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Fischer - Reshevsky Match

Samuel Reshevsky5.5/11(+2 -2 =7)[games]
Robert James Fischer5.5/11(+2 -2 =7)[games] Chess Event Description
Fischer - Reshevsky (1961)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 Fischer 0 1 = = 1 = 0 = = = = 5.5 Reshevsky 1 0 = = 0 = 1 = = = = 5.5

Reshevsky had White in the odd-numbered games.


The long awaited match between the U.S. champion Robert J. Fischer and former champion Samuel Reshevsky was arranged under the auspices of the American Chess Foundation with a fund for players’ expenses and about $6000 in prize money from Jacqueline Piatigorsky and the George P. Edgar trophy.

Various masters abroad, Bent Larsen, Svetozar Gligoric, Paul Keres and Tigran Petrosian predicted a Reshevsky victory, the last two by two and three points respectively. Opinion here was seemingly more neutral with a high opinion of Reshevsky as a match player to temper the regard for Fischer’s four straight victories in the U.S. Championships. On the other hand, Isaac Kashdan predicted that Fischer would win by two points.

The match began with four games in New York. They were played at forty moves in 2.5 hours at the Empire Hotel with adjourned sessions at the nearby Manhattan Chess Club. Reshevsky won the toss for colors the day before play began and so had White for odd-numbered games.

In Game 1, Reshevsky won a Pawn against Fischer’s King’s Indian Defense, made it good in adjournment to win in 60 moves.

In Game 2, Fischer defeated Reshevsky’s Sicilian Defense in 38 moves.

In Game 3, Fischer’s Nimzo-Indian Defense ended in a draw in 25 moves.

In Game 4, Reshevsky improved play in the Sicilian to draw in 43 moves.

In the Herman Steiner Chess Club in Los Angeles, after some ceremonies conducted by Jose Ferrer, Game 5 went to adjournment after 42 moves in a Queen’s Gambit Declined. Fischer won to go ahead in the match after 57 moves (and after Game 6 had been played and completed).

In Game 6, Reshevsky again used the Sicilian, and a draw in 25 moves ensued.

In Game 7, Reshevsky evened the match score by defeating Fischer’s play in a Queen’s Gambit Declined in 28 moves.

So far, each player had won twice, and three games had been drawn.

In Game 8, another Sicilian, Fischer as White adjourned a Pawn up after 40 moves, and again after 73 moves, but only drew after 80 moves.

Meanwhile, Game 9, a King’s Indian Defense by Fischer, once adjourned, ended in a draw after 52 moves.

In Game 10, Reshevsky, who seems to have put the Dragon Variation in good standing again in this match, achieved his fourth successive draw with it, this in 40 moves.

In Game 11, Fischer’s King’s Indian led to clear winning chances as the game was adjourned at 40 moves. In the adjourned session, however, he did not succeed in securing the win and drew in 57 moves.

Comment on the play will appear in the analysis of the games in Chess Review by Hans Kmoch. But it is safe to say that both players missed several opportunities to win, Reshevsky notably in the early games and Fischer in Games 8 and 11.

The quality of play, however, all went for nothing. For, after the eleventh game, the match broke up. At second and third hand, the story is not easy to tell.

It seems that the time for the twelfth game was switched to three or four different hours with the agreement of all the parties. It was then changed to 11 AM, and to this Fischer objected. When he did so has not been made clear. He was told to appear at 11 AM or forfeit. He refused to appear, and Irving Rivise, the match referee in Los Angeles, declared the game forfeit.

The next date for play was Tuesday, August 15, in New York, and that day Fischer phoned from Los Angeles to say he’d not play unless the forfeit was voided. He was told to be present for play by Thursday; but, by then the match committee had stated that Game 13 would be played. The forfeit would be ruled on later. Fischer then failed to appear, and Al Horowitz, the referee in New York, declared a forfeit "in abeyance on the arbiter’s decision." Walter Fried, President of the American Chess Federation then declared the match forfeited in favor of Reshevsky.

Fischer and the Foundation both speak of taking the matter to the law courts – Chess Review, September 1961, p. 264.


