23 January 2011

'Me and Bobby Fischer' and Chess960

Before I continue with the dialog from Fischer Compares Chess960 to Puffed Wheat, let's set the scene. The video was taken during Fischer's trip from Japan to Iceland, just after his release from detention in Japan. Chessbase.com reported on the trip in a series of articles.

I've already covered the Fischer biography ENDGAME by Frank Brady in relation to chess960 (see Brady on Fischer Random). Brady also mentions the video 'Bobby Fischer and Me' (as it was called in the clip embedded in the 'Puffed Wheat' post).

Prior to Bobby's departure from Japan, [Saemi] Palsson was approached by an Icelandic filmmaker, Fridrik Gudmundsson, to do a documentary for Icelandic television about Fischer's incarceration. the fight to release him, and his escape to freedom. [...] Filming began the moment Bobby touched down in Copenhagen, with a camera in the sports vehicle that drove him, Miyoko, and Saemi to Sweden, en route to Iceland. [...] Continuing to shoot the film in Reykjavik over the next months, Gudmundsson kept trying to pin down Bobby for further interviews and increase his involvement in the project. 'What's the title of the film going to be?' Bobby asked. When he was told it was My Friend Bobby (it was eventually changed to Me and Bobby Fischer), he immediately began to question the whole endeavor. (p.310)

Now let's go back to Fischer's discussion of chess960. The dialog continues about a minute before the end of YouTube's Part 2...

I was just looking at a book Saemi gave me, a book about Capablanca. Capablanca had a very interesting game that he proposed, it was 10 by 10 or something. It had two Kings and extra pieces and you win the game by mating either of your opponent's Kings. It might be a very creative game and maybe much better than Fischer Random, but it looked very intimidating. Even for me, a top chess player, it looked very intimidating. All these extra pieces, a huge board, two Kings -- if it intimidates me I think it would intimidate the average person much more. So there are a lot of games you can come up with that have practical defects, not creative defects, but defects in terms of discouraging people to learn them.

...and flows into Part 3.

You can learn Fischer Random in five, ten seconds practically, so there is no impediment. You have the same pieces, the same board; all you have to do is get an electronic shuffler and in one second you have a position. Of course, you can create more creative games than Fischer Random: maybe an extra piece or a bigger board or all kinds of things. People think I'm anti-chess. No, I'm not anti-chess, I'm pro-chess. I'm trying to keep it alive. I'm not coming up with anything radical at all.

Asked if he was the best chess player ever,

'I want to get back to Fischer Random. [...] First you have to understand something about chess. Of course, I'm better than Morphy. Why am I better than Morphy? I don't say I have more talent than him. I just know much more theory, right? If he came back today, and he couldn't open a book (let's say), he wouldn't do badly even against masters maybe. That has nothing to do with his talent though. So when you say I'm better than someone, it doesn't mean anything, because of all this theory in chess. Now if you want to say 'am I the most talented player', that's something else.'

'Are you the most talented player?'

'I think so, but that's just my opinion. Morphy was fantastic, Capablanca was fantastic.'

'What about later World Champions? Kasparov?'

'As I say, I don't like to delve too much into the old chess, because I hate it so much. By delving into it, I'm promoting it in some way. I don't want to promote this [bleeping] game. I have only one interest in the old chess: to expose the pre-arrangement. People are living in a dream world.'

'Don't you think that's paradoxical coming from the best player that ever was?'

'Life is like that. It's not really paradoxical. Chess is basically a search for truth, right? So I'm searching for the truth. The truth is that chess is no good any more. Chess hasn't been a good game, objectively, for 150 years, since all this theory developed. It was a good game maybe 200 years ago, in the time of [Philidor].'

'So you're saying that already when you became World Champion, already by then, it was a bad game.'

'Yes, it was a bad game. On the other hand, it wasn't as bad as today. No comparison, but it was a bad game. At the time I was fired with ambition to win and I was willing to overcome all of these idiotic obstacles that block a talented person from winning. As you get older, if you don't get better, you have to get smarter. I'm much smarter now than I was then. Much, much smarter. Now I don't want to do things the hard way. Why do things the hard way when there's an easier, better way? The old chess is that you're banging your head against the wall with this theory. You're trying to find some little improvement on move 18, or 20. It's ridiculous. It gets harder and harder and harder. You need more and more computers, you need more and more people working for you.'

'And less and less talent?'

'Yes, less and less -- it's ridiculous. Why?'

'Did you gradually start to hate chess or did it come suddenly?'

'That's a good question. [Pauses] I think it came gradually, but then at a certain point I was hating it, but didn't know. I was still trying to make it work. Now I realize I was gradually hating it all along.'

The conversation turns to the 1975 match against Karpov, Fischer becomes agitated, and there is nothing more said about chess960.


HarryO said...

Thanks for those video transcriptions and links. I have read through them and watched them as well.

I'm stunned at how together Bobby is after that ordeal combined with his health issues. I'd heard the radio interviews with him after 9/11 and thought that those extravagant claims were a sign of complete failure of mind.

But I now realize that he had a very turbulent mind, and that turbulence will exhibit extreme views from time to time. But when his mind was calm, he was a total inspiration both on and off the board warts and all.

For that matter so is Palsson and all the others that were involved in getting him out!


M Winther said...

Evidently Fischer is supportive of some form of amendment of chess, not only FRC. I have made several attempts at "improvements" of standard chess. At least, they are suitable for training purposes. Please have a look here, on "My variants."
Chess variants