The Kid

Fischer: Winner and new champion

In a crowded room at the Manhattan Chess Club one night last week, a shy, 14-year-old Brooklynite named Bobby Fischer settled into a chair, hitched up his brown corduroy trousers, and tugged at his black ski sweater. Then he reached to the chessboard facing him and moved a knight in front of the queen's bishop.

Some three hours later, after each player had won a pawn, knight, and bishop, Al Turner, Fischer's opponent, offered to call the match a draw. Fischer accepted. With the draw, the slight, brown-haired boy clinched a tie for the chess championship of the U.S.*

In the intensely cerebral world of American tournament chess, no competition is so fiercely demanding as the U.S. championship. Of the 10 million American players, only the top fourteen are invited. After his draw; Fischer went over to watch the greatest of America's chess masters: Samuel Reshevsky, 46, the only player who could tie him.

Fischer studied Reshevsky's board hard, but on the side played practice "blitz" games (each player moves immediately). Finally, on the 41st move, Reshevsky resigned. That made Bobby Fischer, a sophomore at Erasmus Hall High School, the unqualified chess champion of the U.S., the youngest ever. He grinned as spectators congratulated him. "It's pretty nice," he said.

"The kid is brilliant," commented Arnold Denker, a former U.S. champion. "There's no player even in Russia [which has held the world chess championship since 1948] as good as Bobby at his age."

Calm Play: During his games, Fischer occasionally bites his nails or rubs one finger against his forehead. More often he sits calmly, his head resting on both hands. "The kid never seems to get upset," said Jim Sherwin, who lost to Fischer during the tournament.

Away from the pressures of chess, young Fischer seems unusually shy. Asked a question, he will nod or sbrug or mumble a monosyllable, then walk away, apparently engrossed in the chess moves for next week.

He enjoys skating and skiing and dislikes school ("It interferes with chess"). He is only an average student ("I don't do well in math"), and one teacher explains: "He never seems to be listening in class. He must always be thinking about chess."

After Fischer won the national championship last week, a reporter asked him if he now considered himself the best chess player in the U.S.

"No," said Bobby, "one tournament doesn't mean that much." He paused. "Maybe," he said, slowly, as though he had not really made up his mind, "maybe Reshevsky is better."

* In thirteen games, Fischer won eight, drew five, scored ten and a half out of thirteen points.

By William Nack
Newsweek - January 20, 1958


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