The Game of the Century

bobby fischer

The Game of the Century refers to a chess game played between US chess champion Donald Byrne and the 13-year old Bobby Fischer in the Rosenwald Memorial Tournament in New York City on October 17, 1956.

It was nicknamed ‘The Game of the Century’ by Hans Kmoch in ‘Chess Review,’ who wrote: ‘The following game, a stunning masterpiece of combination play performed by a boy of 13 against a formidable opponent, matches the finest on record in the history of chess prodigies.’

Donald Byrne (1930–1976) was one of the leading American chess masters at the time of this game. He had won the 1953 US Open, and would later represent the United States in the 1962, 1964, and 1968 Olympiads. He became an International Master in 1962, and would likely have risen further if not for ill health. Bobby Fischer (1943–2008) was at this time a promising young master. Following this game, he had a meteoric rise, becoming the world’s youngest grandmaster at age 15 in 1958. He won the world championship in 1972, and is considered one of the greatest players in history.

In this game, Fischer (playing Black) demonstrates noteworthy innovation and improvisation. Byrne (playing White), after a standard opening, makes a seemingly minor mistake on move 11, losing tempo by moving the same piece twice. Fischer pounces, with brilliant sacrificial play, culminating in an incredible queen sacrifice on move 17. Byrne captures the queen, but Fischer gets far too much material for it – a rook, two bishops, and a pawn. At the end, Fischer’s pieces coordinate to force checkmate, while Byrne’s queen sits, helpless, at the other end of the board.

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