William Lombardy was born on December 4th, 1937 in Manhattan, New York. Born at the start of the worst year of the Depression, he was subject to the shortages of food and other necessities. Fortunately he was part of a large and dedicated family which took the responsibility of caring for the child and his cousin Barbara, a month older. He still remembers the radio announcement of the Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941. His uncle Robert Flinch, a Marine Staff Sergeant was married to his Aunt Natalie, the mother of cousin Barbara. The marine was charged with training Marines at Paris Island and was allowed to frequently visit his home and his family’s home in the Longwood Section of the Bronx. He was also fortunate to avoid combat service, because of his military assignment. That wonderful
The large apartment on Beck Street had four bedrooms, a super-sized living room and an eat-in kitchen. The bathroom had a tub that could actually fit two people! There was a fire escape attached from the kitchen window, and to that escape was attached a long clothing line attached to a pole entrenched across a spacious yard with numerous plants. The rent was $15.- per month!
The neighborhood boasted gracious space more than adequate for the activities of the so many children in the neighborhood. The family did not recognize that it was poor, for it never missed a meal. Grandma held that family together and did almost all of the house work. She found short cuts to complete her tasks, among which was placing sheets, bed linens, and pants on the seat of her wicker rocking Chair, where she sat to press the aforementioned items.
That chair was stationed at her large bedroom window, through which she could peer to watch over Barbara and Billy(the name attached to William Lombardy! Just about all the food was homemade, including yogurt, sauerkraut and golumki, the Polish stuffed cabbage!
In spite of the World War and the accompanying blackouts, the family had a most happy life. Even the Public School(P.S.39) was but half a block down Beck Street from #838 where the family resided. So the seven-member family, in a way, lived lavishly, with more than enough room and privacy. Billy even had his own room, which he did not mind sharing with Grandma’s large collection of home-grown plants. At the worst, the boy remembers an occasional bad dream!
Learning Chess and Progress–Lombardy did not learn Chess until he was nine years old. The move to the Hunts Point Section of the Bronx was predicated by a strange circumstance. Not having reached the age of five,the boy was considered too young to advance from Kindergarten.,/p>
His Dad Raymond was intolerant of that technicality, for he recognized his son as bright. So soon after the P.S.39 bureaucratic decision, the boys parents Raymond and Stella(Banek, her Polish family name) took the boy on a visit to St. Athanasius School on Fox Street. There to meet Sister Marie Estelle, the Sister of Charity and school Principal. The good Sister interviewed the boy and immediately accepted him for the First Grade, in spite of the boy’s age. In his first year, the boy seemed slow. But it was discovered that he had an eye defect(astigmatism) and was seated closer to the blackboard!
After eight years, the boy graduated with the General Excellence Medal! Soon after entering the First Grade, the little family moved north to 961 Faile Street. Not necessarily a good move, for the family missed the presence of Nana and all the work she did besides!
But the move had an essential and unpredictable advantage for the boy. He made friends easily. And it was one friend in particular whose presence technically altered the boy’s life. That friend Eddie Galernter. Eddie was an Orthodox Jew while Billy was a Roman Catholic, even attending a Catholic School. The neighborhood was seen as almost entirely Jewish and there were several Synagogues and Shuls a block up on Faile Street. The boy Billy as Eddies special friend became useful in assisting Eddie’s family by turning lights and the stove on and off for the Sabbat. but the true advantage of the friendship did not surface until Billy was nine.
Eddie had a brother ten years his senior. The brother taught him Chess! By the time both boys were nine, Eddie wanted a younger association for playing Chess and so Taught his friend. Frankly, Eddie had other intellectual interests and found difficulty winning a game from Soon Billy found that the neighborhood park hosted a friendly crowd of Jewish Gentlemen who played Chess for long hours and did not mind playing with the new young competitor. By the time Billy was eleven, he was unbeatable at the Lion’s Den Square Park, that could be seen from the family windows just beyond the great schoolyard across Faile Street and across Breyant Ave. So from her convenient vantage, mother Stella could readily observe Billy and care for him!
