He Learned Directly from God, pt 2

He Learned Directly from God, pt 2

| 42 | Chess Players

[part 1]

Fischer attended Erasmus Hall High School at the same time as Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond; Frank Brady talked to someone in the Grade Advisor's Office at Erasmus Hall while Bobby was a student there. This person said, "His I.Q. was in the 180s, he was definitely a high genius, but with no interest or capacity for schoolwork."

In 1957, Bobby played two games against former world champion Max Euwe in New York, drawing one and losing one.  He played in the U.S. Junior Championship in San Francisco and took first place. The event was held at the Spreckels Dairy Company. He also won the U.S. Junior Speed Championship. His prize for that was a copy of the 1956 Candidates Tournament book by Euwe and Muhring.


In August 1957, he tied for 1st-2nd with Arthur Bisguier at the 58th U.S. Open in Cleveland, and won $750.  Bisguier said, "Who could have seen in the early stages, by not winning against Fischer, I created a Frankenstein!” In August-September he won the New Jersey Open championship with 8 wins and 1 draw, no losses.

Just before the U.S. championship in 1957/58, Bisguier said: "Bobby Fischer should finish slightly over the center mark in this tournament. He is quite possibly the most gifted of all players in the tournament; still he has had no experience in tournaments of such consistently even strength." 

On January 10, 1958 Bobby Fischer at age 14 years and 9 months won the 1957/58 U.S. Championship with 10.5 of 13: 8 wins, 5 draws and no losses. The event was played at the Manhattan Chess Club and Marshall Chess Club. Since this was a Zonal event, he qualified for the Interzonal and was given the International Master title by FIDE at the age of 14 years, 10 months. 


A reporter asked Bobby whether he now considered himself the best chess player in the United States. Fischer responded, "No. One tournament doesn't mean that much. Maybe Reshevsky is better!"

Bobby spent his time preparing a book of his games. He dictated his annotations into a tape recorder and his mother transcribed them. When the book was finished, he first took it to the World Publishing Company to see if they would publish it. The company eventually declined the manuscript, but Joan Fischer, who accompanied Bobby when he went there, met Russell Targ, the son of the chief editor of the company (William Targ, 1907-1999). Russell and Joan later married. In 1963, the company was sold to Times Mirror. William Targ later published Mario Puzo's novel, The Godfather.

In 1958 he played a simultaneous on 30 boards at the Marshall Chess Club, winning 29 and drawing one. He was seeded in the Manhattan Chess Club Championship, but withdrew the day before it was to start.

Bobby, at the age of 15, appeared on the television show I'VE GOT A SECRET and stumped the panel, which included Dick Clark (his secret was that he was U.S. chess champion). The made-up newspaper headline for Bobby was "Teen-Ager's Strategy Defeats all Newcomers." Dick Clark asked if what he did made people happy. Fischer responded, "It made me happy." Garry Moore asked him how long he had been playing chess. Fischer responded that he had been playing since he was six, but that he had not been playing seriously until he was 9.

In June 1958 he was invited to Moscow and he spent almost all his time at the Moscow Central Chess Club. He played a few speed games with Tigran Petrosian, Yevgeny Vasiukov, and Alexander Nikitin.

In the Interzonal of Portoroz 1958, despite some bumps in the road, and a problematic start, Fischer succeeded: after a strong finish, he ended up with 12 of 20 (+6 −2 =12) to tie for 5th–6th, and gained the Grandmaster title.  At the same time he became the youngest Candidate for the world chess championship, at the age of 15 years and 6 months. In one game of this tournament, Fischer took an early draw with Yuri Averbakh. When Larry Evans asked why Bobby agreed to a premature draw, Fischer said, "I was afraid of losing to a Russian grandmaster and he was afraid of losing to a kid."

Before the Candidates' tournament, Fischer competed in the 1958–59 U.S. Championship winning with 8½ of 11 and then in international tournaments at Mar del Plata, Santiago, and Zürich. He played unevenly in the two South American tournaments. At the strong Mar del Plata event, he finished tied for third with Borislav Ivkov, with 10 of 14, half a point behind tournament winners Ludek Pachman and Miguel Najdorf. At Santiago, he tied for fourth through sixth places, with 7.5 of 12 behind Ivkov, Pachman, and Herman Pilnik. He did better at the very strong Zurich event, finishing with 10.5 of 15 a point behind future World Champion Mikhail Tal and half a point behind Svetozar Gligorić.





[part 3]

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