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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Early Bobby Fischer Article

The following is a reprint of an article on Fischer that appeared in the January 1959 issue of Chess Review.

ENCOUNTERS IN NEW YORK

As a sample of what Soviet readers are told of us, and our chess, we quote this article by V. Parkhit'ko in Shakhmaty v SSSR late last year. It is a curiously ingenious blend of absolute truth in convincing detail on the one hand and propagandistic half-truths and sly innuendos on the other. One outright misrepresentation, the purpose of which is obscure to us, we mention in a footnote.

     Soon after my arrival in the U.S.A., I went around to the Manhattan Chess Club. This is the biggest chess club in the U.S., but it is housed in only two small rooms on the ground floor of the Woodrow Hotel.
"You want to meet our new champion, Fischer?" said Club Director Hans Kmoch, "I'm not surprised. A good many newspapermen have wanted to see him lately."
     Robert Fischer (for this is Bobby's full name) is often mentioned in the American press at the moment. This fourteen. year-old boy has had great success. As early as 1956 he won the title of Junior Champion of the country.
     In July, 1957, in San Francisco, he entered the tourney again. The result was eight wins and a draw, first place and the championship.
     In August, 1957, he played in the so-called "Open Tournament," in Cleveland. This tournament is held annually and is considered the second most important one in the country. In it the strongest American players take part. The result was eight wins and four draws for Robert: ten points and first place.
     In September, 1957, the Pepsi-Cola Company, which competes with Coca Cola and is trying to crowd the latter out of the Philippine market, arranged a match between Fischer and Cardoso, the Junior Champion of the Philippines. Pictures of the two young players appeared on the covers of the most popular American magazines, along with PepsiCola advertisements. Robert Fischer easily won the match.
     Finally, in December, 1957, and January, 1958, Fischer played for the national championship for the first time. And this time too the young player won, with a score of eight wins and five draws, 10% to 2%, taking first place and the title of U. S. Champion. Sammy Reshevsky, who lost two games, was second.
Robert Fischer lives in Brooklyn, a part of New York to which the American government denies access to Soviet citizens. Consequently I called him by phone. In the receiver, a boyish voice sounded.

"Who is it?"
"I am a Soviet newspaperman. I would like to meet you."
"You are from Moscow?" 
"Yes."
"You know Smyslov, Botvinnik, Bronstein, Taimanov, Tal, Spassky?" and in a single breath he fired a round dozen of the names of the best Soviet chess. players at me.

     We arranged to meet that same evening in the Manhattan Chess Club. When I arrived, a tall, well-knit boy rose to' meet me. He was wearing an old sweater, with a bandanna around his neck. He spoke in short sentences, bashfully, answering questions in monosyllables. Only on the subject of chess did he display any animation.
     Yes, he was a real New Yorker. He lived there all the time and rarely left the city. He was in his second year in high school. But chess is not his only diversion. He likes to skate and he is a' good skier.
     He learned chess when he was six and began to study it seriously at the age of ten. He quickly and easily memorized combinations, and analyzed the games of the best players.
     He lives with his mother and his sister Joan on the mother's modest earnings as a nurse. The sister is a student in the Brooklyn Medical School. Now Bobby is earning something too, with his tournament prizes, and, although the prizes are not great, they eke out the family income.
     Of the Soviet Union he knows very little. It is true that there is a chapter devoted to Soviet Russia in his geography, but this is not studied. So he asked and asked about our country.
     "Is it true that students get scholarships in your country? Is it really true that it doesn't cost much to go to school?"
     But about one topic he is magnificently well informed, about what goes on in the world of Soviet chess. Our works on chess reach America very tardily, but he manages to keep abreast of the most important happenings, and the best games of the Soviet masters. "You have nineteen grandmasters now, haven't you? I've heard that there are chess sections in the Palace of the Pioneers. Isn't that right?"
     No wonder that in Bobby's own collection of chess books more than half, forty volumes. are Soviet works. He doesn't know Russian, but he has learned to read the alphabet and he can make out notes and analysis.
     "I watch what your grandmasters do," he said. "I know their games and I'd like it a lot to get to play with them _ . ."
     I asked him for his opinion of Reshevsky. He thought .for a moment and showed some signs of hesitation but said quietly, "Reshevsky is an old-fashioned player. He belongs to the past. I've played him several times in off-hand games and always won. But, in the tournament we played a draw, because I made one bad move. I played in too much of a hurry." *
     He asked about chess life in our country and wondered at the answers. "Do you mean they play in the best auditoriums and even on the stage? Are there really so many chess fans in your country? Is it true they broadcast games by radio and television?"
     I asked him what he'd like to see in the Soviet Union. "Of course I want to meet the chessplayers," he said. "I want to see Moscow, Leningrad and, especially, the chess groups in the Palace of the Pioneers. They say there's a [chess] camp in your country, the 'Artek.' If I can, I'd like to spend a week there."
     He told me that I was the first Soviet newspaperman he had met. So he hoped that I would convey his warm greetings to the Soviet players.
     "I like them a lot." he added. "The way they play just suits me. It's sharp, attacking, full of fighting spirit. I sure do want to meet them and play against them."
     Bobby came to see me a number of times in my hotel. I am a weak chessplayer. But he insisted on playing. 1 asked for queen odds ~ and won. The next game he won at odds of the rook. And finally, the third game, in which he also gave me a rook, I managed to draw. "1-1/2 to 1-1/2 we're even and that's odd," I said and wouldn't play any further. He appreciated my little joke and didn't insist. In any case, it was no fun for him to play with a player like me.
     Once, in some embarrassment, Bobby asked whether they wouldn't publish a number of his games in the Soviet Union, with his annotations.
     I told him that I wasn't representing any chess journal, but that I would see what I could do. So, a few days later, he brought me a few games with notes.
     One of them we herewith bring to the attention of the Soviet reader. It is Fischer-Sherwin from the 1957 National Championship. The only point of special interest in the notes comes at White's ninth move.

Fischer   -   Sherwin
1 P-K4        P-QB4
2 N-KB3    P-Q3
3 P-Q4        PxP
4 NxP         N-KB3
5. N-QB3   P-QR3
6. B-QB4   P-K3
7. O-O        P-QN4
8. B-N3      P-N5
9. N-N1
     Bobby comments: "Where should the Knight go to Q,R4 or to QN1? Lipnitsky in his Problems in Contemporary Chess Theory recommends the move given in the game. But it seems to me that after 9 . . . NxP 10 Q-B3, B-N2 11 B-R4+, N-Q2 12 B-B6 (or 12 N-B6, KN-B4), BxB 13 NxB, Q-N3 14 QxN, P-Q4, Black keeps the Pawn with a good game. In case of 9 N~R4, the capture on K4 gives White a strong attack after 10 B-K3."
     Upon this, the editors of Shakmaty v SSSR remark that Bobby has not considered the line: 9 N-N1, NxP 10 Q-B3, B-N2 11 N-Q2 which is recommended by Lipnitsky (pp. 163•7 inclusive in Lipnitsky) .

* The record is fairly well known. Aside from the tournament game mentioned, Bobby won one game from Reshevsky when the latter was giving a blindfold simultaneous exhibition, as both of them confirm. Bob states he made nothing like this remark, nor was the comment in the interview as read back to him in English-Ed.

CHESS REVIEW, JANUARY, 1959

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