Fischer deliberately makes wrong chess move?
March 20, 2011 8:24 AM   Subscribe

There was a chess match once between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky where Fischer deliberately made a wrong move to confound and confuse Spassky. Does anyone the details of this story?

I once read an article in a Philosophy of Aesthetics Journal where the author made the argument that beauty in sports/games could be argued, and they used this chess match as an example. The ideal would be if someone remembers reading this very article (perhaps British Journal of Aesthetics?) and could send a link to it.

Barring that, does anyone know about this move and the details of it? The author argued that Fischer did it to mentally mess with Spassky and it succeeded.

Well, here's hoping!
posted by fantasticninety to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You're likely referring to this article— or possibly this, part of a running conversation that includes this.

Fischer did a number of things to distract and irritate and goad Spassky (and, apparently, everyone else involved). For one thing, he didn't even show up for game two of the match; for another, he blew game one, possibly intentionally. Here's one account (warning: includes lots of chess math). The gist of game one: they were in a draw position, essentially, and Fischer mismoved. Oddly, later the game could still have gone to draw but he again moved poorly. Also here's a first-person account.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:56 AM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, if he made a bad move as part of a mental game, this would imply a larger match than a single game head-to-head.

The two biggest Fischer-Spassky matches are Reykjavik 1972 (World Championship) and Yugoslavia 1992.

Game 1 of 1972 found Fischer making a very un-typical blunder on the 29th move.
Here's a Wikipedia article about it.

He also forfeited Game 2 and there's much speculation about that:
Following his loss Fischer made further demands on the organizers, including that all cameras be removed. When they were not, he refused to appear for Game 2, giving a default win to Spassky.[62] His appeal was rejected. Karpov speculates that this forfeited game was actually a masterstroke on Fischer's part, a move designed specifically to upset Spassky's equanimity.[58]
Outside of '72, Spassky only beat Fischer 3 times during the 60s and none of those times were head-to-head matches.

So that's probably what they're talking about.
posted by unixrat at 8:57 AM on March 20, 2011

Agreed with the above responders that the move referred to is probably 29...Bxh2? in the first game of their 1972 World Championship match. If it was deliberately made to confound and confuse Spassky, I don't think it worked; Fischer lost the game.
posted by dfan at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2011

I don't have anything to say about Fischer-Spassky specifically, but I'll add a couple of thoughts on "making wrong moves".

"A wrong move" or "a bad move" can mean a lot of things, from an outright losing move, to a move which only considerable later analysis demonstrated to be flawed, a move which may objectively be inferior but takes the opponent out of their comfort zone, or sometimes just a move that runs contrary to the thinking of the time about how chess should be played.

Fischer was something of a purist, and it's hard to imagine him playing a move which he himself believed to be inferior or even plain wrong. However it's easy to imagine him playing an unconventional move which would startle everyone else with it's apparent badness but which he thought was strong. There are plenty of instances of him doing that in his career. There are also instances of him choosing lines that effectively threw down a gauntlet to the opponent, for example setting out to show that he could play their own pet openings better than they could themselves.

A couple of other world champions, Lasker and Tal, are more known for what might be called "playing wrong moves". Lasker more for moves that mystified his contemporaries because contrary to the orthodoxy of the time, and Tal for his willingness to enter into mind-boggling complications which later analysis might refute, but which opponents were unable to find their way through over the board.
posted by philipy at 10:09 AM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: All of the answers are superb, and I am deeply indebted to the time these people took to answer. However, I highlighted answer number one as it refers directly to the article I was thinking about!

I'm not sure if I'm more amazed by Fischer's genius, or that someone was able to find the exact reference to my question!

posted by fantasticninety at 2:23 PM on March 21, 2011

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