Physicality crucial in seated combat, too
Saturday June 23, 2012 8:29 AM
By Shelby Lyman

Good physical health and conditioning are critical to maximizing success in chess.

Few in the game — including the Soviets, who were the first to approach chess from a scientific perspective — had incorporated this imperative into their training more convincingly than Bobby Fischer during the run-up to his 1972 world-title match with Boris Spassky. Fischer’s trainer, Harry Sneider, said:

“He really believed in a good preparation. He loved power-training with weights, he swam 45 minutes a day and he was a ‘world-champion’ walker. . . . He also drank pints of carrot juice and ate a lot of salads. He took a sauna every day and a massage. That was his daily routine.”

Fischer was practicing what he had learned from years of chess competition.

In his own words:

“Your body has to be in top condition. Your chess deteriorates as your body does. You can’t separate body from mind.”

His athleticism was apparent to talk-show host Dick Cavett, who interviewed him before the ’72 title match and later observed:

“There appeared, somewhat disconcerted, a tall and handsome lad with football-player shoulders.”

Asked by Cavett what he would have liked to become had he not excelled in chess, Fischer replied, “Something in sports.”

Shelby Lyman is a Basic Chess Features columnist.


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