Robert Byrne - Robert J. Fischer  

(U.S. Championship, New York. 1963-64.)
1st  Brilliancy Prize.


  (Click on the arrows below, or click the mouse-pointer on an actual move to play through the game.) 

Robert Byrne (2650)  -  
Robert J.
("Bobby") Fischer (2875)


 U.S. Championship 1963-64, New York, NY.  (USA)    18.12.1963 

 Annotator = [A.J. Goldsby I]  

MODEL GAME  (Attacking the King and playing with the initiative.) 

One of the single most brilliant games ever played!  Easily one of the most brilliant games ever played in any U.S. Championship. (MANY U.S. Grand-Masters have told me this is one of the best games ever played, and one of their favorites.) 

Indeed this is game # 50 (pg. # 281) in the book, (The Mammoth Book Of) "The World's Greatest Chess Games." This book is by three authors - FM G. Burgess, GM J. Emms, and GM John Nunn. See my web page on the World's Best Chess Books for more details. This game is also listed (Game # 26, page # 92), in GM Andy Soltis's book, "The 100 Best Chess Games of The 20th Century, Ranked." (hard-back) This is an outstanding book, and may be the crown jewel of Andy's long and distinguished writing career. 

Consider this: 
# 1.) Fischer, during this tournament, won every single game in a National Championship. This is a feat that may never be seen again. It certainly can only be equaled, but NEVER surpassed. (Kasparov, for all of his many accomplishments, never did anything like this.)

# 2.) No other player in modern times has ever won the championship of a major chess-playing country with a perfect score. A few have won games and suffered no losses. But no other player ever whitewashed the field, or even came close to doing this. Even the number of perfect scores in International Tournaments of comparable strength are extremely low. Only a handful in all of the history of the great game of chess. 

# 3.) This was one of the most dominant tournament performances of the 20th Century! Consider: if a player accomplished this feat today at a U.S. Championship, his performance rating would be close to (or over!) 3200!!! 

# 4.)  MANY superlatives were written about this game. (I give just one example here.) 
GM John Emms wrote: 
"Perhaps one of the most amazing features of this brilliancy is that Fischer 
manages to win in only 21 moves from an incredibly dull-looking opening 
position, and without White making any obvious mistakes. This ability to
extract something from nothing separates the outstanding from the merely 
very good." 
IM Burger considers this game one of "Fischer's Immortal Games!"

# 5.) Fischer played some very convincing chess during this tournament. While his opponent's play may have seemed somewhat self-destructive, I think this is only because Fischer's play was so mercilessly accurate. A really strong player will always beat a weaker player, and very often very quickly. (If you don't believe me, play a few games against a really strong computer!!) 

# 6.) Fischer defeated at least two players in this tournament that he had never beaten before!! (Evans and Byrne.) I think this fact by itself indicated a new level to Fischer's play and is a fact often overlooked by many of the games' pundits. 
(And other annotators.) 

# 7.)  ALL of Fischer's games, according to one judge, would have won Brilliancy Prizes at a lesser tournament!! Fischer's game against Byrne was the overwhelming favorite of [nearly] all the judges considering the awarding of the brilliancy prize. The other games that were being seriously considered for the brilliancy prize were also Fischer's!  The last men to win tournaments and also win the brilliancy prize to boot, were Rubinstein and Capablanca.
(In modern days only Karpov and Kasparov have managed this trick!)  QED. 

This game is also a great lesson in tactics. 
(First) Annotated (on my computer) during the month of August, 2000.
(I first tried annotating this game by hand back in the early 70's for an article - I am not sure if it was ever printed or not - for the Florida Chess Magazine.)


I have tried to use color coding, highlighting and other techniques to indicate 
the variations and sub-variations. White this may seem rather clumsy, I prefer this 
to the nearly endless (and nauseating) use of parenthesis that is used by ChessBase!


