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World Chess Hall of Fame November 12, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
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I recently visited the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis. This museum highlights the multi-faceted nature of chess.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Bobby Fischer was arguably the most intriguing chess player of all time. While Fischer disdained interactions with his peers, he could be remarkably patient and kind with children and animals. His world championship match with Boris Spassky in 1972 was precipitated by his defeat of Tigran Petrosian in a FIDE Candidate match in 1971. Fischer actually arrived late for Game 1 of his match with Spassky; he forfeited Game 2 before triumphing in Game 3 – which was played in a back room without any television cameras.

2. LIFE magazine photographer Harry Benson struck up a journalistic friendship with Fischer before his 1972 match with Spassky. Benson would accompany him on lengthy evening walks that would be punctuated by Fischer pulling out a chess set and playing an impromptu match. Benson was later invited to Grossinger’s Resort, where Fischer endured a grueling physical training regimen that included swimming, biking and tennis. Benson is most notable, though, for his iconic photos of celebrities including the Beatles, Muhammad Ali and Jackie Kennedy.

3. Jack Collins was the foremost American chess teacher of the 20th Century; his most famous student was Fischer. Though Collins was confined to a wheelchair for most of his life, he trained a generation of chess masters. Collins actually modified a chess clock for Fischer that was timed to ring on ten-second intervals, compelling Fischer to play at a rapid pace.

I enjoyed browsing through the collection of photographs by Harry Benson, which included several images from a LIFE magazine article that was a preview of the Fischer-Spassky match. The museum also housed several interesting artifacts, including a chessboard that was used in the Fischer-Spassky match.

The only quibble I have with the museum is its apparent focus on Bobby Fischer – who, to be fair, is the greatest American chess player of all time. I would have enjoyed browsing through exhibits that delved into the achievements of other chess giants such as Garry Kasparov, Mikhail Botvinnik and Paul Morphy.

I would deem this museum worthy of a quick stopover before exploring the rest of the Central West End.



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