1962 was a disappointing year for 19-year old Bobby Fischer. In the Candidates tournament in Curacao he failed to qualify for the World Champion match against Mikhail Botvinnik, finishing fourth behind Tigran Petrosian, Paul Keres, and Efim Geller. What is more, he felt cheated by – as he called it – “the Russians”. In a famous article in Sports Illustrated titled “The Russians Have Fixed World Chess” Fischer publicly accused the Soviet players of collusion, and vowed not to play in the World Championship cycle until the rules were changed.
Bobby Fischer during the Chess Olympiad in Leipzig 1960
But during the Olympiad in Varna 1962 Fischer had a chance to take revenge. He played against World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik and this encounter later became one of the most controversial games in chess history. After reaching a clear advantage in the opening and an almost won endgame Fischer spoiled his advantage to a draw.
The whole Olympiad was a disappointment for the young American. With three wins, five draws, and three losses he scored only 50% on first board – not nearly enough for someone who considered himself to be the best player of the world. However, the year ended well and in the US-Championship 1962/1963 Fischer won his fifth US-title. From 1957 to 1966 he started in eight US-Championships winning every single one of them. But this time the race for the title was only decided in the final round. After ten rounds Fischer and Arthur Bisguier both led with 7.0/10 and as luck would have it, they had to play each other.
Chess legends: (from left to right) Arthur Bisguier, Susan Polgar, Arnold Denker
In the course of their careers Bisguier and Fischer played no less than 15 tournament games against each other. Bisguier won the first, in the 3rd Rosenwald Tournament 1956. The second, played in the US-Open Championship 1957, was a draw. But the next 13 were all won by Fischer. This time Bisguier overlooked a tactical shot in a Berlin Defense and soon succumbed to a mating attack in the endgame.
Master Class Vol. 01: Bobby Fischer in the Shop
Fischer’s next tournament after the US-Championship was the Western Open, a Swiss tournament, which Fischer won smoothly with 7.5 from 8. After the future World Champion had won the first three rounds a certain Paul Poschel managed to hold him to a draw in round four – for a long time to come Fischer’s last draw in a tournament game.
After his draw against Poschel Fischer finished the Western Open with 4.0/4 and ever the perfectionist he also won his next tournament, the New York State Open, another Swiss, and incidentally the last Swiss Fischer ever played, with 7.0/7, thus extending his winning streak to 11 games. Next on the agenda was the famous US-Championship 1963/1964.
In the first round Fischer played against Edmar Mednis and was lucky not to suffer his first defeat of 1963. After ambitious but not particularly convincing play by Fischer, Mednis had every chance to win.
Bobby Fischer – intense and controversial
The first tournament he played again was the Capablanca Memorial in Havana 1965. However, due to political tension between the US and communist Cuba the US-Government did not allow Fischer to travel to Havana. But apparently Fischer was so keen to take part that he agreed to play per telex from New York, an arduous and time-consuming process. But Fischer started well, winning the first round against Heinz Lehmann from West-Germany. In the second round Fischer beat former World Champion Vassily Smyslov, thus extending his winning streak to 24 won tournament games in a row. But before reaching the magic number 25, Fischer’s fantastic streak finally came to an end: with a draw against the Romanian Victor Ciocaltea in round three of the Capablanca Memorial.
Bobby Fischer during his 1972 match against Boris Spassky in Reykjavik