Fischer Threatens to Quit His Series He Says He’ll Walk Out if Forfeit in Chess Is Upheld

LOS ANGELES, August 14 (A.P.) Bobby Fischer of Brooklyn, the 18-year-old United States chess champion, thinks he has been rooked.

He refused to show up at 11 A.M. yesterday for the twelfth game of a series of sixteen against Samuel Reshevsky of Spring Valley, N.Y. Fischer said he wasn’t accustomed to playing in the morning.

The referee called it a forfeit and Reshevsky took the lead in the series 6.5 to 5.5. Fischer said forfeits weren’t allowed in title series. And if New York officials upheld the forfeit, he said, he won’t continue the series.

No one is sure whose move is next.

The problem began ten days ago when local officials rescheduled the twelfth game from Saturday to Sunday. Reshevsky will not play on the Jewish Sabbath.

"I’m not used to playing at 11 A.M. It’s ridiculous," Fischer said. "Why should I accommodate him? Maybe he hoped I’d be tired and he’d get a draw."

Despite repeated calls and warnings, Fischer refused to leave his Hollywood hotel.

"So when he didn’t come by noon," said Referee Rivise, "I called it a forfeit."

"I never expected this one," said Reshevsky. He promptly checked out of his hotel and left for New York, where the series is scheduled to resume tomorrow night.

But Fischer said he wouldn’t accept the forfeit. He said: "We agreed before the match there could be no forfeits. It’s just a little joke they’re trying to play on me. We just have to play this off in New York."

Fischer said the officials for the eight games were "pro-Reshevsky."

"They’ve been making the adjourned games at screwy hours. I’ll be tired," he said.

The temperamental Fischer, who became United States champion at 14, has had previous run-ins with chess officials.

At 15, he threatened to quit a tournament in Chile when he discovered the prize money was $1000 instead of $2000. The next year, he protested the way the pairings were drawn in the United States championships, but went on to defend his title.

As for the referee here, Fischer said, "He just thinks I’m a kid or something," - New York Times, August 15, 1961, p. 36.

Based on a game collection by User: TheFocus.

 page 1 of 1; 7 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Reshevsky vs Fischer ½-½251961Fischer - ReshevskyE40 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
2. Fischer vs Reshevsky ½-½421961Fischer - ReshevskyB32 Sicilian
3. Fischer vs Reshevsky ½-½251961Fischer - ReshevskyB32 Sicilian
4. Fischer vs Reshevsky ½-½791961Fischer - ReshevskyB36 Sicilian, Accelerated Fianchetto
5. Reshevsky vs Fischer ½-½521961Fischer - ReshevskyE97 King's Indian
6. Fischer vs Reshevsky ½-½401961Fischer - ReshevskyB36 Sicilian, Accelerated Fianchetto
7. Reshevsky vs Fischer ½-½571961Fischer - ReshevskyE98 King's Indian, Orthodox, Taimanov, 9.Ne1
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Absentee> Of course, suggesting that in 1961 anyone curious about Reshevsky's religion should look at his Wikipedia page was in itself a joke.
Aug-01-15  Absentee: I meant his being an orthodox jew.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: The intro quotes Chess Review:

<Fischer said he wouldn’t accept the forfeit. He said: “We agreed before the match there could be no forfeits. It’s just a little joke they’re trying to play on me....">

They agreed there would be no forfeits? How does that work? You can turn up as late as you want, or not at all, and still not forfeit?

And wouldn't it be a little suspicious if one of the players was constantly suggesting a no-forfeit rule?

Reshevsky's spider-sense MUST have tingled a bit.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: I hope we can all agree that Fischer got screwed over in this match. I did a lot of research on this and he definitely got a raw deal.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Basically, they listened to the referee, they listened to Mrs. Piatigorsky, and they listened to Reshevsky, but no one took Fischer's concerns seriously.

To me, it was just another black mark on Reshevsky. One of many.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sneaky: I think what Bobby must have meant is, that they agreed that if something comes up to prevent a game from being played, it would be replayed.

This fiasco is just yet another example of what happens when agreed upon conditions are revised after the fact.

