People of my generation can remember where they were
when they heard of the death of John F. Kennedy.
I was playing chess with a pal called John Telford at Holyrood Court.
Today people can remember where they were when they
heard Princess Diana was killed in a car crash.
I was playing over a game of chess when my daughter told me.
Chess players throughout the world will remember where they
were when they first heard that Bobby Fischer had passed away.
I was in a internet cafe. I received an email from a very strong chess
player, a Grandmaster, telling me he had just heard the sad news on the radio.
I was stunned and devastated. Yet for some reason I felt relieved
I had been told this terrible news by such a strong player.
A fellow chess player.
I'm so glad I never heard it from a non-player.
Imagine carrying that memory around with you forever.
Some Jakey collecting his groceries sees my CHESS badge
and says "Hi - do you know Bobby Fischer is dead?"
I'm really crap at taking bad news.
I left the cafe and wandered about for 15 minutes.
I had a wee weep.
(I have had to take my CHESS badge off. A few days ago I was
standing outside the Cameo picture house waiting on a bus.
This ape with an earring through his nostril and an ugly
Betty girlfriend sees my badge and started talking to me
about Fischer and how his Mum drove him mad....???)
I simply nodded my head.
I am not going to get involved in a discussion about Fischer
with some clown who has a ring through his nose and has never
played over a Fischer game.
All I know for certain about Fischer's Mother was that
she was half Polish [Fisher's Father was German].
She was quite intelligent, spoke 5 different languages and had
to bring up two children by herself in New York in the 40's.)
I was surfing around looking for Fischer pictures and
looked at most of the news items regarding Fischer.
Some are quite good, excellent in fact, some so-so.
some terrible, biased and ill informed.
It's the notice boards and reports from non-players
that are out of order.
It seems that every man and his spotty dog has an opinion
on Fischer's state of mind. Most from people who have
never played over a Fischer game and some from players
who will never understand a Fischer game.
To all you amateur psychoanalysts out there I give you
this from someone who was a Chess Grandmaster and a
qualified psychoanalyst. Rueben Fine.
Spassky v Fischer 1972. Game 3. Fischer had just played 11 .... Nh5!
"In order to get the two Bishops and increase his attacking chances."
C.H.O'D. ALexander in his book of the match.
Ruben Fine thought that Fischer played 11...Nh5 because he had a
deep rooted fear of women and this was his way of avoiding them.
(see Ruben Fine's book - Bobby Fischer's Conquest of the World Championship)
Now I think we can all agree that that is a load of absolute trash.
Pure undiluted garbage.*
But if a qualified psychoanalyst is coming out with guff like that.
What hope do you amateur psychoanalysts have of getting it right?
No hope at all - so shut it.
Bobby Fischer was a genius, an eccentric who suffered in his later years
from severe mental health problems. That was NOT his fault.
The fault lay with the media people who shoved a microphone
under his nose knowing full well that this man was unwell.
And that is all I am going to say regarding Fischer post 1975.
*Mind you Fine was spot on with his '72 match predication.
12½ - 7½ to Fischer. And it was. So perhaps.....
Fischer v Karpov 1975
A great pity this match never took place.
I think Fischer would have won in 1975.
Karpov was not Karpov in 1975. In 1978, yes he would have
emerged as the challenger again, he would have won.
You don't agree. Well look at the 1978 Korchnoi match.
Karpov was cruising 5-2 when suddenly sportsmanship got
a wee bit out of hand and Korchnoi pulled it back to
5-5 winning three games out of 4.
Bobby would have put Karpov through an off the board mill.
(over the board he would have been a handful as well)
I'm not saying Fischer was a cheat.
Every chess player he ever played has said Fischer at
the board was a perfect gentleman. And he expected the same.
But all the wrangling, the huffing and the puffing about
venues, money, conditions would have gotten to Karpov.
Fischer was correct to complain about the conditions and the money
He had to drag chess into the 20th century.
(In his early years Fischer won typewriters for winning tournaments.)
His fellow players sat back and lapped up the consequences.
At Reykjavik in '72 Fischer was going on and on about the
money, conditions, the lights, the television cameras.
They asked Spassky for his opinion.
"Leave it to Fischer." said Spassky.
And Spassky was correct.
Do you know what was the prize fund for the 1969 Petrosian - Spassky
World Championship match? $1,400. (one thousand four hundred dollars).
The prize fund 3 years later?
$120,000 and then Jim Slater added another $120,000 -
that what's Bobby Fischer did for chess.
You had to be there in '72. It was fantastic.
Chess opened the news, Chess was on the cover of all the papers.
Chess columns sprung up everywhere.
It was chess chess chess and more chess.
I wish I had the foresight to take a picture of THINS bookshop.
The whole of the main window was dedicated to chess with
60 Memorable Games everywhere and a chess set (board set up correctly).
Talking of phonographs.
I think the best Fischer picture is the one when he finally
arrives at Reykjavik airport. Here he is coming down the gang plank.
