Arthur Bisguier RIP (1929 – 2017)

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Sean Evans
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Arthur Bisguier RIP (1929 – 2017)

Post by Sean Evans » Thu Apr 06, 2017 11:45 am ... .html?_r=0
Arthur Bisguier, Brash, Self-Taught Bronx Chess Champion, Dies at 87

Arthur Bisguier, a largely self-taught chess grandmaster who brought a native Bronx brashness to his style of play in defeating some of the game’s greatest players while finding mostly frustration when he faced Bobby Fischer, died on Wednesday in Framingham, Mass. He was 87.

His daughter Erica Bisguier said the death, at a care facility, was caused by respiratory failure.

Mr. Bisguier (pronounced biss-GUY-er) learned to play chess when he was 7 by watching games between his older sister and a cousin. He won the New York High School Championship while still in junior high school.

He was not yet 20 when he won the United States Junior Championship in 1948; the next year, he successfully defended the title. He went on to win the United States Open in 1950, the first of five times he would triumph or tie for first in that tournament. And in 1954, he won the United States Championship, an invitation-only event.

Mr. Bisguier might have won more United States Championships — or at least one more — if not for Mr. Fischer. When Mr. Fischer came along, he was 14 years younger than Mr. Bisguier, but he began to dominate the American chess scene almost immediately, winning his first championship, in 1957-58, before he was 15.
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Mr. Bisguier’s one taste of victory against Mr. Fischer came in the first game they ever played, when Mr. Fischer was a child prodigy of 13. But he would not beat him again. Mr. Bisguier’s career record against him consisted of that one win, one draw (in their second game) and 13 consecutive losses.

Mr. Bisguier had a good opportunity to best Mr. Fischer in the 1962-63 championship, however. The two were tied going into the last round and had to play each other head to head. But, as happened so often against Mr. Fischer, Mr. Bisguier finished second.

In Mr. Fischer’s book “My 60 Memorable Games” (1969), the grandmaster and journalist Larry Evans wrote in an introduction to a chapter, “Bisguier is the one grandmaster who consistently obtains decent positions against Fischer, only to throw them away for no apparent reason.”

There was indeed a kind of Bronx brazenness to Mr. Bisguier’s personality and style of play. He was undisciplined, rarely spending time preparing for opponents. And having spent less time studying chess than many of his chief rivals, he would often play unpopular or rare opening systems. As a result, his opponents’ preparation would often no longer give them an advantage.

Mr. Bisguier preferred socializing to studying, and he made friends readily, even among his opponents. In the midst of the Cold War, at the 1952 Helsinki Chess Olympiad, he met David Bronstein, a leading player for the Soviet Union. As Mr. Bronstein wrote of him in his autobiography, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (1995), “It is difficult to believe that during this tense political climate we became friends and were openly talking to each other in the tournament hall.”

Though he could never overcome Mr. Fischer again, Mr. Bisguier counted some formidable opponents among his vanquished, including the former world champion Boris Spassky; Samuel Reshevsky, who, like Mr. Fischer, won the United States Championship eight times; and Svetozar Gligoric, who was a candidate for the world championship three times.

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