Robert James (Bobby) Fischer was born on this day in 1943, and is considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time.
Fischer became the youngest grandmaster in the world at age 15, and in 1962 won the American Championship with a perfect 11/11 score. In 1972 he defeated Boris Spassky to win the World Championship in one of the most celebrated competitions of all time, held in Reykjavik, Iceland.
A controversial figure, Fischer refused to defend his title in 1975 against Anatoly Karpov. Karpov became world champion by default, and Fischer largely dropped out of public life until 1992, when he played a rematch against Spassky in Yugoslavia, which was under a UN embargo at the time. This led to the United States issuing a warrant for his arrest. Ultimately, Fischer was granted Icelandic citizenship, and lived in Iceland, the site of his greatest triumph, until his death in 2008 at the age of 64.
Fischer’s contributions to chess cannot be understated. Aside from his fantastic games, Fischer brought two major innovations to chess. He patented a clock which would add time after every move, the so-called increment. Today, increments are used in almost every tournament.
Fischer’s other great contribution to the game was Fischer Random Chess, now usually called Chess960. Through this chess variation, Fischer sought to remove the reliance on memorization of chess openings that had come to dominate chess at the highest levels.
While there are countless fantastic games that Fischer is rightly known for, we have chosen to feature his early brilliancy, known as the Game of the Century. In 1956, at the age of 13, Fischer defeated the American champion Donald Byrne, in one of the most incredible games of chess ever played.