A French tribute to Bobby Fischer

3/2/2008 – 64 years, 64 squares. International Grandmaster at 15 years old. The 11th champion of the world left behind no school, no follower. He was incarcerated in Japan and died far from his old chess friends in Iceland. Who was Bobby Fischer? The French chess magazine Europe Echecs has devoted its whole issue to Fischer. Excerpts.

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A French tribute to Bobby Fischer

64 ans, 64 cases. C'était le Mozart des échecs. GMI à 15 ans. Sacré 11e champion du monde à 29 ans. Il n'a légué aucune école, formé aucun espoir. Il a été incarcéré au Japon. Il est mort loin de tous ses amis en Islande. Qui était Bobby Fischer?

64 years, 64 squares. He was the Mozart of chess. International Grandmaster at 15 years old. Crowned the 11th champion of the world at 29. He left behind no school, has not trained any follower. He was incarcerated in Japan. He died far from his old chess friends, in Iceland. Who was Bobby Fischer?

The French chess magazine Europe Echecs has devoted its whole issue, n° 575, to Bobby Fischer with a sober stylised black cover. This special tribute is illustrated with many photographs covering his whole life from beginning in Brooklyn Chess Club in New York City to last years in Iceland. It’s a mix of ancient reports published in Europe Echecs (such as « Reykjavik 1972 by Spassky » and extracts of « the press conference in Stevi Stefan 1992 ») and recent testimonies of famous players who meet Fischer such as Karpov, Timman, Ljubojevic, Seirawan and Susan Polgar.

Best games to enjoy – It also includes some of the best games of Fischer, with such "Immortals" as Byrne 1956 and Byrne 1963. Columnists Emil Sutovsky and Darko Anic explore "Creativity" and the "Art of the Endgame" of the American genius (selected games against Spassky, Taimanov, Benko, Gligoric).

Best books to read – Chess collector Georges Bertola presents all the best books and treatises written by Fischer and others such as "No regrets" by Yasser Seirawan.

Wijk aan Zee as a bonus! – There is just one report in addition. Five of the heroes of last Corus have annotated their best games: winners of groups A, B and C Aronian, Movsesian and Caruana plus co-winner Carlsen and Topalov.


Yasser Seirawan: “Perfection has no style, as Miguel said”

Extracts from the interview pages 28/29

Yasser, when did you meet first Bobby Fischer?

My wife, Yvette, and I met Bobby in 1992 in Sveti Stephan, Yugoslavia during his match with Boris Spassky. It was a free day and we were at the beach. Yvette roused me, “Bobby and Eugene (GM Eugene Torre) are going for a swim.” I turned to watch them for a few minutes and went back to sun bathing. After awhile Yvette shook me awake again to say, “Bobby’s coming over!” Eugene helped with the introductions and we spoke easily together for about fifteen minutes. For what seemed like an endless time Bobby kept complementing me about my first book, “Five Crowns.” He really liked the book very much! I remember thinking to myself while receiving his praises, “thank goodness for my editor and proof-reader!” After awhile, Bobby stopped and said that he would like some extra copies and I said I would give him ten at once. (I actually brought some copies on my trip and they were back at my hotel.) He was mighty pleased and then said, “But you know… The book has two mistakes.” I was stunned.


Met Fischer in 1992 – GM Yasser Seirawan

The book is about 220 pages covering 24 games all deeply annotated with hundreds of variations and very strong opinions as well… Two mistakes? Yes, I knew the mistakes. One I found when literally first opening a new copy of the book at random. Seeing the mistake had terrified me, if it was so simple to find one I was fearful there would be many. So I asked Bobby what were the mistakes that he had found? He carefully told me what they were and why and I nodded my head, indeed these two mistakes were the very same ones I discovered as well. It occurred to me that Bobby must have spent hundreds of hours carefully considering every move to find them. It gave me great pleasure to think that Bobby had read my book so closely.

What happened after this first meeting on the beach?

Bobby invited both Yvette and me to his suite for the afternoon and we had a most enjoyable time together. Then he invited us for dinner as well. We spent a lot of time analyzing, talking about movies and music as well as his new chess timer. An invention that I thought was simply brilliant. I wrote all about this experience at length in my second book, “No Regrets.” What Yvette and I will remember best is how much we all laughed together. Bobby was extremely warm, friendly and quite humorous. Spontaneous things happened all around him and he was very comfortable in our company and the company of his friends, Eugene and Marlene as well as Gligoric.


Fischer during the Spassky match in Sveti Stephan (© Europe Échecs 1992)

A marvelous Peking duck

One memory worth sharing is that for dinner we went to Budva and to a Chinese restaurant where we had gorged ourselves on excellent food. After we were all completely stuffed the chef brought out a marvelous whole Peking duck. The whole table groaned in disappointment. It seems extraordinary to me now but Bobby and I ate the whole thing together. I do not know how we managed to do this. We convinced ourselves that it would be an insult to the cook so we plowed right through it. The chef, the restaurant owner, was very proud and asked Bobby if he would be so kind to autograph his guest book? Bobby more than happily complied and wrote a fine inscription indeed. The chef beamed in delight and his little boy hid behind his father’s legs fascinated by the celebrity sitting in his father’s restaurant signing the guest book. The chef generously offered Bobby a gift, a ceramic bottle filled with his own home-made Slivovitz (plum brandy). Bobby thanked him for the gift and we began our walk home, as soon as we were out of sight, Bobby game the bottle to his second, GM Svetozar Gligoric and said, “Here you take this. But save me a drop okay?” This immediate act of generosity spoke volumes for me. Bobby was very generous to his friends.”

Are youngsters in United States motivated today to play in “Fischer's style”?

I don’t think so. I’m not even sure what, “Fischer’s style,” is or if it exists. A very dear friend, GM Miguel Najdorf, who had strong, very strong, opinions on just about every topic and every subject, delighted in baiting me and drawing me into animated, emotional discussions. He was a passionate man who loved chess very much. He postulated a theory which I’ve thought about often and think he was right. His theory went like this: “Jasser (Miguel would always mispronounce my name in this Spanish way) you know, Bobby had no style.” Such an opening gambit to start a conversation was perfect bait. “You see, when you show me a game of Capablanca, I think, ‘Aha. Very nice. Very smooth. Logical. Beautiful play. Must be a game of Capa!’ Then you show me another game, I think, ‘My God! Who is this bandit playing the white pieces? Look at these reckless, daring sacrifices. And this quiet move as well! Incredible! Down two pieces and he stops to make such a move. And he won! Of course, I realize, this is Tal.’ And another game. ‘I can’t understand what the player is doing. He is taking extraordinary precautions and his opponent isn’t even attacking. Now he has maneuvered his pieces backwards and then to nice squares. He improves his position but has done nothing concrete. My God! The opponent is suffocated and is dead. Of course, that is Petrosian.’ You see Jasser! I recognize style. But you see when I play a game of Bobby, there is no style. Bobby played perfectly. And perfection has no style.” We argued for hours, but in the end I found Miguel’s theory quite convincing.”

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