25 April 2009

A Negative Post on Fischer

Returning to Fischer - Reshevsky, Match 1961 (Game 2), the circumstances leading to the abrupt termination of the match were summarized by GM Larry Evans in The Bobby Fischer That We Loved in the March 2008 Chess Life.

Their duel was to consist of 16 games, the first four in New York, the next eight in Los Angeles, and the final four in New York again. After 11 games it was tied at 5 1/2 points apiece. The 12th game was set for Saturday, but as an Orthodox Jew Reshevsky could not begin until after sundown and might last into the wee hours. So it was rescheduled for 1:30 Sunday afternoon.

However, the sponsor Jacqueline Piatigorsky planned to attend a concert by her husband, the distinguished cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, and she didn’t want to miss the game. So the starting time was advanced to 11 a.m. Bobby told the referee in no uncertain terms that he could not and would not play at such an early hour. He failed to appear and Reshevsky was declared victor of the match. Bobby sued but the case was dropped in a few years.

Writers sometimes speculate that the broken match planted the seed that later grew into Fischer's raging anti-Semitism, but this was addressed by GM Evans in Grandmaster Larry Evans On Bobby Fischer.

Will Fischer Win the Endgame of His Life? • Former Chess Life editor Larry Parr interviews five-time U. S. champion Grandmaster Larry Evans.


Parr: The Piatigorskys, the sponsors of that match, were Jewish. Could that have been the start of his anti-Semitism?

Evans: Not the start. Long before that, when he was ranting against the Jews, his mother said, "What makes you think you're so pure?" Since Reshevsky was an Orthodox Jew, I suspect that the incident solidified his feelings of persecution by the Jews. Reshevsky always got special treatment because of his religion, like not having to write down his moves after sundown on Friday or not playing on the Sabbath. It's interesting that Bobby later got his own Sabbath by joining the Worldwide Church of God.

An early example of Fischer's anti-Semitism was the often quoted 'There are too many Jews in chess', from Portrait of a Genius As a Young Chess Master by Ralph Ginzburg, in Harper's Magazine, January 1962. Equally well known was the 1984 letter he wrote to the Encyclopaedia Judaica, demanding that the entry about him be removed. Once, after buying a used copy of Frank Brady's 'Profile of a Prodigy', I opened it and a copy of the letter, reproduced below, fell out.

If you have trouble reading it, a search on the first sentence -- 'Knowing what I do about Judaism' -- will locate many transcriptions.

Fischer's hatred festered and widened during the 40 years after the Reshevsky match until the infamous moment when, during a radio call-in, he danced on the graves of his compatriots who had been murdered during the 11 September 2001 attacks on American soil: 'This is all wonderful news. It is time to finish off the U.S. once and for all', and 'The U.S. and Israel have been slaughtering the Palestinians for years'.


After Fischer Explains the Rules of Fischer Random and Chess and Autism, this is my third post mentioning Fischer this week. That makes one positive, one neutral, and one negative post. I should have stopped after the positive post.

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