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Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Fischer’s First U.S. Open


From July 17 through July 28, 1956, Bobby Fischer played in the 57th annual U.S. Open in Oklahoma City (102 players from 20 states) at the Biltmore Hotel. The event was directed by George Koltanowski, assisted by Kenneth Harkness, and organized by Jerry Spann. Play began at 7 pm. There was no play on Saturday, July 21, which was reserved for the Speed Tournament. The final round began at 12 noon. Time control was 50 moves in 2.5 hours. Entry fee was $15.

Fischer won 5 games, drawing 7 games, losing none, (8.5-3.5), and tied for 4th-8th place (won by Arthur Bisguier on tiebreaks over Jimmy Sherwin). Fischer set some kind of record by going undefeated through all 12 rounds of a USCF Open at the age of 13 (Chess Review, September, 1956, page 260). His USCF rating was 2375 after this event, #25 in the nation. His game with Dr. Peter Lapiken was the first to appear in a chess magazine. It appeared in the August 5, 1956 issue of Chess Life and the September issue of Chess Review. During this event, he was interviewed on television for the first time. He appeared twice on local television and was profiled by the Oklahoman magazine. A picture of Fischer posing for the cameraman of the Oklahoman appeared in the August 20, 1956 issue of Chess Life, page 7. At 13, he was the youngest player at the U.S. Open.

In the US Open, he defeated A. M. Swank (1687) in the first round (the oldest player at 78 vs. the youngest player at 13), drew with Henry Gross (2181), drew with Fred Tears (2123), beat Dr. Peter Lapiken (2209), drew Brian Owens (2222), drew Anthony Santasiere (2333), drew Ken Smith (2216), drew Wilmer E. Stevens (1872), beat Dale Ruth (1971), beat Dr. Orest Popovych (2176), drew Dr. Stephen Popel (2328), and beat Jerry Donovan (2180).

A.M. Swank – Fischer, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 1, July 16, 1956
1.e4 c5 2.Ne2 Nc6 3.b3 Nf6 4.Nbc3 e6 5.Bb2 d5 6.Ng3 Bd6 7.Bb5 O-O 8.Bd3 Ne5 9.Be2 Ng6 10.Nb5 Nxe4 11.Nxe4 dxe4 12.Nxd6 Qxd6 13.g3 e5 14.c4 Bh3 15.Bf1 Bxf116.Rxf1 f5 17.Qc2 Ne7 18.O-O-O Nc6 19.Bc3 Nd4 20.Bxd4 exd4 21.Kb1 Rae8 22.Rfe1 Re5 23.d3 Rfe8 24.Qd2 exd3 25.Rxe5 Qxe5 26.Qxd3 Qe2 27.Rd2 Qxd3+ 28.Rxd3 Re1+ 29.Kc2 Re2+ 30.Rd2 Rxd2+ 31.Kxd2 f4 32.Kd3 Kf7 33.a3 Kf6 34.b4 b6 35.Ke4 Kg5 36.gxf4+ Kg4 37.f3+ Kh3 38.f5 Kxh2 39.f4 Kg3 40.bxc5 bxc5 41.a4 a5 42.Kd5 d3 43.Kxc5 d2 0-1

Swank won only 2 games, lost 5 games, then dropped out of the tournament and ended up in 98th place.

Fischer – H. Gross, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 2, July 17, 1956
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Bf5 4.O-O e6 5.d3 Bc5 6.Nbd2 Nc6 7.a3 a5 8.Qe1 Bg6 9.e4 dxe4 10.Nxe4 Nxe4 11.dxe4 O-O 12.Be3 Qe7 13.Qc3 Bxe3 14.Qxe3 Rad8 15.Rad1 Rxd1 16.Rxd1 Rd8 17.Rxd8+ 1/2-1/2

Henry Gross (1908-1987) was a former California State Champion (1952). In 1928, he tied for 1st place in the 7th California State Championship, but lost the playoff to A.J. Fink. In 1952, he was rated 2314. In 1953, he won the Northern California Open and took 2nd place in the California championship, behind Herman Steiner. In 1955, he tied for 1st place in the first official San Francisco Championship, but lost the playoff to James Schmitt. In 1955, he won the Northern California Championship. He was a former president of the California State Chess Federation. He was champion of the Castle Chess Club in Oakland over a dozen times. He was a lawyer by profession. He tied for 9th-15th place at the US Open.