Alone and ready to take on the Russians.
He is carrying a chess board.
There was even a chess song by Joe Glazier and the Fianchettoed Bishops.
The Ballad of Bobby Fischer (sung to the tune of Davy Crockett).
"Despite his attempts to innovate, Larsen was bent right out of shape."
Most of the obituary's I read about Fischer concentrate on the 1972 match.
A lot of them copied from each other but when the writer tried to
add something of their own, they fell on their face.
One I read said that Fischer had won because Spassky was passed his best
and never challenged again for the World title.
OK Spassky never played in another World final but he did play
in a couple of candidates matches and in 1973 Spassky won the
USSR Championship. Passed his best?
I have 3 books from the 1972 match.
Alexander's is the best, Gligoric's is also very good,
Reshevsky's does it job but it's cold.
I think one piece of analysis from Game 8 gives you an
idea of how the three books stand against each other.
Fischer has just played 15.Be3.
Spassky replied 15...b5 and Fischer played 16.Ba7 winning the exchange.
Alexander is of the opinion that 15....b5 was an exchange sac backing
this up with sound analysis leading to a draw. Spassky blundered
a pawn 3 moves later and lost the game.
Gligoric said 15...b5 was tiredness and a simple oversight.(after 15 moves?)
Setting the trap.
15. ... b5??
Spassky fell for the trap.
A few humorous stories revolving around Fischer.
Taimanov lost 6-0 against Fischer in the candidates.
When Taimanov arrived back in Russia he was stopped at
customs for the first time. They found in his possession
a banned book, The First Circle by Solzhenitsyn.
Taimanov later said the custom official told him.
"Why did you lose? If you had beaten Fischer I would have
carried all the volumes of Solzhenitsyn's books to your taxi."
Taimanov was put on trial by the Sports Committee for losing.
He lost all his State advantages and was a social outcast.
The joke at the time was...
"Have you heard that Solzhenitsyn has been arrested."
"Carrying one of Taimanov's chess books."
At the peak of Fischer's negotiations during the '72 match,
one stipulation amongst the many was no chess was to played
between sundowns on Friday and Saturday due to Fischer observing
his religious beliefs.
The Icelanders thought this was very amusing.
In Iceland during Summer the sun never sets.
Lothar Schmid the match arbiter who had been turned inside out,
upside down and screwed sideways by Fischer's endless pre-match
demands and complaints was heard to mutter.
"I think he [Fischer] is going to demand the Sun sets."
I mentioned Fischer was a perfect gentleman at the board
but I have one collaborated Fischer story about an incident
when he gave a simultaneous display in Richmond on the 5th March 1964.
Fischer stated before the exhibition he would allow two passes.
One elderly gent kept waving Fischer passed.
Fischer eventually stopped at the board and tapped on the table.
"C'mon fella move. This ain't postal chess."
Rude? No at all. He came from New York. He was what he was.
Between 1966 and 1969 Fischer would occasionally write
a chess column for Boys Life.
Here are Fischer's four pieces of chess advice from one column.
Just one slip can cost the game. Many players use only a fraction
of their energy. Chess requires total concentration.
Keep your mind completely on the game.
Play to win. Nobody's interested in excuses when you lose.
(2) THINK AHEAD
Distrust your first instinct in selecting a move.
Sit on your hands. Look ahead to picture your opponent's
best reply and how you will answer that.
Remember, it's essential for your development as a chessplayer
to adhere to touch move - once you touch a piece you must move it.
Give no quarter and ask for none.
(3) LEARN FROM YOUR LOSSES
The Cuban World Champion Jose Capablanca admitted that he only
learned from his losses. Record all your offhand games and go
over them later to try to find where you made your mistakes -
if you do not already know.
You are not likely to lose the same way twice and you also retain
a permanent record of your own progress.
Play over recent games of masters in books and magazines.
Combine this study with actual play against strong opponents.
And, of course, spend as much spare time at the game as you can.
My favourite Fischer Game?
Where do I start?
I recall speaking to Kenny Neil about Fischer games.
We both had The Complete Games of Bobby Fischer by Wade & O'Connell.
"Open the book at any page and play over any game." said Kenny.
"It's a mini masterpiece."
Of course I have...
..and one game I know I have studied, played over and over again
was infact a Fischer loss. Game 58 Fischer - Geller.
Trust Fischer to include his defeats in this great chess book.
He knew they were beneficial to the student of the game.
(remember his advice about losses in the Boys Life)
He even included off-hand games and in some games,
notes from simultaneous displays. A unique trend.
I have to admit when I first bought this book in 1972 a lot
of it went over my head. Whoosh!
But one night I just happened to be flicking through it and
noticed at the bottom of one page..
'About the only move that doesn't win is 21.B-N5? 0-0!'
Here it is with my scribbles from the mid 70's.
These are the notes from Fischer - Dely, Skopje, 1967
which are included in the Geller game.
There are loads of complete games in the notes of 60 Memorable Games.
