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1970s / 1972 Fischer Spassky World Chess Championship
Chess was front page news and on the cover of Time Magazine in the summer of 1972 when American Bobby Fischer challenged world champion Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union. Fischer, 29, had been prominent on the chess scene since 1958 when he won the U.S. championship just before he turned 15. The Soviet Union had dominated international chess for 25 years, but Spassky was bamboozled by Fischer's unpredictable openings. Fischer clinched the 24-game match, held in Reykjavik, Iceland, after 21 games with a record of seven wins, three losses, and eleven draws. Fischer's victory generated tremendous interest in the game in the United States. Known as the 'Fischer Boom,' membership numbers in the U.S. Chess Federation reached their peak in the following two years. The eccentric Fischer never defended his title. He opted to resign as world champion in 1974 when not all of his 64 conditions to defend against Anatoly Karpov were accepted by chess' governing body. Since then Fischer has been a recluse. He did make an appearance in 1992 to play his old rival Spassky in a specially arranged match in Yugoslavia. (This violated UN sanctions against Yugoslavia at the time.) Fischer won the match and proclaimed he was still the legitimate world champion. Despite having Jewish ancestry, Fischer is an anti-Semite and a passionate Holocaust denier. Fischer called a Manila talk-radio station to applaud the 9/11 terrorist attacks in a profanity-filled rant. Fischer now lives in Iceland where he was granted citizenship.