Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fischer's Last Theorem: "Pawn to King Four Wins the Game"

Bobby Fischer, 64, former World Chess Champion passed away in Iceland today. Lots of people in the Philippines, some in Manila, more in Baguio City up north, remember the many years that Bobby Fischer spent here, punctuated by periodic public harangues on AM Talk Radio stations. Filipinos know what an utterly crazy and seriously insane being was Bobby Fischer.

Of course, when it came to chess, perhaps that was the necessary attribute of the genius he evinced as a practitioner, at least at his zenith. After all, it was Fischer who singlehandedly broke the Russian Bear Hug on the world chess championship in the 20th Century.

Bobby Fischer may yet be remembered for what I can only call Fischer's Last Theorem which has to do with perhaps the most intriguing question about the Game of Chess itself, which is this:


Bobby Fischer reportedly believed that the game of chess can forcibly be won by the side that makes the first move:

P-K4!! wins.

I wonder if he meant this literally and technically, or was just being macho? Maybe Fischer's conjecture will someday be proved, like Fermat's Last Theorem.

But who or what will prove it?

Although chess playing computers like IBM's Deep Blue and Deep Thought are defeating human grandmasters and world champions, it is a source of human pride to know that even the most powerful of these machines cannot yet CONCEIVE of such a question as, "Does chess have a winning line?"

Or know why BOTH the question and its unknown answer are intrinsically interesting, significant and meaningful to the Carbon-based units who dream of mathematics, and are already birthing the next generation of computers.

We make the rules. We invent the games. We are safe as long as they can never plug themselves in, or learn to ask hard questions!


Amadeo said...

When it was first introduced here in the West Coast, the demonstrators from Wow Toys gifted us with their newest game, Chess 4.

I had waited for the game to catch on before I would try to learn it. But as you see the box remains unopened.

Is it even known in the old homeland? It is still played like Chess but with four players, and the board is extended to account for the addtional 2 placements.

Many of our Chess-enthusiast compatriots spend their sunny days in San Francisco congregating along downtown Market St. in serious matches. It must have been a somber day there when the death of Bobby Fischer hit the news.

DJB Rizalist said...

well, yes among the chess afficionados, there was a little gnashing of teeth. But he was pretty controversial fellow, even around here, especially with his neo Nazi anti Semitism. the Baguio boys can be especially hard on him.

Jego said...

"Does chess have a winning line?"

Pit Deep Blue against another Deep Blue. If they both calculate the best moves, we'll find out if white does indeed have a winning line.

But as a gut feeling, since chess has a finite number of possible moves, I would tend to think that, like Tic-Tac-Toe, a winning line is impossible.

(Regarding the Kasparov - Deep Blue match, where Kasparov responded to chess commentators' remarks on Kasparov's uncharacteristic blunders, especially in the last game, Kasparov said he was rattled because Deep Blue seemed to be reading his mind.)

Amadeo said...


But I always like to separate the personae of Bobby Fischer. He was the boy wonder of Chess, but IMO, beyond that, he never grew up, including in his personal life.

If you recall, during that historic meeting with Spassky in one grueling adjourned match, while Spassky hied and went into seclusion with his many Russian handlers who were masters in their own rights, planning their next moves, Fischer spent the night swimming solo in a pool. And in Iceland at that! And was that during winter time? Even then, people thought he was weird, at the very least.

But he won that game, too!

john marzan said...

i still have fischer's chess manual published by national bookstore.

DJB Rizalist said...

LOL! "...separate the personae of Bobby Fischer..."

Richard said...

Bobby Fischer - God riddance and I guess I'll see you in hell, you nasty, traitorous SOB!

blogotheque said...

There will always be a winning line when the opponent commits a blunder before your own move. Instead of playing chess, I opt to play with words, "In blunders field where losses grow."