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Chess board from 1972's Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky 'Match of the Century' at auction
1972 Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky World Chess Championship Used Chess Board.

DALLAS, TX.- The chessboard used by Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, when they squared off against each other for the World Chess Championship in Reykjavic, Iceland in 1972 an event many called the most important chess match in the history of the game, will cross the auction block at Heritage Auctions on Nov. 17-19, 2016. The set is being offered with a conservative $75,000 opening bid.

“The 1972 World Chess Championship remains to this day the most studied and celebrated series in the history of the game,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage. “It’s revered both for the elite level of play and for the geopolitical USA vs. USSR climate in which it lived and breathed.”

Fischer and Spassky both autographed the board in bold black marker after the completion of the last match.

The board was used by Fischer and Spassky in games 7 through 21, the last of which saw Fischer declared the World Champion and saw Russia’s dominance of the game broken. The victory, in many ways, is still seen as one of the first major blows leading to the breakdown of the Soviet Union.

“Most notably,” said Ivy, “Game 13 was played on this board, the game in which Spassky committed a very famous blunder that sealed his fate and the match. This board is the symbol of one of the most important moments of the century and of a crucial moment in world affairs.”

When Fischer and Spassky met, there could not have been a more emblematic moment. The Cold War haunted every aspect of American life. The specter of Soviet domination terrified the US, which thought of itself as the only check against Russian hegemony in the Western World. Fischer symbolized the American spirit – brilliant, determined, fierce and unstoppable – while Spassky was symbolic of the Communist behemoth, which had controlled the game of chess for half a century. Fischer operated alone, without a state apparatus, while Spassky had 50 years of history and the support of his entire government and nation behind him. The players were not playing a game on this board, they were playing for control of the narrative of history.

The match was not only notable for the fact that Fischer won. It was also very important for the way in which Fischer acted, which was erratic, at best. The aggravation toward the young American only intensified as the match opened and Fischer failed to arrive in Iceland for the opening ceremony on July 1. Fischer also asked that the television be removed from his hotel room – believing the Russians were watching him through it – and was vocal in his suspicions that his food was being poisoned.

The board was used for the final 15 games of the tournament, the battleground of the highest stakes chess competition ever waged. It’s unclear exactly why the initial stone board used in the earlier games was replaced with this one, but it is likely Fischer's erratic, paranoid suspicions were the catalyst.

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