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Bobby Fischer
Bobby Fischer 1960 in Leipzig.jpg
Fischer playing in Leipzig in 1960
Full name Bobby Fischer
Country United States, Iceland
Born (1943-03-09)March 9, 1943
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died January 17, 2008(2008-01-17) (aged 64)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Title Grandmaster
World Champion 1972–1975 (FIDE)
Peak rating 2785 (July 1972)

Robert James "Bobby" Fischer (March 9, 1943 – January 17, 2008) was an American-Icelandic chess Grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion.

As a teenager, Fischer became well-known worldwide because of his skill at chess. He won the American championship of 1963/64, winning all eleven of his games.

Early years

Fischer was born in Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, Illinois on March 9, 1943. His birth certificate said that his father was Hans-Gerhardt Fischer, a German. His mother, Regina Wender Fischer, was a Polish-Jewish American citizen. Born in Switzerland, she grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and later became a teacher, a nurse, and a doctor. The two married in 1933 in Moscow, USSR, where Regina was studying medicine at the First Moscow Medical Institute. They divorced in 1945 when Bobby was two years old, so he grew up with his mother and older sister. In 1948, the family moved to Mobile, Arizona, where Regina taught in an elementary school. The next year, they moved to Brooklyn, New York.

A 2002 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer said that Paul Nemenyi, a doctor, was Bobby's biological father, not Hans-Gerhardt. Regina and Nemenyi were in a relationship in 1942, and he gave her money to pay for Fischer's schooling until his death in 1952. Fischer later told the chess player Zita Rajcsanyi that Nemenyi sometimes came to his Brooklyn apartment and took him to places.

Chess career

In March 1949, six-year-old Bobby and his sister Joan learned how to play chess using the instructions from a set bought at a candy store. When Joan lost interest in chess and Regina did not have time to play, Fischer was left to play many of his first games against himself. When the family vacationed at Patchogue, Long Island, New York, that summer, Bobby found a book of old chess games and studied it intensely.

In 1950, the family moved to Brooklyn, first to an apartment at the corner of Union Street and Franklin Avenue and later to a two-bedroom apartment at 560 Lincoln Place. It was there that "Fischer soon became so engrossed in the game that Regina feared he was spending too much time alone." As a result, on November 14, 1950, Regina sent a postcard to the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, seeking to place an ad inquiring whether other children of Bobby's age might be interested in playing chess with him. The paper rejected her ad, because no one could figure out how to classify it, but forwarded her inquiry to Hermann Helms, the "Dean of American Chess", who told her that Master Max Pavey, former Scottish champion, would be giving a simultaneous exhibition on January 17, 1951. Fischer played in the exhibition. Although he held on for 15 minutes, drawing a crowd of onlookers, he eventually lost to the chess master.

One of the spectators was Brooklyn Chess Club President Carmine Nigro, an American chess expert of near master strength and an instructor. Nigro was so impressed with Fischer's play that he introduced him to the club and began teaching him. Fischer noted of his time with Nigro: "Mr. Nigro was possibly not the best player in the world, but he was a very good teacher. Meeting him was probably a decisive factor in my going ahead with chess."

Nigro hosted Fischer's first chess tournament at his home in 1952. In the summer of 1955, Fischer, then 12 years old, joined the Manhattan Chess Club. Fischer's relationship with Nigro lasted until 1956, when Nigro moved away.

Fischer became well known around the world in 1956. He was 13 when he played a game against an American player named Donald Byrne. In the game, he sacrificed his queen and won. Chess Review called this game the "game of the century".

US Championships

Fischer was 14 when he won the U.S. Championship for the first time. He played in eight US Championships, winning all of them, by at least a one-point margin. His results were:

US Champ. Score Place Margin of victory Percentage Age
1957/58 10½/13 (+8−0=5) First 1 point 81% 14
1958/59 8½/11 (+6−0=5) First 1 point 77% 15
1959/60 9/11 (+7−0=4) First 1 point 82% 16
1960/61 9/11 (+7−0=4) First 2 points 82% 17
1962/63 8/11 (+6−1=4) First 1 point 73% 19
1963/64 11/11 (+11−0=0) First 3½ points 100% 20
1965 8½/11 (+8−2=1) First 1 point 77% 22
1966/67 9½/11 (+8−0=3) First 2 points 86% 23

Although Fischer had ended his formal education at age 16, dropping out of Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, he subsequently taught himself several foreign languages so he could read foreign chess periodicals. According to Latvian chess master Alexander Koblencs, even he and Tal could not match the commitment that Fischer had made to chess.

