"Bobby Fischer rediscovered"


Andrew Soltis



To many people, Bobby Fischer is a misfit currently incarcerated in a Japanese jail for attempting to travel without a legitimate passport, and waiting for possible extradition back to the United States where he could face a long prison sentence.

To other people he is the chess hero of the Western World who, single handled tackled the might of the USSR chess hegemony that ruled until 1972.  Then, due almost entirely to his own efforts, he toppled the USSR World Champion, Boris Spassky, in an exciting match played in Reykavik.

In the late 1960's, together with Larry Evans, he produced the definitive book of his games - "My Sixty Memorable Games."  Immediately this became a best seller until today copies are like gold dust and just as expensive to buy.

Since then there has been no attempt to publish another annotated collection of his games - until 2003 when Andrew Soltis published "Bobby Fischer rediscovered".

Soltis is a well respected author and here he has a subject that was his contemporary and this makes his output even more authoritative.  In this book he puts one hundred of Fischer's games under the microscope, including some that were in Fischer's book.  Each game is preceded with a note describing the historical background and/or the circumstances under which the game was played.

In the introduction Soltis examines how Fischer became such a force and offers an opinion on his motives.  He explains that in 1992 he looked over Fischer's games for the first time since they were played and came to the conclusion that some were overrated but many more were underrated - if known at all.  This prompted him into writing this book.  Another discovery he made was that Fischer's chess was shaped by a single goal - to beat the Soviets, and he used the Soviets own weapons to do so; i.e. he played the King's Indian and the Najdorf Sicilian but did so with the eyes of a Classical player.

He underlines Fischer's tenacity at the board when he continued to play despite the likelihood of the game finishing in a draw.  Short draws just did not exist in his games.  

Soltis relates a nice story to illustrate this tenacity:-

".....he liked to grab material.  'I don't know who is better, Bobby, but I offer a draw,' Vlastimil Hort said after 44 moves at Siegen 1970.  'I don't know who is better either but I have an extra pawn,' Fischer said in refusing"

The game given below was yet another in a winning streak that Fischer enjoyed during the qualifying matches for the 1972 World Championship and is illustrative of Soltis's approach and style of annotation.  The same game is given in Kasparov's "My Great Predecessors Book IV" but there it is subjected to mind boggling analysis.   

Another Fischer book currently available is "Bobby Fischer The Wandering King" written by Hans Böhm and Kees Jongkind.     This has as a background  a series of  TV programmes of 50 minutes duration made in the Netherlands about exceptional sportsmen and sports events broadcast during 2003.  Fischer was the subject of one of these, and because he would not participate himself the programme was based on interviews given by by such luminaries as Lothar Schmid, Anatoly Karpov, Jan Timman, Yasser Seirawan, Zsofia Polgar and Nigel Short.  These interviews are repeated and other material added to shape the narrative culminating in an Appendix describing the circumstances that led to Fischer being placed in jail.

The latest move in this unseemly game is that Iceland have offered Fischer residency and are in fact delivering an Icelandic passport to him in person by a delegation who are prepared to take him back to Iceland. 

Even if he does go to Iceland he will not be out of reach of the American authorities.  Some time ago, Fischer was indiscrete enough to make known that he had a few million dollars stashed away in a Swiss bank.  Naturally the American tax authorities took note of this statement and would be in a position to exact financial retribution for unpaid taxes and interest.  

The two books mentioned above are published by Batsford.  "Bobby Fischer rediscovered"  has 268 pages and is priced at £15.99 and "Bobby Fischer The Wandering King" has 158 pages and is priced at £12.99.

If you are a Bobby Fischer fan, both books are worth purchasing as they appear to be complementary.


