August 18, 2012 9:58

Spassky "escapes from captivity" in France, flees to Russia

Boris Spassky at the 2008 Olympiad in Dresden

In a shocking interview for one of the leading Russian newspapers Komsomolskaya Pravda, Boris Spassky says he was "mistreated" and "kept in captivity" in France, after being diagnosed with a stroke in September 2010. The 10th World Champion has chosen to return to Russia.

Boris Spassky at the 2008 Olympiad in Dresden

In September 2010 we reported the terrible news that Boris Spassky suffered a stroke and was taken to hospital. At the time the doctors were said to be fighting for his life, but a week later it was reported that Spassky's condition was stable. Later it would become known that the stroke had left him paralyzed on his left side. Spassky returned to France, where has lived since 1976, for a long rehabilitation programme.

Yesterday Komsomolskaya Pravda, a daily Russian tabloid newspaper, published an interview with Spassky. As it turns out the former World Champion has returned to Moscow. He says he was "mistreated" in the hospital in Paris where he was taken to after his stroke. Russian Women's Champion Natalija Pogonina translated part of the interview on her blog:

The ex-World Champion says that for some reason he was given soporifics all the time and isolated from any communication means - no phone calls, no Internet, nothing. He had numerous ulcers on his body from the pharmacology and thinks that it is not a coincidence. (...) The grandmaster claims he was on the verge of dying due to this pseudo-treatment and luckily escaped to Russia with the help of his friends.

From the interview it appears that Spassky's wife, Marina Shcherbacheva, played a role in cutting communication from their home. Interviewer Cyril Zangalis writes that Spassky was put "under house arrest" and his wife "cut him off the world".

I was isolated. I begged to send me to Russia, but no one heard.

Spassky was not able to inform people about his condition as he couldn't move about independently. His "escape" to Moscow was arranged by friends, who also needed to arrange travel documents. Spassky:

First, I needed documents because mysteriously I lost both my French and Russian passport. One can only assume that I was stolen. (...) So, the boys managed to pull me out of the house, put me in a car and drop me off at the Russian Embassy.

There, Spassky was given a temporary passport and on Thursday he to travelled to Moscow. The interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda was conducted via phone from a Moscow clinic.

Asked why all this happened, Spassky suggested that, although he's "not a rich man", his sudden death could mean financial gains for someone. Spassky, who is intending to live in Russia permanently, hopes to return to his "normal chess life". He is working on his autobiography.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Casaubon's picture

Never a dull moment in the chess world

me's picture

With all due respect to Boris Vasilievich, I think that stroke left serious consequences on his brain and is no loger capable of thinking clearly.

He is living in his own world now and is mixing things from the past into the present.


choufleur's picture

I have to agree, Spassky version is very hard to believe, as such at least. This is sad.

graba bpawnavich's picture

or ....he not getting on with mrs Spassy ....he will get the support he needs in russia

weng nian siow's picture

Dear Peter,

I admire your work and effort in CV and enjoy it. I understand you are a professional and needs to make a living but do you have to have the ad which starts automatically when I visit your excellent webpage?

Peter Doggers's picture

Please contact us directly for such matters.

choufleur's picture

I completely agree with weng nian siow. I expressed the same idea much less politely at another occasion.

filiusdextris's picture

agreed - even if you mute it, the next one starts unmuted in a few seconds. I have some stronger words which I will save for "contact us"

Angel's picture

easy fix, get firefox with adblock plus.

Peter Doggers's picture

Fyi, the sounds connected to the ads were the result of a mistake by the ad server. They've completely switched off sound now. Sorry for the inconvenience it may have caused.

thegreatbakker's picture

Another chess player who's gone mad, one of my heroes. How sad.

theun's picture

cuckoo/mad as a hatter/...and my guess is for quite some time

Harry_Flashman's picture

Well.. All this story from Spassky sadly reminds me about his friend Fischer's late phase of life....

st32's picture

Why does have to assume that hes crazy? Crazier things have happened and a person or people can do anything if the motive is worth enough.
More information will come from this soon, so I suggest that everyone waits and see

PeterV's picture

Anyhow, a sad story...

What's Next?'s picture

You don't trick Boris Spassky that easy. The man has found a winning counterattack at last! All the best, Boris!

Lev Zilbermintz's picture

I would not say that Spassky is crazy, as some suggest. Something is not right here, and it is not Spassky's mental health. If Mrs. Spassky wanted to inherit her husband's money, then that is a motive. The question is why would she do so?

I saw Spassky once, in the 1980s, when I was a teenager. He does not strike me as someone given to making up stories. I suspect that there is something to his story, as weird as it sounds. Why would he be held incommunicado? I used to be hospitalized myself, and I had communication!
The gist of Spassky's story is that someone decided to use his stroke for their own gain.
As the Romans used to say, who stands to profit? Obviously Mrs. Spassky is one of the prime suspects.

So do not be so quick as to disregard what Boris Vassilevich says. There might well be truth to it.

MW's picture

Spassky's story makes it sound like the hospital was complicit in keeping him incommunicado. What motivation could the hospital possibly have?

Chris's picture

right, and who were thouse 'friends' , that took Spassky to embassy and ....????

