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The Best Matches

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  (Thanks to Randall Lane for a scan of this classic Fischer-Spassky cartoon!)  

[Click here to go the website where I got this graphic from!]

Stay tuned for some recaps of the most memorable, the best and
 the most exciting chess matches ever played.

Also I plan on bringing you some of the most lopsided matches ever played. 
(I.e., the most dominating Match Performances by one player.)

MY List of the "Ten Most Epic Chess Matches Ever Played"


 # 1.) Boris Spassky - Robert J. Fischer; 
FIDE Chess World Championship Match, 
Reykjavik, Iceland; 1972. 

An epic match by anyone's standards. Firstly, there was the atmosphere surrounding this match. East (Russia) vs. West (U.S.A.) at the height of the "Cold War." (This match is easily the chessic equivalent of Ice Hockey's, "Miracle On Ice.") This was the only time in chess history that a chess match was  THE  leading story on all three networks every evening. (This was during a period when there was only  NBC, CBS, and ABC. In those days, you only had three to four TV stations on a TV set that got its signal from an outside antennae. This was an era before cable and CNN, which most youngsters out there may not even remember!) The coverage of the match also dominated the written media. (Newspapers, magazines and such.) Only the people who lived through that era can truly appreciate the intensity of the media coverage that was given to this match. The scrutiny was incredible and must have even made the contestants uncomfortable at times. Truly the eyes of the world were upon Iceland and the capital of this small island nation, Reykjavik. (Just a small town by many nation's standards.)

Secondly, there was the match itself. Easily some of the best chess and the most exciting chess - the highest 'fighting content' ... with the fewest boring GM draws, of any world championship match played in the 20th Century. (IMOHO) I have gone over these games dozens of times, and can tell you that its one of the best matches to study of all of the World Championship matches. (Many theoretical novelties were unleashed in this match. In fact, practically every game was significant in theory. Probably no match ever had the impact on opening theory that this match had.) I have a book on this match ... and I have studied it with literally dozens of my chess students over the years. 

Thirdly, there was the epic struggle of the entire united Russian front battling against this one, lone, young American genius. Bobby - working virtually by himself - outdid a whole team of Russian analysts.

And there are many other facets of this match that make it very fascinating and high drama. How the match very nearly never happened. Fischer's constant threats and accusations. The possibility - at least in the early stages of the match - that Bobby might quit and go home. The revelations by the Icelandic Security Guard who became Fischer's confidante ... how these made Bobby seem less surreal and more appealing as a human being. And there is much more to the story of this epic chess event. It is truly a very gripping story. I think maybe one day someone could make a movie ... or write a very gripping novel based on this story that is fascinating and as enthralling as any work of fiction. Any chess fan is not complete unless he has read the books and studied these games.

Another very fascinating aspect of this event is that, prior to this match, Bobby had NEVER defeated Boris Spassky in a serious game of chess!  Many believed Boris had a hex on the American. A lot of people were very nervous about this encounter, believing that a few losses could shatter Bobby's confidence ... and he would abandon the match and go home. (Which he almost did after game two.) 

This match did more to popularize chess than any other match ever played. During the winter of 1972, department stores could not keep chess sets in stock in the U.S. and in Great Britain.

A chess publisher once told me that at least 50 books were printed on this match - in dozens of different languages all around the world. If this is true, I think this sets a record for a chess match.

I have personally visited Reykjavik, Iceland many times. (I was stationed at Rockville - a remote radar station - for over a year while I was in the U.S. Air Force.) I cannot convey the excitement and joy I felt when walking the streets, visiting the same building this match was played in, and seeing the museum there. For me, this journey had virtually the same thrill as a religious pilgrimage.

I also highly recommend that you get the book - if you can find a copy - of this match. This book, "Both Sides of The Chessboard," by GM Robert Byrne and IM Ivo Nei ......  is easily the best book on this match. (Although I have like 10 different books on this one historic chess match.) I also consider this book to be,  "The finest book on a chess match ever written!!" 


 Click  HERE  to go to my page on the  "Best All - Time (Chess) Games." 
(There are even links to a few annotated Fischer games you can play over!!)

