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Probably the highest-grossing chess book ever written, Bobby Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games is written in the same style with which he used to play chess - simple, clear, precise, with lots of excellent and understandable analysis and positional insight. It often gets called the best chess book ever written, because the quality of the games and analysis is so high, and because Fischer manages to keep most of his personal grudges and grievances out of it, concentrating purely on the game that made him famous.

The format is straightforward: Fischer selects 60 of his own games, sometimes picked for their brilliance, sometimes because they were memorable for other reasons which he explains, and proceeds to analyze them, with diagrams. Each comes with a brief introduction which sets the scene and tells the reader something about the character of the game to follow. Fischer analyzes each game in depth, but without going into unnecessary detail, just selecting the most important lines, but what makes his analysis special are the text passages where he reveals his understanding of various different positions and openings. I still remember his explanation of Black's basic strategy in the main lines of the Najdorf Variation, which clarified my own understanding and immediately helped me to play that opening like a much stronger player.

Among the games themselves, some highlights are Game 16 (Fischer - Petrosian, the "four queens" game), Game 44 (Fischer - Fine, a miniature brilliancy in the Evans Gambit) and Game 48 (R. Byrne - Fischer, an amazing game in which Fischer's winning combination was so complex that, when Byrne resigned, most grandmaster commentators at the time thought that he was winning). My 60 Memorable Games is not just an ego trip, either - Fischer includes three losses and many draws.

Despite the popularity of My 60 Memorable Games, it has had a chequered (ha ha) history. Fischer, who refused to defend the world chess championship after he had won it, and who is renowned for his paranoia and anti-Semitism, claims that he has been robbed of most of the royalties due to him from the sale of this book. It was out of print for a while, until the usually-reputable Batsford Chess re-issued it with substantial changes both to the format and the content.

Besides changing the chess notation system used in the book from descriptive (1.P-K4) to algebraic (1.e4), which is not so bad, the editors added new analysis, some of which was actually incorrect (including an illegal move). They also added many grammatical errors, failed to match the table of contents with the pages of the book, and failed to correct any of the errors already existing in the original edition. Fischer is rightly incensed over this, as his permission was never sought, and he has documented over 1000 unauthorized alterations. The person most responsible seems to be English grandmaster John Nunn, a highly prolific chess author whose best days as a player are probably behind him.

Fischer has great difficulty pressing his claims over his book, partially because he is such an extreme personality (his interviews about Jewish conspiracies against him are horrifyingly abusive - a relatively mild example can be found in "Bobby Fischer on September 11, 2001"), and partially because of his questionable legal status - he would be arrested immediately on entering his home country, the United States, for violation of their sanctions against participating in sports events in Yugoslavia during his return match against Boris Spassky in Sarajevo in 1992 (at a press conference before the match he publicly spat on a letter from the US Treasury Department warning him not to play).

"They have confiscated, they have stolen my book My 60 Memorable Games. they have come out with the illegal movie called Searching for Bobby Fischer which is exploiting my name for money. They've made tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars on this movie. I never get a penny of it. They came out with the illegal, the Jews have come out with the illegal CD-ROM called Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess. Zero for me. I get nothing. even from the legitimate edition of My 60 Memorable Games. Nothing."

No matter what anyone thinks of Fischer himself (despite his legitimate greivances, there is enough material for 10 psychological case studies), the games in this book are wonderful, and almost any amateur player will improve by playing through them and studying them carefully. For anyone interested, all 60 of the games are available to play through on-line at the URL listed below.


Interactive play-through of all 60 games: http://chess.about.com/library/weekly/aa090400a.htm
Stealing the book: http://www.philchess.com.ph/032699.htm

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