World – Inducted 2003
Boris Spassky is most famous for his loss of the World Championship crown to Bobby Fischer at Reykjavik in 1972, in the most famous chess match of all time. Despite this dubious honor, Spassky has been considered one of the world’s best players for decades. World Junior Champion and a world title candidate by age 18, Spassky showed an early, hyper-aggressive brilliance that matured into seamless universality. He won the Soviet Championship twice outright, lost in playoffs twice more, and participated in seven Candidates Tournaments between 1956 and 1985, finally defeating Tigran Petrosian to become the 10th World Champion in 1969, the culmination of a decade and a half of dominance.
Even after losing the title to Fischer three years later, Spassky continued his strong play through the 1970s. His influence reached even to Hollywood, as his stunning 15th move against David Bronstein was immortalized in the film classic “From Russia with Love.” He played openings, middlegames, and endings equally brilliantly, a true universal player. After moving to France with his wife and becoming a citizen there in 1978, his chess play decreased somewhat in both frequency and quality. He continued to compete occasionally through the 1990s, but a series of strokes yet again hampered his play. Despite these setbacks, Spassky’s reputation remains as one of the greatest living players.