Yugoslavs Lionize Fischer, U.S. Chess Prodigy: Brooklyn Youth, 15, Is Called Genius by Official

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New York Times, New York, New York, Thursday, September 11, 1958 - Page 46

Yugoslavs Lionize Fischer, U.S. Chess Prodigy: Brooklyn Youth, 15, Is Called Genius by Official
By Paul Underwood
Portoroz, Yugoslavia, Sept. 10—A burst of applause broke the hush in the small hall as the gangling boy pushed back his chair and dashed for the door in a tangle of arms and legs not quite under control.
Excited spectators, ignoring chess-match protocol, vaulted the railing to head him off and get his autograph.
Bobby Fischer, the 15-year-old Brooklyn chess prodigy, fighting from what seemed a hopeless position, had just gained a brilliant draw with Tigran Petrosian, a Soviet grandmaster and one of the favorites in the interzone tournament at this Adriatic resort.
Chess experts gave “Little Bobby,” as the Yugoslavs call him, only an outside chance in the tournament because of his inexperience in international competition. But no one takes him lightly.
“He is a real, authentic genius who some day will be a truly great player,” said one tournament official. “He plays the game with fire and great imagination.”
Bobby won the United States championship last January. In June he flew to Moscow to see the game played in a land where it has almost the status of a national sport. He moved on to Yugoslavia to prepare for the tournament here.
He had little to say about his Moscow visit although he obviously was not happy about it. Friends said he had been disappointed at not getting to play one of the top-ranking Russian masters, such as Mikhail Botvinnik, the world champion, or Vassily Smyslov, a former champion.
Soviet chess officials offered him matches with other players but Bobby refused. He contented himself with playing “rapid” chess, in which the moves must be made within seconds, against all comers in Moscow's Central Chess Club.
He was delighted with Yugoslavia, however. When he arrived in Belgrade, Yugoslav fans adopted him almost as one of their own. He received a suite in a hotel and practice games were arranged with two of the nation's leading players.
“Belgrade is a wonderful city,” he said.
Asked whether he had noticed any differences between playing chess in Europe and in the United States, he replied:
“Not many. Everyone makes just as much noise.”
There are twenty-one players in the tournament here, including another American, James Sherwin, also of the Manhattan Chess Club. Winners of the first six places will qualify for the challengers' tourney next year. The victor in that event will play Botvinnik in a match of twenty-four games for the world title in 1960.
At the chess table, Bobby appears composed beyond his years. In a difficult game he sits for hours hunched over the board like an underfed Buddha. Despite his imaginative brilliance, he is a thoughtful, deliberate player. In one match here he pondered for an hour and a half before making a move that saved him from defeat.
When the going is easier he will often leave his board while his opponent is thinking out his next move and wander around the other tables, studying the progress of games there and betraying his inner tension by cracking his knuckles and biting his fingernails.
Outside the hall he is again a shy adolescent at the most awkward age. As laconic as the hero of an old cowboy movie, it is almost impossible to get him started talking about anything except chess. But he did admit to being a “pretty good” student at Erasmus Hall High in Brooklyn, where he will be a junior this year. And he likes Spanish and tennis “a little bit.”
With chess players, and on the subject of chess, he is more outgoing and more confident. Discussing one of his victories in this tournament, he said the result had been certain after his opponent had sacrificed a piece. And he added calmly, but with a touch of adolescent braggadocio:
“No one gives Fischer a piece.”

Yugoslavs Lionize Fischer, U.S. Chess Prodigy: Brooklyn Youth, 15, Is Called Genius by Official

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