- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 23, 2002

Thirty years after the celebrated Fischer-Spassky match, 10 years after the less celebrated Fischer-Spassky rematch, we're still fascinated by Bobby.
Two major new articles detailing his mysterious past and his sad present have recently appeared, giving a fuller picture of a tragic downward trajectory into anti-Semitism and paranoia traveled by America's greatest chess genius.
The December issue of Atlantic Monthly has a long, ugly recap of Mr. Fischer's career, including his decades in the wilderness after the incredible high of the 1972 triumph in Reykjavik. Much of the story is familiar to chess devotees, but the author, Rene Chun, presents some vivid details about Mr. Fischer's current depressing state, his travels in the Philippines and Japan, and his personal life, including, apparently, fathering a daughter by a young Chinese-Filipino woman in Manila.
Mr. Chun seems to believe most chess fans have overlooked or excused Mr. Fischer's offensive ideological and racial ideas (he praised the September 11 attackers in one interview), although most of the players I know think of Mr. Fischer's case as simply sad.
Maybe his paranoia wasn't completely illogical.
In a nice bit of enterprise, the Philadelphia Inquirer went through old government documents to prove that Mr. Fischer and his mother, Regina, were both under the scrutiny of the FBI during the Cold War years.
The Swiss-born Mrs. Fischer had a lifelong attachment to left-wing causes, and the FBI files indicate that she joined the Communist Party for a time while living in Portland, Ore.
Mr. Fischer was always embarrassed by his mother's political activism but attracted the U.S. government's attention himself when he traveled to the Soviet Union for chess tournaments in the late 1950s. FBI analysts suspected that Soviet agents may have tried to recruit the young U.S. champion when he was in Moscow but eventually concluded that Bobby was clean.
Both articles make for interesting, if depressing, reading.

