Shelby Lyman on Chess: Precocity By Any Other Name
Column 2245 for release August 3
Sunday, August 9, 2015
(Published in print: Sunday, August 9, 2015)
Bobby Fischer was astoundingly precocious — as he proved in 1958, at the age of 15, when he won the U.S. championship, besting the legendary champion Sammy Reshevsky, one of the world’s strongest players, in his own den.
A few months later, he played five world-class Soviet grandmasters equal. It was his first international tournament.
Shortly after, he was awarded the grandmaster title, the youngest ever to receive it.
In late 1961 and early 1962, at barely 18 years of age, Fischer, his ingenue growing pains as a player largely behind him, ascended the chess stage in full battle regalia.
In two successive tournaments, in Bled, Yugoslavia, and Stockholm, Sweden, an extraordinarily gifted and intimidating group of Soviet grandmasters — who had roamed and ruled the chess landscape with unchallenged abandon — were abruptly brought to their knees.
At Bled, he defeated Mikhail Tal, a former world champion, as well as well as Tigran Petrosian, a future one.
With a combined score in both events of 6-2 against the Soviets, he had breached an apparently impregnable fortress.
Suddenly everything was different. An unstoppable presence had imposed its signature on the existing chess scene,
The Soviets, of course, were still a vital force, but the future indisputably belonged to the Brooklyn chess tsunami, Robert James Fischer.