Many topics ask about Fischer's demands in the 1975 World Chess Championship between him and Karpov, but I've never found the reason Fischer made these demands.

In particular:

If the result is 9-9, then the title goes to Fischer but the prize money is split equally.

Clearly, this gives Fischer an unfair advantage, so how did he think it was okay to request? Fischer dominated Spassky, and his chances of winning seemed good -- so it appears he didn't need to give himself any kind of edge. So why did he want it?

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    Does this answer your question? chess.stackexchange.com/questions/34466/…
    – Allure
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 5:11
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    Does this answer your question? Why did Bobby Fischer resign his title?
    – Herb
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 5:24
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    No. Read my question, and read those questions, and think about it.
    – user30475
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 0:41
  • @user30475 You seem a little combinative with that response. Read the answers to the linked questions, which refer to this potentially being a 'bluff' by Bobby Fischer. In your responses to comments below, you disagree that these demands are unreasonable, so it seems you are simply trying to have some sort of underlying idea validated. Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 17:34

3 Answers 3


Fischer had a history of making (often considered unreasonable) demands and refusing to play if not met. The reasons for this is a source of speculation amongst chess historians which has not (and probably may never) be settled conclusively. It is probably safe to assume that there is a psychological component at play, which is always hard to pin down.

"Bobby Fischer Against The World" illustrates many of these occurrences as well as some opinions by contemporaries and modern players. If you have not done so I suggest you check it out and make up your own mind (I think it's freely availabe on Youtube)

Just for clarity, the 9-9 rule by itself was not really the issue - many championship matches were played with the rule that on a draw the champion maintains his title. It is when combining it with the "unlimited games until whoever reaches 10 first wins" where the problem arises - for Karpov to win he would have to win 10-8, since 9-9 would not give him an opportunity to play to win 10-9. I don't think many people blamed FIDE for refusing that demand.

  • Is that right, many championships were played so draw goes to champion? If so, there's no problem with Fischer's request -- he essentially said: best of 18, tie goes to champion, right? (10-8 is decisive, 9-9 tie goes to defender) ..... ?
    – user30475
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 5:36
  • @user30475 no, the demand was for unlimited games won by whoever got to 10 first.
    – firtydank
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 5:38
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    The issue was Karpov had to win by 2, while Bobby only had to draw.
    – firtydank
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 5:42
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    No, normally winning by 1 is sufficient.
    – firtydank
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 5:43
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    Put another way, if I say let's play best of 5 but I win when it's 2-2, would you think it's fair?
    – firtydank
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 6:01

Fischer wanted a return to earlier days in chess. Capa-Alekhine was an unlimited match to six wins. In some 19th century events, the rule was if the game was drawn, reset the pieces and play another. This is the rationale behind the request ("If this was good enough for Alekhine, why shouldn't I have it, too?")

My own opinion is that Fischer knew he was not in good playing shape, having not competed for three years, so he wanted a longer match so he could "play himself into shape," so to speak. (Something like this actually happened in the first Kasparov-Karpov match, where Kasparov was clearly inferior to Karpov at the beginning of the match, but built up his strength and technique through the games until becoming at least Karpov's equal by the end, if not superior.)

The Capablanca-Alekhine 1927 match showed the folly of unlimited matches (34 games, 25 draws) so that format disappeared from the chess scene until Karpov-Kasparov.

There have always been arguments over the World Champion's edge. Early champions got to pick who they would play a match against, leading to many good players never getting a shot at the title. The "London Rules" tried to put a stop to that, but it still required the challenger to put up a large sum of money, thus limiting challenges.

In the FIDE era, the champion often had a huge edge. Mikhail Botvinnik was champion a long time without ever once winning a match in defense of his title. He drew two matches, retaining the title by "draw odds," and lost all the rest, only "retaining" the title as a result of winning the mandatory return match the following year. In 1963 FIDE dropped the return match provision, and Botvinnik, after losing to Petrosian, stopped contesting for the title.

Botvinnik played with both "draw odds" and the return match, champions from there until the latter half of the 20th century only had draw odds, and that revealed the champions were often not as clearly superior as the record seemed to show to that point, as only Petrosian succeeded in defending the title (once, against Spassky, before losing the following cycle to Spassky) until Karpov.

I don't know why the unlimited match returned, but I suspect it was because non-soviet chess was becoming stronger, and might challenge their hegemony that the match rules got adjusted. And the first Karpov-Kasparov match showed us again why an unlimited match is a Bad Idea. And the return match clause merely added to the debacle.

The tradition of chess is that you have to dethrone the king, not merely match him, to take the crown. (Even the metaphors shout monarchy.) This is unlike pretty much every single individual sport on the planet; typically the defending champion has to engage all the challengers and prove they belong at the top (boxing being the lone exception I can call to mind ATM). So I doubt the challenger will ever be faced with a completely level playing field. (FIDE tried earlier, by creating a knockout tournament of short matches, but that met with a great deal of resistance from the players, and was dropped. And even in it, the playing field was tilted by seeding some players directly into the later rounds of the event.)


This is simply a variation of the common "if votes are split 50-50, the status quo prevails" kind of tiebreaking mechanism. Sometimes you even need a supermajority to effect changes.

In chess - at least in Fischer's interpretation - this means that if you want to become world champion, you need to beat, not just tie, the previous champion.

Note the 9-9 clause has some support among other chess players, most notably Korchnoi:

Was Fischer right in demanding that the world title be protected by a two point handicap – that the challenger would be considered the winner with a 10–8 score and that the champion would retain his title in the event of a 9–9 draw? Yes, this was quite natural: the champion deserves this, not to mention the fact that further play to the first win in the event of an even score would be nothing short of a lottery – the winner in that case could not claim to have won a convincing victory.

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