Russian-born chess player and world champion from 1969 to 1972.
Born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg), Spassky learnt to play chess when he was five years old; by eleven he was regarded as a prodigy. He was eighteen when he won the world junior championship and finished equal eighth in the Gothenburg interzonal tournament. This qualified him for the Candidates Series, the competition to produce a challenger to the reigning world champion. He finished equal third, a fine performance considering his limited experience. In 1956 he came equal first in the Soviet championship.
Spassky won the 1966 Candidates Series but failed to beat Petrosian for the world championship. However, in 1969 he succeeded and became world champion. The 1972 world championship challenge was overshadowed by the temperamental antics of Bobby Fischer. Under enormous pressure Spassky remained dignified throughout the contest: although he lost the title he won the approbation of the world. In the next few years Spassky's career was a remarkable mixture of good wins and crushing defeats. He lost to the eventual champion, Karpov, in the semifinal of the 1974 Candidates Series.
Spassky left the Soviet Union for France in 1976 and subsequently became a French citizen. Despite severe illness, he emerged from retirement in 1992 to play a highly publicized rematch with his old antagonist Fischer in Yugoslavia. The result was another victory for Fischer, who again incurred censure for his bizarre and provocative behaviour.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).