World Championship match

In 1972, he became the first and only American to win the World Chess Championship in the 20th century. The match was held in Reykjavík, Iceland. The Cold War trappings made the match a media sensation. It was called "The Match of the Century", and received front-page media coverage in the United States and around the world.

Before and during the match, Fischer paid special attention to his physical training and fitness, which was a relatively novel approach for top chess players at that time. Leading up to this match he conducted interviews with 60 Minutes and Dick Cavett explaining the importance of physical fitness in his preparation. He had developed his tennis skills to a good level, and played frequently during off-days in Reykjavík. He had also arranged for exclusive use of his hotel's swimming pool during specified hours, and swam for extended periods, usually late at night.

To win the title, Fischer beat Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union.

Upon Fischer's return to New York, a Bobby Fischer Day was held. Membership in the US Chess Federation doubled in 1972, and peaked in 1974; in American chess, these years are commonly referred to as the "Fischer Boom". This match attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before or since.

Fischer was scheduled to defend his title in 1975 against Anatoly Karpov, who had emerged as his challenger. However, Fischer did not agree to a match to defend his title. He lost his title in 1975. The title of world champion was given to Anatoly Karpov.

Life after world championship

Fischer emerged after twenty years of isolation to play Spassky in a "Revenge Match of the 20th century" in 1992. This match took place in Sveti Stefan and Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in spite of a United Nations embargo that included sanctions on commercial activities. Fischer demanded that the organizers bill the match as "The World Chess Championship", although Garry Kasparov was the recognized FIDE World Champion. Fischer insisted he was still the true World Champion, and that for all the games in the FIDE-sanctioned World Championship matches, involving Karpov, Korchnoi, and Kasparov, the outcomes had been prearranged. The purse for the rematch was US$5 million, with $3.35 million of the purse going to the winner. This was and still is the largest purse for a match in chess history. Fischer won the match with 10 wins, 5 losses, and 15 draws.

The United States Department of State had told him not to play there because of the events that happened after Yugoslavia began splitting into several new countries. Since he disobeyed this order, he could have been prosecuted if he returned to the U.S. In fact, he never returned there. Fischer's 1992 rematch against Spassky was the only time after becoming the world champion that Fischer played chess in public.

After his match, Fischer promoted a new type of chess called "Fischer Random Chess", where the pieces were randomly shuffled before the game so they would be on different squares to start every game.

In July 2004, Fischer was arrested at an airport in Japan with a bad passport. The United States wanted Japan to send him back to go to trial for playing chess in Yugoslavia in 1992. The government of Iceland eventually decided to make Fischer a citizen of Iceland. He lived a reclusive life there, avoiding entrepreneurs and others who approached him with various proposals.


Fischer died of renal failure on January 17, 2008. He was buried at a small ceremony near the town of Selfoss, Iceland.


Fischer was born Jewish, but he rejected the religion.

Mental state

Fischer, like Morphy, chose to stop playing when he was still young. He had a lifelong history of disputes, conflicts and controversy. He believed he was the victim of conspiracies. Fischer showed symptoms of the mental illness paranoia, similar to Morphy. In Bobby Fischer: The Wandering King, authors Hans Böhm and Kees Jongkind write that Fischer's radio broadcasts show that he was "out of his mind ... a victim of his own mental illness".

Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess

Fischer developed his own book to teach chess. It uses a method called programmed learning.

Fischer clock

In 1988, Fischer filed for U.S. Patent 4,884,255  for a new type of chess clock, which gave each player a fixed period at the start of the game and then added a small increment after each completed move.

An example of Fischer's patented clock was made for, and used in, the 1992 rematch between Fischer and Spassky. Clocks based on the "Fischer clock" soon became standard in major chess tournaments. Fischer would later complain that he was cheated out of the royalties for this invention.

Tournament, match, and team event summaries

Fischer played 752 tournament games in his career, winning 417, drawing 251, and losing 84. These include, however, games when he was very young; if only the games after he turned 20 are considered, he played 311 tournament games and lost 23, a 7.4% loss percentage.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bobby Fischer para niños

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