Bobby Fischer

Robert James Fischer , better known as Bobby Fischer ( Chicago , 9 of March of 1943 – Reykjavik , 17 of January of 2008 ), one was a grandmaster of chess , world champion between 1972 and 1975. He received the highest title of world chess Defeating the Soviet Boris Spaski in the so-called ” Match of the Century “. However, after achieving the title did not play again ever. American by birth, origin Jew , his country issued warrant for arrest against him in 1992 for having played another match against Boris Spassky in Sveti Stefan ( Yugoslavia , a country against which the United States had decreed one block ) and later revoked his passport . In July 2004, Fischer was arrested at the airport Narita – in Tokyo ( Japan ) – for trying to leave the country using an invalid passport; Was released eight months later and allowed to travel to Iceland , a country that had just granted him Icelandic citizenship in spite of the malaise that this generated in the United States authorities. He died in Iceland three years later.

Early years

Strictly speaking, Bobby Fischer was not a child prodigy like Jose Raul Capablanca , Samuel Reshevsky or Arturo Pomar . Its development at first was rather slow. Until the age of thirteen he did not begin to emerge as a player of superior ability; Before that age were not appreciated in their results and their quality of game signs of extraordinary chess talent. The statement of the Spanish international referee Pablo Morán is correct in that “As a child prodigy was not very bright; On the other hand, as an adolescent prodigy he has had no match in the history of chess. ” 2

He was the son of Swiss nurse Regina Wender, intelligent and polyglot, and German physicist Hans-Gerhardt Fischer, although there is controversy as to whether the latter was the biological father of Bobby, since Regina and Hans-Gerhardt had not lived together since 1939 . 3 is considered almost certain that his biological father was the Hungarian physicist Paul Nemenyi, endowed with amazing intelligence of mathematical type. In any case, Regina and Hans-Gerhardt did not obtain the divorce until 1945; Bobby, who was then two years old, was, along with his older sister Joan, in the care of his mother. In 1949 Regina moved with her two children to New York , to a small apartment in Brooklyn . Fischer learned to play chess on his own, from the instructions that came in a case with various games that his sister gave him. His love for chess increased until he became obsessed; His mother, worried, took him to the office of a psychiatrist but the attitude of the boy did not change. In January of 1951, thanks to an announcement in the newspaper, Bobby participated in a simultaneous session against the teacher Max Pavey; That was his first public appearance as a chess player, and although he lost served him, according to his own confession, to continue to excel in chess. The president of the Brooklyn Chess Club, Carmine Nigro, was his chess mentor, taught him the basics of strategy and introduced him to the world of competitive chess.

In 1955 he entered the Manhattan Chess Club and participated for the first time in the Junior Championship of the United States, finishing in tenth place. A year later, in Philadelphia, he would win the youth title, winning eight games, tying one and losing another. Shortly after this victory, Fischer left the Erasmus Hall High School to the 16 years to dedicate itself completely to the chess; He argued that studying was a waste of time. His teachers reminded him of a difficult boy. He probably had a high IQ (maybe 187), though he was asocial. In 1956, John Collins , who had tutored other outstanding players like Robert Byrne and William Lombardy , accepted him as a pupil. Collins has sometimes been described as a paternal figure for Fischer.

On his departure with Donald Byrne , known by some as the ” game of the century ” in 1956, Dr. Max Euwe , world champion between 1935 and 1937, commented: “Let a renowned teacher trust himself too much before a young player in full progress , And therefore suffered a serious defeat, has nothing in particular, and in the history of chess are recorded many examples. But what does not happen every day is that a thirteen-year-old boy outnumbers in the match one of the best players in the United States. Fischer’s combinations are not particularly profound, though they are not obvious either. ” 4

When Bobby was 17 years old his mother decided that he could not continue to live with him and moved to the Bronx, leaving only his son in the Brooklyn apartment, totally dedicated to chess.

