60 years ago: Bobby Fischer

60 years ago: Bobby Fischer

Ezen a napon on this day

Sixty years ago, on January 4th 1959, 15-year-old Bobby Fischer won his second US Championship with a draw against Robert Byrne. A year earlier Fischer had become a US champion for the first time as a 14-year-old. In defending the title, the eventual champion proved his excellent opening skills and good endgame skills, but above all, his tremendous fighting spirit. | Photo: Bobby Fischer in Portoroz 1958, tournament book

Hatvan évvel ezelőtt, 1959. január 4-én, az akkor 15 éves Bobby Fischer nyerte meg a második amerikai bajnokságát Robert Byrne ellen. Egy évvel korábban, Fischer 14 éves korában megnyerte első amerikai bajnokságát. A zseniális világbajnok, a tizenegyedik világelső, Robert Fischer új hazájában, Izlandon, 65. életévében hunyt el. Reykjavíkban az évszázad mérkőzését vívta a címvédő szovjet Borisz Szpasszkijjal. Sokan a két világrendszer “háborújának” is nevezték a meccset, amelyet Fischer 12,5-8,5-re megnyert, s ezzel megtörte a szovjet hegemóniát. Igazi bajnok volt, fantasztikus játszmáin, szemet-lelket gyönyörködtető kombinációin nemzedékek nőttek fel.

When a 14-year-old was young

Robert James Fischer won every U.S. Championship in which he took part during his career — eight times all in all — and today is considered as one of the best players of all time. 60 years later, his result in 1958 might not seem as spectacular as it was back then. Today many 14-year old talents have grandmaster strength (or are already grandmasters). But consider that in 1958 this was virtually unheard of.

Back then Fischer’s win was a sensation. Obviously he was highly talented, but Fischer still seemed to lack experience. Before the U.S. Championship 1957/1958 he had played only 110 official tournament games, and only one really strong tournament, the Lessing Rosenwald Memorial 1956. In this tournament he had played the “Game of the Century” against Donald Byrne but still had to learn the hard way and with 4½ / 11 he finally shared only eighth to tenth place. Okay, in 1957 Fischer had won both the U.S. Junior Championship and the U.S. Open Championship but both tournaments were not nearly as strong as the U.S. Championship 1957/1958.

The Championship attracted a number of strong players because the first two places automatically qualified for the Interzonal Tournament — part of the World Championship cycle — and thanks to a group of wealthy sponsors who wanted to support chess in the USA the prizes were also attractive. Pre-tournament favourite was Samuel Reshevsky, who at that time was considered to be the strongest player in the US.

(Left) Samuel Reshevsky at the Candidates 1968 | Photo: By Kroon, Ron / Anefo CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, via Wikimedia Commons | (Right) Bobby Fischer in 1957 | Photo: Robert Walker, New York Times

Reshevsky, who was born on November 26, 1911, no longer was a wunderkind but still one of the strongest players in the world. At the World Championship Tournament 1948 in Moscow and The Hague, he shared third to fourth place with Paul Keres, behind tournament winner Mikhail Botvinnik and Vasily Smyslov, and at the Candidates Tournament in Zurich 1953 Reshevsky had shared second to fourth place with David Bronstein and Keres, behind Smyslov, who won the tournament.

Apart from Reshevsky, young talents such as reigning World Junior Champion William Lombardy or Larry Evans were given chances to win the title. Defending champion was Arthur Bisguier and before the tournament he predicted that Fischer would score a bit more than 50 percent. (see Andy Soltis, The United States Chess Championship, 1845-2011, McFarland 2012, p. 90.)

But right from the start the 14-year old Fischer showed that he wanted to win the title. His chess was surprisingly mature and universal. He was well versed in current opening theory, and impressed onlookers with attacking and positional skills as well as his ability to defend

A 15-year-old defending champion


Today, Fischer is a chess legend and is considered by many to be the best player ever. He won all eight US Championships in which he participated, including the astounding 11 points from 11 games in 1963/1964. But before the US championship 1958/1959, which took place from December 18th, 1958 to January 4th, 1959 at the Henry Hudson Hotel in New York, he was not the clear favourite, despite having just become the then youngest Grandmaster of all time and celebrated as a child prodigy. Pal Benko and Samuel Reshevsky were given good chances to win the tournament. Benko had finished fourth in the Interzonal in Portoroz in 1958, placing ahead of Fischer, who ended up sixth. Reshevsky did not participate in Portoroz, but was still considered one of the best players in the US — if not the best.

However, Fischer showed from the beginning of the championship that he wanted to defend his title. He started with 3½ points from 4 games and in all these games the result was hanging in the balance, decided only in the endgame. After a short draw with Black against Benko in round 5, he faced Reshevsky in the sixth round — the mid-point of the tournament.

Fischer had White and benefited from his excellent opening knowledge. In a Sicilian, he followed a recommendation he had encountered in a Russian chess magazine, and scored an easy win, having caught Reshevsky flat-footed, the latter missed a treacherous trap and was virtually lost after only 11 moves.

