60 years ago: 14-year old Bobby Fischer wins US Championship

by Johannes Fischer
1/9/2018 – 60 years ago this week, on January 7, 1958, to be precise, the tenth U.S. Championship came to an end with a sensation: the 14-year old Bobby Fischer won with 10½ / 13 ahead of a strong field. With this win Fischer qualified for the Interzonal tournament in Portoroz 1958, and won the first of his eight U.S. titles. | Pictured: Bobby Fischer in 1959 | Source: unknown (via D. Griffin)

Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer

No other World Champion was more infamous both inside and outside the chess world than Bobby Fischer. On this DVD, a team of experts shows you the winning techniques and strategies employed by the 11th World Champion.

Grandmaster Dorian Rogozenco delves into Fischer’s openings, and retraces the development of his repertoire. What variations did Fischer play, and what sources did he use to arm himself against the best Soviet players? Mihail Marin explains Fischer’s particular style and his special strategic talent in annotated games against Spassky, Taimanov and other greats. Karsten Müller is not just a leading international endgame expert, but also a true Fischer connoisseur.


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.

Samuel Reshevsky Candidates tournament 1968 and Bobby Fischer in 1957

(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 difficult positions.

Fischer attacks


Fischer defends


After the penultimate round Fischer led with 10.0 /12, half a point ahead of Reshevsky who had 9½/12. In the final round Fischer played an 18-move short and unspectacular draw against Abe Turner, hoping that his friend and training partner William Lombardy, who had to play with Black against Reshevsky in the final round, would not lose.

Bobby Fischer vs Abe Turnier, US-Meisterschaft 1957/1958

Bobby Fischer (right, with White) against Abe Turner | Photo: Chess Review 1958)

Lombardy indeed — as he would later do so often — turned out to be of great help and support to Fischer. He won against Reshevsky by playing one of the best games of his life and helped Fischer to win the tournament and his first U.S. title.


King's Indian: A modern approach

Bologan: "If you study this DVD carefully and solve the interactive exercises you will also enrich your chess vocabulary, your King's Indian vocabulary, build up confidence in the King's Indian and your chess and win more games."

All games


Final standings

Rk. Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Pts.
1 Robert James Fischer   ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 10.5
2 Samuel Herman Reshevsky ½   0 0 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 9.5
3 James T Sherwin 0 1   ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 9.0
4 William James Lombardy 0 1 ½   ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 1 1 1 1 7.5
5 Hans Jack Berliner ½ 0 ½ ½   ½ 0 0 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 7.0
6 Edmar John Mednis 0 ½ ½ ½ ½   0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 6.5
7 Arnold Sheldon Denker ½ 0 0 ½ 1 1   0 ½ 1 0 0 1 1 6.5
8 Arthur William Feuerstein 0 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 1   1 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 6.5
9 Herbert Seidman ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 0   1 0 0 1 0 6.0
10 Arthur Bernard Bisguier 0 0 0 1 0 ½ 0 1 0   1 ½ 0 1 5.0
11 Sidney Norman Bernstein 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0   1 ½ 0 5.0
12 Attilio Di Camillo 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 0   0 1 4.5
13 Abe Turner ½ 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 1   ½ 4.5
14 George Mortimer Kramer 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 0 1 0 ½   3.0


Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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neilparker62 neilparker62 1/11/2018 06:50
Re no "Bobby Fischer memorial". Every time I think, US open I think Bobby Fischer. He needs no memorial other than his own achievements! En route to World Championship 1972:

Palma de Mallorca Interzonal: 18.5 / 23 3.5 points clear of the field
Fischer vs Taimonov (Candidates) 6-0
Fischer vs Larsen (Candidates) 6-0
Fischer vs Petrosian (Candidates) 6.5 - 2.5

Never before and never since!
Isledoc Isledoc 1/11/2018 04:00
If Hollywood can confront the Weinsteins of this world then chess needs to move on from it's adulation of Fischer.Rather sad to admit because I idolized him as a kid.Let us face the fact that he was a very unpleasant egocentric racist and stop celebrating him.
koko48 koko48 1/10/2018 10:32
@Fischer2299 I used that term 'suspected' conservatively and diplomatically. Alekhine wrote anti-Jewish articles that also claimed the superiority of 'Aryan chess'. He is only SUSPECTED of being a Nazi collaborator if you believe he was forced to write those letters under pain of death, imprisonment or the like.

