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Shelby Lyman on Chess: The Apple Did Not Fall Far
Sunday, January 3, 2016
(Published in print: Sunday, January 3, 2016)

To all appearances, Bobby Fischer was an alpha male in the extreme.

His early teachers were astonished by his competitiveness, as was Robert Byrne, one of America’s strongest players. Byrne said he often was told about a “new kid” who was really good. “You hear that so often,” he said in an interview. “Everyone has a nephew or a cousin who is really great.”

Byrne then offered the following account of his first match against Fischer: “But oh my God, this maniac came at me … and everything indicated he knew exactly what he was doing. … I had White but I was on the defensive in about 10 moves and scared skinny.”

Was it DNA, a gift from the gods, or something else?

His sister Joan explained it succinctly, “We Fischers do not like to lose.”

His mother, Regina, who insisted there was nothing her children could not accomplish, offered vivid personal examples of her own resourcefulness. When money was needed for a U.S. chess team to participate in the Leipzig Chess Olympiad, Regina went on a six-day hunger strike/appeal to raise money. She managed also to get Fischer placed on a couple of quiz shows, one of them providing airfare for his first trip to Russia. And there was much, much more.

Perhaps even greater in significance was an endless testing of wills between mother and 16-year-old son in the daily life of their Brooklyn homestead.

It was of considerable relief to both when, leaving Fischer on his own, his mother embarked on an extended peace march and a second marriage.

Despite the son’s very different politics, it is obvious that the apple did not fall far from the tree.

Full article here.

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