C.F. Tears – Fischer, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 3, July 18, 1956
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.d3 g6 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 d6 6.f4 e6 7.Nf3 Nge7 8.O-O O-O 9.Rb1 Rb8 10.Ne2 f5 11.Be3 b5 12.e5 Nd5 13.Bf2 dxe5 14.Bxc5 Re8 15.fxe5 Nxe5 16.Nxe5 Bxe5 17.c4 Qc7 18.cxd5 Qxc5+ 19.Kh1 Qd6 20.d4 Bg7 21.dxe6 Bxe6 22.d5 Bf7 23.b3 Rbd8 24.Nf4 Be5 25.Ne6 Bxe6 26.dxe6 Qxe6 27.Qe2 a6 28.Rfe1 Qf7 29.Rbd1 Bc3 30.Rxd8 Rxd8 31.Rd1 Rxd1+ 32.Qxd1 Kg7 33.Qf3 Qf6 34.Qb7+ Kh6 35.Qb8 Qd4 36.Qf8+ Qg7 37.Qxg7+ Kxg7 38.a4 Kf6 39.Bb7 bxa4 40.bxa4 a5 41.Kg2 Ke5 42.h4 f4 43.Bc6 Be1 44.gxf4+ Kxf4 45.Kh3 1/2-1/2

Claude Fred Tears (1919-1998) won the Correspondence Chess League of America (CCLA) Grand National Championship in 1947. In 1950, he won the Texas State Championship. His postal rating was 2350. He was a correspondence International Master and participated in the world correspondence chess championship. Tears took 45th place.

Fischer – P. Lapikan, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 4, July 19, 1956
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Bf5 4.O-O e6 5.d3 c6 6.Nbd2 Na6 7.a3 Nc5 8.c4 b5 9.Nd4 Qd7 10.Nxf5 exf5 11.Nb3 h6 12.Be3 Ne6 13.Nd4 g6 14.Qb3 Rb8 15.Nxc6 Qxc6 16.cxd5 Nc5 17.Qc3 Qd6 18.Bxc5 Qxc5 19.Qxf6 1-0 (Fischer took 10 minutes and Lapikan took one hour and 20 minutes for this game)

Dr. Peter Petrovich Lapiken (1907-1983) was born in Riga, Latvia. In the 1930s, he was chess champion of Manchuria, China. He came to the United States in 1939. During World War II, he was a translator and a language instructor for the US Army. In 1953, he tied for 1st place in the California Open and won the brilliancy prize. In 1958, he won the Idaho Open. He won the Montana Open in 1958, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, and 1971. He played in 12 US Opens from 1955 to 1973. He was president of the Montana Chess Association in the 1960s. He received a PhD in Slavic Languages from UC Berkeley and taught for several years at UCLA and the University of Montana. Lapikan tied for 34th-44th place.

Brian E. Owens – Fischer, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 5, July 20, 1956
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.g3 O-O 5.Bg2 d6 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.O-O e5 8.e4 exd4 9.Nxd4 Nc5 10.Re1 a5 11.h3 Re8 12.Bg5 h6 13.Bf4 Nfd7 14.Be3 c6 15.Qd2 Ne5 16.Qe2 a4 17.Rad1 Qa5 18.f4 Ned7 19.Kh2 a3 20.Qc2 axb2 21.Qxb2 Nb6 22.Bf1 Nba4 23.Nxa4 Qxa4 24.Qg2 Rxe4 25.Nb3 Re8 26.Nxc5 dxc5 27.Bxc5 Be6 28.Rb1 Bxc4 29.Rxe8+ Rxe8 30.Rb4 Bxf1 31.Rxa4 Bxg2 32.Kxg2 Re2+ 33.Kf3 Rc2 34.Ra8+ Kh7
35.Be3 b5 36.Ra7 Kg8 37.Ra8+ Bf8 38.f5 g5 39.f6 Rc3 40.Ke4 Rc4+ 41.Kf5 Rc3 42.Ke4 Rc4+ 43.Kd3 1/2-1/2

Owens would later win the 1965 Golden Knight Chess Championsip. He tied for 16th-24th in the US Open.

