Susan Polgar: Remembering a chess champion, the late Bobby Fischer
On Jan. 17, 2008, Bobby Fischer, one of the greatest chess players in history, passed away at the age of 64 in Reykjavik, Iceland, just as the number of squares on a chess board.
Over the years, I received many questions about Bobby. Here are some selected ones.
Question: How did you meet Bobby Fischer?
Answer: In 1992, Bobby played his second match against Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia and was unable to return to the U.S. because of his defiance of economic sanctions. The organizer Janos Kubat arranged for my family to visit Bobby at a hotel in Yugoslavia, near the border of Hungary, in order to convince him to go to Hungary rather than being in a cramped hotel room in a small Yugoslavian village.
Bobby expressed his wish to meet me, but unfortunately I was in Peru at that time. I accompanied my family on the following visit and eventually the idea of moving to Hungary became more attractive to Bobby.
Just to be sure everything was OK, we asked the border guards if Fischer could enter Hungary and they had no objection. With that assurance, Bobby moved to Hungary. At one point, he stayed in our summer home, which is about one hour from Budapest. He was accompanied by GM Eugenio Torre from the Philippines and his bodyguard.
Question: Did you play chess with Fischer while he was in Hungary?
Answer: Bobby wanted to eliminate what he considered the complete dependency of opening preparation in chess today, and to replace it with natural talent and personal creativity. He is right, most top players today analyze their openings to move 30, 40, and sometimes even deeper than that. This takes away a lot of creativity on the board. Bobby was totally correct in this sense.
Yes, I played many Fischer-random blitz games with him. In fact, if you Google "Fischer Random", the only published photos of Bobby playing Fischer Random was with me. When he arrived in Hungary, he was still torn about the final rules of Fischer Random. Therefore, he and I spent countless hours discussing the pros and cons of various rules. Then we worked on finalizing the rules, which includes castling. I probably ended up playing more Fischer Random games with Bobby than anyone alive today.
We also analyzed a lot. I won some and lost some. Overall, I did very well. It was one of the most fascinating experiences in my professional chess career. He was still a very strong player and his knowledge for chess was phenomenal.
Question: What is your opinion of Fischer?
Answer: Well, I have mixed feelings. I respect his chess ability a great deal. He is one of the greatest world champions and is certainly in the same class as Kasparov and Capablanca, etc.
Most importantly, his incredible impact is unrivaled. He transformed the game and created serious interest in the mainstream media. The Fischer Boom revolutionized chess in America and around the world. Look at how popular he remains, more than 40 years after his 1972 match with Boris Spassky. Thousands of articles have been published about his death recently.
He was very friendly to me on a personal level. I enjoyed playing and analyzing with him. He was truly a genius on the chess board.
On the other hand, he had very strong views that we all know about. I disagree with these views and even tried to change his mind. However, that does not diminish my admiration and respect for his chess. These are two totally separate issues.
Question: If Bobby played against Karpov in 1975, do you think he would have won?
Answer: I spoke to Boris Spassky about this same issue and he believes that Bobby would have won in 1975, but that Anatoly would have won the rematch.
However, Garry Kasparov has a different viewpoint. He believes that Anatoly would have won in 1975 and supports this opinion by demonstrating the quality of their games at that time. This is what that makes chess so interesting. From all of the people I spoke to, the opinions split right down the middle with a small edge for Bobby.
I think it would have been very close. However, Bobby would have had a small edge due to his greater experience at that time.
Question: Is it true that there were discussions about a match between you and Bobby?
Answer: Yes, but obviously it did not happen. There were also discussions about a match between Bobby and my baby sister Judit. That did not happen either.
I would have loved to play a Fischer-random match against Bobby. I would also love to play matches against the great world champions such as Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. I think it would be great for chess. A few years ago, I did play two six game matches against Karpov, the man who succeeded Fischer as World Chess Champion and won more tournaments than anyone in history. We tied 3-3 in both matches.
Reykjavik Open / European Fischer Random Cup
The event will take place on Bobby Fischer’s birthday 9th March at Harpa in Reykjavik.
The tournament is open for everyone, but the highest ranked European player will be European Champion in Fischer Random chess.
The Fischer Random Championship shall be played according to the Swiss System in 9 rounds. Time controls are 10 minutes + 3 second increment per every move.
The FIDE Chess960 Rules will be used. See: http://www.fide.com/fide/handbook.html?id=207&view=article(guidelines 2).
Prizes: 1. €2,000, 2. €1,000, 3. €750, 4. €500, 5. €300, 6. €250, 7. €200, 8. €150, 9. €100, 10. €100
The prices are not shared. The European Champion (highest ranked European player) gets an extra price of €1,000.