Saturday, July 26, 2008

Benevolence and Bobby Fischer

Jen (Ren) is a key Confucian virtue. I ran across a reference to the kindness Pal Benko showed to Bobby Fischer. Pal Benko had qualified to play in the 1970 World Chess Championship cycle while Bobby Fischer did not, because Fischer was stubborn and skipped an important chess tournament.

Yes, Bobby Fischer was not supposed to play in that series of chess matches because he did not do what was required to qualify. Pal Benko showed benevolence to Bobby Fischer, giving Fischer the spot Benko had earned. The rest is history. Fischer was already on a winning streak. He had won his last seven chess games. Fischer obliterated Mark Tiamanov 6-0, even though Tiamanov had defeated him last time they played. Next he defeated Bent Larsen 6-0. In the semifinal game, he defeated Tigran Petrosian in their 1st game.

Fischer at this point had won 20 games straight against grandmasters. Only World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz had done better with a 25 game winning streak. Fischer went on to beat ex-World Champion Petrosian and the reigning champion Boris Spassky.

Bobby Fischer became the only American to officially hold the title of World Champion of Chess, and America was swept up in a chess playing frenzy, because of Benko's benevolence to Bobby.


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