Fischer,Robert James (2760) - Petrosian,Tigran V (2640) [B33]
Candidates final Buenos Aires (1), 30.09.1971

Andrew Soltis

Before the final candidates match began in September 1971, Petrosian joked about the low expectations for him. "For Fischer to surprise the chess world, he has to beat me 7-0," he said. "But for me to improve upon Larsen and Taimanov I need only one draw." In preparation for the match, a "council of war" was held among a Soviet analytic team that included Yuri Averbakh and Alexey Suetin. They decided that stopping Fischer's streak was psychologically important - and they had the perfect weapon, an opening idea that would blow up one of Fischer's favourite variations. The debate went back and forth in the council, with Petrosian arguing that Fischer wouldn't walk into such an obvious ambush. "In the end it was decided 'to throw the bomb' at the start," wrote Victor Baturinsky, then a dominant figure in Soviet chess. But the innovation had the same fate as "the fishing trip" of Game 10.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nb5 d6 6.Bf4 e5 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Bg5  

When Fischer decided to go ahead with the delayed manuscript - tentatively called 'My 50 Memorable Games' - he added ten games to make sixty, including one against Najdorf (Game 55 here). In the notes he said Black "could equalize immediately" with 8.Bg5 Qa5+ 9.Qd2 Nxe4 10.Qxa5 Nxa5 11.Be3 Kd7 12.Nxa7 d5 ; But when Taimanov followed Fischer's recommendation in their match, Fischer improved with 8.Bg5 Qa5+ 9.Qd2 Nxe4 10.Qxa5 Nxa5 11.Be3 Kd7 12.N1c3! Nxc3 13.Nxc3 Kd8 14.Nb5 and won a long endgame after 0-0-0/f2-f4. Taimanov was in for another surprise after the game when he asked about 12.N1c3! and Fischer told him he'd come across the idea in a Russian monograph by Alexander Nikitin, a Soviet trainer (and later Kasparov mentor).


Fischer gave this a question mark in annotating the Najdorf game.

9.N1c3 a6 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Na3  

Here he considered only 11.Na3 b5 ; 11.Na3 f5 ; and 11.Na3 Be7 all leading to White's advantage. Clearly Petrosian had a surprise prepared and Fischer should have expected that as early as the sixth move. Then why did he walk into the trap? "I just wanted to see what he had," Fischer explained after the game.


There are two accounts of how this move was discovered. One that appeared in Russian magazines described the heroic efforts of candidate master Vyacheslav Chebanenko of Kishinev, who had sent a letter addressed "To the winner of the match Petrosian - Korchnoi." The letter was opened by Petrosian right after Korchnoi resigned their semifinals match. Inside was an extensive analysis of 11. ....d5, which Chebanenko had found years before. But there's another version from Suetin, Petrosian's longterm second, who claimed that he had discovered 11....d5 in 1962 and shared it with Petrosian about the same time Chebanenko's letter arrived.


Played instantly. On 12.Nxd5 Bxa3 13.bxa3 Qa5+ 14.Qd2 Qxd2+ 15.Kxd2 0-0-0 and 16.-- f5 Black stands excellently.

12...Bxa3 13.bxa3 Qa5 14.Qd2 0-0-0  

Only here did Fischer begin to study the position - and the auditorium lights inexplicably failed. He continued to analyse at the board on the darkened stage. But Petrosian insisted his clock should be running. Despite his obsession with top quality lighting, Fischer agreed. Eleven minutes later the lights came back on - and Fischer blundered.


After this White walks a precipice. He had to play 15.Rd1 so that he could answer 15...Nd4? with 16.dxe6! and; and 15.Rd1 Rhg8 with 16.Bd3!  

15...Rhg8! 16.Rd1  

Petrosian had been playing instantly but settled down here and after 40 minutes ......


.........he decided against 16...Rxg2 which he had prepared at home. It should win 17.Qe3 Nd4 18.Kf1 Bg4! 19.Kxg2 Bf3+ 20.Kh3 Qc7! 21.Rxd4 Qd7+ 22.Kh4 Qf5!! and wins (Timman).; Also poor is 16...Rxg2 17.Ne4 Qb6! 18.Qc3 Bf5 19.Bf1 Bxe4! ; or 16...Rxg2 17.Ne4 Qb6! 18.Qe3 Qxe3+ 19.fxe3 Bg4 "Why I didn't play 16.....Rxg2 I simply can't answer," Petrosian wrote. 

17.Bd3 Bxd3?  

