Fischer's death leads to reflection

I did some reflection on my youth following the death Jan. 17 of former world chess champion Bobby Fischer.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the World Chess Federation, ranked Fischer with the likes of Newton and Einstein, according to an Associated Press story.

Fischer was 64 when he died in a hospital in Iceland. He moved to that country in 2005 after being granted citizenship following nine months spent in the custody of Japanese authorities, who arrested him in July 2004 for traveling on a revoked United States passport.

I guess I was 12 or 13 when my brother, Dick, taught me how to play chess. As he was 11 years older than me, we had to do something to "level the playing field," so he always removed one of his rooks before we began any game.

He still beat me in the first few games. Eventually, I was able to defeat him a few times. When I reached a point where I could hold my own, we agreed he could have his missing rook back at the start. I was on the receiving end of more beatings for a while before I could cope with an opponent on even terms and win a few matches.

In high school, I joined our chess club. We did not play against other schools, just against one another, and I established myself as the player everyone else wanted to beat. Regrettably, the club met weekly and lasted just two months before interest waned. I won 17 of 18 matches, losing only once as I recall.

Chess became a hobby as I moved on through life.

Fischer won the world championship in 1972 by defeating Russian champion Boris Spassky by a score of 12-1/2 to 8-1/2 points in 21 games. How great for America, I thought.

My pride took a blow in 1975 when Fischer was stripped of his title for refusing to play Anatoly Karpov. I have always played traditional chess, so I was curious upon reading the Associated Press story about Fischer being into something called "random chess."

I went to the Internet and found sites called Fischer Random Chess and Fischer Random Chess News. I received the message "Requested page is currently unavailable" upon trying to access them.

There was a site called "The Stanley Random Chess Files - Introduction." It contained an explanation for beginners with a description, objective and rules talking about legal patterns and sequences. One claim made is that fewer games of random chess end in draws than traditional chess.

It seems the term random is a misnomer. Sequences and patterns of moves are strictly regulated by a carefully articulated body of laws.

It's Greek to me.

Fischer is credited as the champion of random chess in which pieces are shuffled on the board at the start of a match to "reinvigorate" the game. I would need to see an actual game played to know if it holds any interest for me.

Fischer referred to traditional play as "old chess." Sorry, Bobby, but I like old chess, thank you.

Perhaps readers familiar with random chess will respond to this column with e-mails letting me know if it is indeed the future of the game or if you are an "old school" player like me and don't want to see changes in a game that has pitted two minds against one another for centuries and does not require "reinvigoration."