Image by Collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame, gift of Raquel Browne
Arthur Bisguier, who died earlier this month, produced some sparkling games over the course of his career. World Chess’s columnist looks back at some of the best.
Arthur Bisguier, an American grandmaster, died April 5, 2017, at the age of 87. In his heyday in the 1950s and early 1960s he was one of the world’s best players, a grandmaster at a time when fewer than 40 people in the world had the title. In the American chess scene he was overshadowed first by Samuel Reshevsky, and then in the late 1950s by Bobby Fischer. Nevertheless, he was one of the country’s top players and a beloved figure among American chess fans even into the 21st century.
While he kept playing in American tournaments into his 80s, his career as a serious professional player had finished decades earlier. Even those fans who saw him playing or providing commentary in national tournaments – as he often did — may not fully realize what a strong player he was. Bisguier wrote a two-part chess autobiography replete with great games, but the following are some that really stand out.
Bisguier really struggled against Fischer, losing 13 consecutive games to him. But the first time that they faced each other, when Fischer was only 13, he beat him.
Bisguier, Arthur Bernard vs. Fischer, Robert James
New York Rosenwald |New York |Round |1956.??.?? |1-0
( 6... Na6followed by ...e5 is the
main alternative. )
( 7. d5is nearly automatic here, when play
typically transposes into a Modern Benoni after 7... e68. Be2exd59. cxd5, and now Black generally chooses between 9... Bg4, ... )
7... cxd48. Nxd4Nc6The usual move, but the computer also likes
( 8... e5!, which has almost never been played. It seems the
position is about equal after 9. Ndb5Ne810. fxe5Bxe511. Be3Nc6 )
9. Nc2There's nothing wrong with
( 9. Be3. Black has several provocative tries here (e.g. ...Ng4, .
..Bg4, and ...even ...Qb6), but White maintains chances for an edge in each
( 9... Nd7!followed by ...Nc5 helps Black fight for the
10. O-ORc811. Be3Now White has a small but safe and
enduring plus. 11... Na5?!12. b3a6?Fischer is hoping for counterplay based
on ...b5, but his imprecise play is strongly punished by Bisguier.
( 12... Ng4was the only safe way to (try to) constructively use Black's last move, but
White's advantage is increasing after 13. Bd2, when Black has nothing
better than to retreat the knight from g4, and soon the other knight to c6 as
13. e5!dxe514. fxe5Ne8The e-pawn is in trouble, but so is
Black's knight on a5. 15. Nd5!Threatening Bb6. 15... Rc616. Nd4?White is
still clearly better after this move, but
( 16. Qd2!was winning. For
example, 16... Bxe517. Rad1Nd618. Nb6!Nxb319. Qd5!Even stronger than 19.axb3.
Too many Black pieces are loose; White will come out with a material advantage
to match his positional advantage. )
( 16... Bxe5!17. Nxc6Nxc618. Rc1 )
( 17. Qe1! )
17... Rc6?!White gets a second shot at
playing Qd2, but he misses it again.
( 17... Nc618. Bb6Nc719. e6!puts Black against the ropes. )
18. Ncb4?Re6?!Both sides seem to
underestimate the resilience of this sacrifice. Nowadays all experienced
players are very familiar with exchange sacrifices; maybe back then they were
less standard than they are today, and they tended to be underestimated.
( 18... Bxe5!19. Nxc6Nxc620. Rc1 )
19. Bg4Forcing a long tactical sequence.
( 19. Nd3!Bxe520. Nxe5Rxe521. Bd4 )
19... Rxe520. Bb6Qc821. Bxd7Qxd722. Bxa5e6Otherwise White remains a piece ahead, winning easily. 23. Nd3!Rh524. N3f4Rf525. Bb4exd526. Bxf8Bxa1?It's natural that
Fischer would want to reestablish material equality, but it was better to play
( 26... Kxf8/+- and battle on down the exchange for a pawn. )
27. Qxa1Kxf828. Qh8+Ke729. Re1+Kd830. Nxd5Black's position is in dire straits;
never mind the material equality. 30... Qc631. Qf8Qd7Now for a nice finish. 32. Rd1!Rf6A little joke, perhaps. Of course White won't play Nxf6, which
would be a blunder (Black takes the rook with check, then plays ...Qd4+, and
then grabs the knight on f6), but gets to finish in style: 33. Qxe8+!No matter which way Black captures the queen, White plays Nxf6 with check and
then takes Black's queen, coming out of the deal at least a rook ahead. Black
resigned. Their next game was drawn, and after that Fischer won their next,
last 13 games. (Not merely 13 straight decisive games, excluding draws, but 13
straight wins, full stop.)
In the 1960s, Bent Larsen of Denmark became the best western player other than Fischer, regularly winning tournaments ahead of the top Soviet players and reaching the semifinals of the Candidates matches in the year that this game was played. In this case, Bisguier mates him in just 19 moves!
Bisguier, Arthur Bernard vs. Larsen, Bent
Zagreb |Zagreb |Round 9 |1965.??.?? |1-0
1. d4g62. e4Bg73. f4As in the previous game, against Fischer, we see
Bisguier choosing a very aggressive system. He is not worried about
overextending, but wants to go for the throat. Even against a top player like
Larsen, he is fearless. 3... d64. Nf3Nf65. Bd3O-O6. O-ONbd7Begging for
e4-e5 to be played. Bisguier obliges.
