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Donald Byrne vs Robert James Fischer
"The Game of the Century" (game of the day Mar-09-2013)
Third Rosenwald Trophy (1956), New York, NY USA, rd 8, Oct-17
Gruenfeld Defense: Three Knights Variation. Hungarian Attack (D92)  ·  0-1

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Donald Byrne vs Robert James Fischer (1956)
Cover of Chess Review, December 1956.

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 56 OF 56 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: <It's not too uncommon for a player to allow the mate if the combo leading up to it has been a cracker.>

The mating combination at the end is fairly pedestrian. When you've got the king trapped on the back rank by a rook that way, and minor pieces swarming around, you just know there's a mate in the air even if you don't see the exact moves right away. But that's fine. If there were no special reasons for playing to mate, where would the natural resignation point be?

The more I look at it, White's 28th move seems about right. That's where we're getting to positions where a B player would probably be able to beat a GM. After 28. Re1, which he played, it's hard to imagine anything White can do with just a Queen and Knight. Black's only possible weak point, f7, is well protected by the Bishop; there's no chance of a perpetual, no nothing.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: Really, the more I think about it, the more it seems that White should have just taken the Knight on Move 12.

12. Nxa4 Nxe4 13. Qb4 a5 14. Qxe7 Bxf3 15. Qxd8 Rfxd8 16. Bxd8 Bxd1 17. Nc3 Rxd8 17. Nxd1 Rxd4 18. Be2, and White is a clear pawn down, but he's far better off than he was in the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Petrosianic,

It is quotes like this I've read at various places. None ever mention at what move Donald decided to play on.

"Fischer was winning the game decisively and Byrne asked some of the other players if it would be a good "tip of the hat" to Fischer's superb play to let young Fischer play the game to a checkmate instead of Byrne resigning, which would normally happen between masters.

When the other players agreed, Byrne played the game out until Fischer checkmated him. "

Premium Chessgames Member
  saffuna: I think Byrne could easily have indicated he was just playing to mate by his body language, which is likely what he did.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: Well, that raises a question right there. Generally it's considered rude to play on in such a position. If Byrne decided to keep playing, in order to improve the game's aesthetic qualities, did he TELL Fischer that he was doing this? Or did he allow Fischer to think he was being rude until the game was over? Or did they both just intuitively realize what was happening? You say he talked to the other players about it, but did Fischer know?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: <It is quotes like this I've read at various places. None ever mention at what move Donald decided to play on.>

Really, I'm not asking about Byrne in particular. I'm saying that if this were a normal game, with no special reason to keep playing, at what point would you expect the average player to resign it?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Petrosianic,

Probably just before the mate move 38 or 39.

But there again there is no rule saying when you must resign and rudeness does not really come into it.

Without knowing all the background details you cannot look at the bare score of a game and say one player was being rude for playing on.

This game finished on move 41. If this were just a normal game and we never knew anything about it then time trouble could have been a factor and they played on in inertia.

I have never been insulted by a player playing on. If you start thinking like that then your mind is not on the game and you are setting yourself for a blunder.

Just enjoy the win and wrap it up as neat as you can. That way you won't screw it up. I think people are too easily insulted if someone playing on in a lost position offends them. Indeed in some cases (not here of course) the player may not even realise their position is resignable.

At the home and casual level some think it is actually impolite to resign.

Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: What an amazing photo. From the limited view of the board one can see that Bobby had just played 16. ... Rfe8+. His very thin arms, typical of a 13-year old, stand out. And then there is that marvelous conception at the board in front of him.
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: I'd say after 25...Nxd1, the game was over. I'll cut Byrne some slack for looking at a 13 year old opponent and wondering if he might swindle a perpetual. But the next two moves, White loses a Pawn each time, so the material advantage is even greater. Before his 28th move, White has QRNPP vs RRBBNPPPPP, poor King safety, and no prayer of a perpetual. I think every move after this was a bit insulting. Once his King is in a mating net, it's much like the legendary AJ game where he played on against a GM with a bare King until mated. My thoughts on when the average GM would have resigned:

After 25...Nxd1 30%
After 27...Nxf2 60% more
After 35...Bc5+ 5% more
After 36...Ng3+ Every other GM except Byrne

Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Accounts have it Donald Byrne was a nice fellow. As <Sally Simpson> wrote, possibly he realized he was in the middle of something special and played his role.
Mar-25-17  ZonszeinP: You have to have a special and unique brain to play like this And at only 13
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Ohio,

<My thoughts on when the average GM would have resigned:

After 25...Nxd1 30%
After 27...Nxf2 60% more
After 35...Bc5+ 5% more
After 36...Ng3+

Every other GM except Byrne.>

You may need to do it all again with different percentages.

Donald Byrne was never a GM and he did not get his IM title till 1962 six years after this game was played.


Don't run around throwing your hands up in despair, stamping your feet and gnashing your teeth when someone does not resign when you think they should. You are not playing the game, you are not involved, you are a mere spectator.

The losing player will resign when they want to and if their choice is to let it go to checkmate then so be it.

The fact in doing so it is sometimes a nod of apprehension from one player to another seems to beyond them.

