Bobby Fischer quotes

Here are a few Bobby Fischer quotes.

In 1951, Bobby Fischer (1943-2008) met Carmine Nigro who helped Fischer getting started in chess.  Fischer later said of Nigro, “Mr. Nigro was possibly not the best player in the world but he was a very good teacher.  Meeting him was probably a decisive factor in my going ahead in chess.”  (source: Endgame by Brady, p. 21)

Carmine Nigro was also a professional musician and gave Bobby music lessons in the early 1950s.  Nigro lent him an accordion and gave him accordion lessons.  Bobby soon was playing the accordion at school assemblies.  About a year later, Bobby gave up on the accordion.  “I did fairly well on it for a while, but chess had more attraction and the accordion was pushed aside.”  (Brady, Endgame, p. 22).

Fischer played a lot of skittles games at the Marshall Chess Club in the mid 1950s. A man once asked Fischer why he made a certain move and Fischer responded, "Please, this is a chess game. This is brain surgery. Don't ask me that."

After his trip to Havana to play chess, Fischer said, “The Cubans seem to take chess more seriously.  They feel more the way I do about chess.  Chess is like fighting, and I like to win.  So do they.” – New York, 1956

In 1956, when Fischer defeated Donald Byrne in what has been called “The Game of the Century,” at the Lessing J. Rosenwald tournament, he was asked how he did it.  He replied, “I just made the moves I thought were best.  I was just lucky.” – New York 1956

After the 1956 Lessing J. Rosenwald tournament, Fischer was asked if he wanted to continue playing chess and become one of the great players.  He said, “I could play chess all my life.  I like tournaments and would like to play in a lot of them.  As for being great, I don’t know about that.” – New York 1956

“When I was eleven, I just got good.” – New York, 1957 (source: Profile of a Prodigy by Brady, p. 1)

One day in 1957, at the Marshall Chess Club, Fischer was playing for 20 cents a game when Hans Kmoch had an appointment with the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. Kmoch wanted Fischer to show Piatigorsky his brilliant win over Donald Byrne. Fischer was interrupted and lost the skittle game to Ron Gross. Fischer angrily flipped two dimes to Gross while Kmoch tried to get Fischer to show his famous "Game of the Century." Fischer got mad and replied, "I don't care. I don't have to show anybody my games just because he is a big shot!" Fischer then stormed out of the club

In January 1958, after winning his first U.S. chess championship, his only words were directed to his mother when he said, “Let’s go home.” – New York, 1958

After winning the 1957-58 U.S. Championship, a reporter asked Fischer if he was the best player in the United States.  Fischer responded, “No.  One tournament doesn’t mean that much.  Maybe Reshevsky is better.”  - New York, 1958 (source: Endgame by Brady, p. 21)

After Fischer won his first U.S. chess championship, the world chess federation (FIDE) awarded him the title of International Master.  Fischer responded, saying, “They shouda’ made me a grandmaster.” – New York, April 1958

In 1958, when asked by a reporter in Portoroz whether Fischer was looking forward to playing the world champion, Fischer said, “Of course I would like to play Botvinnik.  But it is too early to talk about that.  One thing is certain – I am not going to be a professional chess player.” – Portoroz 1958 (source: Endgame by Brady, p. 105)

“Every chess game is like taking a five-hour final exam.” – Yugoslavia, 1958

After his first international tournament in Yugoslavia, where Fischer took 5th place, he said he distrusted reporters.  “Most reporters ask stupid questions.  What do I eat for breakfast?  That’s not important.  Why don’t they ask about chess?” he said.  He was asked if chess tournaments were fun.  He replied, “Fun?  No, a tournament’s no fun, but they’re all right.”  He was asked if he was interested in girls.  He replied, “Girls can’t play chess.”  – New York, October 1958

In 1958, someone at the Manhattan Chess Club asked Bobby what he’d do if he were invited to a state dinner while in Moscow. Where he would have to wear a tie.  Bobby responded, “If I have to wear a tie, I won’t go.” (Endgame by Brady, p. 90)

In 1958, after a visit to the Soviet Union, Fischer sent a postcard to Jack Collins, writing, “I don’t like Russian hospitality and the people themselves.  It seems they don’t like me either.” (Endgame, p. 94)

In one game at the 1958 Interzonal at Portoroz, Fischer took an early draw with Yuri Averbakh. When Larry Evans asked why Bobby agreed to a premature draw, Fischer said, "I was afraid of losing to a Russian grandmaster and he was afraid of losing to a kid." (source: Evans On Chess, July 22, 1994)

