In March 1949, when Bobby turned 6 (on March 9th), he learned the game of chess from instructions on a plastic chess set that his sister, Joan (1938-1998), bought at a candy store on the first floor of their apartment for $1. At the time, Bobby did not know anyone who played chess and he never saw anyone playing chess. His only chess partner at age 6 was his 11 year old sister and sometimes his 36-year old mother, Regina Wender Fischer. Soon, Joan got tired of the game and his mother was too busy to play.
In the December 1966 issue of Boys’ Life, Fischer wrote, “I learned to play chess when I was six from my older sister, Joan, in Brooklyn, N.Y. I liked other games like Monopoly and Parcheesi, but I found chess was much more exciting because it presented a greater challenge – there was no factor of luck involved. It was more difficult than any other game.”
Bobby saw his first chess book in May, 1949. He found a book of annotated chess games (perhaps Tarrasch’s Best Games of Chess by Fred Reinfeld written in 1946) while the family vacationed at Patchogue, Long Island. He spent most of his vacation time pouring over this book.
For over a year Bobby played chess by himself. He was so thoroughly absorbed by chess that his mother became worried. She then tried to use chess as a means to get Bobby into contact with other children. Regina Fischer recalled, “Bobby isn’t interested in anybody unless they play chess – and there just aren’t many children who like it.”
On November 14, 1950, Bobby’s mother sent a postcard and attempted to place an ad in the Brooklyn Eagle looking for chess opponents for the 7-year-old-Bobby. The ad was never published because no one at the newspaper could figure out how to classify it. They forwarded the postcard to Hermann Helms, Dean of American Chess.
For Christmas, 1950, Regina bought Bobby a small, unweighted wooden chess set that was housed in a sliding, unvarnished wooden box.
In January 1951, Hermann Helms (1870-1963) learned of the ad and replied that there was going to be a chess simultaneous exhibition at the Grand Army Plaza Public Library in Brooklyn in a few days. The letter was as follows:
Jan 13, 1951
Mrs. R. Fischer
1059 Union Street
Your postcard of Nov. 14, mislaid in The Eagle Office, has just reached me.
If you can bring your little chess-playing boy to the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, next Wednesday [January 17, 1951] evening at eight o’clock, he might find someone there about his own age. If he should care to take a board and play against Mr. Pavey, who is to give an exhibition of simultaneous play at that time, just have him bring along his own set of chessmen with which to play. The boards, I understand, are to be provided.
I will also bring your request to the attention of Mr. Henry Spinner, secretary of the Brooklyn Chess Club, which meets Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings on the third floor of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It is quite possible that Mr. Spinner may know of a boy or two of that age.
Bobby showed up with his new chess board and set that he got for Christmas, but lost in 15 minutes (he lost his Queen) to Senior Master Max Pavey (1918-1957). Bobby burst into tears when he lost, but later admitted that the loss had a great effect in motivating him to get better at chess.
At the event, Bobby met Carmine Nigro (1910-2011), President of the YMCA Chess and Checker Club in Brooklyn. Carmine agreed to give Bobby some chess lessons for a dollar an hour.
The January 18, 1951 issue of the Brooklyn Eagle, Hermann Helms wrote this about the exhibition. “In his exhibition at the library, Pavey played 13 games with different opponents without losing one. He drew two games against Edmar Mednis (1937-2002), a junior member of the Marshall Chess Club, and Sylvan Katske. The other 11, including eight-year-old (sic – he was 7) Bobby Fischer, were defeated.”
A week later, Regina took Bobby to the Brooklyn YMCA Chess Club, headed by Carmine Nigro. Bobby, age 7 (but looked 5), was the first child permitted to join the Brooklyn YMCA Chess Club (there were also no women chess members). On that first night, Bobby lost every game at the club. Despite his losses, Bobby continued to show up at the Brooklyn YMCA Chess Club.
Carmine Nigro formed an unofficial chess team with Bobby Fischer, his son Bill (Brady referred to him as Tommy) Nigro, and two other boys. They played a match against another team of kids coached by Dr. Harold Sussman (1911-2004), a dentist, amateur photographer, and chess master in Brooklyn. The teams played two matches. Nigro’s team won the first match with a 5-3 score.
