Little Bits of History

October 17

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 17, 2017

1956: Donald Byrne meets Bobby Fischer at the Marshall Chess Club. Byrne was 26 years old at the time and an acclaimed American chess master. He was playing in the Rosenwald Memorial Tournament in New York City when he came up against the 13 year old Fischer. Byrne played White and opened with a noncommittal move. Fischer, playing Black, responded with a “hypermodern” principle-based plays. Byrne made what seemed to be a small mistake on move 11 but Fischer capitalized on it and eventually won the game on move 38 even after sacrificing his queen over 20 moves earlier. The match was called the “Game of the Century” by Hans Kmock in Chess Review.

Byrne was born in 1930 and was one of the strongest chess players in American in the 1950s and 1960s. He won the US Open Chess Championship in 1953 and went on to play or captain in five US Chess Olympiad teams between 1962 and 1972. He was awarded the International Master title by the World Chess Federation in 1962. During this particular game, it was obvious Fischer was winning and in a game between two masters, the losing player would normally resign but instead, at the urging of his friends as a “tip of the hat” to the teenager, they played out the game allowing Fisher to checkmate the more advanced player. Byrne died in 1976 at the age of 45 from complications of lupus.

Fischer was born in 1943 and became a grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion. Some consider him to the greatest chess player of all time. He appears first on a number of different ranking lists. While a brilliant chess player, Fischer ran into problems with other players and eventually went into semi retirement in the mid-1960s. He returned to the game and played well until he disappeared from the scene in 1972. He remained hidden for twenty years until in 1992, he met with Boris Spassky, beating him. However, US President HW Bush had imposed sanctions against Yugoslavia and warned Fischer not to play. Now a fugitive, Fischer took up residence in Hungary. He moved around and was in Iceland when he died in 2008 at the age of 64.

Chess is a game played on a 64-square board. The game is old and based on prior similar games. By 1200 rules were changing to make it more of the modern game we know today. Around 1475 several new rules were added which turned into what we know today. The Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation (FIDE) was formed in 1924 and has been the arbiter of international chess competitions since. Founded in Paris, it oversees the 185 national associations. The current champion is Magnus Carlsen of Norway who took the title in 2013 and has successfully defended it in 2014 and again in 2016.

I just made the moves I thought were best. I was just lucky. 0 Bobby Fischer, after winning the Game of the Century

You have to remember, Bobby wasn’t yet Bobby Fischer at that time. – Donald Byrne, reminiscing about the game

When I won the world championship, in 1972, the United States had an image of, you know, a football country, a baseball country, but nobody thought of it as an intellectual country. – Bobby Fischer

All that matters on the chessboard is good moves. – Bobby Fischer