1. d4 Nf62. c4 g6 3. g3 c64. Bg2

A position difficult to classify. I think it is probably a "Neo-Gruenfeld," 
(ECO Opening Code, D71.); but it could also have arisen from a Modern 
Defence or even an irregular Slav Defence! 
(1. d4, d5; 2. c4, c6; 3. g3!?, Nf6; 4. Bg2, g6!?; 5. cxd5, etc.) 

[ 4.d5!? b5!5.dxc6 bxc46.cxd7+ Nbxd77.Bg2 Rb88.Nf3 Bg79.0-0 0-0
 R. Byrne - Bobby Fischer; U.S. Championship, New York, 1962/63. 
 "Black's weak QBP is compensated for by pressure on the open QN-file." - Fischer. ]. 

5. cxd5 cxd56. Nc3 Bg7;

7. e3

A seemingly passive move; but perfect symmetry 7. Nf3, does not seem to 
promise White much. {A.J.G.} 

[An example is: 7.Nf3 0-0; 8.Ne5(If  8.0-0 Ne4!; = )   8...Bf5; 9.0-0 Ne4
Nc6; 11.Qxd5 Nxc3; 12.bxc3 Qxd5; 13. Bxd5 Nxe5; 14.dxe5 Bxe5; ("=") 
Pal Benko - Bobby Fischer; U.S. Championship, New York, NY 1962/63. 
"The players agreed to a draw shortly." - Fischer. ]

7...0-08. Nge2 Nc6
9. 0-0 b610. b3, ('!' or '!?) 
Levy considers this dubious, but it looks OK to me. (One annotator gives it an exclam.) Levy instead claims 10. Nf4 is better, but Fischer himself  said that the move 
10. Nf4, only leads to equality. 

The computers all pick the drastically inferior Bd2, albeit after just a couple 
of minutes of analysis. {A.J.G.} 

[ Fischer gives the game: 10.Nf4!? e6; 11.b3 Ba6; 12.Re1 Rc8
 13.Ba3 Re8; 14.Rc1, ("=") ... " with sterile equality." - R.J. Fischer.
 The game is: Stahlberg - Flohr; Kemeri, 1937. ]

11. Ba3 Re8!
Black begins positioning his pieces for a liberating pawn break.

[ Not 11...e6??; 12.Bxf8, "+/-" ]

12. Qd2

A logical move, White connects his Rooks in preparation for their mobilization. 

[12. Rc1!? e5?!(12...e6!= )  13. dxe5 Nxe5; 14.Rc2!
(14. Nxd5? Nxd5
; 15. Bxd5 Bxe2; "-/+")  14...Bb7; 15. Rd2!, "+/-",  - Fischer. ]

;  (Probably - '!' .....  Maybe even - '!!') 
This move may be the very best here, although it is impossible to be 100% sure. 
I let the computers run on this position for over 30 minutes while I got something 
to eat. No program picked 12...e5 as its number one choice.  My own personal 
opinion is that this move has got to be the most energetic move here, and the only 
real winning attempt. {A.J.G.}. 

"I was amazed at this advance, which seems to leave Black's Queen-Pawn a 
hopelessly weak isolani;" admitted R. Byrne in  'Chess Life.' 

Fischer, Euwe, Emms, Levy, Burger, (and several others); also awarded this move, (12...e5!); an exclamation point. However, I should point out one American annotator, 
(We shall, for the sake of pity, to allow him to go unnamed here.); gave this move a 
question mark. Several Russian annotators also questioned the validity of 12...e5. 

Averbakh awarded it a dubious appellation in a Soviet magazine where he refuted 
a piece of Fischer's analysis with his famous, "20. B-B6!" 

 Fischer himself wrote:  
"I was a bit worried about weakening my QP, but felt that the tremendous activity 
obtained by my minor pieces would permit White no time to exploit it."  - and - 
"12...e6; would probably lead to a draw." - Fischer.

[ If 12...e613. Rac1 Rc814. Rfd1 Qd7; ("=")  {A.J.G.} ]

13. dxe5!?

Very strange. One annotator gives this a question mark. GM J. Emms does not award any mark to it at all. IM D. Levy considers it dubious, while Wade and O'Connoll award it an exclamation point. This is very confusing!! 

