Fischer's "Game of the Century"

Sep 18, 2012, 5:54 PM |

What characterizes all of the Master-class games that I have covered thus far is the opposite of why I started with the Fool's Mate: the brilliance that lay behind the necessary moves to successfully counter and defeat a completely solid attack or defense. A fool's mate, or scholar's mate, or any other simple or direct mate - even up to Gioacchino Greco's bishop sacrifice - is the result of a simple oversight by the defender. In contrast, these masters games result in endings that even a GM might not see coming - and that is what tends to make them beautiful, that the combinations are so intricate they turn into works of art. Morphy's Opera Game might be an exception, since his opponents do make a few minor mistakes, but by and large the ability of one player to overwhelm another even when both play solid chess (rather than what used to be called "skittles") is what makes these games wondrous to behold. I am still in the "skittles" level of playing, but I would love to one day reach the levels of the games that I am studying. Here's hoping!

This next game was played by two icons of their time, one who had entered the world stage relatively recently (Fischer was 13 when he played this game! Holy crap!), and the other who was in the middle of a distinguished chess career (Byrne, who represented the U.S. multiple times in 1960s Olympiads and was a U.S. championship winner himself). While Byrne was said to have made a minor mistake in this game, or at least play move 11 inaccurately (he moved a knight a second time, rather than continue to improve his development), the resulting combination of moves that Fischer displayed in response was so astonishing that even Master Byrne was taken by surprise, and just six moves later a position is reached wherein Byrne is forced to make 13 king moves - out of 24! Fischer accomplishes in this game a relative rarity among the highest levels of play: a devastating windmill. I find windmills to be absolutely beautiful, requiring an amazing level of planning and giving the opposing player absolutely no way out. I hope you all do too! As with previous games, this game has been mostly annotated with individual observations, so if you see something else or want to note what another master suggested, or even to correct an alternate line I put up, please comment and let me know! Enjoy!