Chess Set Used by Fischer & Spassky in ’72 World Championship Match Fetches Kingly Sum

This chess set, used by Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in their legendary 1972 World Chess Championship match in Iceland and signed by both men,gaveled for $76,275 at an auction held April 1-3 hosted by Phili Weiss Aucitons.

OCEANSIDE, N.Y. – The original chess set used by Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky at their legendary World Chess Championship match in Iceland in 1972, signed by both men, soared to $76,275 at a weekend multi-estate sale held April 1-3 by Philip Weiss Auctions.

The chess set was used in the third match of the series, dubbed the “back room game” because Fischer blamed his loss in the first match (and subsequent default in the second match) on cameras in the room. But for the third match, he got Spassky to agree to play in a small room, away from the cameras’ glare and out of view from spectators. He won that match, and the title.

Also, an archive of personal material pertaining to Fischer—an intensely private and even reclusive man—crossed the block, fetching $9,888. The lot included a copy of the book “My Seven Chess Prodigies,” by John W. Collins, inscribed by Fischer “to adorable Zita from Bobby,” dated 1991; and several love letters written to Zita (evidently the love of his life), from the ’90s.

The chess set was the top lot in a three-day auction event that was a blockbuster by anyone’s standards. More than 1,500 lots in a wide array of categories crossed the block, and in the end more, than $600,000 had been spent by eager bidders. They participated in person, over the phone, via absentee bids and online (through, with more than 500 registered bidders, plus 300 more bidders using the Philip Weiss Auctions website, at

The auction kicked off April 1 with a session dedicated to postcards, paper, autographs and rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. The Saturday session featured folk art, Native American items and militaria. The Sunday session had stamps, coins, transportation, aviation, automotive and marine.

“Outstanding live, Internet and phone participation made this sale a success,” Philip Weiss said.

Following are additional highlights from the auction (all prices quoted include a 13-percent buyer’s premium):

A turn-of-the-century Cigar Store Indian, nicknamed “Chief Poke in the Nose” because some mishaps over time caused some damage to his nose, went for $62,150. The Indian, more than seven feet tall and made sometime in the 1890s, had previously stood guard at the Schweizer Sporting Goods & Cigar Store in Hoosick Fall, N.Y. It is a wonderful example of Americana.

A 45 RPM record sleeve signed by all four Beatles and WQAM DJ Charlie Murdock sold for $6,215.

A 45 RPM record sleeve with bold blue ink signatures of all four Beatles, plus 1960s radio disc jockey Charlie Murdock from WQAM, dated Sept. 11, 1964, realized $6,215. The lot also featured Murdock’s business card, three black and white magazine clippings of the Beatles, a letter telling the story of how the signatures were obtained, and a letter of authenticity from JSA.

This pristine rock ‘n’ roll concert poster from the California Rock Festival in San Jose in 1969 went for $2,034.

A rock ‘n’ roll concert poster from the California Rock Festival in San Jose, Calif. (May 23-25, 1969), in mint condition and featuring artwork by Linda Segul, breezed to $2,034. The poster, measuring 14 inches by 20 inches, listed some of the biggest names in rock history, such as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Eric Burdon, Chuck Berry and Santana.

A complete sheet of stamps commemorating the dropping of the first atomic bomb, signed by the crew members of the Enola Gay, brought $5,650.

A complete sheet of stamps commemorating the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan at the end of World War II, signed by 18 members of the flight crew of the Enola Gay and other planes (Paul Tibbets, Dutch Van Kirk and others), soared to $5,650. Also, a Samurai sword with metal scabbard with leather overlay, overall about 38 inches (blade length 27 inches), hit $2,712.

This brown bowl from the British North American Steamship Line, measuring 12 inches by 10 inches, sold for $1,808.

In ocean liner memorabilia, a brown bowl from the British North American Steamship Line, 12 inches by 10 inches and 2 inches deep, stamped on the bottom “Crystal Florentine China, Alcocks Indian Ironstone,” commanded $1,808; and a covered sauce boat from the North German Line in two pieces, stamped “Florio Palermo” and with the NGL crest, garnered $1,356.

Philip Weiss Auctions’ next big sale is fast approaching—on Thursday, April 21—which will be an Important Estates Sale, featuring a phenomenal single-owner sterling silver collection (with pieces by George Jensen, Tiffany and other makers); art glass (to include Loetz, Lalique, Hummel, Lladro, Toby mugs and more); and a great collection of vintage clocks.

For more information about these auctions, call 516.594.0731, e-mail to or visit the Philip Weiss Auctions web site.


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