Professional Chess

His career coincides with the rise of the Soviet chess school, which, subsidized by the state, dominated the discipline from 1948 until the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, with the parenthesis of Fischer; And even after such disintegration, the players trained in that Soviet school were at the top for years. The United States Championship of 1957 had for the International Chess Federation (FIDE) in the system of Candidates to the world-wide title, Zonal category. Bobby, a US junior champion who had finished ninth in the previous edition of the championship, won first place and qualified for the Interzonal Tournament in Portoroz (now Slovenia) the following year, in which he won the Sixth A magnificent result that allowed him to enter the Candidate tournament and automatically obtain the title of Grand Master. Many players have since passed Fischer’s precocious record in getting the title of Grand Master (he did fifteen and a half years); It should be noted, however, that the American reached it with very limited resources, at a time when chess information, particularly that which came to the United States, was minimal; Alone and without coaches (while Soviet players received official support), and without the aid of powerful gaming programs and databases available to current players. It took thirty-three years for the Hungarian Judith Polgár to establish a new brand.

He played nine times the Rosenwald Tournament in New York , which marked the United States Championship. In his first participation only he could win a couple of games, although one of them, his victory before Donald Byrne of which we have already spoken, projected it to the international fame since it was published in specialized magazines practically of the whole world. In that game Fischer won by a brilliant combination game, even more surprising if you take into account that he was barely thirteen years old. In its remaining eight appearances it obtained in all the national title with at least one point of advantage over the second classified. In the edition of 1963 also obtained the prowess of crowning champion winning in all the games; An unprecedented feat for the likes of Reshevsky , Larry Evans , Pal Benko and Robert Byrne.

Chess Olympics

Bobby Fischer went to four Chess Olympiads with the United States team. In all of them he achieved outstanding results, including two silver and one bronze medal defending the first board of his country. Their clashes against the Soviet Union team, whose first board usually occupied the world champion, produced extraordinary items that collect the anthologies. In Leipzig (Germany) in 1960, he tied spectacularly with the Soviet then world champion Mikhail Tal ; At the end of the game, Fischer said slyly to the champion, “Do not play badly,” to which Tal replied: “This is the first time you recognize him, and if I had won I would claim that I played like a genius.” 5

Two years later, in Varna (Bulgaria), he would meet the legendary Mikhail Botvinnik , who dominated throughout the match but this would save the tie thanks to the help in analyzing the deferred position of his teammates, especially Efim Geller , reaching an end of theoretical tables at material disadvantage. At the Olympiad in Havana , the Soviet Union team reserved for world champion Petrosian, so Fischer faced then runner-up Boris Spassky with whom he would sign the tables after fifty-seven moves in a game that began with The Spanish Apertura or Ruy López . In his last “Olympic” performance, in Siegen (Germany), Spassky, already as world champion, would brilliantly defeat the great master of Brooklyn. Fischer in total won 40 games, tied 18 and lost 7 in the maximum competition for chess teams, with a percentage effectiveness of 75.4 percent.

International tournaments

Even with his enormous talent and dedication to the game, the world championship would have to wait some years. In the marathon tournament of Candidates 1959, in Yugoslavia (played in three cities: Bled , Zagreb and Belgrade ), finished in fifth place, tied to points with Svetozar Gligorić , great figure of the international chess; This time Fisher lost his four games with Tal. In 1962, he triumphed in the Interzonal of Stockholm (Sweden), with two points ahead of Tigrán Petrosian (1929-1984), who would be crowned world champion a year later, and Geller. In the Candidate tournament of Curaçao (Netherlands Antilles), however, Fischer would end up surprisingly in a distant fourth, behind Petrosian, Paul Keres and Geller, and would report in a magazine article that the Soviets played as a team, attending, and Making easy tables between them to distribute the points and to reserve, in order to move away from the preferential positions to other players. Of course, Fischer’s accusations could not be proved, but soon the FIDE would change the rules of the world championship, replacing the Candidate tournament system with that of individual clashes.

