Famous Forfiets in Chess History

Today I’m going to try my hand at creating the beloved “Top 5 list” which will be discussing the most famous forfeits in chess history. These games and matches are unique because despite the fact that no moves had been played; one person was crowned victor (or world champion in one case).

1. Fischer Vs. Karpov 1975 World Championship

Bobby Fischer
Bobby Fischer

Perhaps one of the most shocking events in chess history Bobby Fischer and FIDE could not agree on the terms and conditions for a championship match with Anatoly Karpov. This forfeiture caused Anatoly Karpov to become the only champion in recent memory to have gained the title without defeating the reigning world champion. The public were not the only ones disappointed by Fischer abandoning the crown. Anatoly Karpov in his memoir stated,

“I don’t know how Fischer feels about it, but I consider it a huge loss that he and I never played our match. I felt like the child who has been promised a wonderful toy and has it offered to him but then, at the last moment, it’s taken away.”


2. Karpov Vs Kasparov 1984-1985 World Championship

Karpov Vs Kasparov
Karpov Vs Kasparov 1984

In yet another startling decision by FIDE the World championship match between Anatoly Karpov (Then champion) and Garry Kasparov (challenger) was aborted by FIDE president Florencio Campomanes. As you can imagine this caused quite a stir in the chess world and on the heels of two back-to-back victories some claim Kasparov was on the verge of making a fantastic comeback (after trailing 5-3).


3. Fischer Vs Spassky 1972 World Championship Match (Game 2)

Fischer Vs Spassky 1972
Fischer Vs Spassky 1972

Bobby Fischer in arguably the most anticipated chess match of all time decides not to appear for his game against Boris Spassky because of a dispute he had with the organizers about cameras in the playing hall. This gives Boris Spassky a 2-0 lead in the first two games of the match; a match that Fischer would go on to win in improbable fashion.

Interestingly Spassky had the option of aborting the match then and there but due to his sporting nature he allowed the match to continue, a decision which many regard as a psychological blunder and a turning point for the match.


4. Kramnik Vs. Topalov 2006 World Championship Match (Game 5)

Kramnik Vs Topalov 2006
Kramnik Vs Topalov 2006

In what turned out to be one of the most bazaar episodes in a world championship Vladimir Kramnik forfeited his 5th game in the world championship against Vesilin Topalov. The controversy arose after Topalov’s second (Silvio Danailov) made a press release commenting on the frequent trips to the bathroom made by Kramnik (the implication being that Kramnik was using the bathroom to cheat). FIDE (in their infinite wisdom) via the appeals committee decided that both players would then share a bathroom; which was unacceptable to Kramnik. Kramnik’s team then issued a press release because they felt that the contract (that both players agreed to prior to the match) had been violated (which it had). Eventually the grand puba of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov got involved and basically over-ruled the appeals committee (who’s decision was to be final).

The whole incident is quite frankly one of the weirdest and most embarrassing moments in recent chess memory. In the end Kramnik went on to win the match and put all accusations behind him. If you want to read more Yasser Seirawan did a nice piece for chessbase outlying the failings of FIDE and the match organizers.


5. Short Vs Cheparinov 2008 Corus Group B (Round 8)

Short Vs Cheparinov 2008
Short Vs Cheparinov 2008

Ok, so this one technically isn’t a forfeit because it was overturned. However at the time this scandal rocked the chess world. Once again Silvio Danailov (of ‘Toiletgate’ fame) found himself embroiled in controversy when he encouraged his countrymen to snub former world champion contender Nigel Short. Nigel Short had published an article in DNA that accused Veselin Topalov of receiving help during his championship victory in San Luis from his manager Silvio Danailov (who also happens to manage Cheparinov). Ivan decided as a show of solidarity with his countryman Topalov he would refuse to shake hands with Nigel Short. Unfortunately this is against FIDE rules and is the cause for a forfeit.

When the game was finally replayed Nigel Short went on to win a nice game:

I hope you enjoyed reading about famous forfeits in chess history. Can you think of any other famous forfeits that I might have missed?

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