Fischer's "My 60 Memorable Games" - the Controversy

Aug 18, 2015, 6:40 PM |

In one of the Forum topics there is a discussion about one of the classic chess books of all time, Bobby Fischer's "My 60 Memorable Games". 

The book was largely written during Fischer hiatus from chess in 1968 and 1969.  It was first published in 1969 and contained game ntroductions written bt GM Larry Evans (who was, in his own right, one of the great chess journalists and authors).  The original game scores and annotations are in English Descriptive Notation.  Fischer used EDN on his own scoresheets.  My hardback copy of the of the book has a yellowish dust cover and is the 4th printing.

The book was published in the United States by Simon & Schuster, and in the UK by Faber and Faber.  1995 B. T. Batsford, Ltd, published an Algebraic Notation edition in the UK.  Batford, who has published many fine chess books, suddenly had a tiger by the tail.  Fischer denounced the volume!

"Fischer declared that the Batsford team were ‘criminals’ and ‘conspirators’ and added: ‘They changed everything in my book, the notation, the format, the pages, the analysis … and without paying royalties.'"  

CHESS Magazine in the UK asked Edward Winter to review and compare the former Faber and Faber volume with the new Batsford edition.  Winter wrote:

"In the face of Fischer’s denunciation of Batsford and the latter’s refusal to admit wrong-doing, CHESS had engaged us to make an assessment of the extent of the textual changes made. It was apparent that a mere spot-check would not suffice, and we thus compared line-by-line the Faber and Faber edition and the new Batsford version. This verification work showed that over 570 changes had been made by Batsford, and a range of examples was presented on pages 45-48 of the January 1997 CHESS. We found that entire notes of Fischer’s had been omitted, individual words had been deleted, other words had been added and – the most frequent occurrence – Fischer’s wording had simply been changed without justification. Inconsistency had been introduced, a number of misspellings in the original had been left uncorrected, and many fresh mistakes had been added by Batsford."

In short, Batsford, led by their content editor/typesetter, John Nunn, "butchered" Fischer's work.  [Addendum - In an interesting twist, it appears that parts of Nunn's edit/typesetting "corrections" came from an unauthorized, perhaps pirated, Russian language edition of Fischer's book.]

To read the full details of the Algebraic edition's problems and ramifications, see Edward Winter's full report, here: