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- Pal Benko, 1928-12222
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He was expelled from a public school in Manhattan when he kicked the principal, and he dropped out of high school. In contrast to this disinterest in school, Bobby developed an intense focus on chess.
In fact, to say Bobby became obsessed with chess would be a wild understatement. During Bobby's childhood and early adolescence, Regina consulted with, or had Bobby meet directly, three different mental health professionals. According to Brady, Regina spoke with Ariel Mengarini, a New York City psychiatrist and chess master , about curbing her son's "chess obsession," and Mengarini responded: "I could think of a lot worse things than chess that a person could devote himself to and World-renowned chess grandmaster and psychoanalyst Dr.
S junior championship at the age of In order to maintain a relationship with him, I had to win, which I did. My family remembers how furious he was after each encounter, muttering that I was 'lucky. As soon as school was mentioned, he became furious, screamed, 'You have tricked me,' and promptly walked out. For years afterward, whenever I met him in clubs or tournaments he gave me angry looks, as though I had done him some immeasurable harm by trying to get a little closer to him. This exaggerated, perhaps paranoid reaction to Fine's overture reflects a pattern in Bobby Fischer's interpersonal style that would be a hallmark of both his adolescent and adult behavior.
But according to the recollections of both Brady and Fischer's brother-in-law, Russell Targ , Bobby never engaged in long-term psychotherapy with any mental health professional. As Bobby grew into adolescence, he clashed with his mother frequently and directly. According to BBC journalists David Edmonds and John Eidinow , who wrote a book about Fischer, eventually Bobby and Regina could no longer live together, and in the fall of , when Bobby was 17, she moved out of their Brooklyn apartment to live with a female friend in the Bronx.
In an interview with journalist Ralph Ginzburg in August , Bobby discussed the circumstances of his break from his mother.
Fischer: "She and I just don't see eye to eye together. She's a square. She keeps telling me that I'm too interested in chess, that I should get friends outside of chess, you can't make a living from chess, that I should finish high school and all that nonsense. She keeps in my hair, and I don't like people in my hair, you know, so I had to get rid of her. This "break" was, in fact, anything but permanent or complete; Fischer and his mother would have an on-and-off relationship throughout his life.
Interestingly, as Bobby lay critically ill in a Reykjavik hospital, he was thinking of his mother, his brother-in-law wrote in his autobiography, Do You See What I See?
Recovery Model Shows Promise in Helping Mentally Ill
According to Brady, the Fischer biographer, his mother was a concerned and devoted parent but could be domineering. It was clear she was highly talented, well educated and multilingual; in fact, after her children were on their own, Regina returned to Germany to finish medical school, earning both a medical degree and an eventual doctorate in hematology. But raising Joan and Bobby as a single immigrant parent in the s and s was challenging, and Regina was constantly short of money. But this arrangement fell through, the foster mother asking Regina to take Joan back. Interestingly, the foster mother became suspicious of Regina, having seen chemical formulas on documents that she had left among her daughter's belongings, and reported her to the FBI, which in began surveillance that would last three decades.
It is not surprising that the FBI would investigate the foster mother's report about the chemical formulas.
Pal Benko, 1928-12222
It was early in the Cold War, and Bobby's mother and presumed father at the time, Hans Gerhardt Fischer, had lived in Russia for an extended period of time; both had high-level scientific training. But they do shed light on the unusual psychology and behavior of the mother of America's greatest chess prodigy. According to various entries in the FBI reports, eventually made public by journalists and biographers, Regina was bright and articulate but difficult to deal with. Soon after Bobby's birth, Regina received a mandated mental health evaluation after being arrested for disturbing the peace in an incident that occurred when Regina and baby Bobby lived at a Chicago charity for indigent single mothers, the Hackett Memorial Home.
After Joan's foster arrangement fell through, Regina tried to sneak her into the facility, even though she'd been told there was no room for another child. In its evaluation, the Chicago-based Municipal Psychiatric Institute diagnosed Regina as a "stilted paranoid personality, querulent [sic] but not psychotic. According to FBI reports, the bureau, at one point, felt it had exhausted the usefulness of clandestine surveillance of Regina, noting, "It appears the only logical investigation remaining would be an interview of the subject, but due to her mental instability, this line of action is not recommended.
Regina Fischer had ambivalent feelings toward her son's chess career. Early on, she encouraged Bobby to broaden his interest and friendship base beyond chess. As Bobby's genius for chess became more apparent, however, Regina did all she could to support his passion. She was often involved in protests and demonstrations relating to Bobby's chess career and U. In , for example, she picketed the White House because the State Department refused the national chess team's request to play in the Chess Olympiad in East Germany.
Interestingly, the person now alive who knew Regina and Bobby best, her son-in-law Russell Targ, remarked to me that "Bobby would never have become world champion without Regina. Regina Fischer died of cancer in at the age of 84 in Palo Alto, Calif. Bobby's older sister Joan died of a cerebral hemorrhage a year later. These two losses, coming so close in time, would have a significant impact on Bobby's developing psychological state. With Regina's death, her page FBI file became publicly available.
The first to read it were former Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Peter Nicholas and Clea Benson , and their investigative research is groundbreaking. A critical finding gleaned from the FBI report concerns the identity of Bobby's biological father. Though we cannot be percent certain without genetic testing, there is a plethora of convincing documentary evidence — from the FBI file and from elsewhere — that Paul Felix Nemenyi, rather than Hans Gerhardt Fischer, was Bobby's biological father.
