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Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr., 1924

February 21, 2011

Play chess the Bobby Fischer way

If you played chess in the 1970s, you wanted to play like Bobby Fischer.

The king of 64 squares became United States chess champion at age 14 and eleventh world chess champion at age 29. In 1972, he defeated reigning world champion Boris Spassky of the USSR in Reykjavík, Iceland, in what was arguably the most controversial tournament in the history of the game. The 20-game match, which was played in the shadow of the Cold War between Washington and Moscow, attracted worldwide interest.

The eccentric and reclusive American chess legend did not defend his title in 1975, though he sparred with Spassky in an unofficial rematch in the former Yugoslavia, in 1992, and won.

If Fischer was brilliant at playing chess, he was no less so in writing about it. In 1966, he wrote Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess which helps you play chess the Bobby Fischer way.

"When you finish this book, you will not be able to beat the greatest chess player the world has ever known, but you will be a much better chess player than you were," the introduction assures you.

Chess players, beginners and veterans alike, will find the common mating positions and combinations throughout the book both delightful and challenging. As Fischer notes, "Since checkmating is the object of the game, I think it is the most basic thing to learn. The checkmate is the "knockout" of chess."

You can open any page and figure out the end game, either by yourself or by playing with a worthy opponent. The going gets tough as the one-move mates gradually turn into mates of two, three, or four moves.

Help is at hand, though. Fischer gives the answer and a brief explanation to each chess conundrum on the next page. But turn the page only if you can't find the right mating move or moves.

Life magazine described Bobby Fischer, who died in 2008, as "The profoundest student of chess who ever lived!" This book proves that he was.