22 July 2022

'Only an IM'

Last week's Fischer Friday post, Drawing for Colors in 1972 (July 2022), centered on an event two days after Fischer arrived in Iceland. Let's rewind the clock to two days before he arrived.

The photo below is adapted from Fischer Wirephotos I (March 2016). I've highlighted in red three consecutive wirephotos that all show Spassky with the same man. Who was he?

The larger photo highlighted in red is a cropped version of the third wirephoto. Its caption explained,

(NY4) REYKJAVIK, Iceland, July 2 -- SO FAR STILL CHAMPION -- Boris Spassky of Russia, present World Chess Champion, holds thumb up outside his hotel in Reykjavik, Sunday. Challenger Bobby Fischer of the United States has so far failed to arrive in the Icelandic capital for the championship match that had been scheduled to start Sunday. Officials gave Fischer until Tueday at noon to show up or else risk forfeit. At left is Jivo Nei, a Soviet chess master. (AP Wirephoto via cable from Reykjavik) (See AP AAA Wire Story) (lsk12300pw) 1972 (REY2)

'Jivo Nei, a Soviet chess master' is better known as Iivo [or Ivo] Nei. He has a Wikipedia page, Iivo Nei. It starts,

Iivo Nei (born 31 October 1931 in Tartu) is an Estonian chess master.

The first comment on his Chessgames.com page, Iivo Nei, speculates on his role in Spassky's team:-

He wasn't there for his chess talent -- he was only an IM -- and instead was there for his talent with a tennis racket. He was Spassky's "physical trainer".

Only an IM? The first of the historical rating files in my database -- see FIDE Historical Ratings 1971-74, on my World Championship blog (January 2008), for links -- lists players' titles along with their ratings. Of the 592 players on the first list, 83 were GMs and 178 were IMs. Fifty years ago, the strongest IMs were among the top-100 players in the world.

My recent post, According to Darrach, Day by Day (July 2022), gave a chronology covering the first half of July 1972. For the day of the captioned wirephoto, the chronology says,

Sun, 02 Jul • Scheduled match start, Iceland; Euwe postpones 1st game for two days • p.092

That chronology stopped at the third game, played 16 July 1972. [NB: later changed to the fourth game, the first game that was not overshadowed by off-board antics.] The date of this post, 22 July, was the off-day before the dramatic sixth game, when the match was tied at 2-1/2 points for both players.


Later: Re 'Fifty years ago, the strongest IMs were among the top-100 players in the world', On the first FIDE rating list in 1971, Fischer was no.1 at 2760, Spassky no.2 at 2690. IM Iivo Nei was no.82 at 2495. A group of six players, five IMs and one untitled, was tied for no.100 at 2480.

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