Bobby Fischer on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show"

by Johannes Fischer
2/24/2021 – On September 1, 1972, Boris Spassky resigned the 21st game of the World Championship match Fischer vs Spassky 1972 in Reykjavik and Bobby Fischer was new World Champion. But after winning the title the American did not play an official game for 20 years, and soon hid from journalists, fans and colleagues. However, before Fischer fled into hiding, he showed himself to the public, and on November 8, 1972, Fischer was a guest in Johnny Carson's legendary "Tonight Show". Recently, a video of this remarkable episode appeared on YouTube. | Pictures: Screenshots from the show

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Bobby Fischer on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show"

The "Tonight Show" was the world's first late night show and premiered on September 27, 1954 under the name "Tonight". In 1962, when Johnny Carson started to host the show, it became "The Tonight Show". Carson hosted the show until the end of his career in 1992 and made it the most successful late night show on American television.

Johnny Carson

On November 8, 1972, Carson had Bobby Fischer as a guest. Fischer had a reputation of being moody and capricious, but Carson demonstrated why he such a popular and successful talk show host. In an easy conversational tone, he asked interesting and critical questions, which a well-dressed and slightly nervous and tense Fischer answered willingly and openly.

Among other things, Carson asked about Fischer's plans for the future and whether he was planning to get married or whether that could harm his chess. Fischer said he could see himself staying World Champion for another 30 years and that marriage might damage his game a bit, but since he was number one at the moment, he could probably afford it.

Bobby Fischer on the "Tonight Show"

Of course the two also talked about the World Championship match against Spassky and Carson wanted to know if Fischer had tried to "outpsych" Spassky. Fischer replied that he did not want to outpsych his opponents, and revealed that "mutual friends and mutual enemies" had told him that Spassky even appreciated that Fischer was fighting so hard for the best playing conditions and a good prize money.

A highlight of the show was Fischer's demonstration of his skills to quickly solve the 15 puzzle. "It's really easy. I do not want to boast but I am the fastest in the world."


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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karban karban 2/26/2021 07:11
The sound was awful, especially in the first part. Could not they give Fischer a second microphone? His words were barely discerned to me sometimes.

He sounded normál, talking about future, joking about himself being so much better than the others. Magnus does similar sometimes:)

At one moment or two you could hear his megalomania taking the better of him though.
lnlver lnlver 2/25/2021 08:12
Another Fischer video showed up on YouTube recently:
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 2/25/2021 06:44
@Jarman, it is interesting, especially because Fischer makes it clear it was not the cameras themselves, but the ppl operating them.
Jarman Jarman 2/25/2021 10:19
A long-sought clip - and this is the first time I hear him explaining what the whole camera brouhaha in Iceland was all about. In "Bobby Fischer Goes to War," the authors wrote that Fischer dismissed the claim the cameras were inaudible to the human ear without explainin why, while it's clear that they should have done a better job with their sources and quote what he said in this talk show instead.
Giuoco Giuoco 2/24/2021 09:26
Ahhh what could have been if Bobby would have been able to play in more world championships and been more of an ambassador of chess.
Turm_Eric Turm_Eric 2/24/2021 05:21
This version of the puzzle demands a total shuffling of the blocks. The version presented (I'm not saying "invented" by Sam Loyd, in the other hand, the one of the 14 and 15 inverted, dispense the shuffling, but haven't a - so to say - conventional solution, on the contrary, it's insoluble under the strict rules of the older game. (About Fischer skills: yes, amazing... In an app here I rarely solve in less than one minute - although my record is 12 seconds)