Today’s Illustration: “The Greatest Player To Have Ever Pushed A Pawn”


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13-year-old Bobby Fischer playing 21 chess games at once. Brooklyn, New York. March 31, 1956.

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What: “Match Of The Century” — World Champion Match between Bobby Fischer & Boris Spassky.  It was considered part of the “Cold War” confrontation between the United States & the USSR. “it attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before or since.”

When: 1972

Where: Reykjavik, Iceland

Who: Bobby Fischer

“I was born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 9, 1943, and learned the chess moves early in 1949 from my sister Joan, who was eleven. She often bought different games at a local candy store and one day happened to buy a chess set. We figured out the moves from the directions that came with the set. For the next year or so I played chess occasionally with the boys I taught or by myself.

On November 14, 1950, my mother sent a postcard to the chess column of the old Brooklyn Eagle (we were now living in Brooklyn) asking if they knew any boys my age I could play chess with. A reply came from Mr. Hermann Helms, dean of American chess. He suggested I go to a chess exhibition at the Grand Army Plaza Library on January 17, 1951. There I played against Senior Master Max Pavey and managed to last about fifteen minutes. Watching in the crowd was Mr. Carmine Nigro, President of the Brooklyn Chess Club.  After the game he came up and invited me to join his club.

Mr. Nigro was possibly not the best player in the world, but he was a very good teacher [Nigro was rated 2028 on the May 5, 1957, USCF rating list]. I went to the Brooklyn Chess Club practically every Friday night. Later I started playing chess at Mr. Nigro’s home on weekends and often went with him to play chess at Washington Square Park.”
— “Bobby Fischer’s Game of Chess,” by Bobby Fischer

“Fischer is more daring, more imaginative, more knowledgeable, more precise, more skilled than all his predecessors.  He is the ultimate chess player.”
— From — “Bobby Fischer Can Lick Ali any Day — in Ego” — pg. 312 “The Best 0f Sport 2003

“Bobby was a chess sponge. He would walk into a room where there were chess players and he’d sweep around and he’d look for any chess books or magazines and he’d sit down and he would just swallow them one after another. And he’d memorize everything.”

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  • Born — March 9, 1943 — Robert James Fischer
  • Parents divorced, and he lived with his mother in Chicago.
  • American Chess Grandmaster and World Chess Champion
  • At age 13 — was considered a chess prodigy — won, what was called, “the Game of the Century.”
  • At age 14 — youngest “United States Chess Champion.”
  • At age 15 — youngest Grandmaster to date
  • At age 20 — won the 1963/1964 United States Championship — 11 wins in 11 games — the only perfect score in the history of chess tournaments.
  • At age 27 (1970) — won the “Interzonal Tournament — won 20 consecutive games and two unprecedented 6-0 sweeps.
  • At age 28 (1971) — was the highest-rated player.
  • At age 29 (July – 1972) — defeated Boris Spassky — “World Chess Championship.”
  • The win and title came with a purse of $250,000 ($1.53 + million in today’s dollars)
  • At age 32 (1975) — Fischer refused to defend his title and thereby forfeited his title as “World Champion.”

“After forfeiting his title as World Champion, Fischer became reclusive and sometimes erratic, disappearing from both competitive chess and the public eye.”

The film, “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” was built and based on Bobby Fischer’s disappearance from the game of chess.  The search was on for another Bobby Fischer — Joshua Waitzkin

  • In 1992, again appears on the world stage and wins a rematch against Spassky in Yugoslavia.  The match violated President Clinton’s executive order, and a warrant for Fischer’s arrest was issued.  At one point, Fischer ended up jailed in Japan.  Fischer lives as a “self-exiled” immigrant until he was issued an Icelandic passport.
  • Dubbed by many — The Greatest Chess Player That Ever Lived.”
  • Bobby Fischer has had more books written about him than any other chess player in the history of chess. — “The unknown Bobby Fischer,” pg 171
  • Died in 2008 — at the age of 64 (the number of squares on a chess board)

“Bobby Fischer’s Games Of Chess” — 1958
My 60 Memorable Games – 1969

Documentary: In 2011, a documentary on Bobby Fischer’s life —  “Bobby Fischer Against the World.”

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Contributions To Chess:
Invented “Chess960”
Invented and patented a chess timing system, fairly standard today.  Includes a synthesized voice so that the player does not need to look at the clock repeatedly.

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Fischer vs. Spassky — The Final Game — Game 21:
“During the match department stores in New York were selling chess sets as fast as they were promoting them.  And they were promoting them — with full-page newspaper ads — as they never had before.

Crowds gathered on the streets of Manhattan to watch television coverage of the match.  And when, one day, Channel 13 interrupted its chess coverage to switch to the Democratic national convention, it was swamped with complaints. It went back to chess after an hour.”

