I still remember the days of the World Championship match between
Spassky and Fischer in 1972.
I was a nine-year-old boy making the first steps in his chess career,
back in peaceful Baku.
I knew of course that Spassky, the reigning World Champion, was a
very strong player, but I had the idea that Fischer, my chess idol then,
was a player of another calibre, someone in a class of his own.
The chess scene has changed a lot since then, and I, too, have made
some progress in those twenty years...
When I compare my own career with that of Fischer, I have to admit
that I enjoyed a certain advantage over him. He had no-one besides himself
to draw him up to the heights he reached, whereas I have been privileged
in having a high-class player like Karpov, who forced me to exert myself
and advance ever higher.
If one may judge a player's strength by comparing him with his
contemporaries, it seems to me that Fischer's achievement is unsurpassed - the
gap between him and his closest rivals was the widest there ever was
between a World Champion and the other top-ranking players of his
time. He was some 10-15 years ahead of his time in his preparation and
understanding. This could be attributed in part to his dedication to the
game, which was unequalled by any other player before or since.
I regard him as a mythological combination of sorts, a centaur if you
will, a synthesis between man and chess.
It isn't this or that game of his which impresses me, though he played
many remarkable games. It is his out and out professional attitude to the
game and his fighting qualities that appeal to me so much.
Fischer was the first real professional player to emerge on the chess
stage, and as far as this is concerned, I hope to be considered his follower.
Studying Fischer's games is important, I think, for any player of any
playing strength. Above all, it will give you a good idea how to approach
the game, or, to put it another way. it will change your attitude to the
game in a way that is bound to improve your own play.