A game against Larsen and a simul: Fischer's visit to Copenhagen 1962

by Tom Skovgaard
8/4/2020 – After sensationally winning the Interzonal Tournament 1962 in Stockholm Bobby Fischer travelled to Copenhagen to play a TV exhibition game against Bent Larsen - which was relatively easy - and a simul against 41 Danish players - which was difficult. Tom Skovgaard knows more. | Photo: Jørgen Hvenekilde

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.

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The Fischer simul in Copenhagen 1962

Fischer's visit in Copenhagen after winning the Stockholm Interzonal

Immediately after his famous victory in the Stockholm Interzonal 1962, the 18-year-old Robert J. Fischer, who had qualified for the Candidates Tournament 1962, travelled to Copenhagen for three days of intensive chess exhibition activities. The main activities were, first, a radio/television exhibition game against the young Danish GM Bent Larsen, who had known Fischer since the Interzonal in Portoroz 1958. And secondly, a simultaneous exhibition.

The organiser and the host of Fischer’s visit was the president of the Copenhagen Chess Federation, Børge E. Binnerup. The visit had been agreed between Fischer and Binnerup in the autumn of 1961 when they had met while Fischer was passing through Denmark on his way home after playing the tournament in Bled 1961.

And to the satisfaction of the Danish organisers, Fischer’s fee for the two exhibition events had also been agreed in 1961: 600 US dollars. After winning the Interzonal Fischer probably would have asked for a higher fee. 

Fischer’s letter to Binnerup from Stockholm, February 28 (Source: Jan Løfberg, from Bent Larsen).

The exhibition game against Larsen

Fischer arrived in Copenhagen in the afternoon of Friday, March 9, which was Fischer’s 19th birthday! Binnerup picked up Fischer at the airport, and in his short report in the Danish Chess Magazine Skakbladet Binnerup mentions that Fischer, understandably, seemed to be quite tired after the long tournament in Stockholm.

However, they went directly to the American embassy, meeting the US Ambassador Mr. McCormich Blair Jun., who wanted to meet his famous compatriot. After half an hour of polite conversation Fischer was accompanied to the place where the exhibition game against Larsen was to be played at 7 pm. The game was played at a "closed" location, with no spectators, since the game was later to be broadcasted on radio and television.

Bobby Fischer and Bent Larsen are ready to start their exhibition game for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. (Source: Jan Løfberg’s book about Bent Larsen, Part 1)

Fischer and Larsen played from 7 pm to around midnight and Fischer won an interesting game against Larsen’s 1.f4 setup.

 

On Saturday, Fischer and Larsen met at the Danish National Broadcasting Corporation "Danmarks Radio", where they analyzed the game and talked about critical lines. This working session was recorded and lasted about six hours and provided the raw material for the broadcasts. The game was broadcasted on Danish national radio on March 27, and on national TV on March 28 – both broadcasts lasting for about 45-50 minutes. Binnerup claims that this was the first time ever that a full chess game was broadcasted on TV.

Fischer impressed the Danish chess audience with convincing analyses and by pointing out and explaining Larsen’s mistakes. Unfortunately, the radio broadcast and the TV broadcast seem no longer to exist.

Sunday 11th of March: The simultaneous exhibition

After two busy days of travelling, meeting people, and playing and analysing the exhibition game against Larsen, Fischer overslept on Sunday and arrived half an hour late for the simultaneous exhibition!

A crowd of 200 people, including the 41 chess players who were ready to play Fischer, gave Fischer an enthusiastic applause on his arrival at the glamorous room in Rosenborggade in  central Copenhagen. The American ambassador and his wife accompanied Fischer, who handed the flowers given to him directly to the person standing next him to get ready to play the simul.

The price for participating in the simul was 10 Danish Kroner, which would correspond to around 50 Euro today – a significant amount at that time, and the field included a number of very strong players.

The start of the simul

Fischer started by playing different first moves with White and the games gradually progressed. Some players soon made serious mistakes and had to resign early. With the many spectators and the professional photographers shooting pictures all the time the atmosphere was  intense!

And the field of players was really strong! Some players came close to the level of the Danish Danish national team! The spectators were actively and loudly following the games and some even gave "good advice" to the players. One player even moved the pieces on the board and analyzed while Fischer was on the other side of the room.

All in all this was too much pressure for Fischer, who became more and more annoyed and had to handle bad or lost positions in several games.