From “Fischer/Spassky: The New York Times” – 1972 — pg. 196

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“Bobby has a sure win,” he [Lombardy] said.  “We studied the fame for half an hour.  It’s easy.” . . . . “Spassky is lost . . . I would not be surprised if he resigned tomorrow without appearing.”. . . The next day, Spassky resigned without going to the chess hall.  He conceded the game — and the match — to Fischer.  I saw Bobby about an hour later in his hotel room; he was still studying the game Spassky had resigned.  I asked Fisher if he would’ve resigned if the positions had been reversed.  He said definitely not.  He would have played on.

* William Lombardy – An International Grandmaster
* From — “The Best Sport Ever” – pg. 312. . . . . 

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Fischer In Argentina:  “From the Unknown bobby Fischer,” pgs. 142-144

“When I played in Argentina [in 1971], I played Tigran Petrosian a Candidates Match and beat him to quality to play Spassky in Iceland the next year, you know.  After I played, I gave an exhibition tour.  I don’t remember exactly how many I played.  I have to check the record, twenty-five, thirty simul exhibitions. . . . .I’ll tell you. something else.  I don’t like to brag, but those were great, great simultaneous games.  I was in gre form.  They played the opening badly down there, ’cause you know, they’re pretty far from Europe, nowadays, of course, it doesn’t matter.  Everybody can get any literature superfast.  But then they didn’t get the latest theoretical journals and book on chess.  So they didn’t know the openings well at all.  But if you didn’t smash them down in the openings, watch out, ’cause later on they got stronger and stronger.  So I knew this.  I learned this real fast.  So I made a real attempt to make sure I completely got an overwhelming game before they got into the middle game, so I could be sure to win.  These games were so instructive.

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Quotations by Bobby Fischer:

  • “Don’t even mention losing to me. I can’t stand to think of it.”
  • “It’s just a matter of throwing in a few sacrifices, then checkmate!”
  • “I wanted to become world champion, and in this respect school couldn’t give me anything… It is better to be one of the strongest chess players in the world, than to be one of many thousands with a diploma.”
  • “I give 98 percent of my mental energy to chess. Others give only 2 percent.”
  • “A strong memory, concentration, imagination, and a strong will.”
  • “Too many times, people don’t try their best. They don’t have the keen spirit; the winning spirit.”
  • “I want to be world champion. I have achieved it; now I don’t know what to do.”
  • “Life is chess.”

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Key Illustrative Thoughts:

  • it just so happened
  • success
  • fame
  • fortune
  • recognition
  • focus
  • effort
  • achievement
  • meaning in life
  • winning
  • losing
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Sermonic Example:
* There are different ways to use an illustration!  I almost went with #3 — something that Tony Evans would do.  Evan’s approach would require focusing and drawing out the details of Fischer in game 21.
* I am going to pick up the theme of “finishing.”
* You can preface it with whatever selected facts and details you find useful.  I would probably just pick up the significance/distinction that Fischer holds in the world of chess.
* You can use it as part of an introduction, a BigIdea, an illustration of a main point, or as a closing example of the established theme.
* (Let me give it a try — This is one of many ways, but here goes!)

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The match between Bobby Fischer & Boris Spassky was considered part of the “Cold War” confrontation between the United States & the USSR. and it is said to have “attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before  — or since.”

It was “Game 21” and Spassky had made a blunder.  He knew it and Bobby Fisher knew it.  Both were aware of during that day’s evening adjournment and the question was whether Spassky would concede the next morning as he realized that there was no chance from recovery — no hope that Fischer would not also realize that the game was over for all practical purposes.  His chances of recovery from this mistake were practically nil when it came to facing an opponent as Fischer.

The next morning word came down that Spassky had resigned!

THEN . . . Bobby Fischer was asked this question . . . . “Would’ve you resigned if the positions had been reversed. ” His answer was —  “Definitely not.  I would have played on.”

Even knowing what he knew, that the game was over for Spassky.  Even if he were in Spassky’s place where there was no chance of winning and winning against such a formidable player as Fischer, he would have played it out to the end!

That was one of the key differences between Fischer and Spassky which may well account for not only the final results, but of Bobby Fischer’s life long success.

Be a finisher!  No matter what has or is happening in your life today — Be a finisher!  Finish losing, but finish!  There are many such finishers found throughout the Scriptures.  Some lost everything at the end, some died never having seen the promise.  But they were finishers.  Even Samson decided to be a finisher at the end. . . . Mordecai knew that he may still die, but he wasn’t going to bow to Haman . . . . Even though there were victories on the battlefields, fellow soldiers still died — but they died as finishers. . . . .

Note: There is a dark-side to the life of Bobby Fischer, especially after he became a recluse.  Those details are touched on in the “ATI” article.  Then the approach would have to be something like —  “finishing well in chess, but not life.”

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Other Links & Information: — “”it attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before or since.””

ATI –All That’s Interesting

The Little-Known Story Of Bobby Fischer: From America’s Best Chess Player To Isolated Madman

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