Black overlooks another golden opportunity, 17...e4! Taking the pawn loses 18.Bxe4 (or 18.Nxe4 Bxe4 19.dxc6 Qe5! ) 18...Bxe4 19.Nxe4 Rge8 ; and on 17...e4 18.Be2 Rxg2 19.Qe3 Ne5 20.Kf1 Ng4!  


Definitely not 18.dxc6? Be4 19.cxb7+ Bxb7 20.Qe3 Rxd1+ 21.Kxd1 Rxg2 with advantage.

18...Nd4 19.0-0 Kb8


Black had threatened 20....Qxc3 21.Qxc3 Ne2+. But 20.Ne4 was a promising alternative - 20...f5 21.Nf6 Rg6 22.f4! ; or 20.Ne4 Qxd5 21.c3 f5 22.Ng3 f4 23.cxd4 fxg3 24.fxg3  


White has a strong Ne4 and/or f2-f4 after this. Black should have tried 20...f5 21.f4 f6 22.fxe5 fxe5 23.Rfe1 Rc8 (23...Rde8! is murky.) 24.Rxe5 can be counted out to a winning White endgame.


Also good was 21.Ne4 Qxa2 22.Nxf6 Rg6 23.Qe4! Fischer is relying on solid, no-risk moves rather than looking for the tactical tricks.

21...Rc8 22.Ne4 Qxd3  

Black has such a nice position that analysts have tried to 22...Qxa2 work But 23.Rd2! improves substantially (23.Nxf6 Rxg2!

23.cxd3 Rc2 24.Rd2 Rxd2 25.Nxd2 f5!  

"Black has almost completely equalised play and it seems a draw is unavoidable," wrote Suetin. Black would have lost quickly following 25...Rd8 26.fxe5 fxe5 27.Rxf7 Rxd5 28.Rxh7  

26.fxe5 Re8 27.Re1  

The tide shifts quickly after 27.Nc4? b5  

27...Nc2 28.Re2!  

The annotators preference, 28.Rc1 wins quickly after 28...Rxe5 29.Nf3 Re2 30.d6! ; and 28.Rc1 Nd4 29.Nc4 b5 30.Nb6 ; But not after 28.Rc1 Nb4 29.d4 Nxd5 30.g3 f6  

28...Nd4 29.Re3 Nc2

30.Rh3! Rxe5 31.Nf3  

The most important factor in a few moves will be ....the pawn at h2! For instance 31.Nf3 Re2 32.Rxh7 Nd4 33.h4!  

31...Rxd5 32.Rxh7 Rxd3?  

Up until this point the annotators agree that Black should draw. But they disagree about what the losing move - or moves - was. White's win remains problematic after 32...b5 33.h4 b4 34.h5 f4! (But not 34...a5 35.Rxf7 a4 36.h6 b3 37.axb3 a3 because of 38.Ne1! Nxe1 39.Rf8+ Kb7 40.h7 ) 35.h6 a5 36.Rxf7 Rh5+  

33.h4 Ne3  

A second candidate for losing move. It's true that 33...Nd4 offers more chances, but 34.Ng5! f6 35.Nh3 is still difficult for Black.

34.Rxf7 Rd1+?  

The text is inferior to 34...Rd6 which Suetin and others felt would draw once Black pushes the queenside pawns e.g. 35.Kh2 b5 36.Re7 f4 37.Rf7 Ng4+ ; But 34...Rd6 35.Kg1 b5 36.Kf2 tests Black more.

35.Kh2 Ra1 36.h5 f4?  

Another culprit. After 36...Rxa2 Timman's 37.Nh4 is not entirely convincing 37...Ra5 38.Kh3 f4 39.h6 Rh5 40.h7 Ka7 ; More testing is 36...Rxa2 37.Rg7 (Suetin) 37...Ka7 38.h6 Ng4+ 39.Rxg4 fxg4 40.h7 gxf3 41.h8Q Rxg2+ 42.Kh3 Rd2 defends, as does; 36...Rxa2 37.Rg7 Ka7 38.Kh3 f4 39.h6 Ra1 40.Kh4 Rh1+  

37.Rxf4 Rxa2 38.Re4!  

So that 38.Re4 Rxg2+ 39.Kh3 Re2 40.h6  

38...Nxg2 39.Kg3 Ra5 40.Ne5 1-0