In February, 1952, Bobby played in his first chess match at the Nigro home, winning his match against 10-year-old Raymond Sussman, the son of a Dr. Harold Sussman. Bobby won the first game and drew the second game. Dr. Harold Sussman later became Bobby’s dentist.
When Dr. Harold Sussman started teaching chess to his own son, he collected a group of youngsters for livelier interest in learning competitively. The best player of the group was Bobby Fischer.
In 1952, Bobby spent most of his hours after school at the Grand Army Plaza library in Brooklyn reading most of the chess books there and enjoying playing over miniature chess games. A photograph showing him studying appeared in the Brooklyn Public Library News Bulletin in July, 1952. It was the first time that his photograph appeared in print. He once told Shelby Lyman (1936- ) that he had read thousands of chess books and retained the best from each.
During the summer and fall of 1952, Bobby spent time playing against his grandfather’s cousin, Jacob Schonberg, who also lived in Brooklyn. When Jacob’s health was failing, Regina Fischer took care of him almost every day. She brought along Bobby to play chess with the older gentleman.
Fischer, in his chess column (“Checkmate”) in Boys’ Life in December 1966 wrote, “One of the biggest thrills of my life was when I won first prize at the YMCA children’s championship. One critical game, incidentally, was against my teacher’s son, Bill Nigro. I was nervous in that game, but the training I got from my early games was important to me and gave me confidence. I still have that medal at home.” Bill Nigro added, “He [Fischer] spent every weekend at our house for several years. He was an eccentric kid — he so much loved to win, he would throw the pieces across the room if he lost. I would play a game or two with Fischer, then I was ready to go play outside. He stayed with Dad the whole day.”
By the end of 1952, Fischer was becoming a fairly good player and started beating Nigro and others at the Brooklyn YMCA Chess Club. He was also starting to read every chess book he could find at the public libraries.
Around January 1953, 9-year-old Fischer played Dan E. Mayers (1922- ) at the Brooklyn Chess Club. Mayers recorded the game, and it is the first known recorded chess game of Bobby Fischer. However, Fischer got mated in 17 moves.
Mayers (1900) – Fischer (Unrated), Brooklyn Chess Club, January 1953
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nc3 c6 5.d4 Bb4 6.e5 Ne4 7.Qh5 O-O 8.Ne2 d5 9.Bb3 g6 10.Qh6 Bg4 11.Bd2 Nxd2 12.Kxd2 g5 13.h4 gxh4? [13…Be7] 14.Rxh4 Bf5 15.Rah1 Be7?? [15…f6] 16.Rg4 Bg6 17.Qxh7 mate 1-0
Dan had worked as a physicist at Los Alamos during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project. He was the 1939 New York City High School Champion. In 1948, he won the New England Chess Championship. In 1996, he won the British Senior Championship, and in 2004, he won the U.S. Senior championship for players 75 and older. At age 90, he is still playing chess.
In February 1953, Bobby played in his first organized tournament, the Brooklyn Chess Club championship, and took 5th place. If this was the Napier Memorial tournament, then it was won by Henry Spinner, secretary of the Brooklyn Chess Club, with an 11-0 score.
By the end of 1953, Bobby was winning a majority of his games at the Brooklyn Chess Club.
Bobby was exposed to international chess when Nigro took Fischer to watch the USA-USSR chess match every day at the Hotel Roosevelt in Manhattan. It was held June 16-24, 1954. It was the first time the Soviet chess team played on United States soil. The match drew 1,100 spectators, more than any other previous chess event in U.S. history. The match was refereed by Hans Kmoch (1894-1973). Bobby attended all four rounds and kept score of the wins, draws, and losses. The USSR team won 20-12.
In September 1954, Carmine Nigro introduced 11-year old Bobby to 16-year old William Lombardy (1937- ). Lombardy agreed to coach Fischer in private, spending hours playing over master chess games. Both players became grandmasters.
By 1954, Fischer was playing a lot of chess at the Brooklyn Chess Club and at the Brooklyn YMCA. In December 1954, he took 3rd-5th place at the Brooklyn CC championship. Two off-hand games were recorded between Fischer and Brooklyn player Jacob Altusky (1931- ).
