Description1972 Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky World Chess Championship Used Chess Board.
"I think the reason you look at these matches probably was not so much the chess factor but to the political element, which was inevitable because in the Soviet Union, chess was treated by the Soviet authorities as a very important and useful ideological tool to demonstrate the intellectual superiority of the Soviet communist regime over the decadent West. That's why the Spassky defeat was treated by people on both sides of the Atlantic as a crushing moment in the midst of the Cold War."
--Former World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov
We've been trained to consider the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team's "Miracle on Ice" as the greatest competitive victory over the Soviet Union short of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but, for a certain breed of intellectual, that Lake Placid victory pales in comparison to a decidedly more cerebral contest in Reykjavik, Iceland eight years earlier. The World Chess Championship of 1972 remains to this day the most studied and celebrated series in the history of the game, both for the elite level of its play and the geopolitical climate in which it lived and breathed.
In many ways, the two competitors were the ideal personification of their respective warring tribes-the American Bobby Fischer young and brash, and the Russian Boris Spassky serious and sedate. Fischer was an odd loner, a self-taught obsessive, while Spassky was the product of a regimented training funded and controlled by the state. The collision of geniuses upon the stage of the Laugardalshöll arena in the Summer of 1972 has been aptly dubbed "The Match of the Century," an event that captivated chess enthusiasts worldwide and nearly the entirety of the populace of both nations, each sharing the belief that the outcome would be representative of something far larger than a board game. The Soviets had dominated the global rankings since 1948, with Spassky the latest in an unbroken chain of World Champions. Fischer, by contrast, had been vocally critical of the Soviet style, going so far as to level accusations of match fixing in Sports Illustrated and the German periodical Der Spiegel, fueling the fire of Soviet antipathy toward the arrogant Yank.
The aggravation toward the young American only intensified through Fischer's erratic behavior at the eleventh hour, as he failed to arrive in Iceland for the opening ceremony on July 1 and voiced increasing demands for financial compensation beyond the original agreements. Some wondered if Fischer was attempting to derail the impending battle, while others chalked it up to gamesmanship to rattle the Soviet Champion.
But the international disappointment of a cancellation was ultimately averted and the two greatest chess minds came together for twenty-one matches over the course of fifty days, Fischer's victory on August 31, 1972 clinching the tournament and raising the stars and stripes over an intellectual landscape where the hammer and sickle had flown for decades.
Presented is the board that was used for the final fifteen games of the tournament, games seven through twenty-one, the battleground of the highest stakes chess competition ever waged. It is unclear exactly why the initial stone board used in the earlier matches was replaced with the wooden model presented here, but one suspects that Fischer's erratic, paranoid suspicions had been the catalyst for the transition. He had asked for the television to be removed from his hotel room, believing the Russians were watching him through it, and voiced suspicions that his food was being poisoned.
The sixth game had given Fischer the lead (3 ½ to 2 ½) for the first time in the tournament, a lead he would never surrender. Spassky would manage only a single victory in the final fifteen frames while Fischer would claim four, the balance ending in draws. Spassky would signal his resignation of the final match by telephone, perhaps too disappointed and burdened by the dashed hopes of the Soviet people to congratulate Fischer in person.
Along with the board (19x19") that carried the greatest chess tournament ever played to its conclusion, this lot contains identical period components to complete the tools of war:
1) The distinctive table crafted by Icelandic furniture designer Gunnar Magnusson and produced by cabinetmaker Ragnar Haraldsson. It is one of two extra and identical tables built immediately after the tournament, this one having been used in the World Championships candidate match between Spassky and Vlastimil Hort in Reykjavik in 1977. Dimensions are approximately 51x39x30", at a weight of two hundred pounds (200 lbs.).
2) Two matching personal side tables, each approximately 20x20x30". Weight each thirty pounds (30 lbs.).
3) An original contemporary set of Staunton pieces, held in reserve but never used for the 1972 tournament.
4) An original Garde chess clock, identical in design to the original used in Fischer vs. Spassky.
Fischer and Spassky autographed the board after the completion of the last match in bold black marker, retaining 9+/10 boldness to this day. Third party shipping required.
Guide Value or Estimate: $300,000 - up.
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