Fischer temporarily retired from professional chess for a few months between 1964 and 1965, devoted himself to giving exhibitions and did not participate in the cycle of candidates that culminated in the world title match between Petrosian and Boris Spassky in 1966, nor did he attend the Olympiad From Tel Aviv, Israel. In 1967, nevertheless, it would appear to the Interzonal de Sousse (Tunis) in a new attack by the world-wide title. After ten rounds, Fischer led the way with an impressive record of seven wins and three draws, when he unexpectedly decided to leave the tournament, claiming a loaded schedule. Fischer’s criticism seemed unfair because the tournament had been structured, among other things, to respect the days of rest that his religious beliefs imposed on him. Of that contest is memorable his departure in front of Reshevsky, because Fischer appeared in the room of game few minutes before losing by default, and with half of the time allotted in his watch it defeated with relative ease to its illustrious opponent.

Bobby Fischer won all the tournaments in which he participated from December 1962 until the 1972 World Championship, with only two exceptions: the 1965 Capablanca Memorial Tournament (held in Havana and Bobby played by teletype since New York), in which he was tied in second place with Borislav Ivkov and Geller, half point behind the winner Smyslov ; And the Piatigorsky Cup of 1966, in which he occupied the second place, a point and a half behind Spassky. Throughout his career he never lost an individual match or match, as he is known in chess jargon. He defeated the Filipino Cardoso in 1957, and in 1961 left a duel with Reshevsky, who was tied after eleven games, due to disagreements with the organizers; On his way to the world championship he won three unassailable victories (against the Danish Bent Larsen and the Soviets Mark Taimanov and Petrosian), and finally defeated Spassky in the aforementioned famous Match of the Century. Twenty years later, in 1992, he played against an old rival Spassky an exhibition meeting, of which we will speak.

One of the characteristics that distinguished Fischer was the speed of his game. In very few occasions he was in a difficult time, because he almost always played agile and very correct. It is no wonder that with his exceptional talent he became one of the best players of fast games (called blitz , where each player has five minutes for the whole game). In 1970 was played in Herceg Novi (Montenegro, former Yugoslavia), the largest tournament of fast games held until then. Fischer triumphed on nineteen of the twenty-two possible points against first-rate opponents such as former world champions Tal, Petrosian and Smyslov and exaspiring David Bronstein and Reshevsky. Only Fischer and Tal were able to reproduce by memory, once the competition had finished, the games they had played.

That same year the then annual meeting between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world was held in Belgrade (Serbia, former Yugoslavia) . Bobby Fischer agreed to play on the second board, giving the first to Larsen, who had obtained better results in the previous months, as the American had remained inactive. Fischer had to face Petrosian, then world runner-up, who convincingly won 3 to 1 (two wins and two boards), despite having stayed away from the boards. In the 1971 edition, the American would win for the first time the Oscar of Chess , distinction that would repeat the following two years.

Candidate Meetings

In 1972, finally, it reached the right to dispute the Championship of the World. He obtained the first place in the Interzonal Tournament of Palma de Mallorca (Islas Baleares, Spain) of 1970, in which he won fifteen of the twenty-four matches he played (the last seven of the tournament in a row), something truly unusual considering the Level of the tournament. Later, in the heyday of its strength, coiled in the cycle of Candidates disputed throughout 1971 to the great masters Mark Taimánov (Soviet) and Bent Larsen (Danish, the only one that had managed to defeat him in the Interzonal of the previous year), By the same result in their respective clashes with the best of 10 matches: a flaming 6 to 0 that, in the case of Taimánov, he caused serious problems with the Soviet communist apparatus that accused him lack of character and not having known how to defend patriotic honor . In fact, that result caused a stir among the chess authorities of the Soviet Union, who not only accused Taimanov, but all the powerful team of analysts who accompanied him during the meeting. 6

The exceptional nature of these results can only be explained by saying that Fischer’s great talent had reached its greatest splendor. To understand the magnitude of Fischer’s feat, it must be borne in mind that in high-level chess, the draw is a natural result, since the contestants normally find it hard to break the balance. It has to be traced almost 100 years ago to find a similar result: in 1876, a still rudimentary chess season, the first world champion Wilhelm Steinitz defeated Joseph Henry Blackburne , one of the best players of the time, 7-0, In that case, Steinitz had the great advantage of finishing laying the foundations of modern chess that gave him an obvious superiority over other players. In 1971 to repeat that result in the high competition was incredible, and more to repeat it twice consecutive.

