US chess legend Arthur Bisguier passes at 87

by Frederic Friedel
4/11/2017 – He was recognized as the “Dean of American Chess” – in honor of his promotion of and many contributions to the game. During the 2017 US Championship, a title he had himself won 63 years earlier, this giant of chess, considered one of America's "most dangerous players", died of respiratory failure. He worked for decades for the United States Chess Federation and for its magazine Chess Life. There we find a touching eulogy.

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Hall of Famer, US Champion and grandmaster Arthur Bernard Bisguer (October 8, 1929 – April 5, 2017) died at 87 years old of respiratory failure. In 2005, Arthur Bisguier was recognized by the US Chess Federation as “Dean of American Chess”, in honor of his promotion of and many contributions to the game. Judy Misner of US Chess said, “Art was not only a GM, but was an employee at US Chess (as grandmaster on staff) for many years and a friend to many. He will be missed."

Bisguier passed on April 5, midway through the 2017 US Championship, a title that Bisguier himself earned in 1954. He also won two US Junior Championships, three US Opens, a US Senior Open, and represented the United States in five Chess Olympiads. As the New York Times reported, Bisguier’s aggressive style would have likely earned him even more US Championships titles if not for Bobby Fischer.

Bisguier vs Fischer in Mega Database 2017

“When Mr. Fischer came along, he was 14 years younger than Mr. Bisguier, but he began to dominate the American chess scene almost immediately…. Mr. Bisguier’s one taste of victory against Mr. Fischer came in the first game they ever played (when Fischer was 13). Here is that memorable game:

[Event "New York Rosenwald"] [Site "New York"] [Date "1956.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Bisguier, Arthur Bernard"] [Black "Fischer, Robert James"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E78"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "1956.10.07"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "MCL"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f4 O-O 6. Nf3 c5 7. Be2 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Nc6 9. Nc2 Bd7 10. O-O Rc8 11. Be3 Na5 12. b3 a6 13. e5 dxe5 14. fxe5 Ne8 15. Nd5 Rc6 16. Nd4 Rc8 17. Nc2 Rc6 18. Ncb4 Re6 19. Bg4 Rxe5 20. Bb6 Qc8 21. Bxd7 Qxd7 22. Bxa5 e6 23. Nd3 Rh5 24. N3f4 Rf5 25. Bb4 exd5 26. Bxf8 Bxa1 27. Qxa1 Kxf8 28. Qh8+ Ke7 29. Re1+ Kd8 30. Nxd5 Qc6 31. Qf8 Qd7 32. Rd1 Rf6 33. Qxe8+ 1-0

Bisguier was born in New York City and learnt chess at the age of four. He advanced rapidly and throughout the 1940s was considered one of America's "most dangerous players". In 1946 he took the US Junior Championship, and retained the title in 1949. In 1950 he won the first of his three US Open titles. A meteoric rise culminated in winning the 1954 United States Chess Championship at New York. He also won the 2nd Pan American Chess Championship at Los Angeles 1954. He tied with Bobby Fischer for first–second places at the US Open at Cleveland 1957, where Fischer was awarded the title on tiebreak.

For many years, Bisguier was hired to play in towns throughout the US to give exhibitions, and to popularize chess and the USCF. For about 20 years he was the representative the USCF chose to send to a state for one or two days to play at a hospital, college, or prison, so the public could get a chance to play the grandmaster and former US Champion. He commented: "I was delighted to do it. I was very lucky to get so much out of chess. I tried to give something back."

Bisguier was a regular contributor to Chess Life magazine. In 2003 he wrote a book on his best games from 1945–1960 titled The Art of Bisguier. [Source: Wikipedia]

Arthur Bisguier on the cover of the 1980 Chess Life. There will be a full portrait of Art Bisguier in an upcoming issue of Chess Life Magazine.

An Interview With GM Arthur Bisguier from JW Holes on Vimeo, seven years ago

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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