06 June 2017

Young Bobby's First 'On the Cover'

In this month's 'On the Cover' (see June 1967 'On the Cover'), I wondered,

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'.

While I can't yet answer that question, other than to say 'a lot!', I can point to the first Chess Review (CR) cover that featured Fischer. It's shown below, bearing the date January 1956.

That's Bobby inside the rectangle of tables, top left corner, facing left. A full page story inside carried the same title as the cover photo: 'Small Time Big Time'; I have to admit that I don't understand what it means. The introduction to the story said,

ON THE COVER: Small Time Big Time • MOSTLY, it is the big time masters who put on simultaneous exhibitions. So we present with pleasure this (cover) picture and story offered by Joseph Brooks of the Yorktown Chess Club and manager of the Youth Group there. (The picture on this page, which gives a better close-up of Bobby Fischer, is by Virginia Williamson. And the event was recounted fulsomely in the New York Times, also.)

The story continued,

The astonished members of the oldest American Chess Club -- the Manhattan Chess Club of Central Park South of New York City -- witnessed the most unusual and unique chess exhibition, November 26. Bobby Fischer, age 12, the chess prodigy of the Manhattan Chess Club, played simultaneously twelve members of the Youth Group (age 7 to 12) of the Yorktown Chess Club. Bobby won all games, eliminating the first opponent in 50 minutes and the last one in two hours and twenty minutes.

Chess is recognized as the foremost game of intellectual skill -- it is most cosmopolitan of all games and it develops the mind to face occasions as they arise, it demands foresight, brilliancy and resource. Up to now, it was considered a game for adults, and the occasional appearance of a child player was an exception to the general rule.

A year ago, the Yorktown Chess Club sponsored the first known Youth Group. The membership has rapidly grown, and there are now 86 active children between the ages of 7 and 12 who meet regularly once a week to receive instructions and to play regular tournament games. It was 12 youths of this unusual group that Bobby Fischer played, opening the door to chess to the youth of America.

The next paragraph shows why it's useful to be bilingual in both algebraic and descriptive chess notation.

Bobby Fischer, who played White, opened on 12 boards with 1.P-K4, followed by 2.N-KB3 and 3.B-B4. The Yorktowners who were expecting Bobby to play the Queen's or King's Gambit were caught by surprise and five of them made the error of replying with 1...P-K4, 2...N-QB3 (which is good) and 3...N-KB3 (instead of 3...B-B4).

That naturally gave Bobby five winning games as he promptly followed with 4.K-KNS and then NxP. From that point on, however, the youngsters got real busy, setting up the strongest defense possible and fighting to the bitter end.

The other seven players put up good opening resistance to the middle game. Bobby played a strong offensive game with his Pawns and basically used the technique praised by the famous Steiner. He received from the Manhattan Chess Club a watch with an inscription and a check from the Yorktown Chess Club.

After more details about the exhibition, CR attached a coda to the Brooks story.

Not told in the foregoing story is one of interest. Bobby Fischer is a Brooklyn product, lives not too far from the Brooklyn Dodgers' Ebbets Field. When Dr, Harold Sussman started to teach chess to his own son, he collected a group of youngsters for livelier interest in learning competitively. Brightest light of the group was -- you guessed it -- Bobby Fischer!

A few years ago, in Young Bobby Punched the Wrong Clock (November 2013), I noted an early story about Fischer from the February 1956 issue of Chess Life (CL). The 20 May 1956 issue of CL contained the 'tenth national chess rating list'. One entry was

Fischer, Bobby (Brooklyn NY) ... 1726

On the next rating list, a year later, he was listed in the MASTERS section at 2231. 'Bobby' had changed to 'Robt. J'.

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