Just before his second U.S. championship, Fischer said, “Everyone is skeptical about my success, but even so, I will win!” – New York, 1958

 “I like them [Soviet chess players] a lot.  The way they play just suits me.  It’s sharp, attacking, full of fighting spirit.” – interview with a Russian reporter, New York 1958

After winning his second U.S. championship in January 1959, he said, “If I had a lot of money, I’d like to play in chess tournaments and nothing else.  But you can’t make a living in chess.” His 1st place prize was $600.  He also said that the press uses him “to make chess players look like funny people.”  He was asked about school.  He said, “I’m pretty good at Spanish, and I like science, astronomy most of all.”  - New York, January 1959

In April 1959, Fischer nearly walked out of an international chess tournament in Chile when he learned that the prize fund had been cut in half.  “More trophies don’t interest me,” he grunted.  – Chile, May 1959

“If I win a tournament, I win it by myself.  I do the playing.  Nobody helps me.  I win the tournament myself, with my own talent.” – New York, 1959

After winning his 3rd consecutive US championship, Fischer said, “Give us a few years and we’ll have the best players in the world.  We have the best young players now.” – New York, January 1960

“There’s no luck involved in chess.  You just have to work at it.” – New York, March1960

“In this tournament, I am the youngest, but also the strongest!  I want to take first place.” – Buenos Aires 1960 (Fischer tied for 13th-16th place)

When asked by a journalist when he would be playing for the world championship, Fischer replied, “Perhaps in 1963.  Why not?  Yes, I believe I will soon be world champion.” – Leipzig, 1960 (source: Endgame by Brady, p. 40)

Fischer dropped out of high school at age 16.  “I wanted to become world champion, and in this respect school couldn’t give me anything.  It is better to be one of the strongest chess players in the world than to be one of the thousands with a diploma.” (source: My Great Predecessors IV by Kasparov, p218)

“I am going to win the World Championship.  [World champion] Tal hasn’t been playing so good and he may not even be World Champion by the time the next match is held.” – from Robert Cantrell interview, 1961.  Fischer accurately predicted that Tal would not be world champion after the next world championship match.

“Give me two years and I will win it [world chess championship].” –said to Newsweek reporter, 1961

In 1961, Fischer was being drawn closer to the Worldwide Church of God.  He told an interviewer, “I split my life into two pieces.  One was where my chess career lies.  There I kept my sanity, so to speak.  And the other was my religious life.  I tried to apply what I learned in the church to my chess career, too.  But I was still studying chess.  I wasn’t just ‘trusting in God’ to give me the moves.”  (source: Endgame by Brady, p. 142)

Years later when asked about religion, Fischer said, "I read a book lately by Nietzsche and he says religion is just to dull the senses of the people. I agree."

On women chess players, he said “They can’t concentrate, they don’t have stamina, and they aren’t creative.  They are all fish.”  - New York 1961

In a 1961 interview with Ralph Ginzburg, Fischer said, "My two and a half years in Erasmus High I wasted. I didn't like the whole thing. You have to mix with all those stupid kids. The teachers are even stupider than the kids. They talk down to the kids. Half of them are crazy. If they'd have let me, I would have quit before I was 16."

“A special chess table was made for me in Zurich for $100, and that is, beside my TV set, the thing I like most.  I am preparing a book which should contain my 50 best games: I’ll publish it after my match for the world title in 1963.  I devote 5 hours a day to the study of chess, more before a tournament.” Interview with Yugoslav journalist, Bled, 1962

 “I want to live the rest of my house in a house built exactly like a rook.” – Ginzburg interview, Harper’s Magazine 1962

“They're all weak, all women. They're stupid compared to men. They shouldn't play chess, you know. They're like beginners. They lose every single game against a man. There isn't a woman player in the world I can't give knight-odds to all and still beat." - Ginzburg interview, Harper’s Magazine 1962

When asked if he was better than Morphy, Steinitz, and Capablanca, Fischer responded, “Well, I don’t like to put things like that in print, it sounds so egotistical.  But to answer your question, Yes.”-  Ginzburg interview, Harper’s Magazine 1962

“The system set up by FIDE insures that there will always be a Russian world champion because only a Russian can win the preliminary tournament that determines the challenger.  The Russians arranged it that way.  I will never again play in one of these tournaments.”  Sports Illustrated, August 20, 1962

