Bobby Fischer Stories
Told by a
During a tournament in 1959, There was a power outage. All the
electricity went out in the building. As you could imaging,
everyone was in a state of chaos. After the emergency crews
entered the building, the tournament director noticed something
bizarre. A player was still sitting at a board, analyzing the
position with total concentration.
Bobby Fischer stories.
INTERVIEW WITH A SWAMI
Q1) Its unusual, to say the least, to meet a Swami who is
involved in chess. What is your chess history?
A) My father taught me the moves as a very young child
growing up in Brooklyn, New York. I enjoyed playing the game
through high school, but became really interested in it at
university where my playing strength developed. I played on the
Columbia university team, which was the USA Intercollegiate
champion at the time. I was rated as a high expert - 2100 plus.
After going to India and spending many years practicing
meditation and Self-inquiry I had the opportunity to play
tournament chess again in LA. I wanted to see if my new
understandings of my inner world would help me achieve my
long-term ambition of becoming a US Master. In fact I was able
to do that and my playing had greatly improved.
When I first came to Australia ten years ago I played in a few
tournaments and won a few senior tournaments, but I havent
played serious chess in at least six years.
Q2) We hear that you knew Bobby Fischer in your youth.
Can you say how that came about?
A) Yes. My father, who was an artist, was getting a
brochure done at his printers. He met a woman there and somehow
they got talking about how much their sons loved chess. Suddenly
the woman said, "You may have heard of my son. His name is Bobby
Fischer." That was around 1962. Bobby would have been about
nineteen and already US champion for about five years, so my
father was gob-smacked. Mrs Fischer gave my father Bobbys phone
number and I called him up to invite him over to my parents
house. I was more nervous making that phone call than I ever was
to ask a girl out.
To my shock he accepted. The night he came over, I had the whole
Columbia chess team down. It was great. Bobby was such a
character. He read everybodys palm and spoke very bluntly about
everything. He told one of my friends after reading his palm, "Youre
going to die young." My father and he really hit it off. My
team-mates were playing five-minute chess on the floor and Bobby
was pretending not to watch them. Of course, they were very
excited to be playing under the eye of the Grandmaster. One of
the guys made a nice sacrifice of the exchange and Bobby, who
had been watching out of the corner of his eye, said, "Very
good, very good. I thought you were a weakie." I thought my
friend would die of bliss. Bobby explained, "I dont like to
watch weak players. It ruins my game."
After that we became friends and we went to chess clubs together
and even to the beach. One time we were at the beach and Bobby
saw a pretty girl sitting by herself. He went up to her and
said, "Im Bobby Fischer, the great chess player." It was a good
opening gambit, but she had never heard of him. Her reply made
him realise she was foreign, so he asked where she was from. She
said, "Holland." Bobby said, "Do you know Max Euwe?" (The Dutch
former World Champion). Shed never heard of him. Now Bobby had
run out of ideas. He shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
Bobby liked his friends and he liked to be admired. One night, a
friend of mine and I were sitting outside the ropes while Bobby
was playing Hans Berliner in the U.S. Championship. At one
point, Bobby played bishop takes knight. My friend whispered to
me, "Why did he do that?" since you usually didnt want to give a
bishop up for a knight. I said, well maybe its so and so, or
such and such, pointing out some positional advantages that
Bobby was getting. My friend considered it for a bit and then
said to me enthusiastically, "Hes a genius!" Bobby won and after
the game we went out to eat with him, and as we walked up
Broadway, he turned to us and said, "You liked bishop takes
knight, didnt you?" Hed heard it and felt appreciated.
Another time, I visited Bobby at his house. He was living with
his mother at an apartment in Brooklyn. He played over some
games for me from the Russian publication, Schachmaty Bulletin.
He saw so much so quickly that it was breathtaking. On several
occasions, he went four or five moves ahead of the game and had
to take back the moves because he assumed play would be along
other lines. That night he showed me what he said was a
refutation of the Kings Gambit. He was about to go off to play
in a tournament in Argentina where the great Spassky (not yet
World Champion) would be his main rival. Bobby said he thought
that if Spassky had white, he would play the Kings Gambit
against him, and then he said, "Ill take his pawn, hold it and
win." It all happened that way with one major difference.
Spassky had white, he played the Kings Gambit, Bobby took his
pawn, he held it, he established a winning position, but Boris
broke through and won. Bobby was so disgusted with himself. The
next time I saw him, he showed me how completely busted Spassky
had been in line after line, much of it beyond my chess
Speaking of Bobbys grasp of the board, I saw him play speed
chess at the Marshall Chess Club with Bernard Zuckerman.
Zuckerman later became an IM, and was then a strong master with
a reputation as a speed player. Bobby gave him five minutes and
took half a minute for himself. He crushed him game after game,
all the while keeping up an endless flow of chess heckling. His
hand moved way faster than my eye could see.
Bobby was very peculiar and certainly marched to his own
drummer. He wasnt always polite. One time the Chess Federation
gave him a gift of a suitcase before he went to represent the US
in the Leipzig Chess Olympics. The MC called him up and made the
presentation, and Bobby looked at the suitcase and said, "Its
He was stubborn and a bit paranoid, but underneath it all, he
was very likeable. He had a kind of innocence, and I dont think
he ever understood why people reacted the way they did to some
of his behaviour. Bobby was certainly the greatest genius I have
ever met in any area of life, outside of yoga. But I think it
was his innocence that made people feel sympathy for him. Im
very glad that he came out and played Spassky in 1992 and I hope
hes happy in Budapest, or Japan or wherever he is. I am sad to
hear he has racist obsessions, but not surprised. His thought
process served him well in chess, but he didnt recognise that in
life they were often vitiated by his paranoia.
Q3) Did you ever play Bobby?
A) Not at chess, but I did play him at table soccer at an
arcade. He was unbelievably competitive at everything. When one
of my friends beat him at arm wrestling, he looked around for a
weaker player that he could beat. When I beat him at a game of
table soccer, he said, "Yeah, now you can say you beat Bobby
Fisher!" So I said, "Well, I did, didnt I?"