# 2.)  (The) A. MacDonnell  -  L.C. de LaBourdonnais Match(s) 
  Westminster Chess Club; London, ENG  1834  

These two players - the very best in the world - squared off to see who was  'top dog.'  Alexander MacDonnell represented England, and Louis Charles de La Bourdonnais was the representative of France.  Interest was high, as these two countries were often at odds over a whole range of issues - and had fought many wars with each other. 

These matches DID have the attention of the whole world - when they were played in the early part of the 1800's. {Mostly1834}  (England and France were the "super-powers" in those days, and may felt, "The honor of the nation rides on your shoulders." - A French newspaper writing of  la Bourdonnais's  participation in these matches.) Although there was no "media-frenzy" and no multi-million dollar purse at stake, these two players played a long series of games that were easily some of the best chess {games} ever played up to that point. (Morphy spoke of both players in the highest regard.) And many well-known and respected writers - such as FlohrFine  and  Evans - rank a few of their games as some of the most beautiful and very best chess ever played! 

Many people do not understand exactly what occurred in this epic struggle. Some think it was one, long marathon match.   It was actually a series of six   
 matches  comprising a  total  of like  84 games.  The final tally is not totally clear, but it was very close to:  + 44- 27= 13;  in favor of the Frenchman.   (Source: The book,  "The Oxford Companion To Chess,"   by  David Hooper  and  Kenneth Whyld.  1st Edition,  1992.) 

(These games definitely had an effect on the course of our game. These games were widely printed in newspapers and magazines around the 'known' world.  {Europe, England, The America's.}  There was even a book on the match.  Morphy  studied these games very closely, as did nearly all the players of that day. Several writers have suggested that chess was rewarded with an increased fan base and that interest in the game definitely increased;  DIRECTLY  as result of this match!!) 

I still study these games. I even would like to write a book on some of these games and annotate them. Maybe it will even happen some day. But until then, I suggest you download these games from one of the many on-line databases and study them thoroughly!

 (I have begun {08-2002} annotating these games and publishing them on my web sites. Click  here  to go there now!)  


{A good book ...  IF  you can still get it! ... is:
  "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess GamesVolume # 1: 1485 -1866."   (By  IM David Levy  and  Kevin O'Connell. 1981.)}   
  This book contains over 4,000 chess games and ALL of the MacDonnell -   La Bourdonnais games are in this book. A great reference book!! 


Now this match has its very own book

<< De la Bourdonnais versus McDonnell, 1834. >>  

(The Eighty-Five Games of Their Six Chess Matches, with Excerpts from Additional Games Against Other Opponents.); by Cary Utterberg, 2005. (400+ pages, a nice hard-back book.) Printed by  McFarland & Company, Inc.  (Publishers, NC/USA.)  ISBN: # 0-7864-2114-2  

I have purchased this book. IF you are interested in these matches and in chess history, then I highly recommend this volume; the author was extremely meticulous in his research. All the games are here, and they are very thoroughly annotated. (No source was missed.) Taylor Kingston's review of this book. (An interesting blog on this book.)

  # 3.)  The Kasparov - Karpov Matches  

No other set of matches (4 or 5) has affected modern chess the way these two players have. Between the two of them, they have dominated the chess landscape for over 30 years. 

 They have played over 100 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP Match games!! 

Their games make up some of the most interesting and controversial of the last 25 years. 

These two players have probably had more effect on theory than just about anyone else the last 50 years. Their games are still having an impact. Many of the GM's today - in the age range of 20-25 - probably modeled themselves after one of these two players. 

 Between the two of them, they have won a slew of tournaments! (Its a list that is almost too long to list all of them!!!) 

Their contests and sometimes very bitter struggles also helped to make chess news ... and therefore promote our great game. 

 Please keep checking this page as I bring you the rest of the list of:
 "10 Best Chess Matches Ever Played." !!! 

  Copyright (c) LM A.J. Goldsby I 

  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby,  1996-2014. 

  Copyright A.J. Goldsby, 2015.  All rights reserved. 


 Last edit/save on:  02/26/2015 .

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