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The Man Who Beat Bobby Fischer

Aug 9, 2008, 3:24 PM 9

The Ernesto Labate Grand Prix seems to have been a staple tournament of the Westfield Chess Club of New Jersey since 1997.  My assumption is that it was named after Ernesto Labate who also seems to have been a perennial contestant.   Mr. Labate of N.J. has an awesome chess record. While basically an 1850 player in his better years  (using USCF's "since 1991" records, that is), he has been so active in local chess, having directed 168 events and 434 sections and having participated in about 240 tournaments (again, "since 1991"),  my head spins following it all.  My brief excursion into this Grand Prix tournament and into the life of Ernesto Labate was incited by a 1997 Chess Life article (really more a blurb) with no byline, entitled:

        The Man Who Beat Bobby Fischer

 The article contains a photo of Mr. Labate with the caption:
          "Ernesto Labate -- he threw Bobby Fischer for a loss."

 It first described how one of the players in the 1997 US Amateur East Tournament, Ernesto Labate, wore, in honor of Memorial Day, his 40th Bomb Group leather jacket which had a bronze star insignia on the collar. He had earned these flying bombing missions over Nazi-occupied France during WWII.
As a civilian he continued flying, but more important for this story, became a fierce competitor - in Chess as well as in Judo, eventually earning a 5th degree Black Belt in that discipline.

The article relates how, sometime in the 1960s, Labate faced Bobby Fischer in a tournament - and won!

Fischer himself was a judoka,  and the two men, both Brown Belts at the time, faced each other in a Judo match in Manhattan. "Ernesto recalls that Bobby was good. But it turned out he wasn't good enough to take the man from the 40th Bomb Group." 

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