Fischer – Altusky, Brooklyn 1954
1.d4 g6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 O-O 5.Bg5 d6 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.e5 dxe5 8.dxe5 Ng4 9.Nd5 Ngxe5? [9…Re8] 10.Bxe7 Kh8 11.Nxg6 hxg6 12.Bxd8 and Black resigned 1-0
Altusky-Fischer, Brooklyn 1954
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.d4 b5 6.Bb3 Bg4 7.Bxf7? Kxf7 8.Ng5 Qxg5 and White resigned 0-1
In early 1955 Fischer was playing in a Chess Review correspondence tournament (section 55-P-32). He was mentioned as a new postalite in the May, 1955 issue of Chess Review in the Class B at 1200 section. The August 1955 issue of Chess Review, page, 249 has section 55-P-32 stating “Fischer licks Maxwell, loses to Conger.” The October 1955 issue has section 55-P-32 stating “Reithel tops Fischer.”
Fischer had an 1198 postal rating in the August, 1955 list of Chess Review and a 1082 postal rating in the March, 1956 issue of Chess Review. He remained at 1082 in the August, 1956 issue if Chess Review. He lost one of his postal games in 12 moves to Anthony Wayne Conger (1904-1983) who had a 1418 postal rating at the time.
Conger (1274) – Fischer (1200), Corr. 1955
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 O-O 7.f4 c5 8.d5 Qa5 9.Qd2 Qc7 10.Bd3 e6 11.Nb5 Qb6 12.Nxd6 and Fischer resigned 1-0
Donald P. Reithel recalls that he played Fischer in a correspondence game in 1955. Fischer wrote to Reithel that he was a Brooklyn Dodger fan. Fischer did not finish the correspondence game with Reithel because he was starting to play in over-the-board tournaments. Reithel was a member of the Ontario Chess Club in Ontation, New York and a former editor of the “Chess Correspondent.”
Donald Reithel said, “In 1955 I played Bobby in postal chess – a prize tourney in Chess Review. I remember him as a typical American kid: Brooklyn Dodger fan, somewhat opinionated about school and somewhat desirous to exchange ideas and thoughts. He also liked listening to the radio and religiously was reading and studying the Bible.”
The winner of the postal section was S. Frankel with 5 wins and 1 draw. Fischer defeated J. Maxwell (1048), lost to Conger (1274) and Reithel (1256), and withdrew and lost to Frankel (1068), J. Ellis (1126), and V. Mattern (1256).
On May 21-23, 1955, Fischer, at the age of 12 years and 2 months, played in his first U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) tournament. He scored 2.5 points (out of 6) in the 5th U.S.Amateur Championship in Lake Mohegan, New York (played at the Mohegan Country Club). The last U.S. Amateur championship was held 10 years earlier in 1945.
Carmine Nigro took him to the event. Fischer, age 12, only wanted to watch, but was persuaded to play by Nigro. Nigro paid the $5 entry fee for Bobby and his USCF membership. The time control was 50 moves in 2 hours. The only known Fischer game from this event was Humphrey-Fischer in round 6. Fischer drew that game, but could have won it. Fischer won 2, drew 1, and lost 3. He tied for 33rd place. The event was won by Clinton L. Parmalee (sometimes spelled Parmelee) of New Jersey and organized by Kenneth Harkness (1896-1972). There were 75 entrants. The event was open to anyone except rated masters (masters were anyone rated 2300 or over). The event was covered in the June 5, 1955 issue of Chess Life and in Chess Review, June, 1955, page 164. Fischer’s post-tournament provisional USCF rating was 1826
Albert B. Humphrey (1780) – Bobby Fischer (Unr), Lake Mohegan, NY, Rd 6, May 22, 1955
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Nf3 O-O 5.e4 d6 6.h3 Nbd7 7.Be3 e5 8.d5 a5 9.Be2 b6 10.O-O Ne8 11.Qc2 Nc5 12.Nh2 f5 13.f3 f4 14.Bf2 Qg5 15.Kh1 Bd7 16.Rg1 Nf6 17.g4 fxg3 18.Rxg3 Qh6 19.Nd1 Nh5 20.Rg1 Bxh3 21.Be3 Nf4 22.Nf2 Bf6 23.Rg3 Bd7 24.Nfg4 Bxg4 25.Rxg4 Qg7 26.Rag1 Be7 27.Qd2 Rf7 28.R1g3 Raf8 29.Bxf4 Rxf4 30.Rh3 Qf7 31.R4g3 Bh4 32.Rg4 Bf2 33.Bd1 1/2-1/2
In June, 1955 Bobby scored 4.5-3.5 in a Washington Square Park (Greenwich Village) 8 round Swiss tournament with 32 players. He tied for 15th place. The tournament director was Jose M. Calderon (former head of the Olive Oil Association of America). The entry fee was 10 cents. The entry fee money was sent to the American Red Cross as a donation.
