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Robert James Fischer vs Robert Byrne
"Fischer fiddles while Byrne roams" (game of the day Dec-29-2021)
United States Championship (1965), New York, NY USA, rd 8, Dec-23
French Defense: Tarrasch Variation. Guimard Defense (C03)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Byrne was no boob, he was in the eight man Candidates matches in the 70s. I think Spassky beat him in the cycle after Fischer won the title.

the pun is a reference to parliamentary procedure, rules to govern meetings, from the 19th century.

Dec-15-16  YouRang: It looks like young Fischer went off the rails on move 12:

click for larger view

Bryne just played <11...Bg4>, double-attacking the Be2. Yes, the Be2 is double-defended, but one of the defenders (Nd4) is in danger of being taken off the board by Nc6. He could have played 12.Bxg4, but perhaps he didn't like the looks of 12...Nxg4 13.h3 Bd6!, creating mate tactics on h2.

So, Fischer opted for get resolve the attack on his Nd4 with <12.Nxf6> which also threatens Nxe7+, and so 12...Bxe2 is out of the question. He expected 12...bxc6 leaving black burdened with ugly queenside pawns.

click for larger view

However, he overlooked black's option to ignore the knight and attack with <12...Bd6!>

click for larger view

White has no time to save his knight AND the intermediate threat of Nxe7 is gone. He must stave off mate: <13.h3> which allows black to recover his piece with <13...Bxe2>, which will even win the exchange next.

click for larger view

The rest of it is just "winning a won game" technique.

Dec-15-16  RookFile: I think this is profound stuff. An uncommon case of Fischer being caught in the opening. Byrne was a strong player, of course.
Sep-05-17  N.O.F. NAJDORF: I agree with your analysis, Yourang, except for the mis-type Nxf6 instead of Nxc6.

The strange thing is that Fischer had already seen the zwischenzug ...bd6, which is why he didn't play 11 Nxc6.

He must have forgotten about it.

Had he played 11 Nxc6 instead of 12 Nxc6, he would not have lost the exchange.

Sep-05-17  Sally Simpson: With a little research the pun for this game could have been:

'The Sensation of the Century'

The 'Game of the Century' involved the other Byrne, Fischer and Hans Kmoch.

In the February 1966 'Chess Review' Hans Kmoch titles this game 'Only Sensational'. Kmoch continues:

"A gross blunder, committed within the area of opening analysis, cost the Champion the Exchange, and so the game.

It's one of those games which are not exactly interesting, only sensational."


"Chess Life" January 1966 gives:

'Homer Nods"

The game Fischer-Byrne provided a remarkable example of 'Chess Blindness": Fischer who had obviously seen Black's reply of .....Bd6 a move earlier forgot all about it when he played 12.Nxc6??

Fischer maintained his composure perfectly after the blunder, played out the game as best he could with a lost position. and resigned quietly on the 37th move.

One wonders how some of the Champion's critics would have behaved in similar circumstances."


It is just me or do you get the feeling the writers of 'Chess Life' were treading on egg shells when commenting this game.

But they are correct here to surmise:

"Fischer who had obviously seen Black's reply of .....Bd6 a move earlier ..."

click for larger view

On the surface 11.Nxc6 does appear to win the e7 Bishop but 11....Bd6 saves it. Bobby would have seen that (else he would have played 11.Nxc6).

Don't agree with Kmoch saying it was "...not exactly interesting."

I'd have no problem using this game as an example of how to wrap up a won game. Black has just played 27...Qg6 - Qc2.

click for larger view

The threat is 29...Rxf2 and 30....Rxb1 and if the 'obvious' (a previous poster suggested it) 29.Nd4 then 29...Qxb1 30.Qxb1 Re1+

And 33...Qxf3 here

click for larger view

Far from uninteresting and very beneficial to a student of the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Excellent pun!
Premium Chessgames Member

Fischer still won the US Championship tho .. loike

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Someday England will have a world chess champion AND win World Cup football.

It could happen...

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Fischer had played in two Candidates tournaments by the time this game was played. Being, I think age 22 here is no excuse.

