So you think Chess is all about brains, you couldn't be more wrong

  • Abhimanyu Kulkarni, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 07, 2014 13:27 IST

The debate whether Chess is a sport has been going on since times of yore. Many detractors say that there is no physical effort invovled in Chess.

Chess, unlike popular notion, is not only brains. There is a fair bit of brawn. It is a non-contact sport, but players fight it out tooth and nail. Tigran Petrosian lost 30 pounds in his match with Mikhail Botvinnik. Anatoly Karpov was thoroughly exhausted after his first match with Gary Kasparov in 1984.

Over the years, the Chess World Championships have produced some truly unforgettable battles.

Here’s taking a look at three of the fiercest and the most dramatic of those duels:


This match is referred to as the 'Match of the Century'. The Cold War is at its peak when eccentric American Bobby Fischer takes on defending champion Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union. Soviets had dominated the sport for 24 years and Spassky was the clear favourite even though Fischer had a much higher Elo rating.

Both went all guns blazing and justified the immense hype media had created around the match.

The start was a little dramatic with Fischer declining to take part unless he was offered 30% of the television and broadcasting rights along with the prize money. He missed the opening ceremony, and only made an appearance 10 minutes after Spassky had made his first move in the opening game. Spassky went on to win the match with ease.

Fischer put forth another demand asking for cameras to be removed from the game area. He seemed so preoccupied with these whims that the scoreline soon read 2-0 in Spassky's favour.

Fischer needed 12.5 points from 24 games, while defending champion Spassky would have retained the crown with a 12-12 draw.

The American was temperamental, but a genius, which he displayed amply in the games that followed. He won the third and fifth game to level the scores at 2.5-2.5.

Fischer won the 21st game after 7 draws to clinch the championship with 3 games to spare.

The 'Match of the Century' had all the ingredients of a box office thriller — suspense, drama, action, heartbreak.


Kasparov had been stripped of his title by World Chess Federation (FIDE) for his match with Nigel Short in 1993, which was held outside the chess body's auspices. Nevertheless, he was widely considered the legitimate world champion.

Kasparov created the Profession Chess Association (PCA) and held a series of candidates matches to choose an opponent for himself. Anand came out as the top contender.

The match was played on the Observation Deck on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center in New York, and it was to last 20 games instead of the traditional 24.

The match started with eight straight draws (a record for the opening of a world championship match) until Anand drew first blood by winning game nine. Kasparov rebounded and won four of the next five games.

Kasparov retained the title with a score of 10.5-7.5 after 18 games, but by then a young Anand had already made his mark. He was here to stay.


Botvinnik won the World Championship in 1948 and started the era of Soviet dominion in chess. He won the next two championships in 1951 and 1954, both featuring Soviet players. He lost to countryman Vasily Smyslov in 1957, but regained the crown a year later.

Mikhail Tal, who is acknowledged in the sporting fraternity as the 'Magician from Riga', was known for his brand of attacking chess.

Tal had to go through a rigorous season to earn his right to challenge Botvinnik. He won the inter-zonal and candidates tournament, which featured stalwarts such as Paul Keres, Vasily Smyslov, Tigran Petrosisan and a young Bobby Fischer.

Experience vs Youth; could Tal's firepower bring down Botvinnik's wall? In the end, it turned out to be quite a one-sided affair, as Tal humbled Botvinnik 12.5-8.5 and became the youngest world champion at the age of 23.

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