In late June, 1955, Bobby Fischer entered the Manhattan Chess Club for the first time with Carmine Nigro. He was met by Walter Shipman (1929- ), one of the club’s directors. Shipman immediately matched Bobby with a player, and Bobby won the game. Another opponent was found and Bobby won again. Shipman then played Fischer a series of blitz games, and Bobby won a third of the games. Shipman recalled, “I was so impressed by his play that I introduced the 12-year old to Maurice Kasper (1900-1972), the president of the club and a millionaire garment maker, whose beneficent offer of a free junior membership was immediately accepted by Bobby.”
In early July of 1955, Nigro persuaded Fischer to play in the U.S. Junior championship. On July 3, 1955, Regina Fischer sent a postcard to Alexander Liepnieks (1910-1973) and asked if he could make any arrangements for Bobby Fischer to play in the US Junior Championship in Lincoln, Nebraska. Lipenicks was the Nebraska State Champion at the time and organizer for the US Junior Championship.
Regina took Bobby to the Pennsylvania Railroad Station in New York to buy him a train ticket to Nebraska via Philadelphia. The ticket agent refused to sell her a ticket for a 12-year old boy that was going to travel 1,400 miles alone. Regina replied, “But you don’t understand. He must go! It’s for his chess.” The agent replied, “Why didn’t you tell me the boy was going for medical care?” The agent had thought there was something wrong with the boy’s chest.
In July of 1955, Fischer (age 12) and Charles Kalme (1939-2002) took a train from Philadelphia to Lincoln, Nebraska to play in the 10th annual US Junior Championship, organized by Alexander Liepnieks. The event was held July 15-24, 1955. Fischer won 2 games, drew 6 games, and lost 2 games (5-5) at the U.S. Junior Championship in Lincoln, Nebraska (held at the local YMCA). Fischer (rated 1830 from the U.S. Amateur tournament) took 20th place out of 25. Kalme (rated 2186) won the event at age 15. Fischer stayed with the Liepnieks family. Fischer’s USCF rating was 1625 after this event.
In round 1 of the US Junior Championship, Fischer lost to Kenneth Warner (1550) of Bakersfield, California. In round 2 he drew with William Whisler (unrated) of Concord, California. In round 3 he beat Jimmy Thomason (1600) of Fort Worth, Texas. In round 4 he drew with David Ames (unrated) of Quincy, Massachusetts. In round 5 he drew with Kenneth Stone (1600) of Los Angeles. In round 6 he drew with John Briska (unrated) of Albany, New York. In round 7 he lost to Viktors Pupols (2027) of Tacoma, Washington on time. In round 8, he drew with Robert Blair (1650) of Midwest City, Oklahoma. In round 9 he drew with John Winkelman (1650) of Lincoln, Nebraska. In round 10 he beat Franklin Saksena (1600) of Ft. Worth, Texas. His total score was 5-5.
During the event, Fischer wore a large military-style dog tag around his neck. His mother had given it to him that had his name, address, and phone number on it. When Fischer was losing, he would twist the dog tag nervously. His mother called him every day to see if he was all right. Later that month, her phone bill was $50, more than her rent.
Fischer won a trophy for best player 12 or under (he was the only 12 year old in it and the youngest player in the event). His name first appeared in Chess Life, Aug 5, 1955 in an article about the US Junior Championship. The event was also covered in Chess Review, September 1955, page 260, but only mentioning that Charles Kalme, age 15, won the tournament. Bobby returned to New York alone by bus, carrying his trophy with him.
On July 17, 1955, he took 3rd place in the U.S. Junior Rapid Transit Championship preliminaries, behind Robert F. Cross and Ronald J. Gross (1936- ). Every move was 10 seconds a move with a warning buzzer at 8 seconds and a bell at 10 seconds. Gross won the 1993 US Senior Championship.