The top boards, where Russia, Hungary and other elite teams slug it out, get most of the publicity at the biennial Olympiads, but some of the most intriguing battles occur far from the spotlight. We have a couple from the recent 35th Olympiad, won by the Russians earlier this month in the Slovenian town of Bled.
In the first game, Chinese GM Xu Jun makes the pieces dance in a win over Slovakian IM Primoz Soln, especially after Black leaves his back rank fatally unattended.
In a Queen's Gambit Declined, White establishes a modest but highly elastic setup, trying to tempt his opponent into overextending himself. If, for example, 12…Bxc5, White springs back with 13. Nb3 Qb6 14. a3 Nxg3 15. hxg3 Nc6 16. cxd5 exd5 17. Nc3, threatening 18. Nxd5 and 18. Na4, winning a piece.
Black still has promising queenside pressure but seems to mishandle the initiative: 15…Nxb2 16. Qc2 Na4?! (Nd3 17. Rb1 Nxc5 18. Rb5 Qa3 19. Bd6 Qa4 20. Qxa4 Nxa4 21. Nxe4 is also an option) 17. Rc1 f5?! (opening up the king, when the natural 17…Nxc5 18. Nxe4 Nxe4 was available) 18. Nb3 Qa6 19. Bh5+ Kf8 20. Qd2.
White threatens mate on the move, and the Black pieces are radically uncoordinated. Soln's best hope might have been to steer for murky waters with 20…Kg8 21. Be8 Nb2 22. Na5 (Qd8? Kh7 23. Qe7 Nxc4!) b6 23. Bc6 bxa5 24. Bxa8 Nd3 25. Rc2 Nb4 26. h4 Nxc2 27. Qxc2 Bd7 28. hxg5 hxg5 29. Rxh8+ Kxh8 30. Qb3 with a hard-to-evaluate struggle ahead.
Instead, Xu Jun finds a haymaker on 20…Bf6? (see diagram) 21. Be5! (a nice deflection) Kg7 (Bxe5 22. Qd8+ Kg7 23. Qe7+ Kg8 24. Qf7 mate) 22. Qd4! Rf8 23. Bxf6+ Rxf6 24. Be8!, exploiting the vacated Black back rank.
The finale: 24…b6 (Black must create an escape route for the queen in light of the threat of 25. Bb5, but the pawn now blocks his defense of the d6-square) 25. Qd6 Qb7 (Bb7 26. Bb5; while on 25…Nxc5, White wins with 26. Qe7+ Kg8 27. Qxf6 and on 25…Rf8, 26. Bc6 Bb7 27. Bb5 is again decisive) 26. Bxa4 f4 27. exf4 e3 28. Bc6.
Since Black is a rook down after 28…Qb8 29. Bxa8 Qxa8 30. fxe3 gxf4 31. exf4, Soln resigned.
Watching a Garry Kasparov or an Alexei Shirov handle the Black side of a Scheveningen Sicilian, one can sometimes forget the grave dangers the defender runs in this hair-trigger setup. Andorra master Ruben Gallego's unhappy experience here against Egyptian master Ibrahim Hasan Labib serves as a nice cautionary tale.
The battle lines after 12. Kb1 Nb4 13. f5 are pretty well set, but Black somehow appears to have lost a tempo following 15. Bd4 Nxd3. White in this line usually has to recapture with the pawn, so being able to take with the rook greatly speeds his kingside play.
Gallego's follow-up, 16…Qc8? (Rac8 is much more to the point), looks like a disastrous loss of time, because now White simply ignores the Black counterattack following 17. Qg5 h6 18. Qh4 b4 (seeking simplification with 18…Qg4 allows 19. Bxf6 Qxh4 20. Bxh4 Bxh4 21. Rxd6) 19. Rg3!.
Black scurries to shore up his defense as the White knight is immune: 19…Kh7 (bxc3 20. Qxh6 g6 21. Rh3 costs Black his queen, as 21…Nh5 22. Qh8 is mate) 20. Rf1! Qe6 (again, 20…bxc3 loses, this time to 21. Rxg7+! Kxg7 22. Rxf6! Rh8 [Bxf6 23. Qxf6+ Kh7 24. Qg7 mate] 23. Rxh6+ f6 24. Bxf6+ Kf7 25. Qh5+ Ke6 26. Qg4+ Kf7 27. Qg7+ Ke6 28. Qxe7 mate) 21 Nd5 Bxd5 22. exd5 Qxd5.
But Labib crashes through with a series of brutally effective sacrifices: 23. Rxg7+ Kxg7 24. Rxf6! Qxg2 (Bxf6 25. Qxf6+ again leads to mate) 25. Qxh6+ Kg8 26. Rg6+!, a nice blocking motif.
Now 26…fxg6 allows 27. Qg7 mate and 26…Qxg6 is met by 27. Qh8 mate. Gallego resigned.

35th Olympiad, Bled, Slovenia,
October 2002

Xu JunSoln
1. d4d515. Nd2Nxb2
2. Nf3c616. Qc2Na4
3. c4e617. Rc1f5
4. Qc2Nf618. Nb3Qa6
5. Bg5h619. Bh5+Kf8
6. Bh4Qa5+20. Qd2Bf6
7. Nfd2Ne421. Be5Kg7
8. e3c522. Qd4Rf8
9. dxc5Nc623. Bxf6+Rxf6
10. Be2Nb424. Be8b6
11. Qd1g525. Qd6Qb7
12. Bg3Bg726. Bxa4f4
13. Nxe4Nd3+27. exf4e3
14. Kf1dxe428. Bc6Black

35th Olympiad, Bled, Slovenia,
November 2002

Labib Gallego
1. e4c514. Qxf50-0
2. Nf3e615. Bd4Nxd3
3. d4cxd416. Rxd3Qc8
4. Nxd4a617. Qg5h6
5. Bd3Nf618. Qh4b4
6. Nc3Nc619. Rg3Kh7
7. Be3d620. Rf1Qe6
8. Nb3Be721. Nd5Bxd5
9. f4b522. exd5Qxd5
10. Qf3Bb723. Rxg7+Kxg7
11. 0-0-0Qc724. Rxf6Qxg2
12. Kb1Nb425. Qxh6+Kg8
13. f5exf526. Rg6+Black

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide