Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bobby Fischer

NYRB carries a great review essay by Garry Kasparov -- The Bobby Fischer Defense -- on a recent biography of the iconic American prodigy: Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall—from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady.

Here's an excerpt on how Fischer transformed chess:

Fischer’s brilliance was enough to make him a star. It was his relentless, even pathological dedication that transformed the sport. Fischer investigated constantly, studying every top-level game for new ideas and improvements. He was obsessed with tracking down books and periodicals, even learning enough Russian to expand his range of sources. He studied each opponent, at least those he considered worthy of preparation. Brady recounts dining with Fischer and hearing a monologue of the teen’s astonishingly deep analysis of David Bronstein’s openings before the two were to meet in the Mar del Plata tournament in 1960. No one had ever prepared this deeply outside of world championship matches. Today, every game of chess ever played, going back centuries, is available at the click of a mouse to any beginner. But in the pre-computer era, Fischer’s obsessive research was a major competitive advantage.

In his play, Fischer was amazingly objective, long before computers stripped away so many of the dogmas and assumptions humans have used to navigate the game for centuries. Positions that had been long considered inferior were revitalized by Fischer’s ability to look at everything afresh. His concrete methods challenged basic precepts, such as the one that the stronger side should keep attacking the forces on the board. Fischer showed that simplification—the reduction of forces through exchanges—was often the strongest path as long as activity was maintained. The great Cuban José Capablanca had played this way half a century earlier, but Fischer’s modern interpretation of “victory through clarity” was a revelation. His fresh dynamism started a revolution; the period from 1972 to 1975, when Fischer was already in self-exile as a player, was more fruitful in chess evolution than the entire preceding decade.


  1. Nappinnai NC said...

    Capablanca, as a young boy, used to watch his dad play chess. All of a sudden, one day, Capablanca(who was just 4 yrs old)told his dad that he could beat his father. His father gave a shrug saying 'you don't even know to place the pieces properly on the board let alone beat me'. Anyway they played and Jose beat his father! That's he started his love for the chess.