Bobby Fischer's Perfect US Championship Game - Best Of The 60s - Byrne vs. Fischer, 1963

Bobby Fischer's Perfect US Championship Game - Best Of The 60s - Byrne vs. Fischer, 1963

NM SamCopeland

Bobby Fischer's stature as a near mythic figure in the chess world is based on many things—his performance as a prodigy, his domination in many events, his brilliant and ambitious victories, and his ultimate shocking departure from chess.

In today's game, we see two of his most memorable feats on display. The first is this game, a masterpiece in attacking play, in which Fischer defeats Robert Byrne in only 21 moves with perfect, unimprovable play featuring a fine piece sacrifice to eliminate the defender of Byrne's light squares.

The second feat extends beyond this game and to the tournament it was played in. In the 1963/4 US Championship, Fischer achieved a perfect 11-0 score! Perfect tournaments and matches are nearly unheard of in chess at the top level, but Fischer achieved perfection three times, in this tournament and in his matches against Taimanov and Larsen. Today, we often refer to a "Fischer Prize" which is offered in some tournaments for a perfect score. While conceptually fun, no one really expects to see such a feat repeated in classical chess. Fischer was probably the last player who will ever manage a perfect score in an elite classical tournament.

Top 10 Games of the 1960s

Fischer meets Byrne's 1.d4 with his Gruenfeld Defense, the same opening that he used to defeat Byrne's brother Donald in the 1956 "Game of the Century." Byrne plays conservatively with moves like 7.e3?! while Fischer plays ambitiously with moves like 12...e5! Still, the position remains very sharp, and it is only with 14.Rfd1! that Byrne's position becomes likely lost. Fischer pounces with 14...Nd3, establishing a beautiful knight which immediately sacrifices itself with 15...Nxf2!! The other knight also exchanges itself with 18...Nxg2!!, a move which shocked Byrne and the commentators.

In the final position, after 21...Qd7!, Fischer was "bitterly disappointed" by Byrne's resignation as he was eager to play the crowd-pleasing 23...Re1+!! on the board.

Annotations with comments from Fischer's classic work, "My 60 Memorable Games" [Amazon affiliate link supports the content.] are available below.

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