Fischer first loss came in his game against Ole Illum Truelsen who won convincingly in 21 moves after Fischer had castled queenside against the French Defense.

 


13... Nxd3+ 14.Qxd3 Nb4 15.Qe2 Nxa2+ 16.Kb1 Qb4 17.Nfd4 Bxb5 18.Nxb5 a6 19.Kxa2 axb5+ 20.Kb1 Ra4 21.c3 Qb3 0-1
 

Ole Illum Truelsen is thinking about how to counter Fischer's 3.Nc3 in the French. Truelsen won a fine game in just 21 moves. (Source: Ole Illum Truelsen)

A little while later Fischer had to resign another game when Erik Poulsen punished Fischer’s unprecise play against the 3 .. f5 Ruy Lopez.

 

25... d4 26.Ne4 Qd5 27.Qg2 hxg5 28.Nxd6 Qxd6 29.Bc4+ Kh8 0–1

Erik Poulsen, far left at the board. Poulsen won with 3 .. f5 against Fischer's Ruy Lopez. Players (from left to right): Ole Buch, Ejnar Andersen, Niels Holt. Sejer Holm Petersen, Danish Champion 1965 and two-times city champion of Copenhagen watches the games (standing, on the right). (Source: Erik Poulsen)

The tea break

Fischer was obviously dissatisfied with the situation, and after 2½ hours of play, the organisers decided to have a tea break with Fischer. Some players got the impression that Fischer maybe did not want to continue the simul! Fischer complained to the organisers that the field was much stronger than he had expected, and that spectators interfered with the games.

Fischer said that he in fact was playing 100 players and not just 41! And he said that he possibly would lose around 12 – 15 games, which was far more than he was used to in simultaneous exhibitions.

The organisers talked with Fischer, and Binnerup had to take a quick decision, and Fischer was payed an extra amount of dollars (amount unknown)! Furthermore, after the tea break, Binnerup made it clear to the players and the spectators that it had to be fair play, and nobody should interfere with the games.

The final part of the simul

After the tea break, Fischer continued the simul very focused and with a high level of energy. It was clear that Fischer wanted to win as many games as possible, even from the dubious and lost positions! The number of games were now more limited, with Fischer coming back to each board more and more frequently, and all the time through the simul the players felt they had to make a move every time Fischer came to the board.

One of the ongoing games was the game with Palle Henriksen who had a clear advantage with black in the Sicilian Löventhal variation (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 a6). Fischer had played a very sharp line with 11.Rh3, however, later taking a bad decision with 16. exd5 – the exact moment on the photograph with Palle Henriksen!

Fischer plays the dubious 16.exd5 against Palle Henriksen. Fischer was worse but still won the endgame. (Source: Palle Henriksen)

During the endgame, Palle Henriksen, who was an exchange up, offered a draw, since the endgame seemed to be drawish and Fischer no longer had so many games to take care of! However, Fischer just continued playing and, after Henriksen’s final mistake in the endgame (46 .. Rh6? – after 46 .. Rh8 the position is a draw), Fischer had a winning attack, forcing mate.

 

46.g6 Rh6 46...Rh8 47.Ra7+ Kf6 48.Ra6+ Ke7 49.Nc6+ Kd7 50.Ne5+ Ke7 with a draw. 47.Kg5 h2 48.Ra7+ 48… Kf8 49.Rf7+ Ke8 50.g7 1–0

Later, Fischer told the organisers that this game, to him, was the most interesting game of all the games in the simul. Later in 1962, Fischer faced the same opening against Mikhail Tal in the Candidates in Curacao, and in that game, Fischer played 11. Bg5 and won.

Another game, where Fischer won from a far worse position with a nice mating attack, was the game against Ole Buch.

Fischer also played the 25 year old Jørgen Hvenekilde who later won the Copenhagen Chess Championship and became one of the Danish top players. This game ended in a draw, finishing as one of the last games. From his seat Hvenekilde could follow Leif Kristensen’s game against Fischer.

Jørgen Hvenekilde, second from left, ponders what to do after Fischer's 20.h3. The sharp game eventually ended in a draw. In 1965 Hvenekilde won the City Championship of Copenhagen. On the far left, next to Hvenekilde, is Finne Petersen, two-time Champion of Copenhagen and two-time member of the Danish Olympic team. (Source: Jørgen Hvenekilde)

Fischer's game against Kristensen was the last to finish. Fischer had been in huge trouble after strong play by Kristensen but in the end Fischer managed to win a study-like endgame brilliantly! After the end of game Fischer analysed a bit with Henriksen and a few others, including Hvenekilde, and Fischer impressed everybody with his quick analysis and deep variations. Unfortunately, this game seems to be lost.

