Anniversary Post: “The Game of the Century”

Donald ByrneOn this day in 1956 was “The Game of the Century” — a chess game in the Rosenwald Memorial Tournament between 26 year old Donald Byrne and 13 year old Bobby Fisher. At the time, Byrne was a leading chess player in the US.

Byrne lost the game, due mostly to an amazing queen “sacrifice” by Fischer, which, over the course of several moves results in Fisher winning a rook, two bishops, and a pawn — generally counted as 12 points versus 10 points for the queen. I’ve always thought that Byrne showed very good sportsmanship for playing the game through long after he knew he had lost. Mostly, he underestimated the 13-year-old chess genius.

It isn’t actually that interesting a game. Fischer himself conspicuously ignored it in his My 60 Memorable Games. As noted, Byrne was a great player. In 1955, for example, while playing black, he beat one of the chess icons of the 20th century Efim Geller. He went on to become an International Master in 1962. It is assume that he would have become a Grandmaster, but he was in poor health and died of lupus at the age of 45.

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