01 June 2017

June 1967 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago, for the second time in three months (the April 1967 'On the Cover' was the first), Chess Life used a crosstable on its cover with the promise of a future article. As for Chess Review, how many times through the years was Fischer featured? In the previous month he was pictured twice for the May 1967 'On the Cover'.

Left: 'Sarajevo 1967'
Right: 'Pause to Reflect'

Chess Life

GM Byrne, left, explaining the game of chess to Savon, center, and USSR Champion Stein. Byrne later treated Stein to another lesson over the board, accounting for Stein's only loss of the tournament. • A full report on this important tournament will appear in July's Chess Life.

Chess Review

On the Cover • Rumor has it, most strongly from Soviet sources, that Robert J. (Bobby) Fischer will not play in the Interzonal this year at Tunis. Those so stating may be indulging in wishful thinking. But, if Fischer plans not to play, it's time for him to pause and reflect!

He has expressed the thought that, in the "good old days," it was simple: the would-be challenger of the World Champion just put up the cash and got his chance. Now he must compete over three years in ill-paying affairs.

Actually, the FIDE program to qualify a challenger is laborious as others than Fischer can attest. Former World Champion Botvinnik has denounced this labor and strain and refuses to descend to participation in it.* The program does repay by meager prizes as Fischer is not alone in protesting. Many grandmasters stay out to earn lusher prizes in other tournaments while FIDE candidates grind their way through the program. And the program does take time: a zonal tournament near to home, the distant interzonal of some twenty-odd rounds, a good month expended; and then three more (at least for the ultimate challenger) distant and grueling contests in the challenger round. A lot of time and strain and little reward, truly.

Fischer has also vented the thought that, if he can build up a good enough reputation and perhaps defeat the top Soviet players, especially in matches, the Soviet will be brought by pressure of public opinion to concede his right to a match for the world title. And he is thinking again that, if he puts up the lure of a purse...

Here is the time to pause to reflect. In the old days, the champion bit when a purse was tempting enough -- but seldom when the challenger was the most formidable. Lasker never got a return match with Capablanca not even though he won the great New York Tournament of 1924, nor a match with Alekhine. Capa never got a rematch with Alekhine who took on his "cousin" Bogulyubov repeatedly, instead. And the Soviet players, well subsidized by the government, are not so susceptible to cash lures. And the Soviet has repeatedly stressed that it considers the FIDE program the only legitimate route for a challenger. Reshevsky vainly pressed for matches for years. He even gained the title, Champion of the West, but could not get a match even with a lesser Soviet light. And he even outscored Botvinnik personally 2.5-1.5 in the International Team Tournament. Fischer should meditate on how the Soviet coolly ignored Reshevsky's claims.

The FIDE program does have some drawbacks as we can see by now. But it does guarantee any would-be challenger -- if he's the good-enough player -- a match for the world title. It is worth some present sacrifice, after all, to have that chance. If Fischer doesn't play at Tunis, he forfeits it. Pause to reflect!

* Botvinnik of course rankles under a special grievance: the FIDE deprived him of his right to a return match for his former title.

That CR editorial has some noteworthy statements. • 'Rumor has it, most strongly from Soviet sources': How could the Soviets know what Fischer was planning to do? • 'Botvinnik has denounced this labor and strain and refuses to descend to participation in it': Didn't he help design the qualification system? • 'Lasker never got a return match with Capablanca': Did he seek one? • '[Reshevsky] gained the title, Champion of the West': Was this the 1952 match with Najdorf? • '[Reshevsky] outscored Botvinnik personally 2.5-1.5 in the International Team Tournament': What tournament was this? (Chessgames.com says, Classical games: Mikhail Botvinnik beat Samuel Reshevsky 5 to 2, with 7 draws.) • Plenty of follow-ups here!

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