Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Boris Spassky

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 Keres at Riga 1965 with careful strategy, triumphing in the last game to win 6-4 (+4 =4 -2). Also at Riga, he defeated Efim Geller with mating attacks, winning by 5½-2½ (+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 Tal the legendary tactician (Tbilisi 1965), 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 by 7-4 (+4 =6 -1). This led to his first World Championship match against Tigran Petrosian in 1966.
Spassky won two tournaments in the run-up to the final. He shared first at the Chigorin Memorial in Sochi in 1965 with Wolfgang Unzicker on 10½/15. Then he tied for first at Hastings 1965-66 with Wolfgang Uhlmann on 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 Monica 1966 (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 Sochi 1967 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 (5½-2½, +3 =5 -0). He next met Bent Larsen at Malmö, and won by 5½-2½. The final was against his Leningrad rival Viktor Korchnoi at Kiev, and Spassky triumphed with 6½-3½.
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 by 12½-10½.
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 Leiden 1970 with 7/12. Spassky shared 1st-2nd at Amsterdam 1970 with Lev Polugaevsky on 11½/15. He was third at Goteborg 1971 with 8/11, behind winners Vlastimil Hort and Ulf Andersson. He shared 1st-2nd with Hans Ree at the 1971 Canadian Open Chess Championship in Vancouver.
Spassky's reign as a world champion only lasted for three years, as he lost to Bobby Fischer of the United States in 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, by 12½-8½. 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.

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