Bobby Fischer and Bent Larsen Playing Chess, 1966

May 4, 2021

Chess celebrity Bobby Fischer sits at the center of this colorized photo from 1966. The American whiz kid of the game is playing against Bent Larsen, a skilled Danish grandmaster. Hunched over this table on a sunny day, all smiles, these two players represented the world's best chance at breaking the Soviet Union's monopoly on the game. Behind Fischer, Gregor and Jacqueline Piatigorsky look on approvingly.

Carefree Bobby Fischer and Bent Larsen enjoy their obsession. Photo colorized by Klimbim. Source:

Chess, one of the oldest games in human history, became dominated by Russians not long after the turn of the century. While the Soviets’ love for chess dates back hundreds of years, the foundation for their nearly unimpeded rule of the 1900s was laid by Nikolay Krylenko, Vladimir Lenin’s supreme commander of the Soviet army. Thanks to his state sponsorship of the game, chess became their national pastime. Over the course of the century only two non-Russians ever truly spoiled their monopoly over the game: the legendary Bobby Fischer and Danish Grandmaster Bent Larsen.

Finding Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer, a child prodigy in the truest sense. (en.chessbase)

Americans love winners and few figures exemplify that conquering ethos more than Bobby Fischer’s claim to fame. Before and after Fischer, chess garnered less attention than a doorknob in the American sports landscape. If soccer could never gain a meaningful foothold in the United States, chess stood about as much as chance as we would playing a Grandmaster. Nevertheless, Fischer turned into a true celebrity, thanks to being “chess hot” and the fact that he stuck it to the Russians during the height of the Cold War.