American Investor Pays ISK 27 Million for Replica Chessboard Skip to content
fischer spassky iceland 1972
Photo: Spassky mounts his attack.

American Investor Pays ISK 27 Million for Replica Chessboard

American investor and chess player Noah Siegel paid some ISK 27 million [$195,000; €181,000] for a chessboard he believed to be the original used at the historic 1972 Reykjavík match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. According to Vísir, the latest information indicates that the board was instead a replica of the original.

In light of the revelation, Mr. Siegel has sought legal action against the seller, Páll G. Jónsson. In a judgement given by the Reykjavík District Court earlier this month, however, it was decided that Páll had the right to sell the board and that Mr. Siegel could not prove beyond doubt that the seller had knowingly acted in bad faith.

Mr. Siegel and his legal representative in Iceland, Sveinbjörn Claessen, have indicated their intention to appeal the matter.

“He does not have the actual board used in the match in his possession, and its value was based on the assumption that it was the original board used in the match. This is one of the replicas. A reproduction can never be as valuable. It is inherent to the nature of the item,” stated Sveinbjörn to Vísir.

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The misunderstanding seems to arise from the fact that three separate chessboards were constructed for the historic chess match, which is popularly considered the “beginning of the end of the Cold War.”

The three chessboards were constructed based on designs by one Gunnar Magnússon, along with side tables, and a stone board that is now in the possession of the National Museum of Iceland. One of the wooden boards was used in the World Chess Championship, but the other two which were not used were signed by the chess masters.

Tried to sell the chessboards

Further light was shed on the matter in a 2012 Morgunblaðið article, in which Páll recounted the story of the chessboards. There, Páll stated that “in 1974, the Icelandic Chess Federation decided to have two replica versions of the original board made in consultation with Gunnar, exactly the same in every respect and made of the same wood.”

Páll explains that it resulted in him acquiring both boards in 1976, and they have been in his possession since then. They were used for exhibitions and lent for the Horts vs. Spassky match in 1977. According to Páll, he attempted to sell the chessboards and sent one of them for auction to Bruun Rasmussen, an auction house in Copenhagen, in the spring of 2012. However, according to Páll’s assessment, a satisfactory price was not achieved.

Real chessboard at the Fischer Center

Several witnesses testified before the court to determine the chessboard’s authenticity, comparing the image of the board at the Fischer Center with original photographs. Expert carpenters were even called upon to analyse the wood grain.

However, no further witnesses are needed, or so believes Gunnar Björnsson, the current president of the Icelandic Chess Federation, who closely followed the progress of the case and its conclusion.

“The actual board is now at the Fischer Center in Selfoss,” he stated to Vísir. “It is in our possession.”

Gunnar also stated that it was a very interesting case, but that he does not want to express his opinion on the outcome. He did, however, state that the replica must have some value.

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