Bobby Fischer Played Tennis

Bobby Fischer was a World Chess Champion who stood out as an eccentric genius in a field full of eccentric geniuses. As portrayed in the movie Pawn Sacrifice, he walked out of a chess match complaining about the lighting, ransacked his own hotel rooms looking for bugging devices, thought the Russians were watching him through his TV and believed the US government was listening to him through (wait for it) his dental fillings. Though his mother was Jewish, he was vocally anti-Semitic, holding to many conspiracy theories about Jews.

He was

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also an astounding chess innovator in a traditional realm. He learned Russian so he could study the best Russian books and journals about chess. He studied games and strategies of the previous century when others had discarded them as hopelessly antiquated. He devised a new kind of chess clock and a variation to the game called Fischer Random Chess.

His chess play itself was also innovative and risky. He played all out to win when the strategy of many grand masters was to settle for draws. His forceful end-game tactics often won him games that many considered to be inevitable ties.

One reason for this success was due to yet another Fischer innovation. His end games were so effective because he could push forward relentlessly and creatively even at the end of an exhausting four- or five-hour match when his opponent lost concentration. How did he manage this? He played tennis.

During

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his famous World Chess Championship match with Boris Spassky in 1972, he would play tennis on off days. Throughout his career he would swim, lift weights or engage in other exercise while his opponents didn’t. He knew that to be in shape mentally he had to be in shape physically. To do his best in chess, his whole body had to be fit. Forty years later science has caught up and proven him right.

Writers, editors and others who sit and use their brains in concentrated work for four or five hours at a time, should take a tip from the Grandmaster if they want to stay at the top of their game. For over thirty years I have run regularly, three to five miles several times a week. I am convinced it is something that not only kept me healthy but enhanced my creativity and kept my thinking sharp.

Fischer was an eccentric (ok, paranoid) chess master. But he was also right about tennis.

5 responses to “Bobby Fischer Played Tennis”

  1. Andy,
    Really fun post and it was fun to learn about this aspect of BF. And about you, I knew about the running but I didn’t know about the reason behind the exercise. Right now I am thinking about how to keep this work, play, and running gig all going when age is causing weight gains and slowing me down. So thank you and keep up the good work on the blogs, Roy

  2. Roy–Slowing down! I don’t know any way to stop that. First it was 6-minute miles, then I was happy with 8-minute miles and now 10-minute miles. But, at least, I’m still doing the miles! And yes, weight gain–it usually takes me till September to get rid of my winter fat! Gork!

  3. Andy,

    You are singing my song! I have been convinced about the mental and emotional benefits of exercise (not to mention the physical benefits) ever since I read “Spark” by John J. Ratey. The book outlines lots of ways that vigorous exercise increases energy and performance in every part of our bodies. It’s a very interesting read! http://smile.amazon.com/dp/0316113514

    I’m a runner, too, but I’ve never even been close to a 6-minute mile! I feel extremely happy if I get below 10. Still, I keep on plugging along!

    🙂 ann