Reports | March 31, 2011 2:30

Fischer-Spassky 1972, game 3, chess set auctioned

Fischer-Spassky chess set auctionedIt's one of the most famous stories in chess history. After losing the first, Bobby Fischer didn't show up for the second game of the 1972 World Championship match against Boris Spassky. The American was 0-2 down, and demanded that the third game would be played in a small room backstage. He won this game, and eventually the match. The chess set on which this third game was played, will be auctioned on Saturday, April 2nd. Update: Phil Weiss of Weiss Auctions informed us that the set sold for $76,275 with the buyers premium.

Chess fans can still watch the chess set on which the "Match of the Century" Fischer-Spassky was played in 1972. This set is on display at the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik, where it is kept under a glass cover.

However, for the legendary third game, which was played in a small room backstage, out of sight of the spectators, a different chess set was used. This set was given to Gudmundur G. Thorarinsson as a birthday present by the Icelandic Chess Federation in October 1972. At the time, Thorarinsson was President of the federation. The chess set has been in his private ownership ever since.

However, next Saturday the chess set is an item up for auction by Philip Weiss in New York. The auction will take place on April 2nd, at 10 AM eastern time (16:00 CET).

According to the information given by the auction house, the chess set was signed by both players and, to remove any last doubts, it also comes with a letter of authenticity. Besides, an interesting small extra note reads: 'Also a Collection of Personal Letters from Bobby Fischer.' This alone will attract the interest of collectors worldwide.

Fischer-Spassky chess set auctioned

The third game can be seen as a turning point of the match. In his 'A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma' from 1974 Lombardy wrote of the beginning of the game:

Spassky agreed to play the third game in the Ping-Pong room, though he acknowledged later it was a great psychological error. Fischer was willing to permit a remote-control, closed-circuit TV to monitor the proceedings; he never objected to remote-control cameras if they operated silently.

When Bobby arrived, Boris was, as usual, seated at the table. Bobby did not sit down but went around inspecting the television equipment, and at this point Boris betrayed indignant agitation. Bobby tested the remote-control camera for possible sources of noise. Schmid watched the proceedings and became anxious. He felt the match once more was in jeopardy. Schmid took Bobby by the arm in an effort to get him to the playing table. Bobby brushed off Schmid's entreaties. "The American grandmaster permitted himself great liberty in his remarks, which were very disagreeable to hear," Spassky said later. Finally satisfied with the camera, Bobby settled down for the match.

The game is also famous because it saw the birth of a revolutionary idea in the King's Indian / Benoni middlegame: the move ...Nf6-h5, when White can shatter Black's pawn structure by taking it with his bishop and Black having to take back with ...gxh5. Later it turned out that the move wasn't the best in this specific position, but when he faced it behind the board, Spassky couldn't cope with the problems that arose. Here's the game:

Game viewer by ChessTempo

We thank to Olafur Gauti Gudmundsson for the tip.


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Patrick Rasenberg's picture

Rather pathetic that the king and queen are in the wrong position in this picture.

esoxchess's picture

Briljant observation haha

Didfr's picture

In the same way, you can notice on Amber trophee, which is a chess board, that a black case is in the right bottom of the board.

globalpawn's picture

What are you talking about? The Queen and King are in the correct positions on the board in this picture.
Unless that picture was changed before you made this comment but I am pretty sure it is the same as yesterdays.

SXL's picture

Have another look.

Zeblakob's picture

Seems to me that you do not distinguish between man and woman also.

unknown's picture

Thumb up for Zeb!

Louis XXII's picture

Globalpawn may have a very important point here! Not the queen and king are inverted on this board, but black and white!
So Spassky actually won that 3rd game and the whole story of Fischer being world champion is just another giant conspiracy of the Jewish world government.

test's picture

What does the so called letter of authenticity say? "This is real, trust me"?

Fabrice's picture

I will try...
Who knows ? ;o)

Chesser's picture

In the introduction you mean the third game of the match, not the second.

Peter Doggers's picture

Ehm, not sure what you mean?

Chesser's picture

sorry I misread

respect the legends's picture

Well, it is common ‘practice’ –especially on films and advertisements – to place the chessboard wrongly (with a black right corner) or the shuffle between King and Queen e.t.c
But to do this in this special case is outrageous. How can it be that such ignorance isn’t noticed?
Of course the most outrageous similar case is ‘poor’ Alechine’s tombstone chessboard, with a VERY black h1 square !! And moreover the (re)construction of this board was financed by FIDE (no big surprise of course for that particular FIDE, but even so ,even so, how can they be so careless and disrespectful ? …What else is coming, I wonder…

Frits Fritschy's picture

It depends. If you want to play Alexander himself, it's wrongly placed. But you would have to wait for a counter move a bit long, anyway. If you want to play before him (with someone else), it's allright, although it may affect your entrance to heaven, or any other place he is staying at the moment.

john's picture

RIP Bobby Fischer

They can still try to make money off you even now, but they can no longer harm you.

Win's picture

Don't "worry". The person who harmed Fisher most (by far) was... himself!

He made an absolute idiot of himself. Most probably he WAS AFRAID of Karpov. Though he has never admitted this. He was the great player (some say the greatest) but definitely one of the worst personalities in the history of chess (ofc among the best players).

Rob Brown's picture

“The American grandmaster permitted himself great liberty in his remarks, which were very disagreeable to hear,” Spassky said later.

Of course, Bobby's remarks."Take your $%^^&&@ hands off me, Lothar. You @#$%^ goof!!" are now well known and housed in Fischer archives.

Nima's picture

I never thought someone would use "goof" and @#$%^ in the same sentence! :-)

CAL|Daniel's picture

how did the set changes hand from Gudmundur G. Thorarinsson to Philip Weiss?

Czekaj's picture

It seems to be a Jacques of London chess set, with red stamps on top of the King's Rook and the King's Knight

Milton's picture

Maybe Spassky intented to play 1. e4 in that game...

JustBe's picture

Any news, about the little boy of 10 years old, beating Anand?

Peter Doggers's picture

It was nice, but not THAT big a story, as it happened in a simul.

Zomerschaker's picture

Ah...that's quite a relief..The media made it appear as if this was a normal game...

CAL|Daniel's picture

link? I haven't heard anything about it.

Mac's picture

Id love to see that game - Im a curious guy !

Zeblakob's picture

hehehhe, nice news.

Ron's picture

The myth of later WC's beating or drawing current world champs is well known (Kasparov vs Karpov etc)

Solomon's picture

Anyone know what happened to the videos of the match made by Fox? Did he ever release it to the public?

Those would be great videos to see!

Anonymous's picture

I have wondered and asked the same things many times! Also would like to see some of the coverage that was done (PBS?) during the games. Somebody must have this stuff somewhere and I would love to be able to see it.

john marceaux's picture

Does anyone doubt Bobby Fisher being the best ever at chess?

Did he attend the famous Physical Culture and Sports Academy in Moscow? This is an excellent chess environment. Just take a look at who is attending and who has attended.... Booby had three people to play, myself and I....

john marceaux's picture

the black Queen is not on her color?? is this an oversight or ??

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