Can Bobby Fischer Keep Up With Modern SuperGrandmasters?

I think this is one of the most popular topics in the chess facebook groups that I am in. Other than the usual Fischer vs. Carlsen this is probably the next most argued question in that group.

I think I can chime in and put my perspective on this, it is an interesting topic after all.

I have seen all of the documentaries regarding fischer’s rise to his world championship, I also have seen the dominance that he had displayed. On the other hand I have also watched the games of modern chess competitors, I think I can give a valid opinion.

It is time to clear the smoke on this controversial question. This query definitely deserves to be on my blog, here it is enjoy! 

How would prime Bobby Fischer fare against modern super grandmasters?

To begin, there are two distinct meanings that can be derived from this inquiry. The first question is, “How powerful would Bobby Fischer be at his prime in contemporary/modern standards?”

I believe that the response to this question is obvious. He would be a super grandmaster sitting at the top of the chess world but I doubt he can be more than the top 5 players. Let’s say, rating somewhere around 2700-2750.

Super grandmasters are getting more money than ever. They have more access to tools (like engines and databases) that will improve their game.

To put it plainly, the game of chess has been subject to sweeping transformations since the 1970s. The entire environment has evolved as a result of the introduction of computer databases and search engines. 

Fischer had to cope with a much smaller volume of information compared to what modern chess players had to take in and process.

The way that one prepares to play chess has undergone a fundamental transformation. 

In the past, you could get away with having only a few openings that you were very familiar with and had mastered. 

After all, Fischer didn’t play 1 e4 as white until his world championship run against Boris Spassky in 1972, and he didn’t play 1…c5 in response to 1 e4 until that same year.

Because the circumstances are so drastically changed now, having a solid understanding of the fundamentals alone is not enough. Chess is a game that is considerably more tangible. 

What is really important are innovations and new ideas. You only need to play a wide array of openings in order to circumvent the necessity for computer planning. Every elite player has a varied collection of opening moves in their arsenal.

Fischer, armed with his repertoire from the 1970s, would have been an easy target. It was certain that others would plot their attacks against him, and he would have a difficult time securing reasonable positions. 

Adding to the fact that excessive memorization is one the main reasons that Bobby quit chess, I don’t think he will have the passion to learn “computer openings”.

I don’t think his ability to play the middlegame would be noticeably worse, but he wouldn’t be able to show it off because he would find himself unprepared for the game much earlier.

However, this should not come as a surprise because the game of chess has just had a tremendous advancement over the past thirty or so years. 

Even the legendary Chess player Garry Kasparov admitted in one of his books, Great Predecessors, which was published in the 2000s, that his planning for one of his games versus Karpov seemed archaic when viewed from a modern perspective.

Can Bobby Fischer surpass modern super grandmasters using modern chess tools?

The first phrasing of the question is interesting, however you and I know that it is not really the true question.

The real question is “How dominant would Bobby Fischer be if he was given access to the tools that super grandmasters naturally have?”.

This is more reasonable since it is unfair to judge someone from the past in modern standards, this would make things more relative. 

Everyone is aware that Fischer was a chess phenom long before it was trendy to have chess virtuosos.

He was just 15 years old when he performed the unimaginable: he became a grandmaster and qualified for the Candidates tournament despite only having chess textbooks and a passionate work habits to rely on.

His enthusiasm with the game of chess was the driving force behind his success.

There is no reason to question that he would profit enormously from being introduced to contemporary chess instruments from the very beginning of his chess playing career.

It is highly likely that he would follow in the footsteps of contemporary prodigies such as Carlsen, Negi, Wei Yi, Karjakin, and others. Or perhaps even outperform them in certain ways.

I have no doubt that he would have progressed to a level greater than 2750 had he lived today.

But there is a significant caveat that makes me doubt whether or not he would have been one of the very best players on the planet (let’s say top 5 in the world), let alone the World Champion.

The nature of his being.

It is well known that Fischer was a challenging individual. He was a person who struggled with a few different psychological conditions.

One of the indications was his tendency toward radicalism and conspiracy theories, as well as his general mistrust of other people. It was tough for him to put his faith in other folks and count on their assistance.

Even at that early stage, it was already having a detrimental impact on his profession (you know, pulling from Interzonals and other such things). But in light of what we know about the world now, I think the consequences would have been far more severe.

To put it more simply, in order to compete at the highest level in today’s game, you are going to require assistance from other players.

It indicates that you must employ seconds, that you must let them to perform the project, and that you must believe them. In addition, and this is of the utmost importance, you have to develop a bond that extends beyond the chessboard.

The technical aspect of the second-player connection is almost certain to fail if the rapport and a certain dosage of friendliness are absent from it.

The fact that the majority of top players have at least one second is not an accident. In fact, for significant competitions such as the World Championship Matches, they will hire full teams and depend on the expertise of their members.

Politics is no longer relevant to the discussion. Regarding the Soviet system that was backing up its grandmasters in their conflict with the West.

It all comes down to monetary concerns. And the requirement.

Unfortunately, I have a hard time envisioning Fischer having a regular connection with even a single second, much less a number of them at the same time.

Therefore, his chess talents would be adequate to get him to the top spot if he wanted to get there. However, he would need to undergo major transformations in his personality.

Will Bobby Fischer become greater than Magnus Carlsen if he lived today?