[Event “USA-ch (Rosenwald 5th)”] [White “Fischer, Robert James”] [Black
“Bisguier, Arthur Bernard”] [Site “New York”] [Round “10”] [Annotator
“Fischer”] [Result “1-0”] [Date “1958.??.??”] [PlyCount “171”]

1. e4 {} Nc6 2. Nf3 e5 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3
0-0 8. c3 d6 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Qc7 12. Nbd2 cxd4 13. cxd4 Bd7
14. Nf1 Rfc8 15. Ne3 Nc6 16. a3 a5 17. d5 Nd8 18. Bd2 a4 19. Bb4 Bf8 20.
Bd3 Nb7 21. Qe2 Qb6 22. Nd2 Nc5 23. Kh2 g6 24. Rac1 Bh6 25. Bb1 Rc7 26.
Qf3 Bg5 27. g3 h5 28. Kg2 Kg7 29. Rf1 h4 30. Qe2 Rh8 31. Rh1 Nh5 32. Nf3
hxg3 33. fxg3 Bf4 34. Be1 Qb8 35. Bf2 Qc8 36. h4 Bg4 $2 {Black misses the win:} ({After} 36… Bxg3 $1 37. Bxg3 Nxg3 38. Kxg3 Nxe4+
39. Bxe4 Rxc1 40. Rxc1 Qxc1 {Black has two pawns and a rook for White’s two knights, but the white king is exposed and the black pawns in the centre will soon take over.} )37. Rc3 Bd7 38. Nf1 Bh6 39. N1d2 Nf6 40. Be3 Bxe3 41.
Qxe3 Ng4 42. Qe2 Nb3 43. Rxc7 Qxc7 44. Nxb3 axb3 45. Nh2 Qc4 46. Bd3 Qd4
47. Nxg4 Bxg4 48. Qxg4 Qxd3 49. Rf1 Rf8 50. h5 Rh8 51. Qf3 Qxf3+ 52.
Rxf3 gxh5 53. Rxb3 Rb8 54. Rb4 f5 55. exf5 Kf6 56. a4 Ra8 57. axb5 Kxf5
58. b6 e4 59. Kf2 Ke5 60. Ke3 Kxd5 61. Rxe4 Rb8 62. Rh4 Rxb6 63. Rxh5+
Ke6 64. Rh2 Ke5 65. Kd3 Rb3+ 66. Kc4 Rxg3 67. Re2+ Kf5 68. Kd5 Rd3+ 69.
Kc6 d5 70. b4 d4 $2 { Now Black misses the draw:} (70… Rb3 71.
Kc5 (71. b5 $2 d4 72. b6 d3 73. Re8 d2 74. Rd8 Rb2 $11 { Matanovic} )d4
72. Kc4 Rb1 73. Re8 $1 d3 74. Rd8 Rc1+ (74… Ke4 75. Rd4+ $18 {Minev}
)75. Kb3 Ke4 $11 {PS} )71. Kd5 $1 $18 Rd1 72. Rf2+ Kg4 73. Kc4 $2 {An inaccuracy, according to
Karsten Mueller.} ({With} 73. b5 d3 74. Rb2 Rc1 75. Rd2
Rb1 76. Kc5 Rc1+ 77. Kb6 Rc3 78. Ka5 Kf5 79. Kb4 Rc8 80. Rxd3 {White could have won.} )d3 $2 {Black returns the favour.} (73… Kg3 74. Rf8 d3 75. Rd8 d2 76. Kc3 Kf4 77. Rxd2 Rxd2 78.
Kxd2 Ke4 {leads to a draw Karsten Mueller notes.} )74. Kc3 Rb1 75. Rd2 Kf4
76. Rxd3 Ke4 77. Rd8 Rc1+ 78. Kb3 Ke5 79. Ka4 Ke6 80. Rd2 Rc7 81. b5 Rd7
$6 82. Rxd7 Kxd7 83. Ka5 Kc7 84. Ka6 Kb8 85. Kb6 Kc8 86. Ka7 1-0

[Event “USA-ch (Rosenwald 5th)”]
[Site “New York”]
[Date “1958.??.??”]
[Round “6”]
[White “Fischer, Robert James”]
[Black “Reshevsky, Samuel Herman”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “B35”]
[Annotator “PS”]
[PlyCount “83”]
[EventDate “1958.12.??”]
[EventType “tourn”]
[EventRounds “11”]
[EventCountry “USA”]
[SourceTitle “Fischer Games”]
[Source “ChessBase”]
[SourceDate “2013.10.02”]
[SourceVersion “1”]
[SourceVersionDate “2013.10.02”]
[SourceQuality “1”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 O-O 8.
Bb3 Na5 $2 (8… d6) (8… Ng4) 9. e5 $1 Ne8 (9… Nxb3 10. exf6 Nxa1 11. fxg7
Nxc2+ 12. Qxc2 Kxg7 $16 {[%csl Rg7]}) 10. Bxf7+ $3 Kxf7 (10… Rxf7 11. Ne6 $18
) 11. Ne6 $1 dxe6 (11… Kxe6 12. Qd5+ Kf5 13. g4+ Kxg4 14. Rg1+ Kh4 (14… Kh5
15. Qg2 {[%cal Rg2g5,Rg2h3]} h6 16. Qh3#) (14… Kh3 15. Qg2+ Kh4 16. Qg4#) (
14… Kf5 15. Rg5#) 15. Bg5+ Kh5 (15… Kh3 16. Qg2#) 16. Qd1+ Rf3 17. Qxf3#)
12. Qxd8 Nc6 13. Qd2 $18 Bxe5 14. O-O Nd6 15. Bf4 Nc4 16. Qe2 Bxf4 17. Qxc4 Kg7
18. Ne4 Bc7 19. Nc5 Rf6 20. c3 e5 21. Rad1 Nd8 22. Nd7 Rc6 23. Qh4 Re6 24. Nc5
Rf6 25. Ne4 Rf4 26. Qxe7+ Rf7 27. Qa3 Nc6 28. Nd6 Bxd6 29. Rxd6 Bf5 30. b4 Rff8
31. b5 Nd8 32. Rd5 Nf7 33. Rc5 a6 34. b6 Be4 35. Re1 Bc6 36. Rxc6 bxc6 37. b7
Rab8 38. Qxa6 Nd8 39. Rb1 Rf7 40. h3 Rfxb7 41. Rxb7+ Rxb7 42. Qa8 1-0