Fischer took fitness very seriously


Shelby Lyman on Chess: Always Bobby

A chess tournament is a physical trial.

Even a single game — particularly a hard-fought one that can last five or six hours — can extend competitors to their limit and beyond.

At that point, my friend and colleague Edmar Mednis, a grandmaster, used to complain, “the mind simply stops working.”

Because professional chess is sedentary — very sedentary, in fact — physical conditioning is essential.

But it is difficult even for younger professionals, who per force spend a good part of their lives sitting motionless, to adhere to a physical regimen.

Few players reveal their putative exercise routines, I suspect, because their good intentions are honored more in the breach than the practice.

A striking exception was Bobby Fischer.

Years after the Fischer-Spassky world championship match in Reykjavik, Iceland, Harry Sneider, a friend, fitness trainer and world champion weight-lifter, recalled Fischer’s training regime:

“He really believed in a good preparation,” Sneider said.

“He loved power (training) with weights, he swam 45 minutes a day and he was a ‘world champion’ walker. He takes enormous strides and can do that for 31/2 hours. He also liked playing tennis.”

As was often said by those who watched him grow up in the New York chess community, “Bobby is always Bobby.”

That is to say, not like the rest of us.