Mysterious Nailbiting - Part 2

Mysterious Nailbiting - Part 2

Mar 23, 2010, 3:12 PM |

This is about a photo that I pulled from Google, already presented in the last entry, and depicts Bobby biting his nails. Why was he doing this? It must have been an intense situation: 

Of course, nothing fixated Bobby's attention more than a chessgame. If we could see off camera to view the chessboard, then maybe we could find out what was bothering him so much. It turns out that we can. Here is the original image taken from Chess Life 1956, expanded to view the details:

The caption from Chess Life of 1956 reads: "Study in Tension - Bobby fidgets, bites his nails, and squirms in general when in trouble. Here in the last round facing acute time pressure (see the clock - 12 is the deadline) and a very critical position, he falls in to a characteristic pose." We should now be able to recreate which position this is, and then determine whether or not this position was indeed critical. In the last round, Fischer was playing Eliot Sanford Hearst. You may recall Mednis-Hearst game presented in the last entry, the only double-forfeit in chess, with a score of 0-0.

"Eliot Sanford Hearst was born July 7, 1932 in New York City. Hearst won the New York State Championship in 1950 and went on to become one of the best chessplayers in the USA in the 1950's. He was a participant in the US Championship tournaments in 1954 and 1961. He received his doctorate in Psychology in 1956 from Columbia University. Dr. Hearst has been Professor of Psychology at Indiana University, Columbia University, and the University of Arizona. Perhaps he is best known in chess for his article "A Gentle Glossary"."

Presenting Fischer - Hearst 1956, a fine game, "one of Hearst's best":



(after 27.Kf1)

Bobby's move, 25. Bxf4, was losing, according to computer analysis (which suggests: 1. (0.00): 25.Qg3 Qh5 26.dxe5 dxe5 27.Qg8+ Ke7 28.Qxa8 Qxh2+ 29.Kf2 Qh4+ 30.Kf1 Qh1+ 31.Kf2 Qh4+), hence, by 27. Kf1, Bobby is in serious trouble. In case you haven't guessed it, the position at 27. Kf1 matches with the photograph of Bobby biting his nails. Mr. Hearst really had poor Bobby on the 'ropes'!

In the original clipping we also see many players crowding around him. There's someone sitting down next to him, two players crowding behind him, and Reshevsky's bald head appearing to whisper something to Hearst!  That's 5 people if you count the photographer. Was the photo taken during the game, or after, during a kibitzing session with many players joining in now that their tournament was over? Incredible as it sounds today, back then, many players would crowd around the chesstable during an interesting tournament game!


NEXT ENTRY : GAME OF THE CENTURY, Original Notes by13 year old, Bobby Fischer (his first published annotations).