Saturday, March 7, 2009

International Symposium on Bobby Fischer - Day 2

Today was the second day of the Fischer Symposium. The schedule of presentations had changed quite a bit from what was originally supposed to be on the program. The piece on Fischer Random chess was dropped as was the discussion of the World Wide Church of God.

Dr. Brady started things off with another introduction and then read a piece he has written for a book to be done on the Piatigorsky Cup tournaments. The author of this upcoming book on the Piatigorsky Cup tournaments has asked various participants to write on the tournament from their point of view. The author asked Dr. Brady to "fill in" for Fischer, so to speak. The Piatigorsky Cup tournaments were sponsored by Jacqueline Piatigorsky, wife of the famous cellist Gregor Piatogorsky. She was also a very good chess player herself and ranked second among US women players at the time.

Dr. Brady spoke about how Fischer refused to play in the 1st Piatigorsky Cup because they refused his demand of a $2,000 appearance fee. They did not feel it was fair to give him so much when they were giving other players so much less. Fischer said "I add status to any tournament I attend." He would play in the in the 2nd Piatigorsky Cup in 1966. They gave all the players a $2,000 appearance fee. He did not ask for more. He was looking to be treated as a professional chess player. What was interesting about that tournament was that half way through it, Fischer was in last place. In the second half of the tournament he fought his way back, and at the end finished half a point behind the winner, Boris Spassky. Fischer felt he should have won the tournament and was distressed by his poor play early on.

Miro Reverby

Miro Reverby from Rhode Island spoke briefly on the My 61 Memorable Games hoax. He felt very strongly that it was a hoax. He mentioned about Larry Evan's attempt to meet the seller who had put it on eBay. He was disturbed by the fact that people have written reviews on the book, and claimed it really came from Fischer. Also it continues to show up on places like eBay and Craig's List.

Stephen Dann

Stephen Dann shared some interesting things that he found on a Bobby Fischer website. He mentioned that at the age of 13 Fischer won the US Junior Championship and had a rating of 1830 at the time. He made the observation about that rating would barely get him amongst the top 50 13 year olds today. As he correctly pointed out, such comparisons are aren't totally valid given the differences in the rating system back then and now. Also how many 13 year olds were playing chess back then?

Break in the action.
Can you find the two IMs in the picture?

Roz Katz and Stephen Dann

Several presenters were not able to attend so Dr. Brady read one of the papers and his wife Maxine read the other. Unfortunately without the actual authors there to discuss what they wrote it was difficult to appreciate the points they were trying to make.

Clea Benson & Peter Nicholas

The last presentation titled “Fischer and His Jewish Father”was given by Peter Nicholas and Clea Benson. Below are some of the highlights from their presentation. They have done extensive research on who was really Bobby Fischer's father. For the record Gerhardth Fischer is listed as Bobby's father. However from researching documents relating to his mother, Regina Wender Fischer it's quite apparent that his actual father was a Hungarian by the name of Paul Nemenyi. Below is a side by side comparision of Fischer and Nemenyi at similar ages. The resemblance is quite striking.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Benson and Nicholas have obtained FBI files regarding Regina Fischer. Included amongst the various documents is proof that Paul Nemenyi paid child support for Fischer. There were also documents from the probate court after Nemenyi died, indicating that he had fathered Bobby out of wedlock. Also Regina Fischer signed a document denouncing any claim to Nemenyi's estate.

There were a lot of other interesting things they brought up from their research in Hungary. There is book about Fischer in Hungarian that has not been translated into English. In this book is an interview with a Hungarian woman chess master, Zita Rajcsanyi who was friends of Fischer. She was asked if Fischer had aknowldeged that Nemenyi was his father. She said yes.

Family tree of Nemenyi.

All in all it was a very interesting two days of discussing different aspects of Fischer's life. I certainly learned some new things about Fischer, and got to hear from people who knew him personally and others who have spent a lot of time following his chess career. In my previous post one reader made the following comment: My problem with this Bobby worship is that we seem to live in the past. He was a great player, but I would put Karpov ahead of him. Bobby simply did not play long enough in my opinion to warrant him as the best or even second best ever. It is a shame he didn't defend his title against Karpov, that would truly have been a match for the ages.

I don't think it's so much of us living in the past, but more curiosity about a man who had such a profound impact on chess in the United States. Anyone who played back in the 70s knows what I'm talking about. The topic of whether he was the greatest or not will be debated for many more years. Everyone has their opinion. It makes for great discussion. I think one thing everyone can agree on is that he played some beautiful games of chess through out his career.

Special thanks go to Dr. Frank Brady for organizing the event, and to the Marshall Chess Club Foundation for sponsoring it.


Anonymous said...

The last presentation -- about the probability that Fischer had a Jewish father -- sounds fascinating. Are the presenters going to publish their research somewhere? It puts Fishcher's anti-Semitism into an interesting Freudian perspective. Fischer is such an interesting character. My husband and I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and we both had a copy of "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess." Would our kids be playing today if we hadn't been exposed to chess through Fischer/Spassky? I don't know. One funny side note: Kids were at Marshall last Wednesday night and the 7-year-old (who was hanging out while the older one played in a tournament) came home and announced: "they spelled Bobby Fischer's name wrong on the plaque at the Marshall" Apparently on the plaque it is spelled "Fisher."


Polly said...

Ellen: I'm not sure whether the various papers will be published or not. Frank Brady would be the one to ask.

The Capablanca table that has the misspelled Fischer plaque on it was used as the speaker's podium during the event. It was duly noted that the plaque says Fisher, not Fischer. I would hope at some point the plaque will be replaced. I played on that table a few weeks ago on a Thursday night, but I was too busy get smashed by Alec Getz to notice it. I guess it takes someone not playing to notice these things.

Estragon said...

There may be more to Fischer's refusal to play in the First Piatigorsky Cup. The amount he demanded, $2000, was completely unheard-of at the time for a "mere" grandmaster. It all probably goes back to the aborted match with Reshevsky a couple of years earlier, also sponsored by the Piatigorskys.

In addition to chess, the Piatigorskys were also patrons of the symphony, and there was a major concert scheduled during the match. They decided to move the start time up to 11 a.m. so the game's session would be over in time to make the event (at which the Piatigorskys were to be introduced in the audience - Gregor was himself a cellist of international reputation). This was done without consulting Fischer, a late riser who was doubly miffed because the Piatigorskys had already made concessions so Reshevsky wouldn't have to play on the Jewish Sabbath. He demanded the game either adhere to the published schedule or be rescheduled to a time more amenable to him, but was rebuffed and walked out (I think his first actual walkout).

The match was tied at the time, and Fischer forfeited some of the guaranteed money by failing to complete it. The $2000 demand was probably a message to the Piatigorskys that he had not and would not forget.

The $2000 to everyone in 1966 (2nd Cup) was their way of extending the olive branch to Fischer without appearing to kowtow to him. It was easily afforded, as Mrs. Piatigorsky was an heir to the Rothschild banking fortune.

Polly said...

Estragon: Thank you for bringing that up. Dr. Brady did mention the incident regarding the rescheduling of the match, and the contribution that incident may have made to Fischer's refusal to play. I neglected to mention that in my report, because I think I was focused on the idea of appearance demand being met in the second tournament, and that everyone benefited from that.