Personally, I think White does right to capture and take up the challenge. Incidentally all the computers pick 13. dxe5, also. So it cannot be terrible or lose by force. {A.J.G.} 

[13. Rac1 exd4(13...Rc8; 14. Rfd1 e4; 15. f3,)14. exd4 Rc8; 15. f3!?, {Unclear?"} 
"White is OK." (Fischer thinks its difficult for Black to break through.) - Fischer. 

GM John Emms gives the variation: 15. Rfe1! Bxe2; 16.Rxe2 Nxd4; 17.Rxe8+ Qxe8;
  (18. Qxd4? Ne4; "=/+")  18...Ne4; 19. Nxe4 dxe4; 20. Rxe4,  ("=" ?) 
and now J. Emms states: " ... this actually favors White, who keeps the Bishop-pair." 
[ GM Emms,  in "The World's Greatest Chess Games."
(Game # 50, starting on page # 281.)

(Back to the Fischer variation after 15. f3.)
But now: 15...b5!; "=/+";  seems to favor Black. After extensive analysis, 
checked by the computer(s), this position is very favorable to Black. 
(At least "a plus under an equal sign," or "=/+".) {A.J.G.} ]

14. Rfd1?!,  Clearly a case of, "The Wrong Rook." 
(Not even GM's always correctly place their Rooks! For a simple concept, 
this is somewhat hard to believe, but it is true!!)  

Many annotators, (including GM J. Emms), have given this move a question mark 
or even two question marks. In my own humble opinion, this is simply too harsh. 

It seems very natural to use one Rook to hit the Black d-Pawn and the 
other Rook to occupy the open c-file. 

Even today, many of the stronger commercially-available programs see little or no difference between Rfd1 and Rad1!! {A.J.G.} 

[ 14.Rad1! Qc8!;  Fischer's new move to maintain the initiative. 
(His old analysis was refuted by the Russians, Averbakh in particular.)

Or Black can play: 
; 15. Qc2, "+/-", - Fischer. (GM Emms notes that with a White Rook on f1, 
there is no good reason for the sacrifice of the Black Knight at f2 here.)
; 15. Qc2 Rac8; 16. Qb1!,  with the idea of 17. Rd2, and 18. Rfd1, 
"+/=" - Fischer.  Note: The computers seem to think Black is OK after 16...Qg4!;
 ("Plus under an equal," or "=/+") {A.J.G.}

(After 14. Rad1, Qc8;)
15. Rc1, Maybe the best for White. 15...Qd7!; 16. Rfd1 Rad8!?;  Fischer 
seems to think Black is OK here. "Black has finagled a precious tempo." - Fischer. 
GM Emms seems to agree with this assessment. 

(Probably (almost certainly) the best move is: 16...Nd3!; 17. Rc2 Ne4
18. Nxe4
19. Nf4 Rad8; ("=") and Black is certainly OK here. {A.J.G.})

But after: 17. Nf4!, "+/=" (Maybe - "+/".) White is clearly better. {A.J.G.} ]

;  This Knight makes big problems for White.

15. Qc2!?,  This could be a mistake. Maybe 15. Nc1 was better. 

[ White can also play: 15.Nc1!?; [Unclear?] 
Black may be slightly better after 15...Ne4; but this is NOT 100% clear.
Or 15.Nf4!? d4!!; with an attack. - Prins. (I do not consider this all that clear for Black.)
Or 15. Nd4 Ne4; 16.Nxe4 dxe4; 17. Bb2 Rc8; ("/+")  
" ... with a powerful bind." - Fischer.
And 15.f3 Bh6; 16.f4(Not 16.Nf4? d4!; "-/+")   16...Bg7!; "=/+" - Fischer. ]

;  (Maybe a TRIPLE exclam move.) 
The computers choose this move almost instantly. 

(A human might not even consider it, it is not really an obvious sacrifice. In fact 
this is a practically worthless move ... unless you have already seen or worked 
out Black's 18th move also. 
Then - and ONLY then - does 15...Nxf2!! make any sense.)