At what point Bobby came to know the truth about his father is unclear. Suffice it to say, whether or when Bobby learned of his biological father's identity would also have implications for his sense of identity and psychological development. From early childhood, Bobby Fischer was fiercely independent, eccentric and lacking in conventional social skills. Contemporaries often felt his conduct went beyond mere eccentricity.
In his book on Fischer, psychoanalyst Reuben Fine reflected that for many years "chess players approached me with the request to try to help Bobby out of his personal problems. In spite of his genius, he was socially awkward, provocative, argumentative and unhappy. Bobby's inner turmoil and frustration would at times erupt into violence.
Mike Franett, writing for BobbyFischer. Gross reported that the bite marks were visible years after the incident. Later in his life, Bobby would also act out violently when, according to journalist Ivan Solotaroff, he assaulted a former Worldwide Church of God member who he felt had betrayed his trust. Journalists Nicholas and Benson describe a meeting at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City in the late s during which Bobby's emotional stability was discussed by the club's board of governors.
But his prickly behavior was alienating some of the wealthy sponsors whose support he would need to rise to the top," Nicholas and Benson wrote. What to do? Board members talked about finding a psychiatrist. They considered Reuben Fine, himself one of the giants of the game. Then someone raised a question: What if therapy worked?
What if treatment sapped Fischer's drive to win, depriving the United States of its first homegrown world champ? Meeting adjourned. No one, Kaufman recalls, wanted to tamper with that finely tuned brain. Grandmasters Robert Byrne and Pal Benko told Bobby directly that he should consider seeing a psychiatrist. Their comments are supported by observations of odd behavior made throughout Bobby's life.
In his New York Times obituary of Fischer, Bruce Weber noted that the chess champion made "outlandish demands on tournament directors — for special lighting, special seating, special conditions to ensure quiet. He complained that opponents were trying to poison his food, that his hotel rooms were bugged, that Russians were colluding at tournaments and prearranging draws.
He began to fear flying because he thought the Russians might hide booby traps on the plane. For his book, Searching for Bobby Fischer , which was made into a motion picture, Fred Waitzkin interviewed Gross, who shared the following memories of a fishing trip to Ensenada, Mexico: "He looked terrible Then I noticed that he was favoring his mouth, and he told me that he'd had some work done on his teeth; he'd had a dentist take all the fillings out of his mouth. I said 'Bobby, that's going to ruin your teeth.
Did you have him put plastic in the holes? I don't want anything artificial in my head. Reshevsky won the match, 11—7. The following year a rematch took place in Buenos Aires. In his long career, Reshevsky proved a formidable match player. In , he defeated I. Reshevsky lost his first match in but it was a four-game play-off match following the Amsterdam Interzonal, where he had tied for 8th—9th with the Hungarian Champion Lajos Portisch. The final spot for advancement to the Candidates Match was at stake and there was little time between the end of the Interzonal and the start of the match.
Reshevsky's earlier matches had always had a lead time of several months, which allowed him to prepare his openings, but he proved to be at a distinct disadvantage in this area against Portisch, who was a full-time chess professional and always excellent in his opening preparation. Reshevsky was quickly outplayed on the White side of the Queen's Gambit Accepted in the first game and eventually fell on time in a lost position.
In the second game, he played sharply with Black but Portisch was able to exchange the queens and a pair of rooks, thus draining much of the tension in the position. A draw by threefold repetition of position soon ensued. In his last game with White, Reshevsky had to go for broke. An Open Sicilian arose but Portisch seized the initiative on the queenside; having gained a clear advantage, he was able to translate it into a crushing kingside attack, thus winning the match and the final Candidates spot.
Once Bobby Fischer made his debut at age 14 in the US Championship with the —58 event, he dominated completely, winning on each of his eight attempts, leaving Reshevsky, the seven-time former champion, back in the chasing pack. There was little love lost between the two players, separated by a generation in age. Ahead of the Buenos Aires tournament, Reshevsky reportedly said, "I would settle for 19th place — if Fischer placed 20th.
Despite Fischer's recent meteoric rise, consensus opinion favored Reshevsky.
After eleven games and a tie score two wins apiece with seven draws , the match ended due to a scheduling dispute between Fischer and match organizer Jacqueline Piatigorsky , with Reshevsky receiving the winner's share of the prize fund. In the Sousse Interzonal , Fischer turned up 53 minutes late only seven minutes short of an automatic time forfeiture for his game with Reshevsky, and made his opening move without a word of apology. Reshevsky, who had been convinced that Fischer had withdrawn from the tournament, lost the game badly and complained furiously to the organizers.
Reshevsky also refused to play for the US team in the Chess Olympiads of , and because Fischer, as US champion, was chosen ahead of him for the top board. He did, however, finally consent to play on a lower board in , the only time the two men appeared in the same team.
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Although Reshevsky and Fischer had one of the fiercest rivalries in chess history, Fischer greatly respected the older champion, stating in the late s that he thought Reshevsky was the strongest player in the world in the mids. This was around the time when Reshevsky defeated World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik in their four-game mini-match, which was the top board of the US vs.
USSR team match held in Moscow. It was only in , in his 57th year, that he finally lost a match where he had time for extensive preparation. This was against Viktor Korchnoi in Amsterdam in the first round of the Candidates.