(2012, with updates)
No discussion of My 61 Memorable Games has previously appeared in C.N., but we have now acquired a copy of the book. The issue of authenticity has been widely debated, with much assertion, guess-work and vituperation expressed by various individuals (whether or not they have actually seen the book). For our part, we shall aim for a serene, objective approach, and the present introductory item therefore mainly comprises a factual overview of the book.
It is a 753-page paperback described, opposite the title page, as ‘Second Printing’, with the additional information ‘ISBN 0-9666673-0-1’ and ‘Printed in Iceland’. No publisher or editor is named; nor is there a date of publication. The contents are as follows:
‘To those of you who take out the 1969 version of the book, and compare it line for line with this one so that you can triumphantly point out minute differences: Get a life! [The last three words are in bold type and underlined.]
We know that there are differences in the text. We know that there are differences in the annotations. Whereas the 1969 version has curt remarks such as “But by now I felt there was more in the offing” (page 17), in this modern version, you’ll actually read a proper English sentence in its place.’
Various ‘errors’ in the earlier version are mentioned, and on pages vi-vii Larry Evans’ introductions are criticized, e.g. on account of their prose style and punctuation. (On the subject of Evans, we note that his article about the book on pages 5-8 of the March 2008 CHESS was illustrated by a sample page that he had been sent (concerning the first game, Fischer v Sherwin). For reasons yet to be explained, the text varies slightly from what appears in the book in our possession, and the figurine symbols in the notation are in a different style. Evans also referred to ‘a 12-page foreword’, supposedly penned by Fischer, with the errors ‘United Bank of Switzerland’ and ‘Borris Spassky’. In the book we have received, the (one-page) Preface has Union and Boris.)
‘We are also aware of the debacle governing the “Batsford remake” of 1995. We did not fall into the trap of “arbitrary editing” as more than one reviewer had pointed out regarding the mess that Batsford created. Our edits were necessary for the overall improvement of the book. [The preceding sentence is underlined.] The revised annotations are Fischer’s and do not belong to anybody else.
We stand by this edition of the book as the best version that we could possibly create under the supervision and authorization of Bobby Fischer. Bobby has seen, commented on, and approved every page of this book. [This paragraph appears in bold type.]
Bobby says that anyone who claims this book is not an improvement over the 1969 edition can just “Go to hell.”.’
‘As I see it, there are two main detractors hurting the chess world right now.
1. The game.
2. The politics.’
This preliminary C.N. item concludes by showing a complete page of My 61 Memorable Games, and it is natural for us to pick the finish to the Fischer v Bolbochán game discussed in Fischer’s Fury (i.e. the affair of the forced mate containing an illegal move). This occasions a major surprise because the original Fischer note ‘incorrectly corrected’ by the 1995 Batsford edition is simply absent from My 61 Memorable Games. Moreover, Fischer’s annotation ‘The coup de grâce’ in the 1969 book, concerning his move 35 Qb3, has been transferred to after Black’s reply, 35...Rxf4.
Additions will be made from time to time. The intention is to build up a solid factual basis for assessing the book’s authenticity.
Below we show how My 61 Memorable Games handles two matters referred to in the Fischer Mysteries article:
Game 26 (Fischer v Reshevsky): On page 305 the ambiguous ‘Right, Mr Thomas!’ observation has been amended, and there is additional commentary:
Game 34 (Bertok v Fischer): After 8...Nxd5 the following note is added on page 387 of My 61 Memorable Games:
‘There was a mistake in My 60 Memorable Games at this point, which listed: “Inferior here is 8...exd5 9 Bd3 O-O” and, clearly, Black has castled already. This was supposed to be White’s 10th move since Black’s 9th move was missing.’
In the annotations to the extra game (Fischer v Spassky, first match-game, Sveti Stefan, 1992), the bottom of page 735 of My 61 Memorable Games has this:
Targeting the b5 Pawn of course. There is no shorter path to Black’s demise. And now for an entertaining comment:
“In my opinion, 27 Nd2! with the same idea was also good.”
