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Bobby Fischer – Controversial and undoubtedly the best!

Published 07/13/2015, 5:00 PM EDT

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Robert James Fischer, popularly known as Bobby Fischer was one of the best Chess players of all time.  His life was filled with gamesmanship and controversy. An average human has an IQ of around 90-110, which can extend up to 175 not more than this, according to some scientists. Proving them wrong, Fischer had an implausible IQ of 187; in addition to it he had a photographic memory as well.

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Boris Spassky, Fischer’s arch rival and also one of the best players of all time once quoted, “When I played against Bobby Fischer, my opponent fought against organisations-the television producers and the match organizers. But he never fought against me personally. I lost to Bobby before the match because he was already stronger than I. He won normally.”


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Fischer was considered to be very arrogant and had an aggressive style of living. The World Chess Championship in 1972 was scheduled to take place in Reykjavik, Iceland between Fischer and Spassky, but as the event drew nearer, Fischer manifested his arrogant behaviour worldwide and left people speechless. His friends used to reserve space for him to come to Reykjavik, but he never turned up. Time flew and Fischer ignored his friends, as he liked to be alone with one around because he felt that human beings are capable of reaching new heights. Fischer made a last minute arrival in Iceland. He was filled with aggression so much so, that he offended the Icelanders by calling their country inadequate because of its lack of movie theatres and bowling alleys.

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Fischer’s playing style was intense and hard fought. He never played for a draw, but fought until the bitter end, as long as there was a slight chance to win. He had an iron will to win and sometimes he won games that were normally drawn, because the opponents couldn’t keep up with the precise technical play of Fischer. He had good chess instincts and intuition and he hardly made any mistakes and always looked for new ways to improve. He played like a chess machine. Bobby researched his openings at home and prepared long opening variations before he sat down to play. He had an extremely amazing memory and knew everything about chess. Some opponents were afraid of Fischer’s perfect technical style and tried to avoid certain variations as not to run into Fischer’s home preparations. His playing style led to people following him from all over the globe and considered him “one of the best chess players of all time”.

By the age of 13, Fischer was already the U.S. champion and soon dropped out of school to focus completely on Chess.

Now let’s have a glimpse of a match he played which was, for so many years, called  “The Game of the Century!” Let’s find out what was so interesting about the game. The game was played between Donald Byrne and Bobby Fischer in 1956 when Fischer was merely 13.

The game started with the Grunfeld Defence – three knight’s variation. This is the position after 10 moves with Fischer playing with black.

White plays 11.Bg5?, a bad move as the first basic rule of chess implies that the pieces should be developed and placed in good positions so as to have a good positive play. It is a waste of a move as it allows a sudden crescendo of tactical points to be uncovered by Fischer. Be2 followed by O-O would have been more sensible.

Moving forward, 11…Na4! It’s difficult to identify a bad move and then capitalize on it at the same time. Fischer exactly did the same. An excellent move! Now, white plays 12.Qa3. On 12.Nxa4 Nxe4,  white would have faced certain difficulties with black’s knight and bishop playing in the center, which is why Na4 is the better move.

12…Nxc3. The idea is to capture the e4 pawn and attack the king which is trapped in the center. 13. bxc3 Nxe4. The board now looks like this-

White plays 14. Be7? He knows his king is trapped in the center and still he is still opening the e-file for black’s rook to have better attacking play. A bad move in these circumstances. Black now has a very good position with all its pieces placed in the right position.

14…Qb6 15. Be4 Nc3 16. Bc5. 16. Qxc3 would have led to 16. …Rae8 17. Qe7 Qc7, with black in a much better position .

Moving on, 16 …Rfe8 + 17. Kf1. The board now looks like this-

17…be6!! An excellent move, probably one of the best moves one could see in a game. If this is the Game of the Century, then this should be honoured as the counter of the century. Brilliant by Fischer! Black offers his queen in exchange for a ferocious attack with his minor pieces. Declining this offer may just prove fatal for white after 18. Bxe6. It leads to a smothered mate or the fools mate with..Qb5+ 19. Kg1 Ne2+ 20. Kf1 Ng3 21.Kg1 Qf1+ 22.Rxf1 Ne2#

Also, 18. Qxc3 leads to 18…Qxc5, which is indeed troublesome for white.

Moving forward to what happened, 18. Bxb6 Bxe4 19. Kg1 Ne2 20. Kf1 Nxd4. This tactical scenario where a king is repeatedly revealed to checks is called a “windmill”. After the 25 move, the board seemed like this:

Sacrificing his queen for good attacking play was indeed an audacious move by Fischer. Black has a rook, a bishop and a knight in exchange for white’s queen. Also, white’s rook is unplayable; one can simply say it is of no use in front of Fischer’s stormy play.

The board seemed like this after the 32 move-


The genius of Bobby Fischer’s play can be seen here as every piece and pawn of his camp is defended. White has literally nothing to do. With black to play, after the 36 move, the position is-

Its mate in 5 moves from here on. White’s queen is unable to protect the king and is stuck nowhere.

36…Ng3+ 37. Ke1 Bb4+ 38. Kd1 Bb3+ 39. Ke1 Ne2+ 40. Kb1 Nc3+ 41. Kc1 Rc2#

Fischer did it in style. Undoubtedly one of the best players of all time plays the Game of the Century with so many tactical theories involved, at the age of 13.

“Psychologically, you have to have confidence in yourself and this confidence should be based on fact” – Bobby Fischer

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You can view the entire game once again at your own pace, here.


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1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. d4 O-O 5. Bf4 d5 6. Qb3 dxc4
7. Qxc4 c6 8. e4 Nbd7 9. Rd1 Nb6 10. Qc5 Bg4 11. Bg5 Na4 12. Qa3 Nxc3
13. bxc3 Nxe4
14. Bxe7 Qb6 15. Bc4 Nxc3 16. Bc5 Rfe8+ 17. Kf1 Be6 18. Bxb6 Bxc4+
19. Kg1 Ne2+ 20. Kf1 Nxd4+ 21. Kg1 Ne2+ 22. Kf1 Nc3+ 23. Kg1 axb6 24. Qb4
Ra4 25. Qxb6 Nxd1 26. h3 Rxa2 27. Kh2 Nxf2 28. Re1 Rxe1
29. Qd8+ Bf8 30. Nxe1 Bd5 31. Nf3 Ne4 32. Qb8 b5 33. h4 h5 34. Ne5 Kg7 35. Kg1 Bc5+ 36. Kf1
Ng3+ 37. Ke1 Bb4+ 38. Kd1 Bb3+ 39. Kc1 Ne2+ 40. Kb1 Nc3+
41. Kc1 Rc2# 0-1

Also, check out the amazing trailer for the upcoming movie Pawn Sacrifice, which is based on Bobby Fischer’s life, with Toby Maguire playing the legendary American Grandmaster.


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Ayush Anand

3 articles