Dec-14-15  Petrosianic: <This fiasco is just yet another example of what happens when agreed upon conditions are revised after the fact.>

Assuming they were agreed upon. Nobody's ever seen any match documents that show that. Even now nobody seems quite sure what the agreement was supposed to have been.

<TheFocus: I hope we can all agree that Fischer got screwed over in this match. I did a lot of research on this and he definitely got a raw deal.>

Yes and No. Yes, it's outrageous that a match patron would subordinate a match to her own personal social schedule, as though they were some kind of trained seal act. But Fischer took the situation and made a crisis out of it. That game of forfeiting a game to make a point, and then trying to get it back later is one he played several times during his career (never with success).

You're not clear on exactly what you found, and seem to want us to accept it without hearing it. That doesn't suggest a lot of confidence on your part. What I found when researching it is that Mrs. P moved a game to the morning to accommodate her own schedule (she wanted to go to a concert later that day). Reshevsky, the older man, showed up, Fischer claimed it was too early to play (even though he'd played morning games at Leipzig the year before) and forfeited.

One would think that there might have been a better way to protest Mrs. P's selfishness than to walk out on one of the biggest matches in US history. Reshevsky claimed that Fischer had had enough of the match, and wanted out, after guaranteeing he'd win Game 11 and then coming up short. It may not be true, but Fischer made it possible for Reshevsky to go around saying that.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: < Reshevsky, the older man, showed up, Fischer claimed it was too early to play (even though he'd played morning games at Leipzig the year before) and forfeited>

It doesn't matter at all that Fischer played in the morning at Leipzig. The games in the 1961 match were not scheduled for the morning. So, what makes it okay to change during the games to a time that one person did not agree to?

I find it more admirable that Fischer stuck to his guns.

This debacle was the reason that Fischer did not play in the 1963 Piatigorsky Cup. Of course, he later reconciled with Mrs. P and he was the first one to receive an invitation to the 1966 PC.

<Reshevsky claimed that Fischer had had enough of the match, and wanted out, after guaranteeing he'd win Game 11 and then coming up short.>

So why then did Fischer keep on trying to have the (illegal) forfeit overturned and the final four games be played? Doesn't sound like he was trying to avoid finishing the match.

Face it, Fischer got screwed, but he didn't get kissed.

Dec-15-15  Petrosianic: <TheFocus>: <So, what makes it okay to change during the games to a time that one person did not agree to?>

It's not "okay". Didn't you hear me call Mrs. P selfish? (She was one of the Rothschilds, you know. Nuff said). The external factors were simply too difficult for Fischer to overcome, but not too difficult for the more experienced player. You know the story about Botvinnik having Ragozin blow smoke in his face.

And I seriously doubt Mrs. P ever gave the players any guarantees about never changing start times. She seemed to do things at her whim. I doubt she actually broke any promises, only behaved selfishly (which the players knew about her going in). You made it sound as though Reshevsky had done something unethical simply by showing up for his own game.

<I find it more admirable that Fischer stuck to his guns.>

I find it more admirable that winning the match was Reshevsky's top concern. If Fischer hadn't been embarrassed after Game 11, it might have been his top concern too. Beating Reshevsky head-to-head would have been the next best thing to a world title match. As it was, the honor of First Man to Beat Reshevsky in a Match went to Korchnoi instead. Oh, but at least Fischer was well-rested for his next event... six months later.

Fischer's mistake here was comparable to guarding an unimportant pawn and leaving his Queen hanging. It cost him a defeat in this match, a non-participation in the 1st Piatigorsky Cup, and didn't harm Mrs. P at all. If it HAD harmed Mrs. p, he would have done any worse, as she would simply have taken her marbles and gone home, and the chess world would have suffered more than a proper conclusion to this one match.

Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: <Reshevsky claimed that Fischer had had enough of the match, and wanted out, after guaranteeing he'd win Game 11 and then coming up short.> least it's an unbiased source.

<I find it more admirable that winning the match was Reshevsky's top concern.> a Fischer forfeit?