– (Weinstein, Volume IV, page 486)’
The following page in full:
On the following page, after 31...Bxd5, the book states:
‘I wonder why nobody ever mentioned 31...Nf6 as a serious alternative in any notes I have ever seen on this game? Can’t this Knight ever go after the d5 Pawn?’
The game-score on page 486 of the fourth Kasparov volume has ‘31 Bc2 Bxd5 (31...Nf6!?)’.
We are adding material to the feature article as often as possible, with the aim of giving readers a well-rounded overview of the book.
The drawn game Botvinnik v Fischer, Varna Olympiad, 1962 appears on pages 448-481, with much new material, including an assault on ‘the Weinstein “schoolboy analysis” that Botvinnik had the gall to publish way back when’ (page 480).
And from page 476:
‘You have to put things in perspective. “Way back when”, my original plan was to sell a book with my 50 favorite games, with no notes at all! The project evolved over time, especially with the nearly unlimited hard work of Larry Evans. I added two more games, bringing the count to 52, and by this time notes and analysis were planned for as well. Finally, 60 games were included, but I wanted to back out of the deal. My skewed view of the “end of the world” being quite near (why else would I give away my secrets!) was what finally resulted in 1969’s My 60 Memorable Games.’
It should be noted that My 61 Memorable Games freely re-writes Evans’ introductions. The textual changes are vastly more extensive than what Batsford did to Fischer’s prose in the 1995 volume.
Four full sample pages:
A point of detail regarding the above page: the preferred spelling ‘supersedes’ is on page 19 of the 1969 book. The page below comes from later in the same game:
On page 15 there is another reference to ‘Weinstein’ in an annotation, followed by this:
‘Editors’ note: Bobby refers to Garry Kasparov as “Weinstein”, which was the name Garry had at birth before changing it later in life.’
A rare instance of Kasparov receiving positive treatment comes on page 78 of My 61 Memorable Games, regarding 26 Qf5 in Game 8 (Fischer v Keres):
‘I’ll give Weinstein credit for finding 26 Bf4! here and calling me on the unnecessary retreat. You need calm nerves to play such a move, and my heart was pounding! I didn’t like the looks of ...Be6 forcing me to the Queenside but White is perfectly safe with Qc6 in that case.’
This relates to a note on page 233 of the ‘Predecessors’ work, volume four, which described 26 Qf5 as ‘An error not noticed by anyone’.
In a note to Black’s sixth move in Game 13, Fischer wrote on page 87 of My 60 Memorable Games:
‘Recently in a skittles game someone tried 6...P-KN3!? against me.’
On page 138 of My 61 Memorable Games the note reads:
‘In 1969 during a skittles game someone tried 6...g6!? against me.’
Regarding the addition of ‘1969’ it may be mentioned here that My 60 Memorable Games was published in the early months of that year. See, for instance, page 150 of the April 1969 Chess Life.
Two further illustrative pages:
The page below, from Game 7 (Ólafsson v Fischer), has been selected because of the reference to 21...Ng5 in the note to White’s 21st move:
Two more pages:
Below are the last two pages of notes (from a total of seven pages) to Fischer’s 17-move win with the Evans Gambit against Reuben Fine (New York, 1963):
We add an historical aside on this game. Reviewing My 60 Memorable Games on pages 235-236 of the June 1969 Chess Life, Burt Hochberg commented:
‘Also included is a skittles game played against Reuben Fine, certainly an unexpected game in such a “serious” collection. But only a purist (or a fool) would cavil at the inclusion of any game of Fischer’s choosing. If you don’t want to see Fischer crush Fine with an Evans Gambit, go ahead and be a purist.’
