Bobby Fischer’s 68th birthday

Someone sent me an email that it would have been Bobby Fischer’s 68th birthday today.

They sent a link to this old video:

and I saw some comments regarding Fischer-Karpov, who would have won. It suddenly occurs to me that I have a better understanding of how that match would have gone.

Karpov would not have succeeded in breaking Fischer, much as he did in his two matches against Kortchnoi, where Kortchnoi falls apart in equal positions just as I did against my opponent last night. This strategy also worked, at first, against Kasparov in their first match.

I think that Karpov would have had to go with 1.e4 to get some wins, and that those would have been interesting games. I don’t know what would have happened in such a match, who wins, but one thing about Fischer is that he doesn’t break. Maybe he goes for a bad combo in some of his games, and mostly he played against weaker opponents before it got all international tournaments for him, but he doesn’t break in simple positions.

For this reason, I think Fischer had equal, if not better chances. It’s hard to imagine Karpov not winning some endgames, but Fischer was difficult to stop himself. He probably needed to learn Karpov’s weaknesses, however, OTB. So Karpov would have had some advantage from studying Fischer more than the other way around, but as we know the studying Fischer thing didn’t help the soviets all that much.

Another thing that tends to get glossed over is that in Karpov’s prime, a big advantage of his, besides his inimitable style, was that he moved fast. This worked surprisingly well against Kasparov (some of the weak or losing moves, Kasparov bought into), but I think it would completely fail against Fischer. Fischer was not the type to buy into the whole “Oh noes, my opponent moved fast, it must be part of his opening preparation” schlock. Karpov would have to wear himself out with best chess, and for this reason it would appear to me that Fischer would win.

Even if Fischer loses the match and wins the return match, as Spassky had predicted, I think it would have been good for chess as Fischer, in that video, states his interest in having the next World Championship match in the USA. As it is, we were left with the historic match in Reykjavic, but chess would likely have become much more commercialized if Fischer had played another match, in the USA.


4 thoughts on “Bobby Fischer’s 68th birthday

  1. I doubt Fischer would have lost against Karpov if he was on top of his game during that match. Although the russians would have done everything in their power to manipulate the match and to upset Fischer some way or the other, Fischer would have baffled Karpov in a greater fashion.

    I am glad i wasn’t the reporter who had to interview Fischer. I only looked at the video and i was already getting mad by seeing him wiggle back and forth in that chair. 🙂

  2. I think Karpov was ten time the champion that Fischer was.

    Fischer won and then ran away like a coward. That is NOT a champion!

    Botvinnik was man enough to come back again and again. Karpov took on all comers for a long time AND kept getting in the ring with Kasparov over and over again.

    Lasker played the whole world for about a century it seems! Anand has won championships in every kind of format. They are all REAL champions.

    Fischer was one of the most amazing chess players of all time BUT he was a coward who was afraid to defend his title.

  3. Chesstiger – I don’t even find Fischer’s behavior disagreeable. I suppose he comes off as cocky, just because that is his type of exterior, but I can always find myself knowing exactly where he is coming from when he talks, uncanny connection with him I guess.

    The “I don’t want people making money off me” ethos is what I think killed it for him, and killed it for chess. Makes me wonder if he didn’t grow up as a rabbi. That is definitely what killed it for his legacy. The anti-jewish stuff was a bunch of rubbish, but he used it metaphorically for whatever it was that he was against.

    TommyG, I have always admired Karpov’s behavior on and off the board the most, along with Spassky. I think Fischer’s strength wasn’t necessarily that he was better than others, but rather that he was relentless. He didn’t make tired moves, or guesses, or lacsadaisical kind of lapses. If the position required deep tactical analysis, he would do it, he wasn’t a shirker, that is for sure. When Fischer did make bad moves, it was often in a position where a draw was required, but he wanted to keep playing for a win. Fischer’s match stamina, quibbles about the lighting and such aside, gave him a considerable edge, IMHO.

    I don’t really like the way Fischer treated Spassky during the matches, stuff he complained about to him here and there, but Spassky was very understanding of Fischer, and accomodating. I don’t think Fischer did it on purpose, he was just being natural for himself.

  4. Many years ago back in Russia Mark Taimanov came to the company where I worked and gave a lecture, I was lucky to be present. He was asked about Fisher and I was shocked to hear what he said about him. Despite all that mass media negative stuff and losing to him 0:6 he had only good words for Fisher. He said that Bobby Fisher is a great player, that all elite chess players are obliged to him in that sense that he attracted attention to chess and prize finds rose essentially. About that non-played match Karpov-Fisher he said the following: “Fisher was a person to whom chess was the highest intellectual activity possible; he divided all the people into 2 categories – playing or not-playing chess. When he won the chess World Championship, it put a huge responsibility on his shoulders – to be a number one in this number one thing. So when that “dark horse” Karpov appeared, defeating all the candidates, maybe Fisher wasn’t sure that he would be able to play as well as he has to (he didn’t play after 1972)”. Taimanov’s opinion was that Fisher actually didn’t want to play, so he made non-realistic demands.

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