Bobby Fischer's Conquest of the World Chess Chamionship
Bobby Fischer's Conquest of the World Chess Championship
I downloaded this from an internet site.It is even likely that its original author is a chess.com member.However, it is worth a new look....
Reuben Fine was both one of the world's strongest grandmasters of
chess and one of the world's leading authorities on psychoanalysis.
In this book, he combines the two disciplines. This Fischer-Spassky
book is really three books in one: An analysis of the games (straight
chess analysis, with no psychology), a psychoanalytic study of the two
players in the match, especially of Fischer whom Fine had met many
times when Fischer was a boy, and a correction of the historical
record from 1938 to 1948, because it was during this period that
little chess was played because of World War II, and the controversies
associated with the deaths of the World Champion and several other top
grandmasters, during which time Fine himself had a claim on being
called the World Chess Champion.
There have been dozens of books written on the epic 1972 match in
Reykjavik, Iceland between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky for the
World Chess Championship, but none go to the depths of the psychology
behind the moves of the match as does this book.
Reuben Fine (1914-1993) is remarkable not merely for having two
successful careers, but for achieving top levels and being world
renowned in both fields.
Fine took up chess in his youth, became a master as a teenager and at
age 17 won his first of seven US Open Chess Championships. He was
invited to the great masters tournament in Pasadena 1932, won by World
Champion Alekhine, one of the strongest tournaments ever held in the
United States. His victories in a series of European tournaments in
1936 and 1937 established Fine as a top contender for the World Chess
Championship. This led to his greatest result ever, his tie for first
in the strongest chess tournament ever played, AVRO 1938, a double
round-robin tournament to determine who would be the next challenger
to World Champion Alexander Alekhine. Fine tied with Paul Keres, won
more games than anybody, and finished ahead of future champion Mikhail
Botvinnik, current champion Alekhine, former world champions Max Euwe
and Capablanca, and Grandmasters Samuel Reshevsky and Salo Flohr. Fine
won both of his games against Alekhine.
Fine was born on October 11, 1914 was still only 23 at the time of his
victory at AVRO 1938. There is little doubt that he could have and
probably would have become the World Chess Champion, except that World
War II intervened.
During the war, Fine could not travel to Europe, so he concentrated on
writing chess books. His books covered all aspects of the game. He
wrote Modern Chess Openings, Basic Chess Endings and The Middle Game
of Chess during this period. He also played in several US Opens and US
Championships. He won the US Open seven times, which was every time he
played. However, somehow he could never win the US Championship,
usually finishing second.
After World War II, Fine realized that he could never make a decent
living writing chess books and playing in chess tournaments, so he had
to get a real profession. He chose psychology and became a psycho-
analyst. He played in a few tournaments after World War II, but not
many. Most famously, he was invited to play in the 1948 World Chess
Championship tournament, but he declined to play. This has been
controversial to this day and is still often discussed. At different
times, Fine has given different reasons for his refusal to play for
the world championship. His most convincing explanation was that he
was studying for his PhD in psychology at the time and did not wish to
take a year off to study, prepare for and play in the World Chess
Fine played only a few times after that. His last tournament was the
Wertheim Memorial in 1951. Maurice Wertheim, the Chairman of the New
York Stock Brokerage Firm of Wertheim & Company, was a patron to chess
players and probably had provided funding to help Fine compete
internationally. After Wertheim died in 1950, Fine probably felt
obliged to play in a tournament in his memory. Fine did well in this
last event, considering that he had not played a tournament game in
After that, Reuben Fine devoted himself to his new profession, psycho-
analysis and, just as he had done with chess, he rose quickly to the
I discovered this myself when I went to attend the University of
California at Berkeley in 1962. Arriving at the college bookstore, I
found huge stacks of books for sale all written by somebody named
Reuben Fine. There must be a lot of people named Reuben Fine, I
thought, and one of them wrote all these books.
Before long, I realized that all of these books were written by the
same Reuben Fine. If you wanted to take a basic course in psychology,
your textbook would be written by Reuben Fine. Then, if you wanted to
take an intermediate course, that book too would be written by Reuben
Fine. Finally, when you were ready to take an advanced course, that
book also would be written by Reuben Fine.
