Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Beginners Chess by Bobby Fischer, and Bobby Fischer for Beginners

The Unknown Bobby Fischer, by John Donaldson and Eric Tangborn, Seattle 1999, is full of fascinating facts about Fischer and the final chapter, Works by and about Bobby, begins by listing six works by him. 

These include his well known books  Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess (written in collaboration with Stuart Margulies and Don Mosenfelder), My 60 Memorable Games, Chess Meets of the Century (with Dimitrije Bjelica), and the extraordinary pamphlet "I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!"

The sixth item on the list is Beginners Chess, which is in fact, a cheap plastic chess set and board with 84 pages of chess lessons, produced in 1966 by Milton Bradley the board game manufacturer from Springfield, Masachusetts. 

The teaching sheets are placed under a plastic window and by progressing through the lessons the game is gradually explained to the absolute beginner.

Only on page 75 do you get to play through the first game and this is the two-move Fool's Mate. The notation is straight out of the eighteenth century.

It is unclear how much, if anything, Fischer had to do with these lessons, it is probable that he simply endorsed the product, as stated on the accompanying leaflet, although he had presumably approved the advice given.

John Donaldson confirms:

"Everything I have read suggests he only endorsed it. Andy Soltis told me it did not sell well, coming out a few years too early."

Beginners Chess was brought out in the same year as Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess (1966) but I can see no similarities between the two, the latter work being a far more advanced course of instruction. In any event, the latest evidence indicates that Fischer had only a minor involvement with that book, see Edward Winter's Chess Notes, CN 10547. 


In 2010, New in Chess published Bobby Fischer for Beginners by Renzo Verwer,  an English translation of the original Dutch work Bobby Fischer voor beginners, Uitgeverij Aspekt 2008.

From the back cover:

This is very much a tabloid biography of Fischer with chapter headings such as Bobby Fischer was my first boyfriend. The book skims through his chess career and concentrates more on Fischer's failings and idiosyncrasies. Verwer quotes at length from the notorious interview with Ralph Ginzberg which took place in August 1961 and published in Harper's Magazine in January 1962, and which portrayed eighteen year old Fischer in a very poor light. 

The book also includes ten of Fischer's well known games, Tournament results, Statistics, Sources, and Glossary of chess terms. 


© Michael Clapham 2017

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