( 6... e5!is playable and less
provocative. Despite appearances, White cannot win a pawn here, but should
prefer instead to consolidate his center with 7.c3. 7. c3 )
7. e5Ne8A bit much.
( 7... Nd5!?8. c3 )
8. Qe1A good idea in general, but maybe a little slow
( 8. Ng5! )
8... c5!And now the race is on: will White's center be
destroyed before Black's king is decapitated? 9. f5!?It's not clear if
this is better than 9.e6, but it is more confusing.
( 11... cxd412. Ng5Ndf613. Nd2Qc714. Nde4Bf5This is the key difference, the reason Black must use
the d-knight on move 12. White is better here, but completely winning in the
other line. 15. Nxf6+Nxf616. g4!e617. gxf5exf518. b3! )
( 12. Ng5!Ndf613. Nd2/+- White's plan to give mate, starting with Nde4 on the next move, is a
strong one. )
12... Nef6?The "wrong rook" is a well-known kind of error;
in this game, it's the wrong knight. The issue isn't the knight, but the
bishop on c8. Black needs it to participate in the defense, e.g. of the e6
( 12... Ndf613. Ng5b5is messy, and for now Black is holding his
( 13... b514. Bxg6!fxg615. Bxg7is devastating. )
( 14... Bxf615. Bg7!A well-known trick from some
Sicilian Dragon variations, but the motif was fresher at the time of this game.
Black gets mated on h7 next move. (Unless he wastes a move with 15...Nf3+, in
which case it's mate in two.) )
( 14... Nxd3White has many good moves, but his best move is the highly improbable 15. Nd2!!The point is to bring reinforcements, covering the f6 square. Once that's done, White can play Bxg7 and Qh7#. )
15. Rf1Re816. Bf8!Not the only winning move, but the nicest and prettiest. 16... Bf6
( 16... Rxf8?17. Qh7# )
( 16... Kxf8?17. Qxh8# )
17. Rxf6!exf6White is behind slightly in material, two of his pieces are hanging and those pieces that aren't under attack are playing no role in the game. One would expect that Black would be fine, but of course White is ready with his one last resource. 18. Qh6!Would Black prefer to be mated on g7 or h7? 18... Rxf819. Qh7#
The next game is from the 1970s against the talented young grandmaster Ljubomir Ljubojevic, then representing Yugoslavia. “Ljubo” was and is renowned as a brilliant tactician, one of the most creative players of his time, but in this game he was tactically outclassed by Bisguier. Ljubojevic’s attempt to surprise his older opponent in the opening backfired, as Bisguier figured everything out over the board and crushed him.
Bisguier, Arthur Bernard vs. Ljubojevic, Ljubomir
Malaga |Malaga |Round 14 |1971.??.?? |1-0
1. d4Nf62. c4e5The Budapest Gambit is a rare guest in high-level play,
but it has its drop of poison. 3. dxe5Ne4?!This is a tricky line, but if
White knows what he's doing his advantage is even larger than in the 3...Ng4
mainline. 4. Nf3Nc65. a3!Stopping any nasty checks on b4. 5... d66. Qc2!Another strong move, then only played once or twice before. Ironically, this
move's first victim was none other than Bisguier himself. In 1969 it was tried
a second time in a game between Schroder and Bozzo, won by Black. And this is
its third outing! 6... d5
( 6... Bf5was Bisguier's attempt to handle 6.Qc2 in the
stem game. He did not succeed 7. Nc3Nxf28. Qxf5Nxh19. e6/+- ...fxe610. Qxe6+Qe711. Qd5h612. g3g513. Bg2Nxg314. hxg3Bg715. Bh3Ne516. Bd2g417. Bxg4h518. Bf5c619. Qe4Kd820. Ng5Bf621. Ne6+Kc822. O-O-OKb823. Bf4b624. Kb11-0 (24) Reshevsky,S-Bisguier,A New York 1955 )
( 7... Bf5is more stable. White should call the bluff with 8. Nc3!, when Black should retreat: 8... Nd6!9. e4!Bxe410. Nxe4dxe411. exd6exf312. Qe4+!Kd713. Be3Black's king is likely to perish. )
8. cxd5Qxd59. Bc4Qa5+10. b4!Very strong, and very principled. For us it's
easy to work things out with the engine, but Bisguier had to work it all out
for himself in this, then-new, position. 10... Bxb4+
( 10... Nxb4?11. Qxe4 )
11. axb4!Qxa112. Qxe4No one has played
( 12. Bb2!, but it's even
stronger. 12... Nxb413. Bxf7+!Forced! 13... Kf814. Qxe4Qxb215. O-OBxf316. Qxf3Ke717. Bh5Rhf818. Qxb7While White has some improving to do with
his rook and knight, he's still winning the game. )
( 12... Bxf313. gxf3!Qxe514. Nd2! )
( 13. b5Na514. e6is also very
( 13... O-O-O14. Qc2Bg615. e4Nxb416. Qb3 )
14. exf7+Kf815. Qf4Qxb116. O-OWhite's king is completely safe, unlike its
counterpart, and so Black's very slight material advantage is of no
consequence. 16... Qe417. b5?It seems a bit harsh to give this move a question
mark, especially since Bisguier is still winning. Nevertheless, it does shrink
his advantage considerably, so it merits the interrogative mark. From here on
Bisguier makes no further errors, and the remainder needs no further comment.
Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.