Bobby Fischer's Conquest of the World Chess Chamionship

Bobby Fischer's Conquest of the World Chess Chamionship

Dec 4, 2008, 11:20 AM |

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 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 
Championship tournament. 

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 
three years. 

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 
wood pushing? 

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 
would say. 

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 
and chess. 

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