Random Posts

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reshevsky on Bobby Fischer and Others

I recently came across an interview with Samuel Reshevsky that was conducted by Hanon Russell in 1991 which I give in part here.

In the interview Reshevsky answered questions about Bobby Fischer and some of the events for which Fischer’s conduct is now famous. In the interview Reshevsky also gave his opinion of many famous players of the past.

HWR: Let's take this from another perspective. In a dispute with the organizers, Fischer withdrew while leading the tournament. What was your opinion of what happened at Sousse? Exclusive of your game.
SR: I think you might say that this was typical of Fischer. That is the way he handled himself generally. He always surprised everybody. The fact for example that he doesn't play anymore is also a surprise.
HWR: Do you have an opinion as to why, when he was leading the Interzonal, dominating it, he would quit?
SR: There is no answer to that. It is unexplainable.
HWR: When we were in Palma de Mallorca in December, 1989, you told me that you and Fischer were the first two players to arrive for the 1970 Interzonal, also held at Palma and that you two spent several days together sightseeing around Palma. You also told me that you were a bit surprised because, until then, you two had not been on such great terms, but then, you found him very friendly. Tell me a little bit about that experience.
SR: There was no one else there we knew, so we walked together, talked together. I thought he was quite friendly.
HWR: By this time, however, his extreme views on religion, Jews, Communists and everything else that Fischer did not agree with were well known. Were you uncomfortable with him? After all, you are an orthodox Jew and here is a fellow, he may be Bobby Fischer, but he certainly has nothing kind to say about Jewish people.
SR: I was not uncomfortable with his views at all. He has his views, I have my views. It didn't bother me. I tried to make him see the light. I didn't succeed, but I tried.
HWR: After his win over Spassky, he (Fischer) stopped playing. There are some people out there who think that even if FIDE had met his every demand, that he still would not have played. What is your opinion?
SR: My opinion is that the reason he never wanted to play again was because he wanted to remain an undefeated champion.
HWR: You are one of the very few people around who have seen and met such a wide range of players. I would like to give you the names of players and I would like your view of them. First, Capablanca.
SR: Very strong. His endgame was far above most players.
HWR: Alekhine.
SR: Very original. Especially in the openings. Whenever I saw him, and that was many times, he always had a pocket set in front of him. Even in the hotel lobby. He was always trying to find something new in the openings. And of course, he was brilliant in the middle game. A real attacking player.
HWR: Euwe.
SR: Euwe was strong of course. He was outstanding in the opening but insufficient in the endgame.
HWR: Botvinnik.
SR: An all-around player. It almost speaks for itself. World Champion for quite a few years, right?
HWR: Keres.
SR: Keres had only one weakness. He was not steady. Other than that, very strong.
HWR: Emanuel Lasker.
SR: [Smiles] World Champion for 27 years. I was fortunate to play him once when he was past his prime. He was considered the greatest player for many, many years. His strength, I think, was in the middle game. Not so much in the opening or endgame.
HWR: Smyslov.
SR: A great player and still is, positionally. ~ A lot of knowledge.
HWR: Najdorf.
SR: Najdorf was an attacking player, but unsteady. ~
HWR: Fine.
SR: Fine was a fine player. (Laughs]. Good in every aspect, endgame, openings but he too ~ was not steady. Strong, but not strong in every tournament.
HWR: Spassky.
SR: A fine player.
HWR: They say he is lazy.
SR: Yes, he sometimes does not like to work too hard. Maybe he's right! [Laughs].
HWR: Fischer.
SR: Outstanding, one of the greatest ever. A lot of talent, a lot of originality in the opening and middle game. I think his weakness was the endgame.
HWR: Karpov.
SR: Karpov is like a rock. Steady, steady, steady. He works hard and he succeeds. He's equipped in every phase of the game. A hard man to beat.
HWR: Kasparov.
SR: Very, very, very strong in all phases of the game. I think if I were to mention the greatest players ever, I probably would consider him one of them.
HWR: Speaking of the greatest, you are aware of the fact that when Fischer wrote an article for Frank Brady's magazine Chessworld he listed you as one of the ten greatest chessplayers ever. What did you think about that?
SR: I think he was right! (Laughs].

The following comment is from an article by Reshevsky’s daughter, Shaindel Reshevsky, describing his retirement.

Upon turning 70 he asked the Rebbe if he should retire. The Rebbe told him to continue playing because it was a Kiddush Hashem- a proud demonstration of a Jew succeeding without compromising. My father complied and never retired.

Reshevsky’s Talk with Fischer

In 1984, Reshevsky was proclaimed the joint winner of a major chess tournament which took place in Iceland, a victory for which he had prepared by asking for the Rebbe's blessing.

Following his victory in Iceland, Sammy received a letter from the Rebbe in which the Rebbe warmly praised him for his success in the tournament: "I was doubly gratified because it was good to know that you continue to participate in international tournaments, and especially that you shared the first prize in the tournament at Reykjavik. Needless to say, the most gratifying point is that you continue to display a Kiddush HaShem Barabim, insisting upon your right not to play on the holy Shabbat, and that your stance was recognized and accepted..."

At the end of the letter, the Rebbe wrote: "P.S. The following lines may appear strange, but I consider it my duty not to miss the opportunity to bring it to your attention. You surely are familiar with the life story of Bobby Fischer, of whom nothing has been heard in quite some time.

"Unfortunately, he did not have the proper Jewish education, which is probably the reason for his being so alienated from the Jewish way of life or the Jewish people. However, being a Jew, he should be helped by whomever possible. I am writing to you about this, since you are probably better informed about him than many other persons, and perhaps you may find some way in which he could be brought back to the Jewish fold, either through your personal efforts, or in some other way..."

When Reshevsky received the Rebbe's letter, his first reaction was one of joy: the Rebbe had chosen him for a special task. However, he understood that this mission would not be easily fulfilled. Bobby had already been out of public life for a few years, and was known to be living reclusively in Los Angeles. Soon after Reshevsky received the Rebbe's letter, he traveled to Los Angeles to play at a tournament. As soon as he arrived, he phoned Bobby and related the Rebbe's request to him. Bobby immediately agreed to see him. This was very unusual, since he did not often receive visitors. Their meeting lasted three hours, during which Bobby asked many serious questions about Judaism.

No comments:

Post a Comment