For his part, Fine wrote on pages 40-41 of his book Bobby Fischer’s Conquest of the World’s Chess Championship (New York, 1973):
‘My contacts with Bobby were rare and superficial. Once we met by accident in a chess club, and played some offhand games. To my surprise they were recorded by someone present, and Bobby even reprinted one in his book My Sixty Memorable Games. To record offhand games is unheard-of in modern times; the last one who did so, significantly, was Morphy. In the official record of all his games, recently published, this game was not included. To the best of my memory the over-all score was slightly in his favor.’
As is doubtless inevitable in such a book, My 61 Memorable Games has a few typographical errors, such as ‘Winawaer’ on page 275, ‘Botivinnik’ on page 469, ‘Detsche’ on page 534 and ‘Emmanuel’ Lasker on page 653. It is therefore all the stranger to find the following passage on page 591, after the introduction to Game 51 (Fischer v Smyslov):
‘For the “purists” out there, in the opening introduction section of My 60 Memorable Games, on page 311, Evans had written:
“... the defensive task eventually proves too graet ...”
You will notice “great” was spelled incorrectly.’
This all seems particularly heavy-handed and redundant given that in rewriting Evans’ introduction My 61 Memorable Games has in any case deleted the word graet/great.
Below are two further pages concerning the 61st game (Fischer v Spassky, Sveti Stefan, 1992):
Two pages from Fischer v Geller, Skopje, 1967:
Noting that the back-cover blurb of My 61 Memorable Games states that the book is ‘packed with unpublished photos’, Sean Robinson (Tacoma, WA, USA) asks for information about them.
Below is a complete list of the pictures and captions:
Via Frederic Friedel (Hamburg, Germany) we learn that Garðar Sverrisson, who may be regarded as Fischer’s closest confidant in Iceland, states that Fischer would never have considered bringing out a book such as My 61 Memorable Games without consulting him. Mr Sverrisson writes:
‘When I told Bobby about the forgery in early December 2007 he just became sad and disappointed, exactly as he used to react when he learned about slander or a similar betrayal. At that time his health was deteriorating, and we had other things to worry about than who might be behind this book.
When we discussed the possibility of having My 60 Memorable Games republished he was very much against using any improvements of his own or others (including computers). And changing the notation from the descriptive to the algebraic was out of the question.
We never saw My 61 Memorable Games, and I still have not seen it.’
From pages 295-296 (game 26, Fischer v Reshevsky, 1961):
Larry Evans wrote a great deal about My 61 Memorable Games, a 753-page paperback whose provenance is still unknown, but we are aware of no evidence that he ever saw the book.
At our request, Aðalsteinn Thorarensen (Reykjavik) has kindly provided an English translation of a paragraph about My 61 Memorable Games on pages 168-169 of the new book mentioned in C.N. 9568, Yfir farinn veg með Bobby Fischer by Garðar Sverrisson (Reykjavik, 2015):
‘Some time after he came home [from hospital] we became aware of a new book in circulation, My 61 Memorable Games, which was claimed to be by Bobby. The book supposedly contained the 60 games that he had selected and annotated in his book My 60 Memorable Games with the addition of one game from his match against Spassky in 1992. Every time he had discussed the possibility of re-issuing this book [My 60 Memorable Games] he had been opposed to my idea of publishing it with revised annotations by himself and others, which I was convinced would make the book even more valuable. To Bobby, it was more important that the original sources should be preserved in their original form. To meddle with the text of an already published book was so ridiculous to him that I doubt whether he would have agreed to correct even obvious spelling mistakes, if found. My 60 Memorable Games was no less dear to him than many of his victories in chess. He was therefore very sad when I brought him the news of that counterfeit publication, which, we discovered later, had been illustrated with the Icelandic flag and photographs taken for private use by Icelanders with whom he was no longer associated.’
C.N. 11654 reported that an English translation of Sverrisson’s book had been published: Bobby Fischer The Final Years (Reykjavik, 2019).
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Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.