It is presumed that a skilled player would have no problem picking up the new information on the sport that has been developed during their hiatus and using it effectively. 

With this disclaimer in mind, I believe that Fischer can be a strong candidate for the world championship if he exceeds the top 5 in the world mark.

However, the fact that the current world champion is also considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time is probably the only reason why I do not think that he will become a champion. 

Fischer was an exceptionally precise player, he had spells of great supremacy, and he was also extremely powerful at quick time restrictions (reminisce of Carlsen).

Fischer’s career was highlighted by a number of accomplishments, including the tales of dominance. All of these factors point to the fact that even in today’s circumstances, he would be an influential player, however not enough to beat Carlsen. 

Do not get me wrong, Fischer was a prodigy who was also obsessed with chess. Due to the fact that he is insane, I believe that he would have a shot at the current champion Carlsen if he brings his A-game.

We must not forget that Carlsen is also on the league of his own, probably more dominant than Fischer.

Also he had the consistency, having a good championship run is great, now do it for a decade consistently without any sign of stopping. I think you see the point.

Even if Magnus lose his title in the future he had already proven more than what Fischer ever did. 

We don’t even know what Carlsen’s highest form is because he’s already accumulated 3000 elo performance results, and he hasn’t even faced any genuine competition yet. 

It looks like Magnus in 2019 is having fun with those 2800 elo players, which is something we have never seen in chess before. It appears to me that he is head and shoulders above the competition in the same way that Bobby was in the early 1970s. 

However, it seems that this go around the “rest” consists of individuals that are not poorer than Bobby was when he was playing.

Will 2600 rated grandmaster be able to beat Bobby Fischer?

Fischer’s mastery of chess and quality of play were said to have been preserved in stasis.

It was believed that he had not examined another chess book or article, completed another field, acquired any new discovery, or anything else related to the sport since he reached the pinnacle of his talent. 

Now put that Bobby Fischer up against any Grandmaster who has a rating of 2600 or above from today. We would not even talk about Magnus Carlsen which has  a rating of over 2800. 

What about Hou Yifan (2673), David Howell (2657), or anybody else? Will Fischer be destroyed by these individuals? 

Are the 2600+ normal grandmasters of today playing at the same level of expertise as some of the best in history be able to catch up? 

To put it another way, given their current depth of understanding and whatever inherent talent they may possess, are these players (modern 2600) capable of beating or, at the very least, competing with the best players from a previous generation?

I think you know what my answer is going to be, I believe Bobby would at least be able to compete against grandmasters that are around 2700 elo today. The reason that I discuss this is because a lot of people have been underestimating Fischer too much. 

2600 is too low, if Fischer is able to brush up on some (not even too deep) of modern theories he would definitely be more than 2600 grandmasters minimum. 

Does Bobby Fischer have what it takes to be the best modern super grandmaster? 

Most people would probably argue that Fischer was only equaled by a select few others throughout the record in terms of sheer talent (and not knowledge), and that he was likely the finest player in the history of the game. 

The thing with talent is it is potential, not actuality. If we are only looking at his talent as a chess player then there is no doubt that he is one of the best. 

But if we include knowledge in the formula, some can’t help but wonder if today’s grandmasters rated 2600 or higher would have enough of an advantage in revised knowledge of the game in addition to whatever abilities they have to defeat a player like Fischer when he was at the height of his career if they competed against each other today.

Fischer had an exceptional chess IQ.

Nevertheless, I believe that the relevance of my point is not negated by the fact that we are able to conceive of a situation in which sufficient chess knowledge has shifted and been refreshed to render the concepts of earlier players no longer feasible. 

In the game of chess, there are some aspects that will, without a doubt, remain constant and unchanging. But since Fischer’s era, there have also been some developments in some areas.

For example the french defense and queen’s indian defense have been erased in top level chess due to the matches between Alphazero and Stockfish.

The Berlin defense is now a norm in the top level after Kramnik used it to bring down the long standing world title of Garry Kasparov. 

Not to mention that super grandmasters today have memorized computer lines after 20+ moves have been played in the opening. In the top level today talent is not enough, you need to do the work.

No matter how much of a genius you are, the latest version of stockfish will beat you most of the time.

Some people might get upset by this opinion but I don’t think that Fischer has what it takes to be the best modern super grandmaster. Yes, Fischer is obsessed with the game and would be willing to put in the work, or will he?

He is definitely a madman in chess. But only before the era of computers and memorization. Old Fischer has repeatedly said that modern chess is boring to him, all the computers and memorization kills the essence of the game for him.

It is solely for this reason that I don’t think he can be the best modern super grandmaster. He does have the talent for sure, but I don’t think he can commit long enough to unleash his full potential in modern chess. 

Conclusion 

Bobby Fischer can definitely keep up with modern super grandmasters around the rating 2700. If he puts in the work he can even compete with today’s 2800 players. However I don’t think he himself can be top 5 in the world rating wise, maybe 2750 max.

He can definitely beat 2600 grandmasters, but he wouldn’t dominate the field as to what others may think. He has the talent and potential, but it is clear that he had lost his passion for chess since brute calculation computers came on the rise. 

I don’t think he will be the best player today, he is a madman but not to a game he doesn’t love. One thing for sure though is there will be a giant asterisk to this question every time. That is all, thank you for reading. 

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