Pawn My Word! Chess Whiz Fischer, 15, Out to Be World Champ

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Press and Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton, New York, Sunday, October 12, 1958 - Page 53, (2)

Pawn My Word! Chess Whiz Fischer, 15, Out to Be World Champ

EDITOR'S NOTE: In outward appearance and behavior young Bobby Fischer is much like any other teenager. But his grand passion is chess, and having recently become an international grand master, he's now aiming for the world championship held by Soviet Russia.

NEW YORK—(AP)—There's a Batman comic book on his bedside table and a rock 'n' roll program blaring over his radio, he's slouchy, gangly and crew-cut.
But Batman is sprawled over an open chess book and his nail-bitten fingers are deftly moving chess pieces over the black and white board which means more to him than anything else in his life.
Bobby Fischer doesn't want to be a baseball star or a football player or the most popular fellow at the prom. He wants to be chess champion of the world — and it seems a pretty sure bet he will be.
Most Americans don't know it, but their honor in a big international contest with Russia is riding on the thin shoulders of this 15-year-old boy from Brooklyn.
Bobby is hailed by the experts as the greatest chess mind the world has produced in many years.

He doesn't look like one—he looks more like a farmer's boy than an intellectual—but he is a genius,” says Hans Kmoch, secretary of the Manhattan Chess Club, which is the nerve center of chess, in the United States.
“Fischer is something unique. None of the great ones ever accomplished so much so early.”

He has become an international grand master — the youngest in the long history of the game —and will meet the world's top seven players this year in a challengers' tournament. The exact date and place remain to be determined.
The winner will get a crack at the present world champion, Russia's Mikhail Botvinnik.

* * *

SO FAR, this hasn't meant much to most Americans who look on chess as an intricate pastime for contemplative graybeards. But now even people uninterested in chess are beginning to feel it would be a fine feather in Uncle Sam's cap to have Bobby whip Russia's best players in a game that commands great attention in Europe and South America.

“Bobby himself — who presents a porcupine exterior to the world—doesn't show much interest in possible cold war implications of his career. He just wants to be champion.

If he makes it this try, he'll be the youngest world champion in chess history — and only the second American ever to occupy that lofty position.

The first U.S. champion was Paul Morphy, who turned the trick at 21 a century ago.
Bobby, who could give a clam lessons on how to keep its mouth shut, won't say what he thinks of his chances. Nobody else thinks he will make it this time.
But then, nobody thought he could win the American chess championship at 14 and nobody expected him to do very well at the recent international chess tournament in Yugoslavia.

“As the big chess players, all champions in their own countries, sat down opposite the bony young American, each informed that he would be beaten.”

Some were nicer than others —they said they were sorry to have to defeat him.
They didn't need to be. Most of them didn't. Bobby playing in his first international competition, pulled out of his early difficulties and tied for fifth place—winning his place in the star-studded challengers.

* * *

BOBBY is a tall boy with the classic adolescent slump and light brown hair. He eyes strangers in general and reporters in particular with glum distrust.
“Most reporters ask stupid questions. What do I eat for breakfast? That's not important. Why don't they ask about chess?” he said.
He sat on his bed, idly moving the figures on the chess board in front of him. He was dressed as usual in a sports shirt. Bobby won the American chess championship in dungarees and a T-shirt; no one remembers seeing him in a coat and tie.

The Russians keep winning the big ones in chess, he said because “everybody there plays. They're subsidized. Sure they put out a lot of books. Yeah, I can read a little Russian—I can read the moves. I can speak a little. Mr. Pressman at NYU (New York University) taught me.

“No you don't talk at chess tournaments. Why should you talk? Except when you offer a draw. But you can say anything. They know what you mean. Chess players speak lots of languages.
“Fun? No, a tournament's no fun, but they're all right.”

Does he think he can win the challengers' and get a shot at the championship? He shrugged and twisted his lip. “I don't know.”
Wouldn't it be nice to bring the world chess crown back to the United States for the first time in a 100 years?

A sudden, charming grin lit his face. And all at once you could see why the people who have got inside his prickly shell like Bobby Fischer very much indeed.
“It would be nice,” he agreed.

* * *

BOBBY has few friends his own age. He come home from school about 2 o'clock and picks up a chess book. Every spare minute, he is either reading about chess, analyzing moves on his bedside chess board or going somewhere to play chess.
Girls are nothing to him.
“Girls can't play chess,” he says.

“Bobby isn't interested in anybody unless they play chess—and there just aren't many kids who like it,” says Mrs. Fischer.
To make friends with Bobby, you not only have to play chess—you have to play good chess.

Maurice Kasper, president of the Manhattan Chess Club, commented:
“We have about 100 students in the club that Bobby could associate with. But he is so much superior, you see. He just plays with the stronger players.
Yes, Bobby definitely does think well of himself. But he is a phenomenon that happens once in a hundred years—in a thousand.
“He is also a young boy. He is not accustomed to such publicity and he can't handle it yet. But you must give him a little time. He is a good boy.”

Until last year, Bobby was little more than a good average student. But he is settling down and working hard. He scored an excellent 97 in New York's State's Regents exam on geometry last spring.

Prof. Aaron Pressman, who volunteered to tutor Bobby in Russian before the Yugoslav tournament, say Bobby is very bright. Pressman, who seems fond of Bobby adds that the boy worked very hard and learned rapidly.

* * *

BOBBY lives with his mother in a small fourth-floor walkup apartment in a neat section of Brooklyn. His 21-year-old sister, Joan, lived there too until her marriage last month. Their parents separated when Bobby was 2.
Mrs. Fischer, a University of Colorado graduate is a registered nurse now earning her MA degree. Bobby, she says is no disciplinary problem.

“There's nothing to discipline him about,” Mrs. Fischer explains. “The only thing I do is nag him to take his nose out of his chess books and go outside for some fresh air.

“You know, that's what aggravates me so. He used to be terrific in athletics. He didn't talk until he was practically 2 years old, but he was climbing all over the place.”
Bobby started in the game at age 6 when Joan got a chess set and the two puzzled out the directions. Mrs. Fischer doesn't know a thing about chess.

“I spent four years trying to get him away from it, but I've given up now,” she says, “He was only 8 when he first went to the Brooklyn Chess Club. He was pretty sensitive and they used to tease him about thinking he could play with grownups. He played about four years before he won at all.”

“I tried to stop him. The school people say I should try to get him away from it. He used to get awfully upset.
“You know, people say it's the publicity that attracts him to chess. Well, there wasn't any glory for years. It was all discouragement.”

Pawn My Word! Chess Whiz Fischer, 15, Out to Be World Champ

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Bobby was leftist-leaning, like his mother, Regina Fischer who went on a “Peace March” to Moscow in 1961 to put pressure on the Khrushchevs and U.S.S.R. toward disarmament.

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“It originated as a symbol used by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC). An artist, Gerald Holtom, was on the groups' board, and as a well-known designer, stepped up to create a symbol that would have not only a visual but also a political impact. The symbol was first displayed during a protest march that took place on Easter weekend of 1958. Protesters marched 52 miles from London to Aldermaston in Berkshire, which is the site of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment to protest the use of nuclear weapons in war. This march was organized by the DAC and it was the first wide spread public display of the peace sign.”

Bobby's views never strayed far from his roots. The collage above, mentions BERTRAND RUSSELL, who was responsible for putting the peace signs on the 1958 banners and buttons of the activists. BERTRAND RUSSELL held strong views opposing the Apartheid of Israel. Just as Bobby did. Bobby never abandoned his leftist-leaning roots which he learned from Regina Fischer. He loathed Fascism.

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