Bobby Fischer (1972 World Chess Champion) On Why Chess is a Lousy Game and How to Save It

[Transcript of: Bobby Fischer on Paul Morphy and how opening theory destroyed chess]


Interviewer: As a Grandmaster in Iceland, according to law, you are entitled to a salary. Every Icelandic Grandmaster is being payed salaries, provided that you do some teaching in Chess and possibly play for Iceland…

Bobby Fischer: No, no, no… No, I hate Chess very much. I don’t need the money, I don’t need it. I’ll skip… I hate Chess, I hate Chess.

Interviewer: So you are not planning on claiming the Grandmaster salary?

Bobby: No, no, no, no, no, no.

Interviewer: Why do you hate Chess? Being the be… probably, possibly, the best Chess player ever?

Bobby: Because I know what Chess is all about! It’s all about memorization. It’s all about pre-arrangement…

Interviewer: But creativity?

Bobby: Creativity is lower down on the list. The old Chess is… you are banging your head against the wall with this theory… where you are, you know, trying to find some little improvement on move 18 or 20… it’s ridiculous! It gets harder and harder and harder, and you need more and more computers, and more and more people working for you… and less and less creativity. It’s ridiculous! Why? Why?

Interviewer: But you did, I mean, you became a World Champion [based on your] creativity, no?

Bobby: First of all, it’s a long time ago since I played the first match with Spassky… and even the second match was 13 years ago… and Chess in just the last few years has changed dramatically with all of this computer stuff. But really, if you analyze Chess objectively… very, very objectively, it’s been a lousy game going back even to the time of Morphy. There was a lot of book!

Interviewer: But there is still a place for talent and creativity. It isn’t all pre-arrangement, all theory, all…

Bobby: No, not all, not all, I agree. But why do you want to get involved with something that is mainly rote learning and pre-arrangements? Obviously it’s not all… you know, that. But creativity is like maybe number 3 on the list. The first is pre-arrangement, and then memorization, and then comes creativity.

Interviewer: As opposed to… Fischer Random [Chess960]? Then you sort of put creativity first?

Bobby: Right… right. Let me explain something about Fischer Random. I’ve never made any claims that this is the best thing since puffed wheat, or whatever.

Bobby (cont.): I never made any claims saying this is perfect. What I say is: it’s much better than the old Chess. Now, for example, let’s say you could have a million Chess-like games, right? Maybe a million, ten million of them would be better than Fischer Random. But the point about Fischer Random is that it’s basically the same as the old Chess, except that you get rid of the theory, and it’s very easy to remember the rules. That’s my point, you see? I was just looking at a book Sam just gave me. This book about Capablanca. Capablanca had a very interesting game that he proposed. It was 10X10 or something [sic; an earlier version was 10X10 but then it became 8X10]… and it had two Kings [sic] and extra pieces… and you can win the game by mating either of your opponent’s Kings… and it looked like a very creative game, and maybe much better than Fischer Random, but it looks very intimidating. Even for me, right? Top Chess player. Very intimidating. All these extra pieces, huge board, two Kings… and if it intimidates me, it will intimidate the average person much more.

Capablanca Chess

Bobby (cont.): So there are a lot of games that you can come up with that have practical defects. Not creative defects. But just defects in terms of discouraging people to learn them. You see? That’s my point about Fischer Random. You can learn Fischer Random in 10 seconds, practically. So there is no impediment: you have the same pieces, the same board, all you have to do is get a little electronic shuffler, and in one second you have a position. But of course you could create more creative games than Fischer Random. Maybe, you know, an extra piece, a bigger board, and all kind of things. But my idea… people think I’m abandoning Chess. I’m not! I’m trying to keep it alive. It’s just the reverse! I’m not coming up with anything radical at all.

Interviewer: I asked two Icelandic Grandmasters the other day: “who is the best Chess player ever, in the history of Chess?” And they both contemplated and I asked them, objectively speaking, and they both said “Bobby Fischer is the best Chess player ever”. Do you agree with that assessment?

Bobby: I want to get back to Fischer Random.

Interviewer: Don’t want to answer this one? Are you the best player ever?

Bobby: Well… obviously I think so, right?

Interviewer: Yeah, I mean you beat Larsen 6-0. Nobody has…

Bobby: First of all, you have to understand something about Chess. Of course I’m better than Morphy. Why am I better than Morphy? I don’t think I’m more talented than him. I just know much more theory, right? If he came back today, and he could not open a book, let’s say, right? He would do badly even against masters, maybe. That has nothing to do with his talent, though, right? So when you say I’m better than so-and-so that doesn’t mean anything! Because of all this theory in Chess. But if you were to say… “are you the most talented player?”, that’s something else.

Interviewer: Are you the most talented player?

Bobby: Well… again, I think so. But maybe that’s just my opinion, you know? Morphy was fantastic. Capablanca was fantastic… [end of video]


Featured Image: Fischer – Spassky World Championship Match (6) Reykjavik ISL 1972.07.23 (move 7)

One comment

  1. Dor · 9 Days Ago

    Beautiful. Thanks for posting this excerpt and linking to relevant stuff.

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