In the final of the candidates, Fischer defeated the former world champion Tigrán Petrosián in Buenos Aires (Argentina) by 6.5 to 2.5, thus winning the right to face Spassky with the world title at stake. His string of 20 consecutive victories (the last seven of Interzonal , his clashes with Taimánov and Larsen and the first of his encounter with Petrosian) is a real milestone in the history of elite chess, as is also having yielded alone 2.5 points (one defeat and three boards) in the 21 matches played in the three qualifying rounds of the Candidates. Something that astonished the chess world and intimidated its rivals.

Force of game

From 1970, the International Chess Federation adopted the formula of the Hungarian scientist Árpád Élő to estimate the force of game in the chess. Robert Fischer, in light of this system, in force today, reached the mark of 2785 points, a record that for a long time was considered the best performance achieved by a chess player. Over time, several notable players have overcome the barrier of 2800 points, including five world champions Garry Kasparov , Veselin Topalov , Vladimir Kramnik , Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen , as well as the great masters Levon Aronian , Alexander Grischuk And Fabiano Caruana . This fact alone, however, does not mean that its performance has been superior to that achieved by Fischer years ago, at least from the statistical point of view. This is due to the phenomenon known as “Elo inflation”. 7 The ratings of players have been increasing imperceptibly but sustained over the years, and although it exceeds the purpose of this article to refer to the causes of the phenomenon in quotation, to which a solution is constantly sought, 8 it is established that Elo evaluation is not a reliable criterion for comparing the level of chess players belonging to different epochs. However, it must be acknowledged, in fairness, that the general level of chess masters in modern times has increased considerably, making it more difficult to ascend the “ladder”.

Regardless of how the power of a chess player can be measured, Fischer was undoubtedly an exceptional player. His style is not easy to define but, according to his own rivals, he was based on a combination of energy and ambition of victory, tactical precision, theoretical preparation, strategic firmness and self-confidence.

The so-called “Partida del Siglo”

The 1972 world championship match was unique for a number of reasons, although some of them had nothing to do with chess. Reykjavik , capital of Iceland, represented the confrontation of two myths of the board. The first was Fischer himself, who had never concealed his sporting phobia towards the great Soviet masters. Their eccentricities, demands and reactions, possibly infantile, for good or for bad managed to interest the general public, usually oblivious to the incidences of professional chess. The exceptional thing about the American, however, was his results. His Elo score was 125 points higher than Spassky’s. If it had not been the number one and two of the world ranking, statistics would indicate only the confrontation of two different chess players. Such was Fischer’s distance from his contemporaries.

The challenger, indeed, seemed invincible. However, he faced a fearsome rival, another true myth of invulnerability. That rival was not only Spassky, a player of exceptional talent whom Fischer had not been able to win before this meeting, but the powerful Soviet chess structure , led by the Committee on Physical Education and Sports, which had produced all The world champions and runners-up since 1948, and had each won the Olympics since then. No world championship since 1951 had been played outside of Moscow.

Chess, in short, was a very serious thing in the Soviet Union , with important political implications, since its frequent triumphs were considered a proof of the superiority of the regime; They could not afford to lose the title at the hands of an aspirant from the United States . Former world champion Mikhail Botvinnik provided Spassky’s team with a comprehensive analysis of Fischer’s matches; Ígor Bondarevski would approach the technical part; Efim Geller the repertoire of openings ; Nicolay Krogius, of the psychological assistance; And Ivo Ney would be in charge of the physical set-up of the champion. 9Fischer’s support was Lombardy, lawyer Paul Marshall (who had a leading role) and Fred Cramer, the United States Chess Federation. The match could not be, by its particular circumstances, a mere sporting event. They faced two very different ways of understanding the world that aspired to supremacy. For a few months the Cold War moved to a chessboard.

