CITYWIDE Long before the famous 1972 match-up between chess legends Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, the two squared off in a relatively unknown first meeting in Santa Monica.
It was the summer of 1966 and Fischer and Spassky came face-to-face for the first time in what was known as the Second Piatigorsky Cup, a chess tournament — named after top female chess player Jacqueline Piatigorsky — held in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.
Then 23 years old, Fischer came in second place in the tournament after losing one game to Spassky and tying the second. It would be six years before the two would do battle in what is known as the most famous chess matches in history, Fischer defeating Spassky in the world championships in Iceland and becoming the first American to win the title, ending more than three decades of Soviet dominance.
Their meeting in Santa Monica is indicative of the strong chess culture in the seaside city.
“Santa Monica is (known) as a chess aficionado worldwide,” said Pete Savino, the president of the Santa Monica Bay Chess Club.
A strong chess culture is said to exist in the city, from clubs dedicated to the problem-solving game to chess programs at the library to the popular Chess Park situated near Santa Monica Beach. In a city known for surfing and shopping, chess has similarly made a case for favorite pastime.
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