Home >Industry >I still speak to Bobby Fischer in my dreams: Boris Spassky 

Sochi, Russia: “I still speak to Bobby in my dreams," Boris Spassky suddenly breaks into chaste English, taking his audience by surprise. “Do you understand what I am saying?" the former world chess champion asks in a slightly raised voice after a brief pause, demanding a response from his dumbstruck audience.

As he continues to reflect on the late Bobby Fischer (Robert James Fischer), his successor as world chess champion, Spassky, 77, reveals he considers the American chess prodigy and maverick a friend, not a bête noire.

There wasn’t much camaraderie between them when Fischer in 1972 symbolically ended the Soviet control over chess, defeating Spassky in a world title match in Reykjavik, Iceland.

At the height of the Cold War, it was billed as the match of century, and till today remains the most-discussed chess contest ever. Because of its political symbolism, it was covered across the world, even in countries where there was little interest in chess.

“Bobby still discusses opening moves in my dreams," Spassky goes on, as if reminiscing in his mind the dramatic contest in the summer of 1972, which started with speculation that Fischer might not turn up at all in Reykjavik.

He returned from the airport once, and it is said that only after then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger persuaded him to play the match that Fischer flew to Reykjavik.

Amid all kinds of demands from Fischer, which delayed the start of the 24-game match, Spassky won the first game. The drama intensified as Fischer forfeited the second game, giving Spassky a 2-0 lead.

But that’s when the true battle started. Fischer eventually demolished Spassky in 21 games.

Twenty years later, Fischer invited Spassky to an unofficial world title rematch for a record prize fund of $5 million stumped up by a shadowy banker from Serbia. That match in 1992 took place under equally dramatic circumstances in erstwhile Yugoslavia, which at that time faced United Nations (UN) sanctions.

Spassky obliged and lost again.

But the victory cost Fischer dearly as his defiance of UN sanctions resulted in the US eventually revoking his citizenship. Fischer lived in exile variously in Hungary, Germany and the Philippines until he was granted citizenship by Iceland.

Fischer turned a recluse and lived in Reykjavik—the city where he first conquered the world—and died there in January 2008, aged 64. Until then, Fischer spotting on online chess-playing forums was a rage among chess enthusiasts.

The folklore lives on, but the legends themselves are fading in the memory of the current generation of chess players.

Asked on Sunday if he had noticed Spassky seated in the first row in the stands, world champion Magnus Carlsen said he did notice “an old man with white hair", but couldn’t recognize him.

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