14 October 2022

Historic Photo, Historic Game

In last week's post for the 'Fischer Friday' series, Roger Cohen, Foreign Correspondent (October 2022), I noted that the 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch was a tale of two matches:-

The first match, which had little to do with chess, was about Fischer's sudden return to chess after 20 years of self-imposed retirement. Was he still capable of playing at the highest level? Was Spassky? The second match, which started with the third game, was all about chess.

One journalist was eminently qualified to cover both matches, establishing her own reputation at the same time. We've seen her once before on my World Championship blog in Meet Cathy Forbes (May 2011). The British WIM wrote a couple of stories that have been published in at least two places: the book 'Meet the Masters', introduced in that post, and the March 1993 issue of Chess Life magazine, available online via Chess Life and Chess Review Archives.

The biggest difference between the book and the magazine was a photo that appeared in the book. Although other photos in the book were attributed, this one wasn't.

'Bobby Fischer: preparing for an historic game.'
(p.56; Cathy Forbes is on the right)

The photo relates to the following story which took place when the match moved from Sveti Stefan to Belgrade:-

I stayed up most of the Sunday night planning my questions for Monday's closing press conference. Questions to Mr. Robert Fischer were written on a special form. I was agonizing over my third question -- originally conceived as a joke -- when Grandmaster (Problem Solving) Marjan Kovacevic insisted, "Keep it. I like it. It's a brave question, one we would all like to ask."

"These questions are from Woman International Master Cathy Forbes ... No.3: May I play a game of chess with you?" Fischer looked down from the podium at me. "What's your rating?" Trying not to shake too visibly, I caught his eye and replied, "2125". Bobby smiled -- "Well, we'll think about it." Everyone laughed.

With the score at 5-2, Bobby was in a good mood. At the convivial closing party, he was even persuaded to dance to the stirring strains of local folk melodies [see photo]. Unexpectedly, but happily fortified by several powerful brandies, I was summoned to his table by a "Bobbyguard."

"We'll play a game - just quickly", he said.

That game is available on Cathy Forbes vs Robert James Fischer, 1992 (chessgames.com). It is the only published game where Fischer played against a woman. For more about the match from the same source, see 1992 Fischer - Spassky (ditto).

What were the best games of the match? On my page 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch; Highlights, game 1 has one gold star, game 11 has two. Although this is anecdotal at best, it's a starting point for further investigation.

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