However, considering the fact Alekhine initially denied writing the articles and they were later found in his own handwriting, that excuse seems unlikely. If he was "forced" to write them why didn't he just admit it?
Fischer2299 Fischer2299 1/10/2018 08:34
@koko48 Key word "SUSPECTED" "Nevertheless Russia has Alekhine Memorial tournaments, and Alekhine was a suspected Nazi collaborator!"
Johannes Fischer Johannes Fischer 1/10/2018 02:52
Thanks for pointing this out. The error was corrected!
lajosarpad lajosarpad 1/10/2018 12:36
@Mr TambourineMan

I think you misunderstood the whole thing about "madness is not an excuse". Goeland's point was that Fischer's madness is not an excuse for his statements. Nobody talked about madness used as an excuse for book burners prior to your statement, so, I think you have misunderstood Koko48's point here. And yes, fgkdjlkag is right when he/she states that mental illness is a valid excuse.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 1/10/2018 12:28

Adolf Hitler was a painter and quite a good one, but since he happened to become the Führer of the Third Reich and played a really bad role in the history of mankind, his art is not celebrated: http://sobadsogood.com/uploads/media/2014/03/09/MPTGay2.jpg

So, indeed, in some cases people are not able to distinguish the art from the person of the artist. Luckily the chess world is sane enough to recognize the brilliance of Fischer, even if he had some strange statements. After all, he at least was not the Führer of the Third Reich.
leonin leonin 1/10/2018 11:54
"Bobby Fischer won with 10½ / 13", "After the penultimate round Fischer led with 9½ / 12 [...] In the final round Fischer played an 18-move short and unspectacular draw". Is it me or there is something wrong in this?
pgnpioneer pgnpioneer 1/10/2018 10:56
Lessing Rosenwald Memorial 1956

Lessing Julius Rosenwald (February 10, 1891 – June 24, 1979) had still a lot of remaining years in his live. Maybe the tournament is called the "Third L. J. Rosenwald Trophy Tournament, 1956"

fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 1/9/2018 11:16
How is madness not an excuse? Mental illness is obviously a valid excuse.
koko48 koko48 1/9/2018 05:29
"wake up. Remember his racist and hateful interviews. Madness is not an excuse. Horrible person. How come you still are celebrating him and putting him on the front page ?"

Because he was one of the greatest chessplayers of all time and achieved things in chess no player has before or since.

If we're going to not mention or celebrate the works of an artist because they were unbalanced or were not always nice people, we would be censoring a lot of artists. Including many if not most, of the greatest ones

I still find it strange that Iceland is hosting a major Fischer Memorial chess tournament, before America has. Let's not forget - whatever you may think of Fischer - he did this country a great service and delivered the US one of the biggest propaganda victories of the Cold War.

And afterward he wasn't even invited to the White House....Then he was threatened with jail and confiscation of his funds for playing a chess match, under a law that NO OTHER American was ever indicted under (even though many Americans did business with Yugoslavia back then).

Maybe that will help you understand some of his anger toward the US

Nevertheless Russia has Alekhine Memorial tournaments, and Alekhine was a suspected Nazi collaborator!
Johannes Fischer Johannes Fischer 1/9/2018 04:02
@KevinC, @Jarman
Sorry, there was technical glitch that cut the game off after move 18. It was corrected and the game now appears in full. Thanks for pointing out the error!
Jarman Jarman 1/9/2018 02:39
What happened to the Feuerstein game? It was 1-0 after 44 moves, not 18.
KevinC KevinC 1/9/2018 01:53
The first game was actually 44 moves long. I was trying to figure out why black resigned, and it was because he did not.
daftarche daftarche 1/9/2018 12:59
those times it was much harder to become a gm. probably equivalent of being a 2650 fide players of today.
goeland goeland 1/9/2018 12:39
I went to a recent chess tournament where a young talented player was wearing one black shoe and one white shoe. Black and White.

Bobby Fischer.

Part of me : thats great to remember him. He was a genius and the way he fought against the system and became a world champion. And always a pleasure to analyse his fantastic games.

Part of me : wake up. Remember his racist and hateful interviews. Madness is not an excuse. Horrible person. How come you still are celebrating him and putting him on the front page ?