by Bobby Fischer
Batsford 2008 edition, 384 pp., £14.99
It's Fischer as white to play here against Reshevsky, from the 1962-3 USA Championship:
Quite why Fischer's next is my favourite move from a book full of such memorable moments, I don't know.
After all, there is much to choose from. In games such as number 14 v Keres, 53 v Portisch and 57 v Larsen, Fischer's annotations conjure a sense of that remarkable thing: the superiority of his judgment and intuition over that of such nearly-great opponents. Then there are the victories on the white side of the Closed Lopez, where Fischer seems totally at home, smoothly commanding the whole of the board with such subtle strokes, his position seemingly-effortlessly improving to inevitable victory. Not to mention the black defences of hypermodern kingside openings, such as the King's Indian and Grunfeld, where my amateur eyes look at his lack of space and the invading enemy pieces and fear terrible things, but where an untrembling Fischer perceives only ghosts, which he invites into his position only to waft away.
And of course it's not just the games themselves that are memorable, but the variations provided by Fischer in the notes too.
Originally these were praised for their painstaking completeness, but in today's computer-era they come across more as a mixture of the indicative, fantastical and only sometimes-exhaustive. Indicative particularly in endgames, exhaustive particularly in exciting tactical finales. Take the position to the right, to be found in the notes to Fine's 14...Qxh4 in game 44. Fischer gives 17.Qh6 a !! and analyzes 17...gxh6 to a lovely win, and indeed it's a wonderful move and sequence. Except after 17...Be7! the computer's evaluation initially dives from +- to close to equal; further analysis suggests however that black can at best escape to a close-to-lost endgame. Meanwhile, the undramatic and unanalysed by Fischer 17.d6! wins material without much fuss.
This is an example of another attraction to the 2008 edition which (algebraic-notation aside) is mostly unchanged from the original: even amateurs such as myself can use the computer to hunt for improvements and mistakes, to update the analysis. On which note, I can also recommend Mark Weeks' serieson the 18 Memorable Games that are analysed both in Fischer's book and Kasparov's Great Predecessors book about Fischer, in which Mark fruitfully compares their annotations and judgements with Rybka at his side.
Perhaps future publications of historic chess books should follow the lead here for this very reason, allowing classics to stand as-was, reprinting them as artefacts, partly for historical intrigue - and partly to facilitate a second life of analytical correction and addition online. And perhaps they could even go further and enhance the memorabilia value of such works, say by including extras such as photographs. I should also mention here that the minor updates in this Batsford edition have received criticism from Edward Winter at the bottom of this interesting article. And for those with a particularly strong interest in textual felicity and technical accuracy, I found two errors in this edition. In the position to the left, Pilnik's 39.Rxf7 is given incorrectly as "39.Rcxf7" - but 39.Rfxf7 is illegal, because the f-rook is pinned. The second, similar error occurs in the note to Pilnik's resignation.
What else? Fischer's writing style is certainly entertaining. There are pithy one-liners such as his annotation to 1.e4 in the final game of this collection: "I have never opened with the d-pawn - on principle." There's quizzical remarks - and quirky terminology, such as describing one particular blunder as "a terrible boner". And sometimes the juxtaposition of his analysis with those he quotes is particularly sharp; in game 39 his straight-to-the-point comments contrast remarkably with elaborate, long-winded and perhaps even self-indulgent analysis.
And of course there's the much-debated specialness of Fischer himself. Not just the style of his play - intangible? universal?, or the superiority of his judgements at the board - but also displayed in the book also is his astonishing work-ethic, competitiveness, drive. I should add that it's a popular reflex nowadays to explain any sort of exceptionalism or personal difficulty in terms of a medical or psychological condition: and in Fischer's case this usually calls for a mention of Asperger's syndrome. Maybe, maybe not; but to me at least, nothing in this book indicates this to be the case. Instead the picture emerges of a competitive, talented, hard-working, individualistic and psychologically-sharp chess player.
In his Preface, Fischer says he has tried to be "candid and precise in [his] elucidations in the hope that they would offer insights into chess that will lead to fuller understanding and better play." His book still offers more beside this, and if you're not sure why 30.Rh4! is such a good move in the diagram at the top of this review, then I recommend Fischer's memorable work as a guide to why.