Dec-15-15  RookFile: I think the point is one of focus. The experienced Reshevsky knew what he was there for - to win the match and ask questions later. Fischer let himself get distracted.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: A great match. Between two men who knew more about chess than three Karjakins Sellotape©®d together.
Feb-05-17  The Kings Domain: *Chuckles* Gotta admire Fischer's attitude; for all his flaws, the man had principle and at that age, admirable. His suspicions could have been correct - people can be such s*its when you're young, talented, and good-looking.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: What a refreshing experience to have another New Yawker on top of the news!!! Bobby didn't take @#$% from anybody, neither does Billy Joel, and God Bless our President Donald J. Trump!!!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: CHESS June 1962 (page 290)

"Bobby Fischer.19-year-old U.S.Champion, has moved in the New York Star Supreme Court to bar his former opponent, Samuel Reshevsky, from competing in any public chess exhibitions until the completion of a series of matches started between them last year.

Fischer contends that in violation of chess custom, Reshevsky improperly claimed the 12th game of a 16 game series on the grounds that the youthful expert failed to appear."

Mar-21-17  RookFile: And Fischer was laughed right out of court, of course.
Mar-22-17  Petrosianic: <The Kings Domain: *Chuckles* Gotta admire Fischer's attitude;>

There are many things to admire about Fischer. Running out on matches when the going got tough is not one of them. The proof of this statement is the fact that even now, a half century later, it bothers people very much that Fischer lost this match.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: For Fischer the phrase "The show must go on" was just a load of meaningless syllables.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: A brief...very brief interview with Fischer from the Belgrade 1959 Candidates. (it reads like it was walking interview, someone asking him question on his was to or from the playing hall.

"Your most dangerous opponent?"


"Your pet desire?"


"The biggest disappointed you ever had?"


"World's best player"


"Your greatest passion?"


"WHat do think about chess."


"What do you think of the world chess situation."


(Page 55 CHESS, November 1959)

A few years later Bobby published his 10 ten players. Smyslov by then had fallen out of favour and was not given a hollowed top 10 spot.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: From the introduction.

"The problem began ten days ago when local officials rescheduled the twelfth game from Saturday to Sunday. Reshevsky will not play on the Jewish Sabbath."

Fair enough, but I was reading a report about this match in the August 1961 CHESS (page 363) and B.H.Wood writes that Reshevsky played on a Saturday at Great Yarmouth stipulating someone write down the moves for him.

A fact confirmed by Miss Scarlett.

Samuel Reshevsky (kibitz #1612)

(It reads like the recording steward also had to press Reshevsky's clock.)

Could they not have offered Reshevsky this 1935 solution? One wonders what Fischer would have made of this?

"I too want a move recorder and clock button pusher, Reshevsky is saving energy!"

Mar-24-17  Olavi: <Could they not have offered Reshevsky this 1935 solution?>

Reshevsky had become more orthodox. Botvinnik tells in his 1978 memoirs (Achieving the Aim in English, I believe) about the negotiations in 1948: "Excuse me, but earlier you played on saturdays?" "Yes, but then I lost my father. I was punished."

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Did Bobby ever win a court case?
Mar-28-17  Howard: How often was he in court, though ?
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: I had this particularly in mind (which, I find, is helpfully already online):

Robert James Fischer

It's in three parts. From Brady's description, it seems like an open and shut case in Bobby's favour, but, alas, there was no Paul Marshall.

<The highlight of the MIFF presentation was the remarks of Bobby Fischer's lawyer Paul Marshall, who was interviewed for the film and appeared in the festival audience. Marshall clarified a position alluded to in the film, saying that Fischer was convinced that Marshall was CIA. It seems absurd to us in 2011, but maybe not so absurd to Fischer in 1972. [...]

Bringing together all of the different perspectives of the film, Marshall spoke what might perhaps be a fitting coda for Bobby Fischer's life, one marked by personal pain and abandonment: "The more he depended on someone, the more he distrusted them.">


Sep-13-17  RookFile: <Al Horowitz, founder of the independent periodical Chess Review, had a more nuanced approach. He examined Brady’s points, but also stressed that Fischer had been told of the time change for game 12 on August 3, and Fischer only objected a week later. >

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