On October 2, 1955, Bobby placed 15th among 60 players who entered the Washington Square Park tournament in Greenwich Village. Harry Fajans (1905-1986), a chess master, said that when he beat Fischer in that tournament, Bobby walked away in tears. Many who knew Fischer during this period confirm that Fischer often cried on being defeated. In 1963, when Frank Brady asked Fischer if this was true, Fischer replied, “Of course not!”
Fischer played in the final open-air tournament of the season in Washington Square Park in New York City. He was the youngest player in the event, who held his own against many of his older and more experienced opponents. The winner was Charles Eastman, who won a $100 savings bond. Fischer had to weather the month-long contest and 32 eliminations before being beaten. Bobby was awarded a $10 ballpoint pen for his efforts. As a result of his participation, Bobby’s name appeared for the first time in a major newspaper. The New York Times ran a small story about the results of the tournament, with the headlines, EASTMAN WINS AT WASHINGTON SQUARE—BOY 12, NEAR TOP. The reporter wrote, “Many in the crowd of 400 onlookers seemed to think the best show was given by Bobby Fischer. Despite competition from his more mature and experienced adversaries, he was unbeaten until yesterday, when he came within 15 players of the championship.” Fischer won 2 games, drew 5 games, and lost 1 game.
On November 26, 1955, Fischer, age 12, gave his first simultaneous exhibition He played 12 members of the Youth Group (age 7 to 12) of the Yorktown, Chess Club (Yorktown Heights, New York) youth at the Manhattan Chess Club. He won all 12 games, eliminating the first player in 50 minutes and the last player in 2 hours and 20 minutes. Fischer had White in all his games. Most of the games went 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5. He received a watch from the Manhattan Chess Club and a check from the Yorktown Chess Club. Fischer was mentioned in the December 20, 1955 issue of Chess Life (“Chess Life in New York” by Allen Kaufman (1933- )) for his simultaneous exhibition. The January 1956 issue of Chess Review had him on the cover (“Small Time Big time) with another picture of him playing chess in the article. His opponents were Stuart Siepser, Peter Foley, Walter Nitz, Billy David, Henry Brooks, Jimmy Rice, Marc Budwig, Leonard Bergstein, Evanna Nelson, Linda Villator, Eric Mynttinen, and Michael Foley. His exhibition was also covered by the December 11, 1955 issue of the New York Times.
At the end of the year, Fischer two USCF ratings, 1826 and 1625, were averaged. So at the end of 1955, Bobby Fischer’s USCF rating was published at 1726.
The January 1956 issue of Chess Review had Fischer on the cover giving a simul at the Manhattan Chess Club against the Yorktown Chess Club youth group.
In January 1956, Bobby, age 12, won the class B prize of the first Greater New York City Open (January 21-26, 1956). It was held at the Churchill Chess and Bridge Club in Manhattan. The event was won by Bill Lombardy, 6-1, on tie-breaks over Dr. Ariel Mengarini (1919-1998). Fischer won 5 games and lost 2 games (5-2). There were 52 players in this event. Fischer tied for 5th-7th (shared with Anthony Saidy (1937- ) and Edward Schuyler Jackson (1897-1987)). In the final round, he was playing Rhys Hays. In a particularly difficult position, Bobby thought for a long time, and then decided on a move. Bobby moved a piece then punched the clock on the next table! His USCF rating for the event was 2157.
In February 1956, Bobby traveled with six other members of the Log Cabin Chess Club to Cuba and even gave a 12-board simultaneous exhibition at Havana’s Capablanca Chess Club (winning 10 and drawing 2). The players included Cuban players, as well as E. Forry Laucks (1898-1965) and Robert Houghton. His mother accompanied him and served as photographer for Chess Review. The Log Cabin Chess Club and Fischer also visited Philadelphia; St. Petersburg, Florida; Hollywood, Florida; Miami, Florida; Tampa, Florida; and Clinton, NC for simultaneous exhibitions. Norman T. Whitaker (1890-1975), age 66, played board 1 for the Log Cabin Chess Club and Fischer played board 2. Fischer won 5, lost 1, and drew 1 during this exhibition match as board 2. The event was covered in the April, 1956 issue of Chess Review. It included a picture of Fischer playing Mr. Weeks, a retired engraver for the U.S. Treasury, in St. Petersburg. The photo was taken by Regina Fischer. Another photo shows Fischer playing at the Capablanca Chess Club in Havana. A third photo shows Fischer playing in Hollywood, Florida.