From Tim Krabbé in a piece entitled:

Rude Resignations

"In tennis, players will applaud brilliant shots by the opponent.

In chess, such gallant behaviour is practically non-existent.

In item 238 of this Diary, I praised IM Sipke Ernst for allowing Carlsen's beautiful epaulette mate. (Carlsen vs S Ernst, 2004)

Today, Martin van Essen sent me two examples from one (the 4th) round in the Amber tournament where top players did not applaud their opponent's brilliant play by allowing their nice mates.

He gives Svidler vs F Vallejo Pons, 2004 and Topalov vs Bareev, 2004

Among top players, only Short does this occasionally. It should be chess etiquette at all levels."

Tim then mentions this game.

"Dan Heisman sent me an interesting note to this item. He remembers his old chess coach Donald Byrne, "well-known for his gentlemanly behaviour", telling him the story of his loss to Fischer in their celebrated 'Game of the Century' in 1956.

Later, Donald Byrne was sometimes criticized for playing on too long in that game. ['criticized!' here he is getting pelted with rocks.]

But it was actually the opposite, as he told Heisman 35 years ago.

"First of all, you have to remember that in 1956 no one knew that Bobby Fischer was going to become Bobby Fischer! He was just a very promising 13-year-old kid who played a great game against me.

When it got to the position where I was lost, I asked some of the other competitors if it might be a nice thing to let the kid mate me, as a kind of tribute to the fine game he played. They said, ‘Sure, why not?’ and so I did."

The numbers we should be looking at is what percentage of GM's would do that? I'm thinking very few.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Both Byrne brothers were very nice people, but an eerie Proclaimerish quality forever haunted them.
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: <Sally: Don't run around throwing your hands up in despair, stamping your feet and gnashing your teeth when someone does not resign when you think they should. You are not playing the game, you are not involved, you are a mere spectator.>

And again, the question posed was:

<I'm saying that if this were a normal game, with no special reason to keep playing, at what point would you expect the average player to resign it?>

As for this game, if one is being nice to allow mate-which consideration admits that it could be not nice-you make your moves very quickly. I haven't seen the time spent on the last few moves mentioned in this discussion. It's rude to play to mate, normally. I know some people deny that, so be it.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Ohio,

" what point would you expect the average player to resign it?"

I gave my opinion on that back here:

D Byrne vs Fischer, 1956 (kibitz #1425)

"Probably just before the mate move 38 or 39."

Some may want to resign sooner, it's their choice.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: Is that your opinion on when you would do it, or when the average person would? It's not necessarily an etiquette question. The average player usually wants to hit the bar or the skittles room once he's convinced in his own mind that there's no chance of saving the game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Petrosianic,

The question was: "" what point would you expect the average player to resign it?"

I'd expect the average player to call it quits at move 38 or 39.

Depends on Black's clock and time control at move 40.

I've not said what I would do.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: That seems a bit late, but okay. I think it's clear that Black has a forced mate a few moves before that, though.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Petrosianic,

It's not a question I've ever asked myself when looking at a chess position.

'When would the average player resign.'

So I really just picked a position that looked plausible.

I've looked at 100's of positions saying why did you resign because there was still a plausible trick left in the game and have discovered the occasional missed forced wins and draws.

Had three guys resign against me when they won positions. (I took two of them, in the other I pointed out the missed win, refused the resignation and offered an accepted draw.)

Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: One must also remember Fischer was not yet Fischer. His result for this Tournament was +2 -4 =5, for a ninth place out of twelve players.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: That kind of comes out of nowhere. Where did you see someone forget that? The question was when would the average player resign this position. People are making it more complicated than it is.

<Sally Simpson>: <It's not a question I've ever asked myself when looking at a chess position.

'When would the average player resign.'>

You have, you just weren't conscious of it. Any time you've played a hopeless position, you had in the back of your mind the question of whether the opponent or spectators thought you were a jerk for still playing. You might not have cared what they thought, but you had to be aware of the question.

I take it that you have kibitzed online tournaments in the past, haven't you? Every time I watch a tournament, someone starts whining (usually frivolously) that someone is playing on too long (which hurts them somehow because they aren't able to watch another game, for some reason). Yet in this discussion, people seem to be completely unaware of the issue at all.

Premium Chessgames Member
  GM Igor Smirnov: The brilliant use of almost all the tactical motifs adds to the popularity of this masterpiece game! Learn the 'Fischer's techniques' now -
Jul-29-17  NickHart: What's wrong with 33...Bd6ch? (forking white queen)
Jul-29-17  Nerwal: <What's wrong with 33...Bd6ch? (forking white queen)>

Everything, it's not a legal move as the bishop is pinned.

Premium Chessgames Member
  john barleycorn: Which gives me an idea. let us say during a game each player is allowed to do one "illegal" move. Like ignore a check etc. but no piece is allowed to move out of its usual range meaning you cannot move a knight from g2 to b6 or make a white square bishop a black squared.

If one player makes use of it, it costs him .5 point. If he does not use it he gains .5 point. So a win by a player who uses an illegal move against a player who does not is .5 point each. A win of a player who does not use the option against a player who does is 1,5 vs -.5. If neither one of them uses it it is the good old result.

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