While in Curacao, Bobby visited a brothel.  When asked later how he enjoyed it, he said, “Chess is better.” – Curacao, 1962 (source: Endgame, p. 147)

During the Varna Chess Olympiad in 1962, Fischer played Botvinnik and the game was a draw.  Fischer wrote: ‘...Botvinnik could have safely resigned against me but I fell into the most obvious silly chepo (sic) you can imagine.  He looked like he was dying all through the game.  He was gasping, turning colors and looked like he was ready to [be] carried out on a stretcher.  BUT – when I blundered and he caught me in his trap he was the old Botvinnik again.  He huffed his chest out, strode away from the table as if he were a giant, etc.’ – Fischer letter to Bernard Zuckerman, 1962

“I lend stature to any tournament I attend.” – as told to Frank Brady, 1963

“Any player, no matter how strong he is, can overlook quite simple moves in the course of a game.  Published analysis, however, should be free from such errors.  I pride myself on the fact that I have never made a mistake in analysis.” – Chess Life, July-August, 1963

“I’ll never play in one of those rigged tournaments again.  They [the Russians] clobber us easy in team play.  But man to man, I’d take Petrosian on any time.” – Life magazine, 1964

“Chess is not a difficult game to learn.  With the help of a book or friend who knows the game you can learn the moves in about a half hour.” – Boys’ Life, December 1966

In response to a question by the Prince of Monaco as to how he learned to play chess so well, Fischer responded, “I have read probably a thousand books on chess and have taken all the best from them.” – Monaco, 1967

“I don’t recommend trying to cram a lot of long opening-move variations into your head.  The main idea behind any opening is to get a strong pawn center and give your pieces a lot of scope so that you cramp your opponent’s position and can attack weaknesses in his game.” – Boys’ Life, April 1967

“I think my subconscious mind is working on it [chess] all the time.  Even when I’m not playing or studying, I sit down at the board and get a lot of new ideas.  Things are coming to me all the time.” -1968

“I’ve never played a computer.  Eventually, though, I think a computer can become champion.  After all, it can’t be as hard as getting a man on the moon.  But I hope it doesn’t happen in my lifetime!” – Boys’ Life, August 1968

“Around the world I’m more famous than Joe Namath.  In the U.S, I’m nobody.” – 1969

“The reason that I did not play [in the U.S. championship] last year and will not play this year is the same – the tournament is too short.  I feel the tournament should be 22 rounds as it is in the Soviet Union, Hungary, Romania, and other East European countries where chess is taken seriously, rather than 11 rounds that the present U.S. Championship is.” – letter to Ed Edmondson, 1969

“I keep up a lot on chess by playing over recent masters’ games so that I know that I’m pretty well prepared and know what I’m doing even before the tournament starts.  This keeps me in an optimistic mood.  I also try to keep pretty relaxed mentally.” – Boys’ Life, August 1969

Reviewing a Russian chess book, Fischer wrote, “There is a bias running through Soviet chess literature in general; they dislike giving credit for opening innovations to foreigners.  Examples of this glaring lack of integrity are manifold.”  Chess Digest magazine 1969

In early 1970, Fischer was asked who he thought was the greatest player in the world.  He replied, “It is nice to be modest.  But it would be stupid if I did not tell the truth.  It is Fischer.” – 1970

When asked why Fischer relinquished 1st board to Larsen in the USSR vs. the Rest of the World Match, Fischer said, “I know I am a better player than Larsen, but in the 18 months of my absence from the chess scene, he has been extremely successful, so he had a moral right to the top board.”  - interview with Dmitrilje Bjelica, Zagreb 1970

“Chess attracts me mainly for the travel, the money and the chess atmosphere… I love chess, but I also have many other interests, such as music, sports, and politics… I earn my living at chess… I work constantly and try to be easy to get along with.  Everything I do is not for money, but I live off of my earnings from chess.” – Zagreb interview 1970

After the USSR vs. Rest of the World match in March-April 1970, Fischer won a car.  Fischer wanted to win the car to sell it, not keep the car.  He sold it immediately.  He said, “Last year in the United States, we had 56,000 deaths as a result of car accidents, and I decided I’d rather use buses.” (Endgame, p. 165)

“I have decided to play [in the Interzonal], although I disagree with the system of world championship competition.  I thought: what can I lose by playing?  I thought it would be important to qualify for the candidates, but I also thought, naturally, of the possibility of winning the tournament.” – Palma de Mallorca, 1970