This was kind of like in chess where, whether you wanted a chess book
on the opening, the middle game or the end game, the book would always
be written by Reuben Fine. He had both fields completely blanketed and
covered with his books.
Leaving no stone unturned, Reuben Fine now realized that there were
opportunities in the cross-disciplinary field. He was now the world's
leading authority in two subjects, chess and psycho-analysis. So, why
not merge the two? In 1956, he wrote a book called “Psychoanalytic
Observations on Chess and Chess Masters”. It was published by the
National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysts. In 1967,
exactly the same book (with no changes) was reprinted as “The
Psychology of the Chess Player”.
Fine also turned this into an actual profession. His clients in the
psychoanalytic field tended to be chess players. In the 1970s, I knew
a lot of rich kids who were young chess masters and their parents were
paying big bucks to have Reuben Fine psychoanalyze them. And, why not?
Who else better could study and understand what motivates chess
players than a psychoanalyst who was also a chess grandmaster?
By the way, what does motivate chess players? This is one of those
unanswerable questions, like Freud asking, “What do Women Want?”
We all understand that women need to survive and, in order to survive
and to reproduce, they need to attract a man.
But what propels a man to push little pieces of wood around a wooden
board and devote years of his life trying to best another man in this
Fine explains the widely accepted theory, but not his theory, in the
first page of his book, in which he is quoting Ernest Jones, another
“Quite obviously chess is a play substitute for the art of war. The
unconscious motive actuating the players is not the mere love of
pugnacity characteristic of all competitive games, but the grimmer one
of father-murder. The mathematical quality of the game gives chess a
peculiar anal-sadistic quality. The sense of overwhelming mastery on
the one side matches that of inescapable helplessness on the other. It
is this anal-sadistic feature that makes the game so well adapted to
gratify at the same time both the homosexual and the antagonistic
aspects of the father-son contest. All agree that a combination of
homosexual and hostile impulses are sublimated in chess.”
However, Fine then notes a problem with this, which is that male
homosexuality is virtually non-existent among chess players.
Fine explains this paradox on page 28 of “Psychoanalytic Observations
on Chess and Chess Masters”, which is identical to page 22 of “The
Psychology of the Chess Player”.
“In a situation where two men are voluntarily together for hours at a
time with no women present the homosexual implications must
necessarily be considered. Observation indicates that overt
homosexuality is almost unknown among chess players. Among the chess
masters of the present century I have heard of only one case. This is
all the more striking in that artists, with whom chess masters like to
compare themselves, are so frequently homosexual.”
As a chess player of an entirely different generation from Reuben
Fine, I can confirm this. Male chess players are almost never
homosexual. Just as Fine says, “overt homosexuality is almost unknown
among chess players” today, just as it was in 1956 when Fine wrote
these words. There are a few exceptions, but the numbers are so small
as to be insignificant. Of eight hundred grandmasters in the world,
there is only one grandmaster in the world who is known to be
However, the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer” depicted a chess
player who the protagonist meets in the park. That chess player is
named Vinnie, and his part is played by Laurence Fishburne. That movie
is more than just a movie. It is based on real life events. The real
Vinnie was Vincent Livermore, a chess master who is believed to have
died of AIDS related illnesses in 1993, just before the movie came
out, and thus never got to see himself played in the movie.
However, there was no proof that even Vinnie Livermore was homosexual.
Nobody can recall him actually propositioning anybody. He just seemed
to have homosexual mannerisms.
So, homosexuality among male chess players is extremely rare. On the
other hand, among top female chess players, it is rampant. Chess is a
game of imitation war. So, the next question is, what makes men go to
war. Why, when the call to war comes, do men voluntarily go marching
off to their almost certain deaths?
This is the question of the ages. One supposes that men go to war to
get women. That is the way it happens in the animal kingdom. Two males
of any kind of animal fight. The winners got all the females.
It happens in human wars too. The invading army attacks. They climb
the walls and conquer the town. They kill all the men. Only the women
are left. The women do not mourn their dead husbands, fathers,
brothers and sons. They know that they were the prizes to be won at
war and they willingly submit. This is the story of the ages.