3.N-d2 is the 'quiet French', seems to give open board players headaches.

Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: Good pun with a high cleverness factor.
Dec-29-21  Delboy: This time Nero is not the fiddler but the winner. It's still a good pun though
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: Well done word play. Fischer seems quite out of sorts here, as early as move 4. 4.c3 seems too placid a move, allowing an easy ...e5 reply.
Dec-29-21  Granny O Doul: This would be a good pun if Fischer's name were "Nero". But, alas.
Dec-29-21  AlicesKnight: White's Ns and B are on the same squares at move 21 as they were at move 15 (the R has been sort-of-mobilised in the interim). It all suggests no plan apart from treading water. Unusual for Fischer, who also lost to Reshevsky but still ensured tournament victory at the end.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: The pun, or the <while Byrne roams> part, at least, I've seen in an old <Chess Life> or <Chess Review>, but I don't feel like spending hours searching for it.

I thought of trying for a <Nepo fiddling> but his mostly Russian named opponents were too unpromising.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: As Mednis wrote long ago of this fiasco, Fischer was down a clear exchange without compensation and had no active play whatever--small wonder he could come up with no active plan.
Premium Chessgames Member
  playground player: Best pun of the year!
Dec-29-21  checkxmate: The French Defense was a solid defense here, because with the Tarrasch variation (after 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 ...), it prevents Byrne from playing the Winawer variation (3. Nc3 Bb4).

It is also hard to say whether or not Fischer saw the problem with Nd4. By using Stockfish, I was able to figure out that the line used would be (14. ... Bxf1 15. Qxf1 Rfe8 16. N2f3 Ne4 17. Be3 Rad8 18. Re1 a6 19. a3 Qd5 20. c4 Qh5 21. g4 Qg6 22. Nf5 ...), which would total at about a -6.1 loss for Fischer. Perhaps he had something else in mind.

Dec-29-21  belgradegambit: What happened to YouRang and Conrad93?
Dec-29-21  ChesswizCanada: MissScarlett is correct, I. A. Horowitz used the pun "Burn Fiddles While Marshall Roams" in his "Solitaire Chess" - and as Horowitz owned and edited "Chess Review" from the 30's to the 60's, he may well have used the expression there too. See and Game Collection: Solitaire Chess by I. A. Horowitz.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Knighthawkmiller: 30...h6 is another path to victory.
-7.79 (25 ply) 31.Rb1 Rxa2 32.Rc1 Qb2 33.Rb1 Qe2 34.Nd4 Qxf1+...
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Horowitz must have died rich, what with owning a high profile publication like <Chess Review>?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Willber G: <MissScarlett:

I thought of trying for a <Nepo fiddling> but his mostly Russian named opponents were too unpromising.>

I'm sure some on here would be happy with <hero fiddling>. Or perhaps not, in the circumstances.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Knighthawkmiller: After 30....g6 black has a winning advantage. -7.40 (22 ply) 31.Rb3 Qc4 32.Rb1 Rxa2 33.Qxc4 dxc4 34.Rc1 Ree2 35.Rxc4 a5 36.Rc5 a4 37.Ra5 Ra1+ 38.Kh2 a3. Looks as if I made a similar observation in Dec 2021 with 30...h6. The game 30...Rxa2 was also winning, but with not as great a margin. -5.72 (23 ply) 30...Rxa2 31.Rb1 Qc4. Excellent tactics on Byrne's part.

I lost a game to Mr Byrne at the 2nd and last Quick event held pre-NYS Champ in 1994. My good fortune as a B player to be paired against him in the first round. I never met a more polite and courteous chess player. His accomplishments were numerous.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TRoosevelt1858: Knighthawkmiller:
I lost a game to Mr Byrne at the 2nd and last Quick event held pre-NYS Champ in 1994. My good fortune as a B player to be paired against him in the first round. I never met a more polite and courteous chess player. His accomplishments were numerous.

Kinghthawkmiller, I am writing a book on the Byrne brothers for McFarland, could you please email me at if you have a chance.

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