“I win my games not with the help of some kind of spells, but much more simply; I arrive, I sit  down at the board and…I win!” – Palma de Mallorca, 1970

During the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal in November-December 1970, Mecking thought he could beat Fischer.  Fischer responded, “The gasbag.  I will lose to Mecking only if I’m bitten by a poisonous snake.” - Palma de Mallorca, 1970

“Chess is merely a means of making money and I think we can make much more money working together than we can separately.” – Fischer letter to Walter Browne, January 1971

After Fischer defeated Mark Taimanov 6-0 in May 1971, he said, “The Soviets have been putting up roadblocks for me for years, but I know I am the best.  I should have been world champion 10 years ago,” – Vancouver, British Columbia 1971

Just before the Fischer-Petrosian chess match in 1971, Fischer said, “There’s only one way to deal with the Russians – with power.  That’s all they understand.  I read Russian.  I know what they’re saying about me, the creeps.  One story called me lucky in my last match.  Yeah, I picked up the right piece by accident.”  - New York September 1971

When asked why the Russians dominate chess, Fischer replied, “They are subsidized by the government.  They keep at it.  We have a lot of talented players in this country, but for one reason or another, they just kind of fade out and lose interest.  Not much incentive.” – Dick Cavett interview 1971

“The guys who reach the top are the ones who keep at it and have the character.  They don’t get distracted by other things in life until they’ve got the title. – Dick Cavett interview 1971

When asked what his greatest pleasure in chess was, Fischer responded, “Crushing the other guy’s ego.  I like to see ‘em squirm.” – Dick Cavett interview 1971

Just before his match with Petrosian, Fischer said, “I am the best player in the world, and I am here to prove it.  I have waited 10 years for this moment, but I was hindered by Russian maneuvers.” Buenos Aires, 1971

“The Russians are really going to be in for it when I win the title” – 1971

I'll play a lot, stake matches. Not like the Russians. They win the championship and then hide for three years. Every few months, anyway twice a year, I'd like to get up a purse and meet a challenger. It's good for the game, keeps up interest in chess, and it's good for the bank account. I want to get some money together. Like take professional football. All these athletes making hundreds of thousands of dollars. Contracts, endorsements. If there's room for all of them, there ought to be room for one of me. I mean, after all, I'm a great goodwill ambassador for the United States! –  Brad Darrach interview for Life Magazine

“I am the best player in the world, and I am here to prove it.” -  Ken Smith’s Chess Digest Magazine, 1971

“I’m not afraid of Spassky.  The world knows I’m the best.  You don’t need a match to prove it.” –Bill Lombardy interview, 1972

“I don’t want anybody to make money out of me!” – New York, 1972

Fischer was asked if he liked to beat another man.  He responded, “Yes I do.  I like the moment when I crush another man’s ego.  When they go home at night, they can’t kid themselves they are so hot… I don’t care two cents for Spassky.  He is just another guy...  He is not much of a champion.  He’s the best they got.  Big deal.” – 60 Minutes interview April, 1972

“People have been calling me arrogant for many years, but lately they haven’t been calling me arrogant. Why?  Because I have been winning all these matches and doing what I have always said I was.” – 60 Minutes interview April, 1972

“I really love the dark of the night.  It helps me concentrate.” – Darrach interview, Life magazine May 1972

“I don’t believe in psychology – I believe in good moves.” – Washington Post interview, 1972

“If I wanted personal gain, I wouldn’t be thinking of chess.  I would be in the stock market.” – BBC interview 1972

On the eve of the Fischer-Spassky world championship match, Fischer said, “They always suggest that the world leaders should fight it out hand to hand.  And that is the kind of thing we are doing – not with bombs but battling it out over the board. “ – interview with BBC science correspondent James Burke 1972

“If Spassky were not a Russian citizen, we’d probably be friends.” – Reykjavik 1972

“I want to play a lot of chess and I like to play matches.  I want to play a lot of matches, you know; the money is there.  It’s a question of money, not a question of waiting three years.” – Gligoric interview after winning the world championship, Reykjavik 1972

“I want to be world champion.  I have achieved it, now I don’t know what to do.” – 1973

In August, 1973, Bobby Fischer gave a press conference in Beverly Hills with Stanley Rader, the chief counsel for the Worldwide Church of God by his side.  Fischer was planning a series of simultaneous exhibitions and matches for 1974.  He was also planning to play the Dutch Olympic team simultaneously and a tour of the Soviet Union and South America.  When reporters asked Bobby what he had been doing for the past year, Fischer responded, “Well, uh, I’ve been reading, working out, playing over some games, that sort of thing.”  (Endgame, p. 207)