After play number 30 of the first game, the two players came to a completely symmetrical position (two bishops of black squares and six pawns spread equally on both flanks). Fischer lost when he committed an amateur error when eating a pawn with his bishop who after the movement of a pawn of Spassky is without escape being an easy prey for the king that was near. He did not appear to the second game alleging disagreement with the organization. It seemed that Spassky would retain the title for Soviet chess; But Bobby Fischer won the third. The fourth game was tables and, since the fifth, the American grandmaster was firmly imposed. After a tense development, Fischer beat his rival after 21 games (Spassky abandoned the last game, which had been postponed) and was crowned world champion on September 1, 1972 with a total of 7 games won, 3 losses and 11 tables. He was the only American to win the title.

The eclipse

It turned out to be incomprehensible to everyone that the climax of Bobby Fischer’s race to conquer the world championship also meant his abrupt and complete final, since he never wanted to return to play a single game of official competition despite being only 29 years old. The only plausible explanation for this attitude is an unsurmountable fear of being defeated, which adds to the various signs of obsession and mental imbalance that he had hitherto given. In addition to not playing again thwarted the expectations of all the fans and organizers of the world, it should be noted that Bobby’s only source of future income would be chess or he would be closely related to it.

Following the next qualifying round three years later, in 1975, the champion once again claimed the title against the new challenger, in this case the 24-year-old Soviet teenager Anatoli Kárpov (born 1951). Then Bobby told FIDE that he did not want to defend his title in the same way that he had won, but according to another scheme before 1948, which consisted, among other things, that the victory would be for those who first reached 10 victories The tables), retaining the title the champion in case of a tie to 10. So far it can be said that it is an equitable and reasonable approach; Of personal tastes, if you will, but reasonable. The big drawback is that Fischer also intended to introduce the condition that he (Fischer) would also retain the title if he was tying nine.

Although FIDE and the Soviet delegation accepted Fischer’s remaining demands, the question of a tie to nine was neither reasonable nor admissible. In order to better understand the irrational nature of this condition, we can put it like this: “The champion will be Karpov if he wins ten games, and Fischer will win nine.” This condition would be ridiculous in other sports that are disputed to a predetermined score, like the tennis, or when in football it is necessary to resort to the launching of penalties. Botwinnik called this condition “unfair” (unfair). The FIDE disavowed this claim, but Fischer then refused to play. There was no other option than to deprive Fisher of his title and proclaim champion to Karpov, who, with his resounding wins in major tournaments and matches for the world championship for the next ten years, became undisputed world title and, with the passage Of the time, has proven to be one of the most formidable players in the history of chess, which has won an almost incredible total of 160 elite chess tournaments.

Fisher, deeply disappointing the world fans, continued without playing and even disappeared from public life. Kárpov, who said he felt like a child who is not given a long-promised toy, met in 1976 with Bobby to arrange a meeting, but his attempt was unsuccessful. In 1981, vagabond-looking Bobby was arrested in Pasadena (California) when police mistook him for a bank robber.

Much later, in 1992, Fischer, at the age of 49, agreed to play a friendly exhibition encounter against his former opponent Spassky, then 55 years old. The match would start in Sveti Stefan , on the Adriatic, and would end in Belgrade, both enclaves of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia , a nation from the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia . Although notorious for being Fischer’s reappearance after twenty years, this meeting was far from being a repeat of the famous 1972, as the Soviet Union had dissolved and there were no longer international interests or tensions; Spassky had been nationalized French and – this is remarkable – had fallen back in the international ranking Elo to the 124th position; And finally, there was no official or unofficial title at stake. The only really relevant was the financial section, since the exhibition was endowed with substantial cash prizes: 3.65 million dollars for the winner and 1.35 for the loser. The United States government banned Fischer – like all his fellow citizens – from getting involved in the match because of the trade restrictions imposed on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for its intervention in the recent war in Bosnia . In front of the cameras, Fischer (who was playing with an American flag on the table) spat on the letter of the government of his country that told him to give up playing. The meeting was held and ended with the victory of the American, although the quality of the games and the overall development of the event sparked little interest in the world of chess. US authorities issued a search and arrest warrant against Fischer, which could cost him up to 10 years in prison.

