =3 -0), team gold, board gold;
Bath, Somerset1973, board 1, 5/7 (+3 =4 -0), team gold, board gold.
Spassky played seven times for the Soviet Olympiad team. He won 13 medals, and scored (+45 =48 -1), for 73.4 percent. His complete results, from http://www.olimpbase.org, follow.
Varna1962, board 3, 11/14 (+8 =6 -0), team gold, board gold medal;
Tel Aviv1964, 2nd reserve, 10½/13 (+8 =5 -0), team gold, board bronze;
Havana1966, board 2, 10/15, team gold.
Lugano1968, board 2, 10/14, team gold, board bronze;
Siegen1970, board 1, 9½/12, team gold, board gold;
Nice1974, board 3, 11/15, board gold, team gold;
Buenos Aires1978, board 1, 7/11 (+4 =6 -1), team silver.
Spassky played board one in the USSR vs. Rest of the World match at
Belgrade1970, scoring 1½/3 against Larsen.
Spassky then represented
Francein three Olympiads, always on board one. For Thessaloniki1984, he scored 8/14 (+2 =12 -0). At Dubai1986, he scored 9/14 (+4 =10 -0). Finally at Thessaloniki1988, he scored 7½/13 (+3 =9 -1). He also played board one for France at the inaugural World Team Championships, Lucerne1985, where he scored 5½/9 (+3 =5 -1).
Spassky's later years showed a reluctance to totally devote himself to chess. He relied on his natural talent for the game, and sometimes would rather play a game of tennis than work hard at the board. Since 1976, Spassky has been happily settled in France with his third wife; he became a French citizen in 1978, and has competed for France in the
But Spassky did score some notable triumphs in his later years. He tied for first at the elite tournament
Bugojno1978 on 10/15, with World Champion Anatoly Karpov. He was clear first at Montilla- Moriles1978 with 6½/9. At Munich1979, he tied for 2nd-4th places with 8½/13 behind Yuri Balashov. He tied for 1st-2nd at Baden- Vienna1980 on 10½/15 with Alexander Beliavsky. He won his preliminary group at Hamburg1982 with a powerful 5½/6, but lost the final playoff match to Anatoly Karpov in extra games ("Learn From Your Defeats", by Anatoly Karpov, Batsford1985). His best result during this period was clear first at Linares 1983 with 6½/10, ahead of World Champion Karpov and Ulf Andersson, who shared second. At LondonLloyds' Bank Open 1984, he tied 1st-3rd with John Nunnand Murray Chandler, on 7/9. He won at Reykjavík1985. At Brussels1985, he placed second with 10½/13 behind his old rival Korchnoi. At Reggio Emilia 1986, he tied for 2nd-5th places with 6/11 behind Zoltan Ribli. He swept Fernand Gobet 4-0 in a match at Fribourg1987. He tied for 1st-3rd at Wellington1988 with Chandler and Eduard Gufeld. Spassky maintained a top ten world ranking into the mid-1980s.
However, Spassky's performances in the World Cup events of 1988 and 1989 showed that he could by this stage finish no higher than the middle of the pack against elite fields. At
BelfortWC 1988, he scored 8/15 for a joint 4th-7th place, as Garry Kasparovwon. At ReykjavíkWC 1988, he could manage just 7/17 for a joint 15th-16th place, with Kasparov again winning. Finally, at BarcelonaWC 1989, Spassky scored 7½/16 for a tied 8th-12th place, as Kasparov shared first with Ljubomir Ljubojevic.
Spassky played in the 1990 French Championship at
Angers, placing fourth with 10½/15, as Marc Santo Romanwon. At Salamanca1991, he placed 2nd with 7½/11 behind winner Evgeny Vladimirov. Then in the 1991 French Championship, he scored 9½/15 for a tied 4th-5th place, as Santo Roman won again.
In 1992, Bobby Fischer, after a 20-year hiatus from chess, re-emerged to arrange a "Revenge Match of the 20th century" against Spassky in
Montenegroand Belgrade; this was a rematch of the 1972 World Championship. At the time, Spassky was rated 106th in the FIDE rankings, and Fischer did not appear on the list at all (owing to his 20-year inactivity). This match was essentially Spassky's last major challenge. Spassky lost the match with a score of +5 -10 =15. Spassky then played young female prodigy Judit Polgarin a 1993 match at Budapest, losing narrowly with 4½/10.
Spassky continued to play occasional events through much of the 1990s, such as the Veterans versus Women series.