16. Kxf2 Ng4+17. Kg1
[],  ("Box," or forced.) 

[ Not 17. Kf3? Rxe3+!; 18.Kxg4(18. Kf4 Bh6+; 19.Kxg4 Bc8+;)  18...h5+;  
(19.Kf4?? Bh6# )   19...Bc8+;  {"Black is winning," or "-/+" .}
 "and Black will shortly deliver checkmate." (Variation by - GM J. Emms.)
Also bad is: 17. Ke1?! Nxe3; 18. Qb1 Nxg2+' ("-/+") ]. 

;  Where is Black going? 

18. Qd2 Nxg2!!
;  An ultra-brilliant repartee.
The computers now [incorrectly] choose 18...Bxe2?; or 18...Nxd1? 
( Note this game was first annotated - heavily ... on a friend's computer 
... by me  - in 1998, then updated in 2000. 
 Since then computers have gotten
quite a bit stronger. {A.J.G.} )

[ The computers choose: 18...Bxe2?!; ('?')  19. Nxe2 Bxa1; 20. Rxa1 Rc8
  but White will probably be OK eventually. {A.J.G.}; 
  Definitely not: 18...Nxd1?; 19.Rxd1, ("+/" or "+/-"), and White is better. ]

The story in CL&R was reported as follows: 
(GM Byrne had just played his 18th move, 18. Qd2.)

Byrne writes: "As I was sitting there wondering why Bobby would play such 
an obviously bad [and lost] continuation as 18...Nxd1; there came suddenly the 
brilliant move, 18...Nxg2!! Then it dawned on me that Bobby was not interested 
in winning material, but that the White King was the object of his attack...." 
(Byrne in the nation's chess magazine.) 

19. Kxg2 d4!
;  (Maybe - '!!') A nice clearance sac. 

[ 19...Bxe2?!; 20. Nxe2 Bxa1; 21. Rxa1,  "would have favored White." - GM J. Emms.
Please note that the computers give: "Plus under an equal sign," or "=/+", so this is a position that is not 100% clear in the verdict of who is better. ]

20. Nxd4 Bb7+21. Kf1
, This is pretty much forced. 

Other King moves were no better, viz: 
[ 21. Kg1 Bxd4+; 22. Qxd4 Re1+!; 23. Kf2 Qxd4+24. Rxd4 Rxa1; 25. Rd7 Rc8
 26.Rxb7(26. Bb2 Rh1, "-/+")   26...Rxc3; 27. Rb8+ Kg7
28. Bb2
Rxa2; "-/+" - Fischer.

 Or 21. Kf2 Qd7!22.Rac1,  
 Or:  22. Nce2 Qh3; 23.Nf3, (Or 23.Ke1 Qxh2 24.Qb2 Ba6; "-/+")  
; 24.Rxa1,
(Or 24. Neg1 Qf5; 25. Rxa1 Rad8; 26. Qb2 Rd3; "-/+")  
25.Qc2 Qe6!; "-/+" - GM J. Emms.
(Back to the Fischer variation after 22. Rac1.) 
; 23. Nf3 Bh6; 24. Qd3 Be3+25. Qxe3 Rxe326. Kxe3 Re8+
 27. Kf2
Qf5!; ("-/+") - Fischer. ]


White Resigns.  0 - 1
  (21 actual moves.) 

They wrote in 'Chess Life & Review' (and elsewhere!), that Fischer said, 
"Byrne's resignation came as a bitter disappointment to me." 
(Apparently Fischer had wanted to record the moves of his brilliancy in moves 
actually played on the chessboard.) 

   A former World Champion Candidate, (after winning A.V.R.O. 1938); 
GM Ruben Fine
 was a privileged spectator who was allowed to observe the games 
"up close and personal." As soon as GM Robert Byrne resigned, Fine (and others!)
ran up and began to show variations to GM Byrne, trying to explain how this (each
variation) was the key to his escape. To each variation, Byrne would only shake his 
head sadly  (morosely)  and demonstrate another one of Bobby Fischer's intended
winning variations. (!!!) 

