World Chess Championship 1972: Game 6 (Fischer vs. Spassky)

World Chess Championship 1972: Game 6 (Fischer vs. Spassky)

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July 23, 1972:

Before the match began, the Soviet team that had been training Spassky debated about whether Fischer might play an opening move different from his usual 1.e4. "But when the question was raised as to whether 1.d4 or 1.c4 could be expected of Fischer, Spassky replied: 'Let's not bother with such nonsense – I'll play the [Tartakower] Defence. What can he achieve?...'"

Fischer played 1.c4 (instead of 1.e4) for only the third time in a serious game. With 3.d4 the game transposed to the Queen's Gambit, surprising many who had never seen Fischer play the White side of that opening. In fact, he had previously openly condemned it.

Spassky played Tartakower's Defense (7...b6), his favorite choice in many tournaments and a line with which he had never lost. After 14.Bb5!? (introduced in Furman–Geller, Moscow 1970), Spassky responded with 14...a6?!. Geller had previously shown Spassky 14...Qb7!, the move with which Geller later beat Jan Timman at Hilversum 1973, but Spassky apparently forgot about it. Fischer's 20.e4! – "the key move of the game" – struck at Black's center and left Spassky with no good alternatives. After Spassky's 20...d4, "the pawns have no hope of further advance and the white bishop is unimpeded." After 21.f4, Fischer had the upper hand (Hort). After 26.f5, White had a crushing attack.

After this game, Spassky joined the audience in applauding Fischer's win. This astounded Fischer, who called his opponent "a true sportsman".

"Lombardy was ecstatic: 'Bobby has played a steady, fluent game, and just watched Spassky make horrendous moves. Spassky has not met a player of Bobby's genius and caliber before, who fights for every piece on the board; he doesn't give in and agree to draws like the Russian grandmasters. This is a shock to Spassky.'"

According to C.H.O'D. Alexander: "This game was notable for two things. First, Fischer played the Queen's Gambit for the first time in his life in a serious game; second, he played it to perfection, the game indeed casting doubt on Black's whole opening system."

The win gave Fischer the lead (3½–2½) for the first time in the match.