Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Going Once, Going Twice, Gone to St. Louis!

| Permalink | 27 comments

The auction of many of Bobby Fischer's personal effects and chess items took place yesterday. You can see the auction listing here. It's worth going to the Flash version of the image, which lets you pan around and zoom in on the items in the photo. As I was about to post this I got a tip and an early copy of the following press release. The big new presence on the US chess scene, St. Louis Chess Club founder and 2009 US Championship sponsor, Rex Sinquefield, was the winning bidder. That's great news since this amazing collection will be kept together, publicly displayed, and made available for research. The winning bid was $61,000 ($50K + fees).


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.

"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.

The Chess.FM blog will have shortly exclusive video footage from the auction by Macauley Peterson. [Now up here.]

I have a couple of items I got Fischer to sign when I met him and did some work during his appearance and press conferences in Buenos Aires in 1996. And a few pages of the Fischerandom rules I translated with his barely comprehensible notes scribbled on them. Judging by the photos of his 1972 materials at the auction, his handwriting deteriorated even faster than the rest of him. (Though most of the writing you can see in that photo is by the editors, surely. Fischer wasn't writing "stet" on the title page!) I hope that at least the most important items in the new Sinquefield collection will be scanned/photographed and put online.


At that price it's a steal.

Of course it was sort of stolen, if legally so. Now that Fischer's dead that issue is largely moot, I suppose. But it would have felt dirty to own that stuff when he was alive knowing how it left his hands. (While living abroad, Fischer defaulted on payment for his personal storage unit in the US where many of his possessions were, including this collection.)

Anyone been tracking this stuff since it left the storage facility? I seem to remember it popping up for sale here and there, maybe piecemeal. No word on who the seller was yesterday.

I tried to contact the seller via Bonhams two weeks ago; they said the seller wanted to stay anonymous but they were happy to forward my email with some questions - no response unfortunately.

At 50K, plus the 21K commission, that seems like a steal to me. I would love to have been able to bid, but I can't afford to go up against Mr. Sinquefield!

IMO It is a steal at any price , like buying the hands of Che Guevara.
That should be property of Fischer ´s relatives or designed(by him)friends , museums , whatever .
Valuables like those shouldnt be for sale , unless donated by him.

I wouldn't be surprised if Mr Targ (bobby's sister, Joan's husband) makes a claim sometime. According to news reports, he surfaced in Iceland after Fischer's death to make a claim to the estate 'on behalf of his children', Fischer's nephews'.

Impossible for anyone to make a legal claim on this collection. It is standard law in US that when you fail to pay for storage rent (which Fischer didn't) then contents can be legally sold off. It happens everyday in the US - many make a living out of buying contents from storage lockers not knowing what's inside it.

Henderson is correct. Further any attempt at legally claiming these items would be thrown out of court and dismissed. Bonham's would never have sold it at auction either if the seller could not prove legal ownership.

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

God bless you Bobby, no doubt you're deeply involved in litigation against the Creator as we speak. I hope you win!

It is really painful listening to the blonde idiot try to describe Fischer's game notebook from the 60's. Good grief, if you're going to display items, especially the the prices charged (11K+ auction fee??!), at take the time to learn about them!


You can get a better video at ICC Chess.FM blog - https://webcast.chessclub.com/blog/2009/06/11/sold-fischers-library/

"RGW" is probably Robert Graham Wade, who wrote a book entitled "The Games of Bobby Fischer", as well as the books "Soviet Chess" and "World Championship 1951". In the late 1960s he was working with Batsford to produce books on the openings. Mr. Wade left this world on November 29, 2008, about ten months after Fischer's own passing on Jan 16, 2008. One wonders about the connection between these two individuals...

Yes, we know "RGW" was Bob Wade - I had this confirmed by Bob himself back in 2005 when the collection went on eBay, and there was no mention on the cards of "RGW", with the seller falsely claiming it was in the hand of Fischer. However, one prized thing in the collection that was never highly publicized was some of Fischer's own scorebooks of games with notes and annotations.

