First American to Win the World Chess Championship

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On September 1, 1972, in what’s billed as the “Match of the Century,” American chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer defeats Russian Boris Spassky during the World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland.

In the world’s most publicized title match ever played, Fischer, a 29-year-old Brooklynite, became the first American to win the competition since its inception in 1866. The victory also marked the first time a non-Russian had won the event in 24 years.

Fischer, who started playing chess professionally at age 8, won the U.S. Open Championship when he was 14 (he would go on to win it seven more times) and became the world’s youngest international grandmaster at age 15.

Fischer’s skills and age—and demanding, arrogant attitude—made him a pop culture phenomenon. He became the subject of books and movies and even inspired a song, “The Ballad of Bobby Fischer.”