The Genius & Craze of Bobby Fischer
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The Genius & Craze of Bobby Fischer

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Robert James Fischer (better known as Bobby Fischer) is easily one of the greatest chess players of all time. Go up to any chess player and ask them who the best chess players of all time are, chances are that they have Fischer in their top three. Don't want to take my word for it? Then ask who posted an article of The 10 Best Chess Players Of All Time and had Fischer 3rd, behind Kasparov and Carlsen. Today we'll be seeing how Fischer rose to dominate his era, what happened to him, and if he could've been the GOAT if he hadn't quit.

The Rise of Bobby Fischer

Boris Spassky vs. Bobby Fischer, 1972 World Chess Championship.

Robert James Fischer was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 9th, 1943. He had an older sister, who he learned how to play chess with when they bought a chess set from a candy store. As time went on, Fischer's sister lost interest and his mother did not have time to play. So Fischer played the only other person who wanted to play, himself! Fischer then found a book of old chess games and began studying. Though his chess career did not take off until he played in a simul against a master named Max Pavey. He caught the attention of Carmine Nigro, the president of Brooklyn Chess Club. Mr. Nigro became the first coach of the legendary Bobby Fischer.

Although Fischer really started to make headlines when he won the 1956 US Junior Chess Championship at the age of 13! Then at the US Chess Championship, he tied for 4th as a 13-year-old among a field of experienced adults who have been playing the game for ages. Then in July of 1956, Fischer played "The Game of the Century" in the Third Lessing J. Rosenwald Trophy Tournament. Let's see Fischer's masterpiece, annotated by NM Sam Copeland.

A young Bobby Fischer playing a sparring game against Tigran Petrosian.

After winning the 1957 US Open and was invited to play in the US Championship. Among the field, there were huge names such as six-time US Champion, Samuel Reshevsky, and defending US Champion Arthur Bisguier who predicted Fischer to place in the upper half by the end of the tournament. Although Bisguier learned to never doubt Fischer as Fischer went on to win the US Championship by a 1 point lead above the rest of the field. The 14-year-old prodigy became the youngest to ever win the US Championship. Here's a game, taken from a Chessbase article, which helped Fischer win his first US Championship.

After his success, he was invited onto a game show where the producers gave him a ticket to Moscow. Once he reached the Soviet Union, he demanded to play against Botvinnik. Though the Moscow chess club couldn't make it happen. But what they could make happen was a match against Tigran Petrosian. Though after a few games of blitz, Fischer discovered that he wasn't going to play any formal games, which is when Fischer began his hatred against the Soviet chess players. Fischer's rise was happening, but not fast enough. He'd won a few more US Championships as time went on but he still hadn't got what he wished for. A ticket to the World Championship. 

A magazine was published after the 8th round in the 8th round of the Candidates Tournament.

After Bobby Fischer came out unsuccessful in the 1962 Candidates Tournament, Fischer came out to accuse three soviet players of pre-arranging draws in order to conserve their energy against Fischer. Fischer sworn to never play in a Candidates Tournament ever again unless it was a knockout format was implicated. In the next 9 years, Fischer would not make any moves to win the World Championship title and played in a few major tournaments like the US Championship and many simuls.

This was until the 1971 Candidates Tournament where a knockout system was implemented instead of the usual swiss style. In the quarterfinals of the Candidates, Fischer was up against Taimanov, although Fischer was the favorite, it was seen that an upset could still happen although Fischer gave no chances for that. He obliterated Taimanov, 6-0. Fischer went on to beat Larsen in the semi-finals, 6-0. He then beat Petrosian in the finals 6.5-2.5 to gain a ticket to the World Championship. In this match, Fischer also got a 20 game win streak after winning the 1st round.

The 1972 World Championship

Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky, 1972 World Championship

After Fischer had his amazing performance in the 1971 Candidates Tournament, he was the highest-rated player in the world with a FIDE rating is 2785. Fischer's rating towered above the others as Spassky the world #2 had a rating of just 2660. Fischer was the highest rated in the world by 125 points. Coming into the World Championship Match, Fischer's conditions were very different. Spassky wanted to pay in Iceland while Fischer wanted to play in Yugoslavia. After the match was declared to play in Iceland, Fischer refused to play unless the prize fund would be raised. Finally, after the prize fund was doubled from 125,000 to 250,000 dollars ($1.55 million dollars today). He agreed to play.

Fischer lost the two games in a strange way. In the first game, he played a risky pawn grab in a dead-drawn endgame. Then he forfeited his second game over a dispute of the playing conditions. Fischer was going to forfeit the whole match, although Spassky didn't want to win like this. He offered to play in the back room, away from the media which bothered Fischer. In the next 19 rounds, Fischer would win 7, lose one, and draw the rest. Fischer had won the World Championship. Let's take a look at the famous round 6 where Fischer beat Spassky in an amazing attack that left Spassky dancing his queen around the board. 

After the game, the crowd and Boris Spassky broke into applause. This world championship also signified something greater than chess. Due to the Cold War, this match was huge! He became a world icon and was on the front page of every article. He appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated and was offered many a handful of product endorsements. Though these endorsements were over $30 million dollars today, he declined all of them. This world championship was the only world championship an American ever won and was the only title that Fischer would win.

In 1975 when Fischer was to defend his title against Anatoly Karpov, he had certain set guidelines that were non-negotiable. His guidelines followed as 1. First, to 10 wins, draws don't count. 2. Unlimited amount of games. 3. If the score was 9-9, Fischer would have successfully defended his title. What are your thoughts on these guidelines? FIDE was able to agree to the first two, but couldn't agree to the 3rd. After sending out a letter to both Karpov and Fischer, Fischer refused to play and forfeited his title. 

Who do you think would've won, if the 1975 World Championship happened?

Bobby Fischer would disappear from chess for the next 20 years, until 1992 when he challenged Spassky to a rematch. This rematch had a $5,000,000 prize fund, although Fischer won, the games were lacking and showed how Fischer was playing openings of the previous time. Kasparov estimated Fischer's strength to be around 2600-2650. After this match, Fischer had basically left the entire chess scene, only playing a few secretive games on ICC. After a few extremely questionable political comments, a few days spent in a jail cell, Fischer passed away on January 17th, 2008, at the age of 64. 

Could Fischer Be The GOAT if He Didn't Quit?

Fischer in 1972, seems to be some sort of press conference.

Some could argue that Fischer could've been the GOAT if he hadn't quit his professional career in 1975. In fact, I created a poll where 45 people responded. 26.7% of you said that Fischer could've been the GOAT, and 73.3% of you said he couldn't have. Although after deeper thought, the reason why Fischer quit, was because he was crazy. Many speculate that he had a mental illness, called schizophrenic. Although what we do know, is that Bobby Fischer was crazy, a type of chess player we have never seen before. The reason why Fischer was so good, was because of this craze, this devotion, this genius mindset. What made Fischer so good, was also what made Fischer quit. 

Thank you for reading, hopefully, you learned something. Do you think Fischer could've reached GOAT level? Or if his 1975 World Championship conditions were fair? Leave your answer in the comments below. Shoutout to my fellow Top Blogger @Lightning, he posts amazing tournament reviews and articles, I'm sure you'll learn something from them. If you're looking for a chess discord server where you can learn, or just chillax, then make sure to join the Seminar For Patzer's discord server. Thank you, and goodbye.

Just a 13-year-old blogger from San Diego who wants to share my knowledge and opinions on the hot topics in chess. I started playing chess at 7 and I have a peak USCF rating of 2007. Other than chess I enjoy soccer, basketball, geoguessr, cubing, and video editing. 

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