March 9, 1956, was Bobby’s 13th birthday. Years later, he gave Pal Benko (1928- ) one of his old chess clocks and a chess set. He told Benko that they had been gifts which Bobby received for his Bar Mitzvah. The clock and set are now in the hands of chess collector David DeLucia.
In March 1956, he gave a simul at the Jersey City YMCA and won 19, lost one, and drew one out of the 21 opponents. There were about a 100 spectators. Bobby made $19 for his efforts.
In April 1956, Fischer won the class A championship at the Manhattan Chess Club. He won 7, drew 1, and lost 2.
Fischer was also was the top scorer in the 1956 New York Metropolitan League A team with 4 wins and 1 draw. An award was to be given to him at Highland Park in Brooklyn for his efforts, but he never showed up. Carmine Nigro accepted the award for him. Nigro told Brady that Fischer was master strength.
At the end of April, his USCF rating was 2168. However, his published USCF rating in the May 20, 1956 issue of Chess Life was 1726. One year later, it would be 2231.
On May 25-27, 1956, he played in the U.S. Amateur Championship in Asbury Park, New Jersey, winning 3 games, drawing 2, and losing 1 game (4-2). At 13, he was the youngest player in the 88-player event (won by John Hudson (1930-2012) on tiebreaks over Harry Lyman (1915-1999) and J.Norman Cotter). Fischer tied for 11th-23rd place. Before the event, he was rated 1726. His USCF rating after this event was 2003.
In round 1 of the 1956 US Amateur Championship, Fischer drew with Michael Tilles (2040). In round 2 he beat Dr. J. F. Bacardi (1770). In round 3 he drew with Norman Hurttlen (1985). In round 4 he beat Samuel Sklaroff (1911). In round 5 he lost to Edmund Nash (1989). In round 6 he beat R. Riggler (1844).
A picture appears in the July 20, 1956 issue of Chess Life, page 1, of Fischer playing Samuel Sklaroff.
In June 1956, Bobby began attending the “Hawthorne Chess Club,” which was the home of John “Jack” Collins (1912-2001), a New York master.
In July 1956, he took first place at the 11th Annual U.S. Junior Championship (July 1-7) in Philadelphia with 8 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss (8.5-1.5). He became the youngest-ever junior chess champion at age 13, a record that still stands (he placed 20th with 5-5 at Lincoln, Nebraska in 1955). The event was held at the Franklin Mercantile Chess Club with Bill Ruth (1886-1975) as tournament director, assisted by D. A. Gianguilio. Fischer’s USCF rating after this event was 2321, making him a master at age 13 years, 3 months, 29 days and ranked #33 in the nation. He had become the youngest master in history. The rating was not published until August of 1956. There were 28 participants from 12 states and Canada.
At 13 years and 4 months, Fischer was the youngest player to win the U.S. Junior Championship. He won a portable typewriter for his efforts. Fischer took 2nd place in the blitz championship with a 4-1 score (won by Arthur Feuerstein (1935- ) with 4.5-0.5 score). William Lombardy took 3rd.
After the U.S. Junior Championship, Regina persuaded Maurice Kasper, of the Manhattan Chess Club and treasurer of the American Chess Foundation, to give her $125 towards Bobby expenses for the U.S. Open in Oklahoma. She also arranged to have someone take in Bobby for the duration to save on hotel costs.
A few weeks later (July 17-28, 1956) Bobby 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 (1903-2000), assisted by Kenneth Harkness (1896-1972), and organized by Jerry Spann, president of the USCF. 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 (1929- ) on tiebreaks over Jimmy Sherwin (1933- )). Fischer set some kind of record by going undefeated through all 12 rounds of a USCF Open at the age of 13. His USCF rating was 2375 after this event, #25 in the nation. His game with Dr. Peter Lapiken (1907-1983) 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
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
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
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
Brian 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Fischer’s USCF rating in August 1956 was 2349. He was 13 years, 5 months old, the youngest US master ever. The record stood until July, 1977, when Joel Benjamin (1964- ) became a master at 13 years, 3 months.
– Bill Wall