Fischer – A. Santasiere, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 6, July 22, 1956
1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nc6 3.d4 Bg4 4.Bg2 Qd7 5.O-O g6 6.c4 Bg7 7.cxd5 Bxf3 8.Bxf3 Nxd4 9.Bg2 e5 10.dxe6 Nxe6 11.Bxb7 Rb8 12.Bg2 Qxd1 13.Rxd1 Bxb2 14.Bxb2 Rxb2 15.Nc3 Ne7 16.Rab1 Rb6 17.Nb5 O-O 18.Nxa7 Rfb8 19.Rxb6 Rxb6 1/2-1/2

Anthony Edward Santasiere (1904-1977) was born in New York City. He was US Open Champion in 1945 and was New York State Champion four times (1928, 1930, 1946, 1956). He contested two games in the 1945 US versus USSR radio match on 10th board against David Bronstein, but lost both games. He was a high school math teacher. He tied for 9th-15th.

Ken Smith – Fischer, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 7, July 23, 1956
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 h6 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Be2 Nxe3 10.Qxe3 Be7 11.f4 Qc7 12.f5 O-O 13.Bg4 Nc6 14.Nxc6 bxc6 15.O-O Bg5 16.Qf2 Rb8 17.Rab1 d5 18.fxe6 Bxe6 19.Bf3 Qe5 20.Qc5 Bf4 21.g3 d4 22.Qxe5 Bxe5 23.Na4 Bxa2 24.Rbe1 Rb4 25.Nc5 Rxb2 26.Nd3 Rb5 27.Ra1 Be6 28.Rxa6 Rc8 29.Be2 g6 30.Re1 Bh3 31.Rd1 Be6 32.Nf4 Rc5 33.Nxe6 fxe6 34.Bd3 Kf7 35.Ra7+ Rc7 36.Rxc7+ Bxc7 37.Ra1 Ke7 38.Ra4 e5 39.Kg2 Kd6 40.Kf3 Ra5 41.Rxa5 Bxa5 42.Ke2 Kc5 43.Ba6 Kb4 44.Kd3 Ka3 45.g4 g5 46.Bb7 c5 47.Bc6 Kb2 48.Ba4 Kc1 49.Kc4 Kd2 50.Kxc5 Ke3 51.Kd5 Bc7 1/2-1/2

Kenneth Ray Smith (1930-1999), FIDE Master, wrote several books on the opening that bears his name, the Smith Morra Gambit. He learned chess late, starting at age 19 while recuperating from a football injury. He published Chess Digest, and was an official assistant to Fischer during the 1972 world Championship. Smith was also a world class poker player, placing as high as 3rd at the World Series of Poker main event. He and I co-authored two chess books on the Smith-Morra (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4). He tied for 16th-24th place in the US Open.

Fischer – W. Stevens, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 8, July 24, 1956
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Bc5 10.Nbd2 O-O 11.Bc2 Nxf2 12.Rxf2 Bxf2+ 13.Kxf2 f6 14.exf6 Qxf6 15.Kg1 Rae8 16.Nf1 Ne5 17.Ne3 Nxf3+ 18.Qxf3 Qxf3 19.gxf3 Rxf3 20.Bd1 Rf7 1/2-1/2

Wilmer Evarts Stevens (1901-1986) won the Wyoming State chess championship in 1954 and 1962. He tied for 45th-56th place.

Dale Ruth – Fischer, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 9, July 25, 1956
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nf3 Be7 8.O-O O-O 9.h3 Nbd7 10.Re1 b5 11.a4 b4 12.Nd5 Nxd5 13.Qxd5 Qc7 14.Qb3 Nc5 15.Qxb4 d5 16.exd5 e4 17.Nd2 Nd3 18.Qxe4 Nxe1 19.d6 Bxd6 20.Qxa8 Bb7 21.Qxf8+ Kxf8 22.Kf1 Nxc2 23.Rb1 Nd4 24.Bd3 Bb4 0-1

Dale Ruth, from Oklahoma, was Intercollegiate champion in 1958. He tied for 45th-56th place.

