An autographed chessboard and chessmen used in “the duel of the century” between Robert J. Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavík in 1972 were sold at an auction for almost USD 67,500 (ISK 7.7 million, EUR 48,000) in New York on Saturday.
A chess board. Photo by Páll Kjartansson.
There were many bids and the buyer prefers to remain anonymous, ruv.is reports.
The objects were sold at Philip Weiss Auction by Gudmundur G. Thórarinsson, who was president of the Icelandic Chess Federation at the time of the duel.
He told Fréttabladid that he decided to sell it because of his tight financial situation; he has a loan in foreign currency which grew after the crisis hit.
The federation decided to present him with these objects as a gift on his birthday the year after the duel because of his part in organizing it. The board and chessmen in question were used in the third game of the duel.
The decision was controversial at the time; some people argued these objects belonged at the National Museum.
The Icelandic Chess Federation issued a statement yesterday saying they regret that these objects were sold. The association will now try to locate other objects used during the duel, Morgunbladid reports.
“What we need is an overview of where these objects are kept,” said the federation’s chairman, Gunnar Björnsson. “Then it is preferable that the largest object be preserved at the National Museum of Iceland.”
Thórarinsson told Fréttabladid he is sorry that the historical chessboard and men have now been sold out of the country but that he didn’t have a choice.
“The chessboard and chessmen which they used in Laugardalshöll are of course in the National Museum but these chessmen have a very interesting history,” Thórarinsson said.
He explained that Fischer didn’t want to continue to play inside the sports arena after the first chess game because he thought the cameras were disturbing. He therefore gave up the second match and the duel was in a state of upheaval.
“People managed to convince him to play the third game in a backroom of Laugardalshöll and this is when these chessmen were used. This game is often called ‘The Legendary Third Game’ because it saved the duel,” Thórarinsson stated.
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