09 November 2014

Fischer's IM/GM Titles

It happens every World Championship match. I spend so much time watching the games that I have no time left for blog posts. Today Carlsen beat Anand in game two, putting him one game ahead after the draw in game one. The Norwegian also came close to beating the Indian in the first game, making the current match situation grim for Anand.

The end of the second game meant it was time to complete a backburner project. I updated my new page on FIDE Titles (see Early FIDE Titles for the introduction), adding clippings that document the award of Fischer's IM and GM titles in 1958.

At the same time I located those two clippings, I discovered the article shown on the left. From the column 'Games by USCF Members' by John W. Collins, it appeared in the edition of Chess Life dated 20 April 1958.

Collins was Fischer's teacher, mentor, and friend. How could he call his protegé 'Grandmaster Fischer' five months before he was awarded the title for his performance at the 1958 Portoroz Interzonal? Did he confuse the IM title awarded in February 1958 with the GM title awarded in September?

No, Collins didn't confuse anything. The first clue is in the term 'USCF Grandmaster'. The second clue is in the sentence,

The Terrific Teenager earned his title by winning the U.S. Junior, U.S. Open, New Jersey Open, and the U.S. Championship.

The USCF's 'National Chess Ratings: First 1957 Supplementary List' (August 1957) showed Fischer in the middle of the Master class ('2200-2399') at 2298. The 'Second 1957 Supplementary List' (March 1958) listed him as a Grandmaster ('2600 points up') at 2626. What about the Senior Master class ('2400-2599')? Fischer skipped it completely.

There are FIDE grandmasters and, once upon a time, there were USCF grandmasters. Fischer was both.


Tim Wilkinson said...

Hello - compliments on the site - an excellent resource with some fascinating historical research. I notice that in the clip above, Collins refers to an award from the 'United States Chess Foundation', of which I've never previously heard. Do you know anything about an organisation of that name?

It is perhaps possible that this was an error and should have read 'Federation' but it doesn't seem very likely, since Collins uses the abbreviation elsewhere. Or possibly I suppose it could have been an alternative name for the American Chess Foundation.

Mark Weeks said...

Tim - The previous edition of Chess Life (5 April 1958) mentioned, 'Checks of $250 each were recently mailed to Bobby Fischer and Bill Lombardy. The awards were made by the American Chess Foundation in recognition of outstanding chess achievement during 1957.' Looks like Collins made a mistake that escaped the editor. - Mark

Tim Wilkinson said...

OK, that makes sense. Thanks for that!

I'm quite intrigued by the question to what extent people like Collins, Manhattan Chess Club grandees & the ACF were consciously motivated to talent-spot, train and groom a US champion (as in effect they eventually did, of course).

In the context of a society pervaded by Cold War patriotic fervour, and in the light of Soviet propaganda based on post '48 chess dominance, it seems a plausible, if speculative, hypothesis.