Did Bobby Fischer Ever Lose?

The greatest player who ever lived? That’s debatable but Bobby Fischer was certainly the most creative player and greatest player of his era. His issues on and off the board have made him both famous and infamous in equal measure but was Bobby Fischer unbeatable or have those who think that he never lost got the wrong end of the stick?

Did Bobby Fischer ever lose? Bobby Fischer did lose his chess games sometimes. He didn’t lose on a regular basis, but he did lose some games and matches throughout his career.

Even in his World Championship matches against Spassky, things didn’t go entirely Fischer’s way. Let’s have a fascinating look at Bobby Fischer’s career and his results on the board!

Did Bobby Fischer ever lose? - ChessPulse.com
Did Bobby Fischer ever lose? – ChessPulse.com

Who Was Bobby Fischer?

Bobby Fischer was the greatest American player at a time when the USSR dominated chess. He was an incredible chess talent and began playing in high-level competitions when he was very young. He was clearly a prodigy and by the time he was 13 he had won the “Game of the Century”.

This was a match between Fischer and the American Master Donald Byrne in which Fischer made the masterly sacrifice of his queen as Byrne surrendered far too much material in return for it. While you might have expected Byrne’s experience and status to shake Fischer’s confidence, it didn’t, and he returned a resounding win which has echoed down the ages.

A Child Genius

Then, his chess playing career took off. He was just 14 when he became the youngest ever US chess champion (a record that he still holds today) and 15 when he became the youngest grandmaster in history (a record that he, admittedly, no longer holds). In a few more years he would become the youngest Candidate for the World Chess Championship.

He was only 20 when he took the US Championship title with a record 100% perfect score. He won 11 out of 11 games and this is a feat that still hasn’t been matched to this very day.


Near Perfect Play For Long Periods Of Time

In short, Bobby Fischer was the essence of brilliance and when he played in his candidate’s matches of 1970 on his way to take on Boris Spassky he won a streak of 20 consecutive games and beat both challengers he faced in the candidate’s 6-0!

So, there’s no doubt about it. There’s probably never been a chess player in history that won as many games as Bobby Fischer. But did he ever lose a game of chess?


Matches Vs. Games: An Important Distinction

Bobby Fischer was an incredible talent on the chess board. His ability to visualize and create winning positions were second to none and many maintain that had he played chess today, he would still have been the world number one (we imagine that Magnus Carlsen might have something to say about that, mind you) but he wasn’t perfect.


Fischer Did Lose Chess Games

The key thing to appreciate is the difference between chess games and chess matches. Bobby Fischer lost several chess games over the course of his playing career.

It is absolutely inconceivable that any other result would have been possible. Everyone makes mistakes and while Fischer’s chess may have far surpassed his peers (when he played Spassky, for example, he was 125 ELO points ahead of him – the greatest gap between world number one and two in history), he wasn’t so much better that other players couldn’t present him with a challenge.

In fact, Fischer lost games on a fairly regular basis, particularly earlier in his career where he was still learning the ropes. It’s easy to forget that though Bobby Fischer was a child prodigy, he was a child when he started out and it’s all too easy for a newbie to any game to make the occasional slip – Fischer was no different.


Fischer Won Chess Matches, Except For One

The big thing is chess matches. A match is not a single game and, instead, it is a series of games played against the same opponent. Did Bobby Fischer lose any chess matches? Yes, he did. But you can be forgiven for thinking that he didn’t because they were very few and far between.

The worst results that Bobby Fischer had in his life were the lost match against Max Euwe (a member of the old guard of chess) when he was younger. Mind you, it was an exhibition match of just 2 games – and Euwe won 1.5 to 0.5.

The game Fischer lost went like this, Euwe was white:

1.d4 Nf6

2.c4 e6

3.Nc3 d5

4.cxd5 exd5

5.Bg5 Bb4

6.e3 h6

7.Bh4 c5

8.Bd3 Nc6

9.Nge2 cxd4

10.exd4 0-0

11.0-0 Be6

12.Bc2 Be7

13.Nf4 Qb6

14.Bxf6 Bxf6

15.Qd3 Rfd8

16.Rae1 Nb4

17.Qh7+ Kf8

18.a3 Nxc2

19.Ncxd5 Rxd5

20.Nxd5 Fischer Resigned

He would then draw against Dragljub Janosevic in 1958 when they met in a tournament. And there is some dispute over the result against Samuel Reshevsky (the players’ cards were marked “unfinished” and thus, the result was effectively a tie).

And that’s it. Every other chess match that Bobby Fischer took part in, he won. This is quite incredible. Though it must be remembered that Bobby Fischer retired from chess at the age of just 29. He refused to defend his world title against Anatoly Karpov over a dispute over the fairness of the rules.

The match was forfeit and Karpov gained the most unsatisfactory world champion’s crown in history, though to be fair to Karpov, he would successfully defend his crown for a few year’s until another Russian contender came along to spoil things for him.


Some Of Bobby Fischer’s Losses (With Videos Of The Games)

So, we turn from acknowledging Fischer’s brilliance as a chess player to some of the games that he lost. Of course, there’s no complete list of every game that Bobby Fischer lost, and we imagine that there are a fair few games out there somewhere that nobody has seen but there are a few spectacular losses:

Firstly, we start with the game when Bobby Fischer got beaten by John Dedinsky, who was not a chess master but rather an enthusiastic amateur, in just 17 moves! Yes, even the greatest players have their off days and this was a doozy.

There’s no obviously catastrophic move but Fischer loses control and never really gets it back.

Then, there’s the absolute spanking that Robert Burger gave Fischer in his shortest ever loss of just 14 moves. As you know this was truly atypical and we’re not sure what went on that day for Bobby Fischer but it didn’t end well on the board. Check this out:

Of course, not every loss for Bobby Fischer was a howling error and this calm demolition of Fischer with the French Defense from Vladimir Kovacevic is a case in point. It was part of the “Tournament of Peace” and Fischer won the tournament but not this game which saw him topple in a much more reasonable 30 moves.

Interestingly, this game was the first game that he’d lost in tournament play in nearly 3 years. The previous loss had been to Efim Geller back in 1967!


Conclusion

So the answer to whether Bobby Fischer ever lost a chess game is a definite yes. All chess players, including the modern-day top players such as Magnus Carlsen, lose games. Fischer was, when world champion, far and away the greatest player in the world with a ranking of more than 100 points greater than the then number 2 Boris Spassky but he was not superhuman either.

However, while Bobby Fischer did lose games on a fairly regular basis throughout his chess playing career, he rarely lost an entire match (which is a series of games). Though again, this is not because he was superhuman but because he quit chess at the very young age of 29 when he was on top of the world. He never had the time to grow old in the sport and see his powers wane as younger, hungrier players closed in on him. His capitulation of the title to Karpov without pushing a pawn only enhanced his legend.

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