October 1, 2006, Spassky suffered a strokeduring a chess lecture in San Francisco; his wife Marina reported several days later that Spassky was doing well. In his first major post-stroke play, he drew a six-game rapid match with Hungarian Grandmaster Lajos Portischin April 2007.
Spassky's best years were as a youthful prodigy in the mid 1950s, and then again as an adult in the mid to late 1960s. He seemed to lose ambition once he became World Champion. Perhaps since the climb had been so difficult, through so many super-strong Soviet players, he had little left at that stage. The first match with Fischer took a severe nervous toll; his preparation was largely bypassed by Fischer. He keenly felt the disappointment of his nation for losing the title.
Never a true openings maven, at least when compared to contemporaries such as Geller and Fischer, he excelled in the middlegame with highly imaginative yet usually sound and deeply planned play, which could erupt into tactical violence as needed.
Spassky succeeded with a wide variety of openings, including the
King's Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.f4, an aggressive and risky line rarely seen at the top level. Indeed, his record of 16 wins (including wins against Bobby Fischer, David Bronstein, and Anatoly Karpov), no losses, and a few draws with the King's Gambit is unmatched.Fact|date=April 2007 His contributions to opening theory extend to reviving the Marshall Attackfor Black in the Ruy Lopez(1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5), developing the Leningrad Variation for White in the Nimzo-Indian Defence(1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Bg5), the Spassky Variation on the Black side of the Nimzo-Indian, and the Closed Variation of the Sicilian Defencefor White (1.e4 c5 2.Nc3). Another rare line in the King's Indian Attackbears his name: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 b5!?
Spassky is respected as a universal player, a great storyteller, a "bon vivant" on occasion, and someone who is rarely afraid to speak his mind on controversial chess issues, and who usually has something important to relate.
The chess game between "Kronsteen" and "McAdams" in the early part of the
James Bondmovie "From Russia With Love" is based on a game [http://www.chessbase.com/newsprint.asp?newsid=1882] played between Spassky and David Bronsteinin 1960 in which Spassky ("Kronsteen") was victorious.
Notable chess games
* [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1044620, Boris Spassky vs Robert Fischer, Santa Monica 1966, Grunfeld Defence, Exchange Variation (D87), 1-0] Fischer seems to equalize in a sharp game, but he makes a small mistake and Spassky finishes nicely.
* [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1049394, Boris Spassky vs Efim Geller, Sukhumi Candidates' match 1968, game 6, Sicilian Defence, Closed Variation (B25), 1-0] One of three beautiful wins by Spassky over Geller in this match using the same variation, which is one of Spassky's favorites.
* [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1106864, Boris Spassky vs Tigran Petrosian, World Championship match, Moscow 1969, game 19, Sicilian Defence, Najdorf Variation (B94), 1-0] Aggressive style of play and brilliant sparkles of combinations shows Spassky at his heights.
* [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1128831, Bent Larsen vs Boris Spassky, Belgrade 1970 (match USSR vs. Rest of the World), Nimzo-Larsen Attack, Modern Variation (A01), 0-1] Another nice short win over a noted grandmaster.
* [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1044698, Boris Spassky vs Robert Fischer, Siegen Olympiad 1970, Grunfeld Defence, Exchange Variation (D87), 1-0] Fischer tries the Grunfeld again against Spassky, and the game is remarkably similar to their 1966 encounter.
* [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1044724, Boris Spassky vs Robert Fischer, World Championship match, Reykjavík 1972, game 11, Sicilian Defense, Najdorf, Poisoned Pawn Variation (B97), 1-0] Fischer's first and only loss with the Poisoned Pawn variation.
* [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1067809, Anatoly Karpov vs Boris Spassky, Candidates' match, Leningrad 1974, game 1, Sicilian Defence, Scheveningen Variation (B83), 0-1] Spassky lost the match, but he started very strongly in the first game with this fine win.
* "Spassky's Best Games" by Bernard Cafferty, Batsford, 1969.
* "World chess champions" by
Edward G. Winter, editor. 1981 ISBN 0-08-024117-4
* "Twelve Great Chess Players and Their Best Games" by Irving Chernev; Dover; August 1995. ISBN 0-486-28674-6
* "No Regrets: Fischer-Spassky" by Yasser Seirawan; International Chess Enterprises; March 1997. ISBN 1-879479-08-7
* "Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time" by David Edmonds and John Eidinow; Ecco, 2004.
Garry Kasparov(2004). "My Great Predecessors, part III". Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-85744-371-3
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