When asked why draws shouldn’t count in a match, Fischer wrote, “The whole idea is to make sure the players draw blood by winning games, and the spectators get their money’s worth.  And the most importantly as an accurate test of who is the world’s best player.” – letter to Larry Evans, 1974, published in Chess Life & Review

“Throughout my career I have always insisted on optimal conditions for my participation in chess competitions.  I will not compromise on this principle for the 1975 world championship match.” – Fischer’s cable to FIDE, Pasadena, 1974

“Someday computers will make us all obsolete.” – said to Larry Evans 1975

“I oppose expulsion from FIDE of any country on political basis on grounds that chess should be above politics.” – Fischer’s cable to FIDE delegates, Pasadena, 1975

“I will punish the chess world.  It will not see any more of my games.  I will not play anymore” - 1975

“Karpov, Kasparov, Korchnoi have absolutely destroyed chess by their immoral, unethical, prearranged games. These guys are really the lowest dogs around, and if people knew the truth about them, they would be held in more contempt than Ben Johnson, the runner, and they're going to know the truth when I do this book!” – Fischer Press Conference, September 1, 1992

“I love chess, and I didn’t invent Fischerandom chess to destroy chess.  I invented Fischerandom to keep chess going.  Because I consider the old chess is dying.  It really is dead.” – radio interview, June 27, 1999

“I studied that first Karpov-Kasparov match for a year and a half before I cracked it, what they were doing, and discovered that it was all prearranged move-by-move. There's no doubt of it in my mind.” – radio interview, June 27, 1999

“I object to being called a chess genius because I consider myself to be an all around genius who just happens to play chess, which is rather different. A piece of garbage like Kasparov might be called a chess genius, but he's like an idiot savant. Outside of chess he knows nothing.” – radio interview, July 6, 2001

“Look at all I've done for the US. Nobody has single-handedly done more for the US image than me, I really believe this. When I won the World Championship in '72, the United States had an image of, you know, a football country, baseball country, but nobody thought of it as an intellectual country. I turned all that around single-handedly, right? But I was useful then because there was the Cold War, right? But now I'm not useful anymore, you see, the Cold War is over, and now they want to wipe me out, steal everything I have, put me in prison, and so on.” – radio interview, Sep 11, 2001

 “…I’m finished with the old chess because it’s all just a lot of book and memorization you know.” – radio interview, Jan 27, 2002

“In chess so much depends on opening theory, so the champions before the last century did not know as much as I do and other players do about opening theory.” – radio interview, 2006

“Morphy and Capablanca had enormous talent, they are two of my favorites.   Steinitz was very great too. Alekhine was great, but I am not a big fan of his. Maybe it’s just my taste. I’ve studied his games a lot, but I much prefer Capablanca and Morphy. Alekhine had a rather heavy style, Capablanca was much more brilliant and talented, he had a real light touch. Everyone I’ve spoken to who saw Capablanca play still speak of him with awe. If you showed him any position he would instantly tell you the right move. When I used to go to the Manhattan Chess Club back in the fifties, I met a lot of old-timers there who knew Capablanca, because he used to come around to the Manhattan club in the forties — before he died in the early forties. They spoke about Capablanca with awe. I have never seen people speak about any chess player like that, before or since. Capablanca really was fantastic. But even he had his weaknesses, especially when you play over his games with his notes he would make idiotic statements like 'I played the rest of the game perfectly.' But then you play through the moves and it is not true at all. But the thing that was great about Capablanca was that he really spoke his mind, he said what he believed was true, he said what he felt. – radio interview, 2006

 “All I want to do, ever, is just play chess.”

“All that matters on the chessboard is good moves.”

“You can only get good at chess if you love the game.”

“I wanted to become world champion, and in this respect school couldn’t give me anything…  It is better to be one of the strongest chess players in the world, than to be one of many thousands with a diploma.”

“Chess demands total concentration and a love for the game.”

“I give 98 percent of my mental energy to chess.  Others give only 2 percent.”

“When I first started playing chess, for me, the Russians were heroes.”

“I was always serious about chess.”

“I object to being called a chess genius, because I consider myself to be an all around genius who happens to play chess.”

Fischer about Max Euwe.  "That man is too normal.  There must be something wrong with him!"