Some of them are quite brilliant.
Also in the Geller game is a magnificent game from
a simultaneous display. Fischer - Pascual.
One whammo after another. An excellent example of maintaining
the pressure. Pascual must have dreaded Fischer coming round
to make his move.
In the actual game Fischer's comments are refreshingly honest.
'21... B-R5!! I didn't see it!'
Me and game 58 have spent many many happy hours together.
The Dely game was one of my tools when I stood in front of a demo board.
We would play over the game spotting all the shots and pots.
We would reach the critical position. The hard bit.
The win is in front of you now find the killer move.
I would ask the class for White's next move. 21.Bg5 they would reply
and I would delight in showing them 21....0-0!
Here is the game. The first two branches of analysis are the Dely game
and second the Pascual game. In the Dely game (Dely resigned after 17.Qa4+)
I have carried on following Fischer's analyses including the bad 21.Bg5.
(the winning move is 21.Bb6! as given by Fischer).
The third branch of analysis is the win Fischer missed during the game.
I urge you to get out 60 Memorable Game and go over all the game
playing out the joy in the notes.
[Click here to replay the game]
Fischer - Geller
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Be3 [7.Bb3 a6 8.f4 Qa5 9.0-0 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 d5 11.Be3 Nxe4 12.Nxe4 dxe4 13.f5 Qb4 14.fxe6 Bxe6 15.Bxe6 fxe6 16.Rxf8+ Qxf8 17.Qa4+ b5 18.Qxe4 Rd8 19.Qc6+ Rd7 20.Rd1 Qe7 21.Bg5 0-0!] 7...Be7 8.Bb3 [8.Qe2 a6 9.0-0-0 Qc7 10.Bb3 Bd7 11.g4 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 e5 13.g5 exd4 14.gxf6 dxc3 15.fxe7 cxb2+ 16.Kb1 Kxe7 17.Qh5 g6 18.Qh4+ f6 19.e5 dxe5 20.f4 e4 21.Qh6 Rae8 22.Rd4 Kd8 23.Rhd1 Kc8 24.Rxd7 Qxd7 25.Rxd7 Kxd7 26.Qg7+ Kd6 27.Qxb7 e3 28.Qb6+] 8...0-0 9.Qe2 Qa5 10.0-0-0 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bd7 12.Kb1 Bc6 13.f4 Rad8 14.Rhf1 b5 15.f5 b4 16.fxe6 bxc3 17.exf7+ Kh8 18.Rf5 Qb4 19.Qf1 Nxe4 20.a3 [20.Qf4 cxb2 21.Rh5 Nc3+ 22.Kxb2 Nxd1+ 23.Kc1 Rxf7 24.Bxf7] 20...Qb7 21.Qf4 Ba4 22.Qg4 Bf6 23.Rxf6 Bxb3 0-1
Fischer ends this game with the note.
It is not enough to be a good player, observed Dr. Tarrasch:
You must also play well.
"Fischer likes Tarrasch." I remembered thinking.
"Everyone hates Tarrasch." Which goes to show how little
I knew and how little I had read and how outside influences
can have such an effect on an experienced player.
I sought out Tarrasch games and that opened up a whole chapter
in my development. Tarrasch's Best Games by Reinfeld (and Tarrasch)
is, in my very low and humble opinion, is a much better book for
the home and casual player than 60 Memorable Games.
You have to be a good player to get the full benefit of 60 Memorable Games.
Fischer loved Chess. He gave his life to chess.
To the rest of the world he may have come across as
greedy, selfish, arrogant, impolite and aloof.
To those that knew him, those he allowed to get close,
he was kind, generous, pleasant, polite and caring.
One example, In Curacao in 1962. Tal took ill during
the tournament and had to go to hospital.
Fischer was the only player to go and visit him.
I have a couple of curious coincidences.
This first one I just recently discovered.
Fischer's first grade was 1726,
My first grade was 1725
(Then in Scotland we rounded down in 5's - so Fischer's would have been 1725)
Fischer's 2nd grade was 1830.
My 2nd grade was 1830.
Fischer's 3rd grade was 2153.
My third grade was...look enough of this, it' silly.
And finally this.
The first known opponent we have for Bobby was when he took
part in a simultaneous display given by master Max Pavey.
Fischer lost in 15 moves. the date was the 17th January 1951.
Robert James Fischer passed away on the 17th January 2008.
(Max Pavey was the Scottish Chess Champion in 1939)
The main sources for the above article come mainly from;
Bobby Fischer goes to War, Edmonds and Eidinow, Faber & Faber.
The Unknown Bobby Fischer, Donaldson & Tangboom, International Chess Enterprises.
My 60 Memorable Games, Bobby Fischer, Faber & Faber.
The Complete Games of Bobby Fischer, Wade & O'Connell, Batsford.
The rest have come from memory on what I have picked up
from magazines, books and players who have met Bobby.
R.I.P Bobby Fischer and thank you.