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Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Fischer’

Bobby Fischer’s First Chess Tournaments

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Bobby Fischer (1943-2008) was probably the greatest chess player who ever lived. How did he get so good so quick? In March 1949, when Bobby turned 6, he learned the game of chess from instructions on a plastic chess set that his sister, Joan (1938-1998), bought at a candy store for $1. At the time, he did not know anyone who played chess and he never saw anyone playing chess. His only chess partners at age 6 was his 11 year old sister and sometimes his mom, Regina. Soon, Joan got tired of the game and his mother was too busy to play. He later discovered a chess book and spent his summer vacation going over the games in this book (Tarrasch’s Best Games of Chess).

In November 1950, Bobby’s mother attempted to place an ad in a newspaper looking for chess opponents for the 7-year-old-Bobby. The ad was never published. However, 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 a few days. Bobby showed up with his new chess board and set that he got for Christmas, but lost in 15 minutes 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 Brooklyn Chess and Checkers Club. Carmine agreed to give Bobby some chess lessons. Bobby also joined the Brooklyn Chess Club. On his first night at the club, he lost every game. Despite the losses, he continued to show up at the club and play chess.

By the end of 1952, Fischer was becoming a fairly good player and started beating Nigro and others at the Brooklyn 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 Mayers (born in 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.

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.

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 A. Wayne Conger (1418 postal).

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 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.

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 21-22, 1955, Fischer 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). 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

– Bill Wall

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