Boris Vasilyevich Spassky

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Boris Spassky 1984 Saloniki.jpg
Boris Spassky at the 1984 Chess Olympiad
Surname Boris Vasilyevich Spassky
Association Soviet UnionSoviet Union Soviet Union (until 1982) France (1982-2013) Russia (since 2013)
Born January 30, 1937
Leningrad , Soviet Union
title International Master (1953)
Grand Master (1955)
World Champion 1969-1972
Current  Elo rating 2548 (August 2020)
Best Elo rating 2690 (July 1971)
Tab at the FIDE (English)

Boris Wassiljewitsch Spasski ( Russian Борис Васильевич Спасский , scientific transliteration Boris Vasil'evič Spasskij ; born  January 30, 1937 in Leningrad ) is a Russian - French chess player . By winning his second world championship match against Tigran Petrosjan after 1966 , Spasski was the tenth world champion in the history of chess from 1969 until he was defeated by American grandmaster Bobby Fischer in 1972 .



Boris Spassky learned chess at an early age: at the age of nine, he joined the chess section in the Leningrad Pioneer Palace. His enormous talent was immediately recognized and promoted by the state. In addition to providing the respected coach Vladimir Sak , Spassky received a monthly grant. As a ten-year-old he already achieved the Soviet level of the first category, as an eleven-year-old he won the championship of his chess section. In 1952 he took part in the semi-finals of the USSR championship in Riga and achieved 50 percent of the possible points. In the same year he was runner-up in the Leningrad Championship.

His successes prompted the Soviet Chess Federation to send him to Bucharest for his first international tournament in 1953 . Spasski shared places 4 to 6 and was then awarded the title of International Master by the World Chess Federation FIDE at the age of 16 .

Youth world champions and grandmasters

His streak of success did not end: in 1954 he won the prestigious "Tournament of Young Soviet Masters" in Leningrad and came fourth in the semifinals of the 22nd USSR Championship, which qualified him for the 1955 USSR Championship . At the USSR championship, which was also a zone tournament of the FIDE, Spasski reached the shared 2nd to 6th place and qualified for the interzonal tournament . Also that year Spasski was Junior World Champion U20 in Antwerp and took part in the interzonal tournament in Gothenburg , where he finished 7th to 9th place and thus qualified for the Candidates' tournament in Amsterdam in 1956 . For his successes, FIDE awarded him the title of Grand Master in 1955 . 1956 Spassky was at the 23rd USSR championship in Leningrad together with Averbach and Taimanow shared first.

Years of stagnation

His shared 3rd to 7th place in the Amsterdam Candidates Tournament was also a great success for the 19-year-old, but he was denied another great victory in the next few years. Twice (1958 and 1961) he lost, each in the lead, his game in the final round at USSR championships. Although he won the 29th USSR Championship in 1961, it was not a FIDE zone tournament. Only through a shared first to fourth place at the zone tournament of the USSR in 1964 could he qualify for the interzonal tournament again. At the interzonal tournament held in Amsterdam that same year, he also shared first to fourth place.

The first attempt at the world championship throne

His success entitled him to participate in the 1965 Candidates Tournament, which was organized for the first time in competitive form. He met Paul Keres in the quarterfinals , whom he eliminated 6: 4 (+4 = 4 −2), in the semifinals he beat Efim Geller even more clearly 5.5: 2.5 (+3 = 5 −0) and won that Final against ex-world champion Michail Tal 7: 4 (+4 = 6 −1).

He lost his first competition for the World Chess Championship in 1966 against Tigran Petrosyan with a score of 11.5: 12.5 (3 wins, 4 losses, 17 draws). Spasski was about to go through the candidate fights again for the next World Cup cycle. As a loser in the World Cup, he was eligible for the 1968 Candidates' tournament. In the quarter-finals he met Efim Geller again, whom he defeated with the same result as in 1965: 5.5: 2.5 (+3 = 5 −0). In the semifinals he defeated the Dane Bent Larsen 5.5: 2.5 (+4 = 3 −1), in the final finally the Leningrad Viktor Korchnoi 6.5: 3.5 (+4 = 5 −1) and became a challenger again by Tigran Petrosyan.

World champion 1969 to 1972

In the 1969 world championship match, Spasski proved to be significantly better prepared. He defeated Petrosyan with 12.5: 10.5 (6 wins, 4 losses, 13 draws) and became the 10th world chess champion in history. In 1970 he played three games against Bent Larsen (1.5: 1.5) on the top board for the Soviet Union in the competition between the USSR and the rest of the world , in the same year he won the Chess Olympiad in Siegen with 9.5 points from 12 games Gold medal on the first board. In interviews, he later said that the years as world champion had been the most unhappy of his life, as he felt burdened by the responsibility that came with it.

On September 1, 1972, he lost the title in Reykjavík against Bobby Fischer with the final score of 8.5: 12.5 (3 wins, 7 losses, 11 draws), against whom he had a positive record until then. Due to his defeat in the match with the American grandmaster, hyped up by the mass media for the competition of systems ( match of the century ), Spassky fell out of favor at home. He was accused of having frivolously gambled away his title through poor preparation. In Reykjavík, Spasski had numerous Soviet grandmasters available as helpers, while Fischer, for his part, did not accept any seconds or employees. Spassky finally rehabilitated himself in 1973 by winning the 41st USSR championship.

Last candidate fights

Boris Spasski in the German Chess League, October 1980

In 1974 he failed in the semi-finals of the candidate fights against the young top player Anatoly Karpov , who became the 12th world champion in 1975 after Fischer's retirement from chess. In 1977 Spasski lost the candidate final against Viktor Kortschnoi and in 1980 the quarter-finals (against Lajos Portisch ). Spasski made no further attempts to qualify again for a world championship fight except for the candidates' tournament in Montpellier 1985 (6th-7th place).

