Boris Spassky: «I am not accusing anyone!»

Boris Spassky

«I do not accuse anyone!»



Text: Vlad Tkachiev
Photo and video: Irina Stepaniuk


On 2 October, Boris Spassky gave an interview to the Russian TV First Channel and Whychess editor Vlad Tkachiev. The 10th world champion spoke of his health situation, his family problems and his move to Moscow. 

Russian speakers can watch this exclusive interview here on Whychess, in the video below. For the benefit of non-Russian speakers, we have prepared an English transcript.


Spassky speaks: "I have to start again, from nothing!"


How do I feel? Better. Both my legs are now OK, and I am walking somewhat better than before. I am trying to think positively. I am thinking about my chess school. I would like to attend the winter session.

I left Russia for France in 1976. It was not an easy decision, because I was at war with the Soviet Sports Comittee. The main problem was that in this period, I lost the right to choose my tournaments. I received invitations from all over the world, but the Sports Committee refused to send me to tournaments. Consequently, when I arrived in France, I felt happy, and I started to play everywhere that I felt was necessary and important. I started my chess path in France from the beginning, from nothing. Now, too, I have returned to the beginning and must start everything over again, because I have nothing. At the moment, fortunately, a sponsor is helping me, who is paying for my rehabilitation and helped me get out of France. So, one can say that I have again made "long castling", from Paris to Moscow.

I would not say that I ran away. It was my desire to return to Russia, because my time in France had run its course. It was time to start a new stage. I understood it was time to leave, because serious dangers had arisen, both to my health and, one could say, to my morale.

Is it really the case that someone wanted me dead? It is quite possible. I was isolated. Perhaps I was partly to blame as well. I could have been more active. The medications I was taking stopped having a positive effect, and I wanted to improve the process of my recovery.

I was also very, very unhappy with the actions of my sister Iraida. Because she, as they say, "meddled with things she knew nothing about". I don't understand her motives for doing this. Nor do I understand my wife's motives. But there is nothing terrible about this – OK, I don't understand. So be it. With Boris, my youngest, I prefer to be a fair distance. He has his own life, and it is quite successful. He is a successful businessman. I have long since ceased to be a businessman, and I don't want to become one.

Even so, I have to ask this, as far as I understand, your son filed a complaint with the police, alleging you had been abducted, and that when he finally found you in the Moscow clinic, after some searching, you told him you had no memory of how you had come from Paris to Moscow. Is that true?

I would rather let that be on his own conscience and let him answer for it. I refused to speak to him about it. But I would not dare to accuse anyone of any evil designs against me, because to do that, you need to have some concrete reason, and we must take responsibility for our own words. So I try to be very careful in this respect. When I felt that my treatment had stalled, I was a little worried about this and I wanted to improve conditions, so that the road to recovery would be open. I am quite content with my position in Moscow now, I will continue in the new rehabilitation treatment centre. I repeat, I must start everything again from nothing. But I am not frightened of that. I am not frightened of poverty. I am frightened only of poverty and illness together. So, I am not going to count on him. If we shoud find a suitable basis for communication, thank God. I do not wish to fight with anybody. That seems unnecessary to me. We are all mortal and we can all make mistakes. One must be tolerant.

But what about the fact that you have been accused of being senile – doesn't this offend you?

Yeah, you know, this was said. But I do not mind: there could have been even more serious charges made. It's not my responsibility. I answer for my own actions and words, let the others do the same for theirs. I'm ready to devote some time to getting some justice restored, to avoiding offence, himiliation, etc.

And finally: I read a few interviews recently with you about your case. Still, as the French say, "cherchez la femme" – some say that in this case there is another woman involved.

There certainly ought to be another woman!

Do you still follow chess tournaments that are going on?

I try to do so.

How far have you got in working on your book My Chess Life?

Unfortunately, this requires a lot of work. My book of memoirs will be called My Chess Path, and will trace my chess journey, from A to Z.

Starting from the Leningrad Pioneer Palace?

Even earlier, from when I learnt to play.

Can we say how far along the path you are? One half perhaps, or two thirds?

I would say somewhere, like…four eighths (smiles)

Do you see some parallels between your fate and that of your friend and opponent, Bobby Fischer?

Well, the parallel is that, if you take for example my internal war, the war within my house [in France], …then it ended with the sale of my property. Fischer also had his small archive, located in a place in Pasadena, and at some point, this was robbed and his property sold [Presumably a reference to Fischer's claims about his storage box of Mexican comics and other stuff, which was sold off after he apparently failed to pay the bill – Translator]. But you know about this better than I do – it was quite recent.

And something similar happened to you?

Even worse. But that's not the issue. [Long pause] I don't see specific moments that are parallel between Fischer's fate and mine. The only thing is kidney trouble. He also had trouble with his kidneys. I took his death very badly, the death of Fischer…



Thanks for the interview. He does not look well.

The Road to Recovery

I wish Mr. Spassky,speedy recovery and return to active life again.He is a former world champion,best chess ambassador,but also a gentleman on and off the board.Thanks to all your wonderful games(specially from 1964-70),at the height of your creativity!-DZ

The Book

I hope that he does finish it one day. A true living legend. It's so hard to believe that he is the oldest living world chess champion; the early 70's still seem like yesterday to me.

Long castling

Lol. Long castling. Castling that late always upsets your team mates!
Recovery from a stroke is hard work. I think it is positive that he found the energy to put up a fight. The family affairs sound incomprehensible and overblown from the outside. Family affairs often do. But one thing he makes clear: Time is precious. Enjoy it.


I had the pleasure to play against that gentleman twice, Boris looks good and will recover.

Thank you for that article!

Boris Spassky

He is nearly 76 and illness always takes longer to get over as you get older. He needs excellent medical and dietary support, as well as from all his chess friends. A legend, but even legends do not go on for ever. Bet he'd still beat 99.9% of the worlds chess players today.


Dear Boris,
If you can read this,this is Carlos, from León, Spain. Do you remember me and our encounter in 2007?.I have sent you many letters and mails,No answer: they were intercepted. Could you get in contact with me as we did for so many years ? I will always remember and admire you, you know.
Carlos -León-Spain

Salut Vlad, La dernière fois

Salut Vlad,

La dernière fois que Boris a jouer une simultanée avant son AVC c'est à Belfort lors des championnats de France d'août 2010. C'est réellement triste cette fin de carrière !
Jean-Paul Touzé