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The Pathfinder (a tribute to Robert Fisher)

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'Vasyuki will become a Chess Capital of the World.

It will be called New Moscow.

Moscow will become Old Vasyuki'

Form the speech by Ostap Bender, a con -man and impostor

I. Ilf and E.Petrov. 'The 12 Chairs' , 1927

Jose-Raoul Capablanca was once watching a group of players. They respectfully asked for his advice in finding a clear win for White.

"That couldn't be easier." he said. "White King has to get to this place, White Knight has to get there and White Queen has to get to the center."

"But how do we get to this final position?"

"That should not concern you." observed Capa, the Chess Machine. "Just know your way."

Until recently I did not know that Bobby Fisher became an International Grandmaster at the age of 15. Neither did I know that he was born in Chicago, IL. Official Russian media portrayed him as an arrogant Jewish boy from Brooklyn, obsessed with big-breasted chicks.

That was after the 1970 Match of the Century, when Fisher, playing on the second desk, effortlessly defeated "the Tiger", Petrosian in a simple, style-driven confrontation. Added to the challenge were Bobby's statements: "I love chess for the atmosphere, money, and traveling. Chess professionals can earn a decent income. I dropped out of school and now I play chess for living. After this Match I became confident that I am the best in the World . . . "He also offered any woman-player a piece in advance.

In 1971, in a brilliant series of matches Bobby defeated Taimanov, Larsen and Petrosian. The first two could not win a single game. The World Championship Match in Reykjavik with Spassky in 1972 was a joke. Fisher's overwhelming strength was obvious. Some games he deliberately played incorrectly, just to test new ideas.

In June 2000, Chess Life magazine published a retrospective article, The Advice of the Grandmasters by N. Krogius on the preparation of the Soviet chess elite to the 1972 match. It was followed by the L Shamkovich's addendum in the October 2000 issue. Both seem still to be proud of that ridiculous enterprise. Even now Shamkovich referred to Spassky's laziness and his neglect of their recommendations. Not much of help they were, anyway. Here is a quoted advice of Korchnoi, later a defector to the West: "...In the middlegame Korchnoi advised Spassky to make the game tactically and strategically complicated in an attempt to make the intuition and the senses a stronger factor in the game's outcome."

That was a classic advice to the weaker player. Chess professionals know very well that the odds equalize for both players in a complicated position when pure luck prevails. The weaker party does not have a chance in the simple positions with logic and strategic thinking as the main drivers. Thus, Korchnoi already knew that Fisher was a stronger opponent and wanted Spassky to acknowledge that.

I wonder what would the Russian Olympic Gods have felt if they knew that profound analyses of Fisher's abilities were performed by a group of teenagers in the smoke-filled, dingy room of the Vanguard sports club in Kiev. Juri Sakharov, our coach, was 46, but he looked as if he was 60. After the five years' imprisonment in the Nazi Germany and about 10 years in the GULAG he seldom played in the tournaments. Instead he engaged in the Correspondence Chess, where he quickly became a leading figure due to his advanced analytical skills. Russian way of life then created a good atmosphere for analytical thinking There were no malls, no cars, no places to hang out. We sat there until midnight enjoying the research. It was warm and cozy with all those World Champions watching us from the photos on the wall. The club administrators were debating whether to put the Fisher's photo among the others.

No one is as inquisitive as the teenagers when they are really interested in something. We discussed every move, replayed variations and "what if" scenarios, compared Fisher's strategies with the ones of other famous players in similar positions. And the day came when Sakharov pronounced his verdict, "Just guts, persistence and stamina. Not much of a talent."

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The writer is 57 years old, semi- retired engineer, PhD, PE, CEM. I write fiction on a regular basis and I am also 10 years on OEN.


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I remember watching the Spassky vs. Fischer matche... by Bob Gormley on Saturday, Jan 19, 2008 at 3:20:00 PM