National team

Spassky took part in ten Chess Olympiads . With the Soviet Union he won in 1962 , 1964 , 1966 , 1968 , 1970 and 1974 and reached second place in 1978 , he also won the individual classification on the third board in 1962 and on the first board in 1970. After living in France since 1976 and also taking on French citizenship , he played on the top board for his new home at the 1984 , 1986 and 1988 Chess Olympiads . He also took part in the 1985 World Team Championships with France and won the European Team Championships in 1957 and 1973 with the USSR .


Spasski 1989 in Melbourne

In the 1960s and 1970s Spasski played for Lokomotiv . In the German federal chess league Spasski played from 1980 to 1990 for the Solingen SG 1868 , with which he was German team champion in 1981 , 1987 and 1988 . He took part with Solingen three times in the European Club Cup and won the competition in 1990. In France Spasski played for Lyon-Oyonnax , Belfort Échecs (with both clubs he also took part in the European Club Cup) and most recently in the 2001/02 season for NAO Caissa .

Competition with Bobby Fischer in Yugoslavia

In 1992 Spasski played an unofficial match against his friend Bobby Fischer , which he lost with 12.5: 17.5. This competition, which was organized after the American had abstained from chess for 20 years, took place in Yugoslavia , which was ravaged by the civil war and imposed by the USA with economic sanctions . The host was the head of the private bank Jugoskandik . The fact that Fischer went back to the chessboard was perceived by the chess world as a sensation, for which Spasski was also partly responsible. Fischer himself viewed the competition as a revenge match for the 1972 World Championship match.

The prosecution that Fischer had to face as a result of this event by the US state and which even resulted in him being imprisoned in Japan in 2004 and the threat of deportation to the USA, prompted Spasski (during Fischer's imprisonment in Japan) to write an open letter to the US -President George W. Bush asking for a correction to President François Mitterrand's 1992 mistake : Bobby and I committed the same crime. (...) Arrest me! Fischer's reaction was: I don't want him in my cell. I want a girl How about this Russian, what's her name, Kosteniuk ? Fischer later found political asylum in Iceland and died on January 17, 2008 in Reykjavík of kidney disease .

Elo development


Spasski was considered one of the most talented players ever. In his best phase, at the end of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s, he was feared as a particularly fine attacking player (in the middle game ), but who also handled the other game stages, such as the opening and the endgame , with extraordinary precision. In the former Soviet Union, as a result of Spasski's chess style, the term universal style was coined , which was considered to be the highest distinction for a chess master's style of play. After he had achieved his goal and became world champion, however, he lacked the absolute will to fully exploit his potential. He was increasingly satisfied with quick draws and described himself in interviews as a “lazy Russian bear”.


Boris Spassky at the 2008 Chess Olympiad

Spasski has not played an Elo-rated game since the 2001/02 season of the French team championship and is therefore listed as inactive by FIDE. Occasionally, however, he plays in exhibition fights, for example in Mainz in 2005 on the occasion of Wolfgang Unzicker’s 80th birthday or in Elista in December 2009 in a competition of eight games against Viktor Korchnoi, which ended in a draw. With his highest rating of 2690, he was second in the world rankings behind Bobby Fischer in July 1971. His best historical rating before Elo was introduced was 2773; he reached it in July 1969.


In 1975 he married a French woman who worked in the consular department of the French embassy in Moscow. Against the will of the leadership of the Soviet chess federation, he moved to France and received French citizenship the following year . After divorcing his wife after 37 years of marriage, he returned to Moscow in 2012. After two strokes , he was dependent on a wheelchair.

His sister Iraida Spasskaja (* 1944) won the Soviet checkers championship four times .


Spassky in the film

Spasski's brilliant win went down in film history: In the James Bond film From Russia With Love (1963) there is a sequence (with the figure of Grandmaster Kronsteen ) in which two chess masters sit opposite each other at the board. The modified version of the decisive position from Spassky - Bronstein, USSR Championship 1960 , in which Spassky made the winning move, is placed on the board .

The character of Spasski appears in two feature films about Bobby Fischer.


Web links

Commons : Boris Spasski  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Dagobert Kohlmeyer : Boris Spasski for the 70th! In: January 30, 2007, accessed October 23, 2019.
  2. ^ Dagobert Kohlmeyer: Boris Spasski - 75 years! In: January 30, 2012, accessed October 23, 2019.
  3. ^ Dagobert Kohlmeyer: On the 80th birthday of Boris Spassky In: January 30, 2017. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  4. Willy Iclicki: FIDE Golden book 1924-2002. Euroadria, Slovenia, 2002, p. 88.
  5. Willy Iclicki: FIDE Golden book 1924-2002. Euroadria, Slovenia, 2002, p. 74.
  6. 23rd USSR championship, Leningrad 1956 on TheChessLibrary (English)
  7. Boris Spasski's results at the Chess Olympiads on (English)
  8. Boris Spasski's results at the World Team Championships on (English)
  9. Boris Spasski's results at the European Team Championships on (English)
  10. Boris Spasski's results in Soviet club championships on (English)
  11. a b Boris Spasski's results at European Club Cups on (English)
  12. Numbers according to FIDE Elo lists. Data sources: (period since 2001), (period 1971 to 2001)
  13. Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam : Finding Bobby Fischer. Alkmaar 2015, p. 83.
  14. Lars Reichardt, The Second Man , in: Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin , April 22, 2016, p. 38.
  15. Boris Spassky Confirms: "I Felt Like Being Under Family Arrest", October 4, 2012.
  16. Lars Reichardt, The Second Man , in: Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin , April 22, 2016, p. 34.