As regards Pilnik's 39.Rcxf7 rather than the notationally sufficient 39. Rxf7, I believe this is because ChessBase and (I think) Fritz do exactly the same thing, i.e. distinguish unnecessarily between two pieces where only one can legally go to the destination square. It is a known bug or quirk in CB software which has been there for years. Such is the universal reliance on CB software these days that very few typesetters go to the trouble of making an amendment manually when setting books or magazines. I know I don't!
I remeber when compiling this piece that I found some of Fischer's analysis doesn't survive computer-checking, though from earlier in the game than the part I was interested in (which is why I didn't raise it then).
Isn't there a question as to how much of the M60MG text is actually Fischer's? I'm not talking about Larry Evans' game introductions - am I right in thinking that textual analysis suggests that some of the commentary is rather like Fred Reinfeld?
Well, Reinfeld died in 1964. Surely at least a big part of 60MG must have been written *after* that??
am I right in thinking that textual analysis suggests that some of the commentary is rather like Fred Reinfeld?
Well, they are similar because both New Yorkers. But to a fellow American they are quite distinct.
This could be either: "Relying on the fact that most of white's pawns are on black squares, black played ..." (It's Reinfeld.)
But this could only be Reinfeld: "Beginning a series of dynamic moves which completely nullify his highly theoretical disadvantage. The chief point is that the queenside pawns are latently very powerful."
So I have to say, no. Fischer's book is in Fischer's voice.
Thanks John; fyi Aquarium with Rybka does this too. I'm surprised computer programmers seem to struggle with such a bug!
I'm surprised computer programmers seem to struggle with such a bug!Is this really a bug?
To me although unneccessary Rcxf7 rather than Rxf7 just makes things clearer. I don't see a downside.
Not needed perhaps but I don't see grounds for calling this a bug or even an error in the general sense.
It's a bug since other news aren't written out in longhand, eg there's no 1. e2 - e4, etc.
Conversely, there's an error in some programs (I think subject to correction it even happens in the program that does live online coverage - can't remember the name but I mean the one with blue diagrams) whereby the moves are occasionally ambiguous because the distinction isn't made, e.g. Nd7 when two knights can move legally to that square.
I have a longstanding gripe with the invocation of Asperger's, which is that for about a decade it's been the diagnosis du jour in psychiatry - a deeply inexact science at the best of times - and has become so ubiquitous that it's essentially lost much of its specific meaning.
(n.) Autism-like neurobiological disorder which affects social or communication skills in otherwise intelligent people. Viennese physician Hans Asperger originally published his extensive paper about the disorder in 1940, but it's only recently been recognised by snide bastards as a clever way of calling someone a 'spazzy' while affecting an air of academic interest.
Here's an oddity. I set up the following test position on ChessBase (version 7 and 9) and Fritz 10. wKg1,Rc1,c8/bKg7,Ra1, white to play. If I play 1 Rc3, it says 1 R8c3, where the '8' is redundant. However, when I switch to descriptive notation (in either version of Chessbase - there's no descriptive option that I could find on Fritz), it renders the move correctly as 1 R-B3. Strange that it should get it right in descriptive but not in algebraic.
Yes - I noticed a while back that books like Chess Informant now print out in openings where the knight is pinned (eg Nimzo, Ruy) Nge2 or Nge7, for example.
But back in the 70s and 80s it used to be (correctly) just Ne2 or Ne7, etc etc.....
Now I know why :-)
Oh, and regarding Aspergers Syndrome - I was diagnosed with it (happily at a fairly low level) about a decade ago, having suspected it for some time before that - I think it will be found Fischer was regarded as a possible afflictee (?) some time before it became almost ubiquitious (as Justin rightly says). IMO much of his earlier behaviour - when he was still *relatively* sane - does fit much of the symptoms.
I've long thought of Alekhine as a possible "Aspie" too.....
"It's a bug since other news aren't written out in longhand, eg there's no 1. e2 - e4, etc."I sometimes do that too (also for clarity)
I'd be curious to know more of your views "Aspie" anonymous. I'm also quite interested in the work of Simon Baron-Cohen, who I think says that personalities come in a spectrum from highly empathic at one end, to highly systematic at the other end (at which end you find autism.)
I seem to remember noticing that "the ballet dancer Harmonist" first showing his good sense in some annotation by Gligoric in his Game of the Month series in the middle-to-late 1960s ...
Tom, in the kibitzing on Vassily Ivanchuk's page at chessgames.com, there is a discussion of his personal life, including the claim that "most" of his fellow GMs think that he is autistic.....
And I believe David Navara has actually been diagnosed with Aspergers.
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