Sinequefields Purchase Bobby Fischer's Chess Collection

6/12/2009 – About 320 volumes on chess, 400 periodicals, nine unexamined personal floppy disks, proofs for My 60 Memorable Games, preparation notes for Taimanov, Petrossian and Spassky – all of this was up for sale at Bonhams and Butterfield on Madison Avenue. It was snapped up for US $61,000 by Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, sponsors of the 2009 US Championship. Press release and details.

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Press release

Sinequefields Purchase Bobby Fischer's Chess Collection

St. Louis, June 11 – Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield have purchased the chess library of the legendary Bobby Fischer, including notebooks he prepared for his 1972 World Championship match with Boris Spassky. The Sinquefields acquired the collection through San Francisco-based auction house, Bonhams and Butterfields.

"I am thrilled to have this collection from arguably the greatest chess player in history," said Rex Sinquefield, founder and board president of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. "I have been a lifelong fan of Bobby Fischer."

The reclusive Fischer died in January 2008 at age 64. The collection purchased by the Sinquefields includes 320 books on chess; about 400 issues of chess-related periodicals; three sets of proofs for Fischer's 1969 book, "My 60 Memorable Games"; and a number of bound volumes detailing the match histories of several chess masters, including Spassky.

The Spassky-related works centers on Fischer's preparation for his historic 1972 match, won by Fischer. The victory ended 24 years of Soviet domination of the World Championship.

The collection also includes a copy of "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess," with a note indicating that Fischer planned on suing the publishers.

Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, who are retired investment company executives, said they weren't sure of their plans with the Fischer collection. "I am thinking right now about how to display it and to make it available to scholars," Rex said.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center was founded in 2007 with funding from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation. It recently hosted the 2009 U.S. Chess Championship, which was won by Hikaru Nakamura. The center also will host the 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship from Oct. 2 to Oct. 12.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization. For more information, please visit www.saintlouischessclub.org.


The chess patron of the 2009 US Chess Championship, Rex Sinquefield, here with
the
Mayor of St. Louis, Francis Slay, at the start of the Championship


Lot No: 3372

Bobby Fischer’s chess library,
including notebooks prepared for the 1972 world chess championship.

  1. Approximately 320 volumes on chess including a few match results, various places and languages (including many Soviet imprints), 1889-1992, mostly 8vo, original bindings. Includes about a dozen presentation copies, inscribed by the authors for Fischer and two typed letters signed laid in. At least three volumes bear Fischer’s ownership signature and at least two with other notation by Fischer.
  2. Approximately 400 issues of chess-related periodicals, including runs of The Chess Player, Sahovski Informator, Overboard, Revista SAH, “Waxmatbl”, and “Magyar Sakkelet” among others, mostly 1960s-1980s, various sizes, original wrappers.
  3. Nine personal floppy disks (unexamined).
  4. Three sets of proofs for Fischer’s My 60 Memorable Games (published 1969), with the title in various stages (“My Memorable Games: 52 Tournament Games”, “My Life in Chess”) comprising a typescript with copious technical annotations, mostly printers notes, but also various changes to wording and corrections to the chess notation possibly made by Fischer, with a sketch of the title-page on drafting paper apparently in Fischer’s hand; a set of page proofs (loose, possibly in duplicate); and a partially annotated galley proof stamped June 1966.
  5. Four volumes of bound typescript detailing the match history of Boris Spassky from the 1950s to 1971 (two vols as white, two as black), apparently prepared by “RGW” and with some manuscript commentary.
  6. Fifteen volumes of ring- or string-bound manuscript notebooks with notation of the games of Mark Taimanov and Tigran Petrossian from the 1950s-1970, various hands.

Condition varies, generally a bit musty and a few volumes water-damaged but otherwise good or better.

Library of books and documents derived from the Pasadena storage unit where Fischer’s belongings were held after 1992. Fischer had defied the U.N. embargo against travel to Yugoslavia for his re-match against Boris Spassky and never again returned to the U.S.

The manuscript material centers on Fischer’s preparation for his historic match with Boris Spassky in 1972, certainly the most exciting moment in the history of American chess. Fischer’s win in “The Match of the Century” ended 24 years of Soviet domination of the World Championship and was viewed with elation in the doldrums of the Cold War. A telling memo appears in one of the bound typescripts: “Spassky seems to adopt defences for Black after prolonged experience with the white pieces against a particular defence. I had a conversation with Korchnoi after Hastings (January) – he had not been informed that I was preparing files for you – in which he made some remark that a possible weakness of yours was the Bc4 lines as White against the Sicilian….” Among the printed volumes there is an annotated German edition of the match record for the 1971 World Championship, many games bear Fischer’s own notes as to how the games could have been won (“31…RF4! Wins easily / 21gF Rg6 wins / 20.QFl!” etc.)

Other highlights from the library include a copy of Anatoly Karpov's Selected Chess Matches 1966-1977, Moscow, 1978 inscribed and signed by the author for Bobby Fischer, in Russian. Also an issue of Macedonian Checkmake (in Macedonian) which Fischer has signed in initials below a note, "Movies, television, tv, cassetes" from February 1972--Fischer apparently preparing for the world fame he was to attain a few months later.

It is evident that Fischer’s thirst after chess knowledge knew no national boundaries. He possessed works in multiple languages, many published from behind the Iron Curtain. Several of the Soviet and Eastern European periodicals bear Fischer’s name in manuscript on the upper cover, but were first mailed to East Berlin. Present also is a copy of Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess with a note laid in seeming to indicate that Fischer planned on suing the publishers. The proofs of Fischer’s chess autobiography are heavily annotated and an interesting reminder of the amazing technical difficulty of publishing a work that can only be proofed by the author himself or a very few specialists.

Every book in the library relates to the game of chess, with the exception of Fischer’s own ”I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!” of 1982. A fascinating look into Fischer’s absolute single-mindedness in becoming the world’s greatest chess player and more specifically in attaining victory over Boris Spassky.

The entire lot was sold for $61,000 inclusive by the Bonhams and Butterfield auction house on Madison Avenue in New York. The entire package was sold in one lot for US $50,000, plus a $11,000 Bonhams commission.


A Bonham video showing some of the Fischer items (from 4:35 – 6:50 min)


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