The Star Late Edition



Bruce Pandolfini is America’s most acclaimed chess coach. He was famously portrayed by the actor Ben Kingsley in the 1993 film ‘Searching for Bobby Fischer’ where his character was depicted less sympatheti­cally than in real life.

Here Pandolfini shares with us one of his early reminisces.

‘When I was a teenager I worked one summer at Walter Goldwater’s University Place Bookshop in Greenwich Village. Walter was then president of the Marshall Chess Club and an expert book dealer in a number of subjects. One day Bobby Fischer came in needing some money. Fischer wound up selling a bunch of his books to Walter for a song. I think there were about fifty books, and I don’t recall what Walter eventually did with the lot. But Walter did let me buy a few of them, though he didn’t sell them cheaply. I believe it cost me an entire week’s salary. The books I got I wanted for two reasons. For one, with all the magical power they conveyed, those books had been owned and read by Fischer, the chess god. But, also, they were wonderful books no matter who had previously possessed them. There were Polish endgame books by Galikowski, a magnificen­t book on tactics by Lisitsin, and several other foreign language delights.

One of them was a book by Lipnitsky in Russian. It was threadbare, but it looked intriguing. Neverthele­ss, I didn’t realize how fully intriguing it was until a few weeks later. Having put it aside for a bit, I thought

I’d drag it to the Marshall and look it over more intently. Or maybe I was just trying to show it off and tell people from whom I had gotten it. When Raymond Weinstein saw me looking at it, he immediatel­y identified it as Fischer’s copy. He claimed (and since others have backed this fact up), that Fischer had carried it around with him on his travels for a full year. Furthermor­e, as Weinstein asserted, that was the very book that Fischer himself had said helped him become a grandmaste­r. That revelation (whether true or not) was both astonishin­g and thrilling to hear. But there was one more surprise yet to come (I guess I hadn’t looked at the book as carefully as I should have – and I surmise neither had Walter Goldwater). Leafing through its first pages, Weinstein found what I had unfathomab­ly missed: Fischer’s actual printed signature (that’s how he signed in those days). Probably, to this very day, that’s the one book prize I value the most.’


Isaac Lipnitsky was born in 1923 in Kiev, Ukraine and was a strong Soviet player in the 1950s, but sadly died of leukemia in 1959. His ‘Questions of Modern Chess Theory was published in the Soviet Union in 1956’ was belatedly translated into English in 2008. According to legend, Fischer learned Russian just to be able to read this book.

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