Monday, April 22, 2019

searching for another American hero Bobby Fischer and other chess lore


A piece of yesterday's post at this blog reported that I started playing chess after a voice told me in my sleep in early January 2005, "You need to start playing chess."

About a month ago, I discovered a chess school for kids and started assisting the teacher. She was teaching them the classical way, with reading books on chess, diagramming tactics and strategies, opening moves and defenses, and writing down their moves in "chess algebra", which I did not learn until last year, and then only barely. I did read some books on chess in 2005 and 2006, including one authored by Bobby Fischer. Otherwise, I watched and played a lot of chess, and I got beat countless times, which got me over my life long fear of the game making me look stupid.

The teacher was feeling poorly at chess school yesterday, so instead of teaching, she had all the kids play chess and she asked me to walk around and see how they were doing and make suggestions. So, that's what I did. One of the kids had beaten me twice the week before, without much difficulty. His slightly older sister was about as good, but I had not played her yet. Their parents are from Uzbekistan, and I sense from taking to him that their father is a very good chess player. 

The teacher said she was feeling so poorly that she had to go home, and she asked me to keep doing what I was doing until it was time to stop. So, I did that.

I told a young boy, one of the new students, that once upon a time, sometimes when kings got mad at each other, instead of sending their armies against each other in a war, they sat down and played chess and the winner won the war and some of the loser's money and land. Didn't he think that was better and more sane than how wars are fought today? Yes, the boy said with a smile.

I asked if he had a TV at his home? He said, yes. I told him about the movie, "Searching for Bobby Fischer," about kids who were really good chess players, and which of them might be the next Bobby Fischer, who perhaps was the greatest chess player of all time. I told the boy he should get his parents to rent or download that film, and watch it with him. 

Time was running out for the class and I called all the kids, and their parents, around me. Asian, Eurasian and African-American kids and parents. No white kids or white parents. These parents understand just how valuable learning and playing chess is to their children's mental and emotional development.

When I started telling them about "Searching for Bobby Fischer," I got really choked up and could barely get the words out of my mouth. It took me a couple of minutes to get over the rising emotions. 

I told them Bobby Fischer was, in his time, the greatest chess player in world history. He was an American. He won the world championship against a Russian. Then, he played a Russian champion in Eastern Europe, after being told by the US Government not to do it. He became a criminal. He left America. He got all screwed up in his head. It was horrible. But he was a hero for many people in America. like Mao and Chiang Kai-shek once were in China, I told the Chinese parents.

I told them about the current world champion, Magnus Carlson, a Norwegian, who might be as good, or better, than Bobby Fischer. I told them about a TV documentary film when Carlson was really young playing a former Russian world champion one game, a demonstration. It was a draw, and the young Carlson said he should have won, but he made a mistake. They also should get that documentary and watch it with their children. 

I told them there was a film about Bobby Fischer, which was pretty rough, but it showed him beating the Russian in the world championship, in Iceland, and they might want to get that film for them to watch with their children.

As I was leaving, I told a black mother, the Lord must have really been on me for me to choke up so much when I was telling them about "Searching for Bobby Fischer" and what the US Government did to him. 

Here is Wikepedia's introduction to Bobby Fischer:

Robert James Fischer (March 9, 1943 – January 17, 2008) was an American chess grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion. Many consider him to be the greatest chess player of all time.[2][3]
Fischer showed great skill in chess from an early age; at 13, he won a brilliancy known as "The Game of the Century". At age 14, he became the US Chess Champion, and at 15, he became both the youngest grandmaster (GM) up to that time and the youngest candidate for the World Championship. At age 20, Fischer won the 1963–64 US Championship with 11 wins in 11 games, the only perfect score in the history of the tournament. His book My 60 Memorable Games, published in 1969, is regarded as essential reading. He won the 1970 Interzonal Tournament by a record 3½-point margin, and won 20 consecutive games, including two unprecedented 6–0 sweeps, in the Candidates Matches. In July 1971, he became the first official FIDE number-one-rated player.
Fischer won the World Chess Championship in 1972, defeating Boris Spassky of the USSR, in a match held in Reykjavík, Iceland. Publicized as a Cold War confrontation between the US and USSR, it attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before or since. In 1975, Fischer refused to defend his title when an agreement could not be reached with FIDE, chess's international governing body, over one of the conditions for the match. Under FIDE rules, this resulted in Soviet GM Anatoly Karpov, who had won the qualifying Candidates' cycle, being named the new world champion by default.
After forfeiting his title as World Champion, Fischer became reclusive and sometimes erratic, disappearing from both competitive chess and the public eye. In 1992, he reemerged to win an unofficial rematch against Spassky. It was held in Yugoslavia, which was under a United Nations embargo at the time. His participation led to a conflict with the US government, which warned Fischer that his participation in the match would violate an executive order imposing US sanctions on Yugoslavia. The US government ultimately issued a warrant for his arrest. After that, Fischer lived his life as an émigré. In 2004, he was arrested in Japan and held for several months for using a passport that had been revoked by the US government. Eventually, he was granted an Icelandic passport and citizenship by a special act of the Icelandic Althing, allowing him to live in Iceland until his death in 2008.
Fischer made numerous lasting contributions to chess. In the 1990s, he patented a modified chess timing system that added a time increment after each move, now a standard practice in top tournament and match play.


  1. Wow, I really enjoyed the post today. I learned something new about chess. Thanks Sloan for your writing's everything was good.

  2. Thanks, Rick -

    Chess marvelous game. Then, there is chess in life, a somewhat different challenge, as you certainly know: :-)