Reports | June 12, 2009 6:04

Rex Sinquefield purchases Bobby Fischer's chess collection

Fischer MemorabiliaA collection of valuables and belongings of Bobby Fischer, which appeared as an item on eBay several times in recent years, was yesterday purchased by Rex Sinquefield, founder and board president of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

Photo © Bonhams

On May 27th we reported that a remarkable item could be found at the website of auction house Bonhams: a collection of valuables and belongings of Bobby Fischer.

The item comprised over 300 chess books in various languages, approximately 400 issues of chess-related periodicals, "nine personal floppy disks (unexamined)‚ three sets of proofs for Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games (published 1969) and "four volumes of bound typescript detailing the match history of Boris Spassky from the 1950s to 1971 and fifteen volumes of ring- or string-bound manuscript notebooks with notation of the games of Mark Taimanov and Tigran Petrossian [sic] from the 1950s-1970, various hands".

In our report we expressed some small doubts about the story, since the same item appeared on eBay several times in recent years but was always mysteriously removed again within a couple of days.

But this time it was for real. Yesterday, June 10th, Fischer's belongings were purchased by Rex Sinquefield, founder and board president of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis where this year's US Championship was held. We received the following press release:

St. Louis, June 11 -- Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield have purchased the chess library of the legendary Bobby Fischer, including notebooks he prepared for his 1972 World Championship match with Boris Spassky. The Sinquefields acquired the collection through San Francisco-based auction house, Bonhams and Butterfields.

Sinquefield

Rex Sinquefield

"I am thrilled to have this collection from arguably the greatest chess player in history," said Rex Sinquefield, founder and board president of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. "I have been a lifelong fan of Bobby Fischer."

The reclusive Fischer died in January 2008 at age 64. The collection purchased by the Sinquefields includes 320 books on chess; about 400 issues of chess-related periodicals; three sets of proofs for Fischer's 1969 book, "My 60 Memorable Games"; and a number of bound volumes detailing the match histories of several chess masters, including Spassky.

The Spassky-related works centers on Fischer's preparation for his historic 1972 match, won by Fischer. The victory ended 24 years of Soviet domination of the World Championship.

The collection also includes a copy of "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess," with a note indicating that Fischer planned on suing the publishers.

Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, who are retired investment company executives, said they weren't sure of their plans with the Fischer collection. "I am thinking right now about how to display it and to make it available to scholars," Rex said.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center was founded in 2007 with funding from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation. It recently hosted the 2009 U.S. Chess Championship, which was won by Hikaru Nakamura. The center also will host the 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship from Oct. 2 to Oct. 12.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization. For more information, please visit www.saintlouischessclub.org.

As he spent the last decades of his life outside the US, Fischer had placed many of his valuables and belongings into a storage unit in Pasadena (California). At the end of the 1990s the storage company decided to sell the contents of the unit after payment of the rent had stopped.

In December 2005, Fischer’s memorabilia suddenly appeared as an item on eBay. It wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t the last either. The seller claimed that he had bought the material at a flea market.

It's a relief to know that Fischer's belongings are in good hands, and that the collection will soon be where it should: on display, and accessible for future generations.

Update: Macauley Peterson of the Chess.FM blog writes:
It was all over in seconds. Bobby Fischer’s library filled three glass cases in on the Mezzanine level of Bonhams nd Butterfields auction house on Madison Avenue in New York. The hundreds of chess books in various languages, issues of chess-related periodicals, proofs for Fischer’s My 60 Memorable Games, and assorted notes and other miscellanea were sold in one lot for a 'hammer price' of USD $50,000, plus a $11,000 Bonhams commission...

Video by Macauley Peterson


This video is published under a Creative Commons license ("BY-NC-ND"), meaning it can be freely re-posted and shared, with attribution.

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

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Comments

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Yes, that was indeed good news. Now I firmly believe that this collection will be kept together and available for many a future researcher into this strange and elusive chess genious.
As the very first to dig into this collection I would like to recommend Andrew Soltis. Do you hear me, Rex?

Tasneem's picture

Remarkable! Owning anything from a legend such as Bobby Fischer especially if it relates to chess is truly remarkable. If only I had that kind of money.

henk's picture

If I counted well there are (at least) 23 Chess Informants in the collection. If correct, this means that Fischer activeley followed chess at least until 1978, that is almost 6 years after his "real" departure from active play. Just thought that was interesting.

henk's picture

The Sinquefield couple are like the new Piatigorsky´s of chess. Wel done!

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Yes, that is an interesting observation, Henk. But it should be mentioned that Fischer until the late 70es still occassionnaly had some negotiations with Karpov for a match. So you may suppose that he was still working a lot with chess.
In fact I am quite sure that he still purchased Chess Informant after volume 23, but where can these volumes be now? I believe I remember that there were some sharp breaks in Fischers life in the end-70es: He left his religious society and he was also imprissoned for some time.
Where Fischer went and stayed in the 80es is still quite mysterious. Rumours said that he for some time settled in Germany, and there is also the track with this philipinno child of his. Anyhow, it is quite likely that there still are some Fischer-collections to be found here and there.

henk's picture

His imprisonment (one day) is documented and described by Fischer himself in a short booklet titled "How I was tortured in a Pasadena jail". It´s not hard to find as an ebook download and is a mildly (although unintentionally) funny, angered description of Fischer of how he was mistaken for a bankrobber on the run and treated as an annoying, uncooperative homeless bum by the Pasadena police.

henk's picture

,,other material of an extremely personal nature" sounds more like pornography than Tarzan books to me haha.

Castro's picture

@henk

lol
Carefull! Those kind of observations may reveal one's own experiences!

Also, I like the image of "extremely personal". It's like "radicaly centered" :-)

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Well, to a dirty mind, everything seems dirty.
I am not at all interested in "material of an extremely personal nature", no matter who it had belonged too. We all have the right to some secrets.
But an over all view of Fischer´s "non chess reading material" could indeed be interesting. I could be that it would show us that the man was not that singleminded, as he is usually depicted.

Jens Kristiansen's picture

I have been digging a little more into this. The first E-bay-auction on this collection was in 2005, and for some reason it was cancelled. But running though the published content of the 2005-collection shows that it had far more items. Where are they now?
What Rex Sinquefield has bought is explicitly "only" chessrelated items, with a few exceptions. That is of course also the most important matter, but we still miss something to draw the picture of this strange man.
One item mentioned at the 2005-auction was

"...boxes of non chess reading material containing a wide variety of spiritual, political, religous, and other material of an extremely personal nature."

It could indeed be interesting to know the content of these boxes. If not for anything else, to break down the myth going that Bobby Fischer´s nonchess literary taste was limited to Tarzan books.

vaughn's picture

@Jens Kristiansen:accordin to wiki:"In an interview in the January, 1962 issue of Harper's Magazine, Fischer was quoted as saying, "I read a book lately by Nietzsche and he says religion is just to dull the senses of the people. I agree.""

Castro's picture

Fischer agreeing with Nietzsche agreeing with Marx. Very nice!

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