Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Super Humans - Bobby Fischer

   Robert James "Bobby" Fischer (March 9, 1943 – January 17, 2008) was an American chess Grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion. Many consider him the greatest chess player of all time. At age 13, Fischer won a "brilliancy" that became known as "The Game of the Century". Starting at age 14, Fischer played in eight United States Championships, winning each by at least a one-point margin. At age 15, Fischer became both the youngest Grandmaster up to that time and the youngest candidate for the World Championship. At age 20, Fischer won the 1963–64 U.S. Championship with 11/11, the only perfect score in the history of the tournament. Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games (1969) remains a revered work in chess literature. In 1970 and 1971, Fischer "dominated his contemporaries to an extent never seen before or since". During that period he won the 1970 Inter-zonal Tournament by a record 3½-point margin and won 20 consecutive games, including two unprecedented 6–0 sweeps in the Candidates Matches. In July 1971, he became the first official World Chess Federation (FIDE) number-one-ranked player, spending a total of 54 months at number one. In 1972, he captured the World Chess Championship from Boris Spassky of the USSR in a match held in Reykjavik, Iceland, publicized as a Cold War confrontation which attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before or since.[9] In 1975, Fischer refused to defend his title when an agreement could not be reached with FIDE over one of the conditions for the match. This allowed Soviet GM Anatoly Karpov, who had won the qualifying Candidates' cycle, to become the new world champion by default. After this, Fischer became a recluse, disappearing from both competitive chess and the public eye until 1992, when he won an unofficial rematch against Spassky. It was held in Yugoslavia, which was under a United Nations embargo at the time. His participation led to a conflict with the U.S. government, which sought income tax on Fischer's match winnings, and ultimately issued a warrant for his arrest. In 1990, Fischer patented a modified chess timing system that added a time increment after each move, now a standard practice in top tournament and match play. He also created a new variant of chess called Fischer Random Chess or Chess960. Between 1990 and early 2000s, Fischer lived in Hungary, Germany, the Philippines, Japan, and Iceland, and made increasingly anti-American and anti-Semitic remarks on various radio stations. Possibly as a result, his U.S. passport was revoked. Unaware of the revocation, Fischer traveled to Japan, where he was arrested by Japanese authorities and detained for more than eight months under threat of deportation. In March 2005, Iceland granted Fischer full citizenship, leading Japanese authorities to release him from prison. Fischer flew to Iceland, where he lived until his death on January 17, 2008. He had an unique understanding of chess, or as Frank Brady said in a not very well known article:
"In previous writings I have cited Fischer's I.Q. as in the range of 180, a very high genius. My source of information is impeccable: a highly regarded political scientist who coincidentally happened to be working in the grade adviser's office at Erasmus Hall - Bobby Fischer's high school in Brooklyn - at the time Fischer was a student there. He had the opportunity to study Fischer's personal records and there is no reason to believe his figure is inaccurate. Some critics have claimed that other teachers at Erasmus Hall at that time remember the figure to be much lower; but who the teachers are and what figures they remember have never been made clear. It is probably a reflection of the "chess-champion paradox" that the 180 figure is considered unrealistic. Fischer's apparent lack of intellectual attainments, in contrast to the champions of the past, would seem to make a high I.Q. unbelievable. He is considered by many to be almost an idiot savant. Perhaps some of the following anecdotes will dispel the doubts of the unbelieving. Before playing the match with Spassky in Reykjavik, in 1972, Fischer toured Iceland for a few days to get the feel of the land. One morning he telephoned his old friend Frederick Olaffson, Iceland's only grandmaster. Both Olaffson and his wife were out of the house, and a little girl answered the phone. Fischer said, "Mr. Olaffson, please." Olaffson's daughter explained, in her native Icelandic, that both her mother and father were out of the house and would return in the early evening for dinner. Fischer does not know a word of Icelandic and had to hang up with an apology. Later that day, talking to another Icelandic chess player (who did speak English), Fischer remarked that he had tried to reach Olaffson. "It sounded like a little girl on the phone," he said. He then repeated every Icelandic word he had heard over the telephone, imitating the sounds with perfect inflection, so well, as a matter of fact, that the Icelander translated the message word for word. In 1963 Fischer played in and won the New York State Open Championship at Poughkeepsie, New York. During the last round I was involved in a complicated ending with Frank S. Meyer, the late senior editor of National Review. Fischer, on his way to the washroom, briefly paused at my board - for perhaps five seconds - and then walked on. A few months later, he visited me at my office, then located at the Marshall Chess Club. "How did that last round game turn out?" he inquired. I told him I had won, but with difficulty. "Did you play Q-B5?" he asked. I told him quite frankly I couldn't remember what I had played. He immediately set up the exact position to "help" me remember, and then demonstrated the variation I should have played to have secured a much more economical win. The main point is that he did not simply remember the position, then analyze it in front of me; he remembered not only the position but also his fleeting analysis as he had passed my board months previously. Anecdotes like this lead to speculation of how many moves Fischer sees ahead, and in what period of time. Masters who have traded Pawns with him in speed chess (usually five minutes for the entire game for each player) claim that postmortem analysis shows Fischer sees three or four moves ahead in any position, with a glance of a second or two. If he studies the position for all of five seconds, he can see five or six moves ahead, sometimes more. Occasionally for fun, against strong players, Fischer will place the hands at one minute on his clock and give his opponent ten minutes. Invariably he will win with time to spare. Even more remarkable is the fact that Fischer can remember most of his speed games. At the conclusion of the unofficial Speed Championship of the World at Hercegnovi, Yugoslavia, in 1970, Fischer rattled off the scores of all his twenty-two games, involving more than 1,000 moves, from memory! And just prior to his historic match with Taimanov, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Fischer met the Russian player Vasiukov and showed him a speed game that the two had played in Moscow fifteen years before. Fischer recalled the game move by move. Whatever his degree of intelligence or memory facility may be, it is an unimportant question in appraising Fischer's contribution to chess. We do know that he has an eidetic memory when it comes to remembering positions and moves; we do know that he can move with rapid-fire precision that is phenomenally superior to his contemporaries' ability. Since chess is Bobby Fischer's profession, his business, and his art, is it really germane to try to evaluate his prowess in other fields, or can we finally begin to take his acknowledged chess ability as evidence enough of his remarkable intelligence? The discussion of Fischer's mental qualities is an embarrassment to him personally. He claims not to know what his I.Q. is. It is a wise policy of school boards, indeed, not to reveal actual figures to the student. In the spring of 1974, Fischer castigated his friend Bernard Zuckerman for reporting to a Soviet chess weekly that Fischer's I.Q. was "astronomical." Fischer believes that his statement, as an artist and as a man, lies in his chess. That is what this volume is all about; accordingly, The Chess of Bobby Fischer is a ground-floor approach to the workings of Fischer's brain. Though the speculation about his intelligence and memory is fascinating, it will be by his games that he will be remembered. They are the true testament, perhaps the only one possible, to his mind."

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