I can also solve the mystery of the so-called "unexamined" computer disks - it was a collection of NIC games and databases given personally to Bobby from New In Chess editor Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, prior to his 1992 Rematch with Spassky.

i wouldn't entrust the sale of my used car to that sales rep from bonhams, in case there's a question about the steering wheel and its purpose.

fischer's brother-in-law did try to muscle in on the estate, but between fischer's japanese wife and filipina daughter the poor fellow and his sons were edged out.

Just curious, do we know for certain Fischer defaulted on the storage fees? Such as legal documentation? Cuz Fischer himself seemed awfully insistent he had paid in full months in advance, and shady owners do have a strong incentive to steal the stuff.

Apparently what was sold is far from the full collection. While googling to try to ascertain whether the collection was stolen, I found:


It does sound as though he got done, though unclear who is the guilty. Non-profane excerpts:

Fischer: Ya, ya. They said I owe them a few hundred dollars which is, you know, without contacting me, nothing. They just sold it all off – stuff that it took me a lifetime to accumulate. I had it in. They broke open my safes and they broke open my file cabinets and everything. And just sold off everything. Sold off like a hundred boxes of my stuff and sold off my photo album, my letters from President Marcos, my photo album with President Marcos – everything.


Fischer: I have spent on this... just in storage fees alone over 10,000 dollars. I have spent in buying the custom-made safes, custom-made file cabinets, with secret built-in safes in the file cabinets, another file cabinet, a safe with special drill-proof doors, with a second door inside, combination locks, both timers, in case somebody tries to force you to open it. The works! To preserve my memorabilia. My stuff from Marcos, my letters from President Nixon, books dedicated to me by President Nixon, former President Nixon when he dedicated the books, but he was President Nixon when he wrote to me. All kinds of stuff, photo albums, statues, the works!

Dunno, but it does appear the collection is indeed STOLEN PROPERTY. In an honest civil court case (Fischer suing his agent; his agent the storage company), the judge would set things right and restore the collection to Fischer.

It doesn't make much business fort Mr Sinquefield to put up the most important items of the collection online when he can turn the St Louis Chess Club into a much hotter attraction by displaying the collection exclusively at the club.

It doesn't make much business sense for Mr Sinquefield to put up the most important items of the collection online when he can turn the St Louis Chess Club into a much hotter attraction by displaying the collection exclusively at the club.


Your "St Louis Chess Club" is probably some hole in the wall no outsider would want to visit - get over yourself. Also as a nonprofit 501c3 endeavor "business sense" does not apply - think "free and universally available".

(It's also impossible to shelf the books without display case and f/t guard... somehow I'm guessing the Sinquefields have thought of that as well...)

Doesn't look like a hole in the wall to me. Didn't they just hold the US Championship?


The fact that Fischer once owned those chess books gives them some value. But really how valuable is an old Informator if Fischer made no notes anywhere in its margins?

Each game in a World Chess Championship title match ought to be played on a brand new board with new pieces: if 12 games, then 12 boards and 12 sets of chessmen.
Then each board + set could be auctioned for profit.

hcl, nice April Fool's Day comments. Only, April 1 was 2-1/2 months ago. Better buy yourself a calendar.


I'm not sure how you missed the U.S. Championship in St. Louis. It's mind-boggling for you to even opine that it could be some hole-in-the-wall. The place is absolutely first-class.

I will agree with you though that the materials were confiscated from Fischer with the lowest of ethical concerns. Fischer could have been contacted. For someone who had paid as much as US$10000, it is amazing that they couldn't track him down.

However, Sinquefield followed the rules and now owns a classic collection. It would certainly make an interesting addition to the best chess club in the U.S. He could probably sell or donate some items to the Hall of Fame Museum in Miami.


Here is a link to some pics I took at the "hole-in-the-wall" club in St. Louis.


St. Louis Chess club might be the best chess club in the WORLD. It is certainly without contest the best Chess club in North America. As for 'hole in the wall' it can't ever enter that competition... you try spending 250,000 on a three story chess club and just TRY to make it into "a hole in the wall"

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on June 11, 2009 2:12 PM.

    Second String First in Poikovsky was the previous entry in this blog.

    Motylev Wins Poikovsky 09 is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.