Hort stories: A lost letter from Bobby Fischer

by Vlastimil Hort
9/12/2019 – Bobby Fischer is a legend, so much so that even people who knew him sometimes find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction when they hear stories about Fischer. Vlastimil Hort knew Fischer and played against him. Recently, Hort rediscovered a letter Fischer had sent him and this letter evoked memories of the controversial chess genius. | Photos: Wolfgang Betzen (Schachclub Wangen)

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.


Part 1: The lost letter

Fischer suffered from paranoia which got worse and worse the older he became though he occasionally still had better moments. I definitely belonged to the group of his acquaintances whom he considered as being harmless. He even sent letters to us. Voilà: I will present parts of one of these documents. The letter was a kind of collage, and its author was very dedicated because he did not only write but also used scissors to present excerpts from various newspaper articles. But the address and the central part of his letter were in his own handwriting.

The letter showed his anger about Svetozar Gligoric, but in the last part of the document Fischer also wanted to assert his chess superiority — he was absolutely convinced that he would need only 24 games at the utmost to win six times against each and every opponent.

The letter was sent from Budapest, dated on December 22nd, 1998. As return address Fischer used that of the late Pal Benko, who was perhaps his last remaining friend and who had helped Fischer to become World Champion. Benko had qualified for the Interzonal Tournament in Palma de Mallorca 1970 but gave his place to Fischer who two years later became World Champion.


Excerpts from Bobby's last letter to Vlastimil Hort

Yes, I will keep Bobby's last letter to me as a kind of relic. However, my attempt to defend a psychologically very ill person against the press failed. I do not dare estimate how many years of jail Fischer had received if he had been extradited to the USA as the US government had demanded. But Iceland saved him by making Fischer a citizen of Iceland — well done!

Why do I return to the whole issue? Although the end was tragic I had several experiences with Fischer that were incomparable. And with the letter mentioned above, which resurfaced after many years, I do have proof that I did not only dream all this. Once upon a time there was a king...

The letter that had been lost for many was found by my beloved Brigitte in January 2019. How? After a chain of coincidences. Where? In a forgotten drawer in the cellar. Did Bobby know what the French king Louis XIV had said? "Après moi, le déluge" ("After me, the flood"). I very much doubt it and would bet against it.

Siegen 1970

When I last moved house I exchanged the river Rhine for the much less impressive river Sieg — but I liked my new house, the new surroundings, the fresh air, nature, our own garden. And the river Sieg evokes memories of the Chess Olympiad 1970 in Siegen.

With a score of 10.0/13 Fischer had the second-best result on board one. The prize for the best result on board one went to the reigning World Champion Boris Spassky who scored 9½/12. Their direct encounter was a dramatic game which Fischer lost after getting a good position from the opening.

Unfortunately, there is no tournament book about this Olympiad. But Wolfgang Betzen from the chess club Wangen visited the Olympiad when the Soviet Union played against the USA and was so kind to send his pictures to us.

Click or tap to enlarge

1970 Olympiad

The Chess Olympiad in Siegen 1970 attracted a lot of spectators

Spassky vs Fischer

Spassky vs Fischer

Keres and Reshevsky follow the game between Evans (left) and Polugayevsky (right)

Spassky, Fischer, Evans

Larry Evans takes a look at the Spassky vs Fischer game.

The match USA vs CSSR

It was an honour for me to play against him. He always gifted seven minutes to his opponent — to me too. That way he avoided contact with the press and the photographers. But would he even be allowed to start today, in the time of the zero-tolerance rule?

Caro-Kann Defence. When he was sitting at the chess board his behaviour was perfect, there was nothing to complain about. A kind of gentleman — like Keres. He noted the moves slowly and carefully. As far as I know he never hastened to write down his moves, not even when his opponent was in time-trouble. He never would have hustled someone. The proverb "haste makes waste" describes his manner at the board quite well. I lost a pawn but when the game was adjourned, and he thought about the move to seal I realized that my compensation was quite solid.

After a quick dinner my guess turned out to be correct during analysis. If both sides found a couple of only moves the game should end in a draw. In time-trouble I had had more luck than brains!

Late in the evening I ventured into the lion's den and offered Ed Edmondson, who was captain of the American team, to draw the game. This would save Fischer and myself the trouble to go to the tournament hall early next morning. Instead, we would have time for a leisurely breakfast and to prepare for the next round that would start in the afternoon. However, "I am sorry, Vlastimil. Bobby want's to play", was Edmondson's reply.

A new, late analysis, deep into the night. I did not find any improvement, neither for White nor for Black. All attempts ended in the dead end of a draw. The next morning I rushed to the playing hall. What happened now? My night-time analysis was confirmed. Move by move. "I offer you a draw!" What a nice suggestion!


My chess friend Norbert Rauch from the chess club Caissa Münster stubbornly insisted and wanted to book Fischer for a simul at all costs. I took my game against Fischer as an occasion to invite him. And Bobby accepted.

That soon gave Caissa Münster a really nice chess event...About which you will soon read more!


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Vlastimil Hort was born January 12, 1944, in Kladno, Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s he was one of the world's best players and a World Championship candidate. In 1979 he moved to West Germany where he still lives. Hort is an excellent blindfold player, a prolific author and a popular chess commentator.


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