Bobby Fischer playing 50 opponents simultaneously at his Hollywood hotel

Bobby Fischer, playing 50 opponents simultaneously at his Hollywood hotel on 12 April 1964 (1)

He won 47, lost 1 and drew 2. Fischer was an American chess prodigy, grandmaster, and the eleventh World Chess Champion. He is considered by many to be the greatest chess player who ever lived. He lost to Donn Rogosin, not a well-known player. Fischer was 21 in this picture.

He is playing white, that’s a big advantage in high-level chess. You can choose an opening that you know well and your opponent doesn’t know well. Basically, you get decide which direction the game’s going to go for the first few turns. Openings are by the book so to speak, but there are variations and choices you can make. This is especially obvious in gambit style openings where you offer to sacrifice a piece for position, here the opponent can choose to take it or not. So there is a lot to know even if the best moves in a given position are known.
But grand masters will know most of these of course and a lot of preparation goes into finding answers to the opening you expect from your opponent.

After only 4 moves, there are already millions of possible openings. Not all of these openings would be viable or “good moves”. There are a lot of openings that have been discovered and masters of the game would know a lot of those. There are some variations that are more common than others, and those have been logged as ‘book lines’ far past a typical opening sequences. The great thing about chess is there are so many ways to create an entirely unique game for yourself each time. Strategies and patterns often repeat, but positions are rarely equal.

Bobby Fischer started way early, like before he was 10 yrs old. He also had a very unique childhood. Not better than anyone else but just different. These kind of circumstances matter a lot. He also was extremely introvert and eccentric. Chess needs a lot of alone time spent thinking on the zillion ways of making chess moves. He was a genius but his fanatic interest in chess and the countless hours he spent analyzing hundreds of chess games allowed him to do what he is doing in the photo. There is a reason why only there are very few people who turn up like the way he did. It’s a matter of chance, luck and huge amount of hard work.

Great quote from Peter Biyiasas, a champion he beat:

He was too good. There was no use in playing him. It wasn’t interesting. I was getting beaten, and it wasn’t clear to me why. It wasn’t like I made this mistake or that mistake. It was like I was being gradually outplayed, from the start. He wasn’t taking any time to think. The most depressing thing about it is that I wasn’t even getting out of the middle game to an endgame. I don’t ever remember an endgame. He honestly believes there is no one for him to play, no one worthy of him. I played him, and I can attest to that. It’s not interesting.

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