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Monday, May 11, 2015

Reshevsky vs. Fischer, First Encounter

     Reshevsky has long been one of my favorite players and in this game from the 1956 U.S. Championship we see him playing Fischer for the first time. Reshevsky won this game, drew in 1957, lost in 1958 and drew again in 1959. Their next meeting was in Buenos Aires in 1960 and that game was also drawn. 
     Reshevsky was pretty much ignored by biographers until Samuel Reshevsky A Compendium of 1768 Chess Games, with Diagrams, Crosstables, Some Annotations, and Indexes by Stephen Gordon was published in 2010, but at $43 I doubt it was ever a big seller. 
     Then came their match in 1961 which Reshevsky won (7.5 -5.5) when Fischer walked out while the match was tied and ended up forfeiting the last two games. BTW, Jerry Hanken, who knew Fischer personally, opined that Fischer’s anti-Semetism came from his belief that this match was stolen from him. 
Fischer vs. Reshevsky in 1958

     After their 1961 match though Fischer pretty much dominated Reshevsky. Unfortunately out of all the U.S. Championship tournaments I got to witness, Fischer wasn't playing in any of them. So, while I once saw Fischer in a used chess book store in New York City, I never got to see him play. 
     After sharing first place in a tournament in Iceland in 1974 Reshevsky received a letter from his Rabbi congratulating him on his success and for displaying a Kiddush HaShem Barabim, or for “sanctifying God's name in the public square” by “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 Rabbi called to Reshevsky's attention that Fischer did not have the proper Jewish education, which was, in the Rabbi's opinion, probably the reason he was so alienated from the Jewish way of life and the Jewish people. The Rabbi also noted that Fischer, being a Jew, should be helped by whomever possible and asked Reshevsky to, through through his personal efforts or in some other way, try to help Fischer. Reshevsky was happy that the Rabbi had chosen him for this task even though he knew it would not be easy! 
     Soon after receiving the letter Reshevsky was in Los Angeles for the Piatigorsky Cup and he phoned Fischer and related the Rabbi's request to him. It may be surprising, but Fischer immediately agreed to meet Reshevsky. In a three hour meeting Fischer asked a lot of serious questions about Judaism, but, as we all know, Reshevsky's effort was in vain. 
     In this game Reshevsky made defeating Fischer look easy.

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