Yes, the very process by which men go to war has homosexual
implications, just as chess does. Men march off to war together, live
together, sleep together, fight together and sometimes sacrifice their
own lives to save their buddies. Yet, until recently in the United
States, homosexuals were banned from the military and even now that
they are allowed to join their numbers are relatively small.
This brings us to the ultimate battle: The Battle for the World Chess
Championship: Fischer vs. Spassky.
Of course, Reuben Fine had special insight into this because he knew
who the real World Chess Champion was. He knew that he, Reuben Fine,
was actually the best chess player in the world.
I several times heard Reuben Fine say things like this when he came to
Charlie Hidalgo's Chess House on 72nd street in New York City, near to
where he lived. He would often say that he was the best chess player
in the world. He would also make statements like saying that
everything that was known about the endgames was in his book, Basic
Chess Endings. “If it is not in my book, then it is not known”, he
I could never figure out whether he was joking or not. Certainly,
after his victory in the 1938 AVRO tournament, he had every right to
call himself the unofficial world chess champion, and indeed he often
did so. After all, he had defeated the official World Champion
Alexander Alekhine 2-0 in a two game match.
However, by the early 1970s, with him having not played a tournament
game in twenty years, nobody considered him to be the world champion.
Was he joking? Was he pulling my leg? Or, was he serious? Did he
really believe this?
Now, we will never know.
In this book, Reuben Fine, as a chess grandmaster, analyzes the moves
of the chess games and then, as a psychoanalyst, analyzes the
motivations behind the moves and the psychological battles that led up
to the match.
Here it must be said that this book is not universally popular.
Indeed, it has been widely panned.
International Chess Master Anthony Saidy. Who is also a medical
doctor, wrote me, “Do NOT even think of reprinting this terrible book.
Dr. Anthony Saidy has special insight into this because Fischer
actually lived in Dr. Saidy's house in New York during the tumultuous
days leading up to the match, when Fischer was deciding whether or not
to play. It was Dr. Saidy, more than anybody else, who actually
convinced Fischer to play and drove him to the airport. So, Dr. Saidy
certainly knows more than what Dr. Fine knows about Fischer's mental
condition. However, Dr. Saidy has never published his findings.
Criticism of this book has centered on Fine's mistakes in analysis of
the games. However, this is not a fair criticism, in my opinion. Fine
had not played a tournament chess game in 22 years. Naturally, his
knowledge of the openings was out of date. Also, these games are the
most analyzed games in chess history. Dozens of books have been
written about these games and none of them are perfect. I myself know
things about this match which have never been published. There is one
move in one of the games that Spassky lost where, had he played a
different move, the game would have been a dead draw. Yet, no
published analysis has ever mentioned this move. No, I am not going to
tell you what it is, at least not now. I will tell you that I know
about it because I was in Reykjavik, Iceland when that game was played
and the grandmasters there were talking about the move that Spassky
Fine's views on homosexuality are controversial even today. Fine's
works are sometimes cited today in the political debates concerning
“same-sex marriage”. Fine held to the Freudian view that homosexuality
is an illness that can be cured. Homosexual object to this, saying
that they were born that way. Since a living example of a homosexual
who has been “cured” has never been produced, it is difficult to
understand how anybody could adhere to that view.
Fine, by the way, was almost certainly not homosexual, as he was
married five times.
Since male chess players are almost never homosexual but female chess
players often are, this seems to establish some connection between sex
I would be remiss if I did not point out that this book is highly
For example, James Schroeder calls this book evidence of Fine's
“inanity” The respected reviewer Jeremy Silman writes, “This is
without doubt one of the worst chess books ever written.” But then
Silman admits, “I'm forced to disclose a dirty little secret: I love
this book! . . . If you see this book in a used bookstore, grab it
and prepare for a lot of fun"
The most detailed analysis of this book was published by Dr. Anthony
Saidy in an article in the June 1974 issue of Chess Life magazine,
page396. Here is Dr. Fine's reply to the criticism by Dr. Saidy, as
published in the August 1974 Chess Life, page 467:
Downloaded from the internet December 4th 2008