Peter H. Nørby, who later played in the Danish Olympic team, also won his game against Fischer. However, Nørby, like several other players in the simul, did not record their games.

All in all, Fischer managed a good comeback in the last part of the six hour long simul. Fischer later told the organisers that the strong Danish players were surprisingly weak in the endgame!

After the last game ended, Binnerup announced the result: Fischer won 27 games, lost 7 and drew 7.

The professional photographers were working very fast and at the end of the simul they had prepared photos for the players and the spectators to buy – not an easy task to accomplish in 1962! A few of the photos can be seen here. And some players even got Fischer’s autograph on the back of the photo! Palle Henriksen also got Fischer’s autograph.

Fischer’s autograph on the backside of the photo with Palle Henriksen.

After the simul Fischer travelled back home to the US and probably started preparing for the infamous Candidates tournament in Curacao in May and June 1962. Petrosian won the tournament in Curacao and Fischer finished behind the three leading Soviet players but later accused the Soviet players of manipulating the tournament with prearranged draws.

The result of the simul

The 7 players who won:

K. B. Schou, S. Nordfjord, Erik Poulsen, Ole Illum Truelsen, Finn Petersen, Peter H. Norby, Poul E. Hansen.

The 7 players who drew:

L. A. Olesen, H. Juhl, Niels Holt, Allan Jensen, Benny Børresen, Jorgen Hvenekilde, Svend Lange.

The 27 players who lost (one name missing):

Th. Ellelund, Palle Henriksen, Leif Kristensen, Hjalmar Mortensen, Borge Petersen, Aage Frederiksen, Ole Juul Knudsen, K. F. Kinch, A. Cruusberg, A. Svensson, Einar Andersen, Ole Buch, Chr. M. Petersen, Chas. H. Larsen, Egon Hansen, Einar Thomsen, Noel Kaaber, Henning Moller, Verner Petersen, Jens Brem, Teddy Petersen, Henrik Sorensen, V. Lofquist, J. C. Sorensen, Egon Rasmussen, Svend Jensen.

The games

Eight games have been recovered from the simul:

 

The sources of these games:

Fischer, Robert James 0-1 Truelsen, Ole Illum (Source: Ole Illum Truelsen)
Fischer, Robert James 1-0 Henriksen, Palle V (Source: Palle Henriksen)
Fischer, Robert James 0-1 Poulsen, Erik (Source: Erik Poulsen)
Fischer, Robert James 1-0 Buch, Ole (Source: Erik Poulsen)
Fischer, Robert James ½-½ Jensen, Allan (Source: The unknown Bobby Fischer Donaldson, Tangborn)
Fischer, Robert James 0-1 Schou, K. B. (Source: Jorgen Hvenekilde, from a Danish newspaper from 1962)
Fischer, Robert James ½-½ Hvenekilde, Jorgen (Source: Jorgen Hvenekilde)
Fischer, Robert James 0-1 Nordfjord, S. (Source: ChessBase Megabase)

About the story

The games, the pictures, and the information about the event have been collected by Tom Skovgaard, in relation with work on Danish chess history and the Danish chess games collection in "Danbase" (www.danbase.skak.dk).

Some of the strong Danish chess players who participated in the Fischer simultaneous exhibition in 1962 are still alive, and some of them still play chess! They have provided games, pictures, and information about the event. These players are:

  • Jørgen Hvenekilde
  • Erik Poulsen
  • Ole Illum Truelsen
  • Palle Henriksen
  • Peter H. Nørby

In March 1962 Børge Binnerup, who was the president of the Copenhagen Chess Federation in 1961-62, and the host of Fischer’s visit, wrote a short report about Fischer’s visit to Copenhagen in the Danish Chess Magazine Skakbladet.

Links

Articles about Bobby Fischer...



The author, Tom Skovgaard, has been a club chess player since the late 1960s, and currently has an Elo-rating of about 2000. He is also an International Arbiter and has been active in chess organization in Denmark. He is currently working on Danish chess history and the games collection in "Danbase" (www.danbase.skak.dk).

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