Fischer – O. Popovych, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 10, July 25, 1956
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.O-O O-O 5.d3 d6 6.Nbd2 e5 7.e4 Ne8 8.c3 f5 9.d4 f4 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Nc4 Qxd1 12.Rxd1 Nc6 13.gxf4 exf4 14.Nd4 Nxd4 15.cxd4 f3 16.Bf1 Nf6 17.Ne5 Be6 18.d5 Ng4 19.Nd3 Bc8 20.Bf4 Rxf4 21.Nxf4 Be5 22.Nd3 Bxh2+ 23.Kh1 Bd6 24.Bh3 Ne5 25.Nxe5 Bxe5 26.Be6+ Kg7 27.Rd3 Bxe6 28.dxe6 Kf6 29.Rad1 Re8 30.Rxf3+ Kxe6 31.Kg2 a5 32.a4 b6 33.Rd2 h5 34.Rfd3 Rf8 35.Rf3 Bf4 36.Rc2 c5 37.Rb3 Bc7 38.Rd2 Rf4 39.Rg3 Rf6 40.Rf3 Bf4 41.Rd8 g5 42.Rfd3 Rf7 43.Rh8 Ke5 44.f3 h4 45.Rh6 Rf6 46.Rxf6 Kxf6 47.Rd7 Ke5 48.Rb7 Kd4 49.Rxb6 c4 50.Rb5 Bc7 51.Rd5+ Ke3 52.Rxg5 1-0

Dr. Orest Popovych (born in 1933) is a FIDE Master. He won the chess championship of New Jersey in 1959, 1961, 1985, and 2001. In 1970, he tied for 1st place in the North American Central Open. He is a professor emeritus of Analytical Chemistry at Brooklyn College, CUNY. He has a PhD in chemistry. He tied for 9th-15th place.

Fischer – S. Popel, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 11, July 27, 1956
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.O-O O-O 5.d3 d6 6.e4 c5 7.Nbd2 Nc6 8.a4 a6 9.Nc4 Rb8 10.a5 Be6 11.Nfd2 d5 12.exd5 Bxd5 13.Nb3 Bxg2 14.Kxg2 Nd4 15.Nxd4 cxd4 16.Bf4 Rc8 17.Be5 Qd5+ 18.Qf3 Qxf3+ 19.Kxf3 Nd5 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Rfe1 e6 22.Ra3 Rfd8 23.Rb3 Rc7 24.Ke2 Ne7 25.Kd2 Nc6 26.Rb6 Rd5 27.Ra1 Kf8 28.Ra3 Ke7 29.Rab3 Nd8 30.f4 g5 31.fxg5 Rxg5 32.Nd6 Rgc5 33.c4 dxc3+ 34.bxc3 Rxa5 35.Nxb7 Ra2+ 36.Ke3 Rxh2 37.Nxd8 Kxd8 38.Rxa6 Ke7 1/2-1/2

Stepan (Stephan) A. Popel (1909-1987) won the championship of Paris in 1951, 1953, and 1954. He came to the United States in 1956. He won the Michigan State Championship in 1957, 1958, and 1959. In 1957, he won the North Central Open. He won the championship of North Dakota 11 times from 1965 to 1980. He tied for 4th-8th place.

J. Donovan – Fischer, US Open, Oklahoma City, Rd 12, July 28, 1956
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 Nbd7 7.O-O e5 8.h3 c6 9.Be3 Qe7 10.Qc2 a6 11.a4 Re8 12.dxe5 dxe5 13.a5 Nh5 14.Rfd1 Nf4 15.Bf1 Nf8 16.c5 N8e6 17.Na4 Ng5 18.Nxg5 Qxg5 19.Kh2 Be6 20.g3 Bh6 21.gxf4 exf4 22.Bc1 Qh4 23.Ra3 Rad8 24.Rad3 Rxd3 25.Rxd3 Bg7 26.b3 f5 27.Rf3 fxe4 28.Qxe4 Bf7 29.Qc2 Re1 30.Bc4 Qg5 31.Bxf7+ Kf8 32.Rg3 fxg3+ 33.fxg3 Qxc1 34.Qxc1 Rxc1 35.Be6 Re1 36.Bc8 Re2+ 37.Kh1 Re7 38.Kg2 Ke8 39.h4 Kd8 40.Bg4 Re3 0-1

Jeremiah F. Donovan was a master and member of the Marshall Chess Club. He participated in several US Opens. He tied for 25th-33rd in the 1956 US Open.

Fischer’s USCF rating after the U.S. Open was 2349. He was 13 years, 5 months old, the youngest US master ever. The record stood until July, 1977, when Joel Benjamin became a master at 13 years, 3 months.

–Bill Wall

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