Michel83's picture

While there seems to be a lot of egocentric paranoia in what he says, there is one thing to say:
It's quite possible Spassky didn't get the best treatment (of course his conclusions/interpretations are another matter..) and the "explanation" could be quite easy and "boring":

He got the same treatmenet as a regular person... Sarkozy messed the french health system up quite well and now many french public hospitals are an underequipped, overworked catastrophe. So if he's not rich (and I doubt they know or care who Spassky is) I'm not surprised the "quality" wasn't that good.
I remember "Les Guignols de l'info" (a satirical show with rubber puppets) making a reality-show-parody about "6 sick candidates for one hospital bed! Who will win the show and get a treatment?".....

Michel83's picture

And in combination with an over-worked, stressed stuff we do not know how "needy" Spassky was, some patients can be stressful (esp. after the shock of a stroke and when they are famous) demanding stuff all the time. So what he perceives as "isolation" might have just been a result from that...

noyb's picture

Sound entirely plausible to me, having recently seen and witness the treatment of elderly in nursing homes in the United States. Quite scary! Get your own private medical attention whenever possible!!!

Niima's picture

Could be. We simply do not have enough info at this point.

Anonymous's picture

ObamaCare will end that.

Anonymous's picture

The source of the information is interesting: a russian newspaper, telling about a former russian chess hero, mistreated in the west, returning after years of exile to the helpful mother Russia to thankfully stay forever. And accidentally it happens now.

Thinking's picture

Agreed - just when Kasparov is arrested. Surely there is more to this.

tobacco's picture

Spassky - Kasparov.
There is a propaganda war going on.

Theo's picture

Yes, ads are annoying.

Henk de Jager's picture

What a strange story. Something is not right here, it might be Spassky, it might be the report. And yes, Adblock Plus in Firefox pretty much does the job.

Murius's picture

Thanks chessvibes, it's so rare to get a good laugh these days!

Thomas's picture

The Chessbase report might shed an entirely different light on this story: the "preface" attributed to Frederic Friedel includes this:
"Our last video Skype contact was early this year, when Boris was in good spirits and planning a visit to Hamburg, to record the story of his life. I have also known his wife Marina Shcherbacheva since Bilbao 2008. On Thursday I received an email from Boris, who was shocked by the news of his friend Svetozar Gligoric's death. We added it to our report. Then, later that night, an alarmed call from Marina, who told me that her husband had left their house and was apparently on his way to Moscow."

Huh? Spassky was supposedly cut off from the Internet for the last two years!!?? While it's possible to send a fake email from his account, it would take a lot of creativity (and criminal energy) to find a Spassky look-alike and talk-alike for a Skype conversation.

I am obviously speculating, but the extreme other end of the current story might be like this: Spassky "was escaped from captivity" (i.e. kidnapped), put on a plane to Moscow, maybe put on drugs and forced to give a 'shocking interview'.

Whatever one thinks of Frederic Friedel, it would be hard to believe that he made things up completely in his preface. Then it is odd (or at the very least extremely lazy) that Chessbase doesn't recognize the logical inconsistency between the preface and the interview that follows. BTW the suggestion that Spassky's wife played a role in his house arrest and isolation seems to be the interviewer's, not supported by a Spassky quote in either translation (Pogonina here and Steve Giddins on Chessbase).

Bartleby's picture

The chessbase report carefully avoids drawing conclusions. It just gives the sparse facts. Right now we just don't know enough to make sense of this story. No need to hurt either Spassky or his wife with speculations.

sirschratz's picture

well, mr. spassky can easily find out the difference between france and russia.

if his accusations are more than just the muttering of a senile egocentric he can sue the doctors.

You are insulting people Mr Spassky who saved your life. Ask Mr. Short about the hygienic standards of hospitals in russia.
You are insulting a country that saved your life because it can simply do more than the russian dictatorship.
Stay in russia, Mr Spassky, you won't survive a second stroke there.

!! Now this is a lesson in democracy !!
Stand up to your words Mr. Spassky and go to court - If you don't, you only prove that a man of strong words is not always a man of strong thought.

If I were the doctor who saved your life, Mr. Spassky, I would sue you. You are a disgrace and therefore Putin's russia is a good place for you.

valg321's picture

amazing how many people will draw so many conclusions from so little info and from dubious sources i might add...lets just wait if something more solid comes up before we bash on Mr. Spassky, shall we?

Thomas's picture

"from dubious sources"
Actually just one source ... . Does anyone know if the following description by BBC Monitoring in 2008 was, and is still correct?
"it [Komsomolskaya Pravda] has built its reputation on a gentle nostalgia for the Soviet period, firm backing for Kremlin policy and a keen interest in celebrity news and scandal from home and abroad."

If so, one wouldn't trust that their coverage of the Pussy Riot/Kasparov case is unbiased - and as others pointed out, Spassky's supposed case may be related rather than accidentally coinciding. More generally, I don't trust what I read in German, Dutch and British tabloids (actually that's the reason why I don't read them).

redivivo's picture

Strokes can do strange things to people.

trollaras's picture

That's what happens when you befriend yourself with a mad man.

Mark's picture

Good luck to the great sportsman Boris Spassky. I am saddened by some of the disrespectful posts.

40 Years ago he lost his titanic struggle with the great mortal Fischer yet produced one of the great moments of sportsmanship with his applause after game 6 and now he faces the final struggle which we will all one day face.

I hope he will write some of his memoirs as was mentioned in the interview.

laurent's picture

The so-called interview from Komsomolskaya Pravda can be all made up. Has someone really heard Spassky's alleged version of facts, or just read it ?

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