Over the years, at the same time that his mental health was beginning to deteriorate, Bobby Fischer had been characterized by furious anti- Semitic and anti- American pronouncements . Despite being himself of Jewish descent on the maternal side, he admired Adolf Hitler and was a Holocaust denier . October November On at least one occasion had declared in favor of a hypothetical right – wing military coup in his country, followed by the destruction of synagogues and execution of hundreds of thousands of Jews. 12

In an interview with a Philippine radio on September 12, 2001, Fischer proclaimed his satisfaction with the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon that had taken place the previous day and pronounced in very hard terms against the United States and Israel . 13 However, it should be noted that his hatred was never extrapolated to the board because throughout his life he maintained a cordial relationship with other Jewish chess players.

The end

In July 2004 he was detained at Narita Airport, in Tokyo, Japan for using an invalid passport , as the United States had canceled it. Bobby, spent eight months in detention until, in March 2005, Iceland finally granted him Icelandic citizenship, and the Japanese authorities authorized him to travel to Iceland. Iceland made this gesture for sentimental reasons, because the meeting of 1972 made famous his capital, Reykjavík, all over the world. The US authorities, however, expressed their displeasure at the granting of that nationality, because they demanded that the chess player be extradited to the United States for trial. 14

Three years later, on 18 January 2008, Fischer died at age 64 in Reykjavik (Iceland) on account of kidney disease and was buried in a simple grave in a cemetery near Selfoss , a small seaside resort in the southwest of the country .

In June 2010 the Icelandic Supreme Court ordered Fischer’s body to be exhumed to obtain a sample of his DNA and thus establish whether he had been the father of Jinky Young, a nine-year-old Filipino girl whose mother claimed to have had a relationship With the ex-champion. In July 2010 the body was exhumed and, after taking sample of its DNA, buried again. Magnus Skulason, Fischer’s close friend, maintained that the chess player was not the girl’s father. In August 2010 it was reported that the DNA test had revealed that Jinky Young was not the daughter of the former world champion.


  1. Back to top↑ «The legendary chess player Bobby Fischer dies at age 64, AFP» . Archived from the original on January 21, 2008.
  2. Back to top↑ Morán, Pablo (1978). Children prodigy of chess . (Page 94). Madrid: Mr Ediciones. ISBN 84-270-0229-7 .
  3. Back to top↑ Edmons, David and John Eidinow (2006). Bobby Fischer went to war . (Pp. 359-361). Debate.
  4. Back to top↑ Morán, Pablo (1988): Bobby Fischer, his life and his games (pp. 88-89). Barcelona (Spain): Martínez Roca, 1988. ISBN 978-84-270-0111-4 . File.
  5. Back to top↑ Morán (1988), p. 126.
  6. Back to top↑ «Bobby Fischer (V): The crushing machine rivals – Jot Down Cultural Magazine» (in Spanish of Spain) . June 19, 2013 . Retrieved on July 14, 2016 .
  7. Back to top↑ Jeff Sonas (2009). «Rating inflation – its causes and possible cures» .
  8. Back to top↑ «FIDE: We support the increase of factor K» . 2009.
  9. Back to top↑ Edmons, David and John Eidinow (2006), pp.131-133.
  10. Back to top↑ Gardner, Martin (2009): “Bobby Fischer: genius and idiot” , article in the journal Skeptical Inquirer , volume 33.5, September / October 2009.
  11. Back to top↑ Anthony, Andrew (2011): “Bobby Fischer: from prodigy to pariah” , May 15, 2011 article in The Guardian (London).
  12. Back to top↑ Weber, Bruce (2008): “Bobby Fischer, troubled genius of chess, dies at 64” , article of January 19, 2008 in the New York Times (New York).
  13. Back to top↑ Bamber, David; And Hastings, Chris (2001): “Bobby Fischer speaks out to applaud Trade Center attacks,” article of December 2, 2001 in the Telegraph newspaper (London).
  14. Back to top↑ Moss, Stephen (2008): “Death of a madman driven sane by chess” , January 19, 2008 article in The Guardian (London).