Another amazing story about this game, (there are sooooo many!!); was that at the  
commenting on the game in the analysis room); - WERE TELLING THE
(He had actually lost!!)

One correspondent phoned in his game report to one of the nation's biggest
newspapers, only to have to change it later. (He too reported that Byrne had 
won, after:  "an over-eager sacrifice by Fischer was easily met by his erstwhile
opponent."  I guess he had to change his report to his newspaper later.) 

Some of the possible continuations were:

 *** ( 22. Qf2, Probably the best move here. 

 [ Or White can play: 
   22. Ndb5
Qh3+23. Kg1 Bh6!; "-/+"  - Fischer.  
   A.J. continues this line: 24. Qb2 Be3+25. Qf2 Qg2#;

   Or 22. Kg1 Bxd4+!(22...Rad8!?; "-/+")  23. Qxd4 Re1+!24. Kf2 Qxd4+
   25. Rxd4
Rxa126. Rd7 Rc8!27. Rxb7( 27. Bb2 Rh1!; "/+" or "-/+" ) 
28. Rb8+ Kg729. Bb2 Rxa2; "-/+"  An easy win for Black. 
   (We have transposed back to a line [the main line] which Fischer has 
     already analyzed.) {A.J.G.};
   Or 22. Kf2 Qh3; "-/+" ]  


22...Qh3+23. Kg1 Re1+!!
{The move overlooked by even Grand-Masters.  
  So if now 24. Qxe1, then 24...Qg2#.}

24. Rxe1 Bxd425. Qxd4!?,  May as well. 
{Capture, that is. White is either mated or will lose his Queen.}

 [ 25. Re3 Bxe3; "-/+" ].

  25...Qg2# )
  ***  An incredible checkmate!!!


 [ I consulted over  two dozen books  during the writing and annotating of this game!

 (Quite a few books on tactics/combinations look at this game. You also would 
not believe the number of mistakes I found in the analysis of this game, especially 
with the help of the computer.) 

The chief books that were the most instrumental in helping me in this job 
are listed below. 

 I should also like to note that even in this age of computers, the best analysis of this game is still Fischer's own work done nearly 40 years ago by the great man himself. {A.J.G.} ]

(Of course, I was also very aware of this game, having first seen it as a teenager.)


  1. 'Chess Life & Review' and 'Chess Life.'  [Magazines.] 
    ('CL&R' Annual, 1964.) 

  2. "My 60 Memorable Games,"  by GM Robert J. Fischer. 
    (Easily one of the best books ever written!)

  3. "U.S. Championship Chess,"  by GM William Lombardy and D. Daniels. 

  4. "The Games of Robert J. Fischer,"  by Wade and O'Connell.

  5. "How Fischer Plays Chess,"  by IM D. Levy. (A nice little book, but he 
    does an extremely poor job of annotating this game!)

  6. "The Chess of Bobby Fischer,"  by Robert E. Burger. 

  7. "Bobby Fischer, The Greatest?"  by Max Euwe. 
    (An interesting book for comparing Fischer's play to the styles of some of the other World Champions. Euwe does his usual superb level of work.)

  8. "Profile of a Prodigy,"  by Frank Brady. 

  9. (The Mammoth Book Of) "The World's Greatest Chess Games."
    This book is by three authors: GM John Nunn, GM John Emms, and FM Graham Burgess. (I consider this book to be one of the 'Ten Best' ever written. See my web page on the Best Chess Books for more details.) 
    (A very good book, 4.5 stars out of a possible 5!)

  10. "The 100 Best Games of The 20th Century, Ranked."  
      By GM Andy Soltis. 

This is a  MUCH  shortened version  of this game (both in terms of analytically and in the amount of verbiage) than is in my "IGLA" database. (IGLA = Instructive Games, Lessons; - Annotated.)  If you would like a version of that game,  please contact me  and let me know. 

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