In 1965, Dr. Frank Brady wrote Profile of a Prodigy, the definitive biography of Grandmaster Bobby Fischer’s early life (a subsequent edition published in 1973 updated Fischer’s life story with details about Fischer’s triumph in the 1972 World Championship match versus Boris Spassky and the 1989 reprint of that version is still easily available now). Dr. Brady is a full professor at St. John’s University (he formerly served as Chairman of St. John’s Communications Department), an international chess arbiter and the former editor of Chess Life magazine (the official publication of the U.S. Chess Federation). He has also written biographies of Hugh Hefner, Aristotle Onassis and Barbra Streisand.
Dr. Brady’s newest book, Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall–From America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness (hardcover, 416 pages), is available in stores now and can also be ordered directly from the publisher. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Brady about Endgame:
Friedman: “You interacted with Bobby Fischer from the 1950s through 1972 and played hundreds of chess games against him—I’m assuming those were mostly blitz games.”
Dr. Brady: “All blitz games. Often it was five minutes against five minutes but after he beat me two or three times doing that he would reduce the time to four minutes on his clock. After he beat me with that he would reduce it to three minutes and then after he beat me with that he would reduce it to two minutes; so he was playing with two minutes and I was playing with five minutes and I would say I won two games out of hundreds that we played. At that time I could not beat him at five-five or five-four or five-three.”
Friedman: “What was your playing strength at that time?”
Dr. Brady: “At that time, my playing strength was about 2000 I think—somewhere in that neighborhood” (Ed. Note: this is Expert level, which is above the 90th percentile of rated tournament players).
Friedman: “When was the first time you played him?”
Dr. Brady: “The first time we played he was already U.S. Champion. He was a Grandmaster and he was probably the strongest player in the country by the time I started playing him” (Fischer became the youngest U.S. chess champion—a record he still holds—in 1958 at the age of 14, an accomplishment that earned him the International Master title; months later as a 15 year old, Fischer qualified for the Candidates round in the World Championship cycle, becoming the youngest Grandmaster ever, a record that stood until 1991).
Friedman: “A lot of people have talked about the phenomenon of ‘Fischer fear’ and the reaction that he would inspire in his opponents. How would you describe ‘Fischer fear’ both from the perspective of playing blitz games against him and also—I know that you directed the U.S. Championship when he went 11-0 and you were present at other high level events—what are your observations and thoughts about ‘Fischer fear’ pertaining to his games against elite caliber opponents?”
Dr. Brady: “I don’t think that the terminology of ‘Fischer fear’ really could apply to him. I don’t see that people got frightened of him or nervous or excited about playing him. I guess if you were a very weak player and had the opportunity to play him you would be afraid but what it was is you started to play him and very early on—I mean, you’re hardly out of the opening—you begin to realize that your position is deteriorating. Also, you begin to realize that his position is strengthening and because he is the best player in the United States and one of the best players in the world you realize that even if your position is slightly superior—which I hardly ever experienced personally—he is going to find a way to beat you because he is so good. But you continue to play; I never heard anyone say, ‘Boy, I’m really scared to play him.’ When I directed the U.S. Championship when he won 11 straight I didn’t hear any of the players say, ‘Boy, I’m afraid to face Fischer,’ nor did I hear any international players say that in the tournaments that we were at together. But people realized that he was a great player and that they were going to lose, so to that extent I guess there may have been players who did not like to play him.”
Here is the full article.