Sammy Reshevsky vs. Bobby Fischer
New York/Los Angeles, July-August, 1961


           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3
Reshevsky  1 0   0  1     1 1  7
Fischer    0 1   1  0     0 0  5


See the Games of the Match!

  • This was an (apparently) non-title match played in 1961. It was supposed to be for 16 games, but Fischer forfeited Game 12 over a scheduling dispute, and withdrew from the match, and resigned it in protest.

  • This is one of two (apparently non-title) instances in which Reshevsky defeated a reigning US Champion in a set match without becoming champion. He also defeated Bisguier in a 10 game match in 1957.

  • It's difficult to get information about this match. As one that Fischer lost, it's not talked about very often, and even when it is, what happened in the 12th game is almost always edited from the record. But from what I've been able to gather, this is what happened:

    The match was tied after 11 games. The 12th game was scheduled for a Saturday, but was pushed forward to Sunday afternoon, due to Reshevsky's unwillingness to play on the Sabbath (a practice later adopted by Fischer himself). Since Reshevsky has always been an Orthodox Jew, don't ask me why the game had ever been scheduled for a Saturday in the first place.

    However, Mrs. Gregor Piatigorsky, one of the sponsors of the match, had a Sunday afternoon commitment that she didn't want to miss, and so intervened to have the game scheduled for Sunday morning instead of Sunday afternoon. Reshevsky agreed to play then, Fischer didn't want to, and so sat in his hotel room as his clock ran out, deliberately forfeiting the game, much as he did in the second game of his 1972 match with Spassky, and in his game against Aivar Gipslis from the 1967 Interzonal.

    As in 1972 Fischer tried to get the game replayed, and as in 1972 he failed, because only Viktor Korchnoi is so insanely chivalrous as to give back a forfeit (as he did with Game 12 of his 1977 Candidates Final, and also with his entire 1983 match with Kasparov, which he had initially won by forfeit). The US Chess Federation insisted on continuing the match with the 13th game, and that's when Fischer not only walked out, but sued both the USCF and Reshevsky (!) in a suit that knocked around the courts for years before evaporating.

    As for blame, there seems to be plenty to go around. It does seem rather heavy-handed of one of the match sponsors to force a schedule change on the players, simply for her own personal benefit. On the other hand, Fischer, as usual, chose the worst possible way of dealing with the situation, forfeiting both game and match, losing sight of the real goal of demonstrating a superiority over Reshevsky to get sidetracked on some less important one (similar to what he did by refusing to play in the 1969 US Championship). Losing the match certainly achieved nothing,

  • Another account of this match, from Ralph Ginzburg's 1962 Harper's article on Fischer:

    In a second highly publicized incident, just last summer, Bobby forfeited a sixteen- game, cross-country match to Reshevsky, because the twelfth game of the series was set for 11:00 A.M., an hour that Bobby regarded as uncivil for playing chess. Explaining this to me, he said that the match had originally been scheduled for play at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles on Sunday, August 13, at 1:30 in the afternoon. At ten that morning, he received a phone call from the referee of the game saying that playing time had been moved up to eleven. This, he said, was to accommodate the wishes of the principal patron of the series, Mrs. Jacqueline Piatigorsky, who wanted to be sure the game would be over in time for her to attend a concert to be given that night by her husband, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. Bobby refused to play at that early hour and cited a clause in his playing contract which stated that playing time had to be acceptable to him. When Bobby failed to show up, the Los Angeles referee announced the game a forfeiture in favor of Reshevsky. The score of the series up to then had been tied at 5 1/2 games each. The forfeiture put Reshevsky ahead, 6 1/2 to 5 1/2.

    The next game was to be played in New York four days later. Fischer refused to continue the series unless the forfeiture were first overruled. No one at the New York offices of the American Chess Foundation, sponsor of the series, was in favor of the decision of the Los Angeles referee and it was almost certain that in due time the forfeiture would be overruled. But Chess Foundation officials resented a threat to quit. "Fischer is holding a gun to our heads," the president, Walter Fried, told the New York Times.

    When playing time for the thirteenth game arrived, the Chess Foundation had not yet overruled the forfeiture and Fischer did not show up for the game. The entire series was then declared a victory by default for Reshevsky and the trophy and prize money were awarded him. "There was no other course we could take consistent with our responsibility and our self respect," Fried said later. Bobby told me that in each of these cases he was merely "defending" his "principles." It is this rigid adherence to principle-to the point of self destruction-that seems to characterize almost all of his difficulties.


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