Billy then learned to play chess at the age of nine and began Serious study of the game at eleven, that through the good offices of a gentleman who played Chess in the neighborhood park and just happened to be a Righteous Jew! He also loved youth! By that time, Eddie and another friend Jerry Lovinger could hardly consider winning a game from the budding Master. By that time, the mysterious man, who never revealed his name, became the key in creating the future Chess Champion.
One fine afternoon, Billy came to the Park dressed in his dungarees. The man approached him and asked “How come you’re not dressed up?” It was the occasion of the Hebrew High Holy Days. “I’m not Jewish,” Billy responded. The kindly man broke the ice by continuing: “You’re not Jewish? You look like a nice Jewish boy.” Billy was made to feel entirely welcome!
In those days, Billy did not miss a day at the park, visited right after school. At the end of the next week the Holy Days were over. When Billy had arrived(in fresh dungarees!), the man saw him and beckoned the boy’s presence with a hand gesture, to which Billy politely responded. “I have something that you can use better than me.” The man extracted a marble notebook from a bag and handed it over. Inside the notebook was contained some two thousand Chess games collected by the man for a very long time. At that time, New York City boasted some six Chess columns! So Lombardy was presented with the beginning of a seriously authentic Chess Library! This was the happiest gift ever received by Lombardy, especially since that notebook became the germ of Lombardy’s Chess career and the Theory for efficient Chess learning, later to appear in “Understanding Chess….”[See the upcoming Biography!]
In 1954, at the age of 16, he became the youngest player ever to win the New York State Championship. Still in his teens, he became the first American to win the World Junior Chess Championship. His 11-0 record in his 1957 title run still stands today. He followed up by leading the U.S. Student team to the gold medal at the 1960 Student Olympiad. He has been a mainstay of American chess for decades, participating in seven Olympiads, many U.S. Championships, and winning three U.S. Open titles.
Lombardy briefly retired from competitive play when he entered the priesthood, being ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1967. His clerical responsibilities kept him away from international competitions. However, in 1972 he reappeared as Bobby Fischer’s sole second in Reykjavik during the “Match of the Century” against Boris Spassky, where Fischer was ultimately crowned World Champion.
Lombardy is America’s foremost Chess Teacher, which claim is authenticated by his having coached and taught Bobby Fischer from the time the boy was eleven years old, six months short of his 12th birthday. The teacher-student association began at the time when Lombardy won the New York State Championship on the Labor Day Weekend of 1954, thus entering into the list of the top-ten of American Chess! Lombardy had accepted Fischer as a student on one condition: that the arrangement and association was made as a tacit agreement! The meaning of tacit was explained to Fischer, who then agreed to the association. There was, of course, no fee! [See Lombardy’s full Biography.] The new Teacher-student relationship endured until Fischer’s untimely death in 2008, just short of the Champion’s 65th birthday.
Relationship with Bobby Fischer
Lombardy had not at all thought of teaching Chess, but his studious knowledge of the game assured his new student that “the Kid had made the right move”!
Starting in September 1954, Lombardy began coaching an 11½-year-old Bobby Fischer. Lombardy says: “We spent hours in our sessions, simply playing over quality games”, and that he “tried to instill in Bobby the secret of [his] own speedy rise. Eidetic Imagery and Total Immersion.”
Since Bobby, when I first met him at age 11½…stated that he would be world chess champion, I believed it was my job as his friend and confidant to do everything legitimately in my power to ensure that the young player’s dream would come true!…I voluntarily served as Bobby’s coach and second at the 1958 Portoroz Interzonal, when Bobby, at age 15, qualified for the world championship candidates’ tournament and thus became the youngest Grandmaster ever.
Indeed, photographs of Bobby and Bill analyzing go back to 1956 at the Manhattan Chess Club.
With a follow-through on the relationship between Fischer and Lombardy, we may say that Lombardy over the years and for the best ignored arguments of Bobby’s impulsiveness, ultimately considered Fischer as a younger brother. Lombardy’s familiar brother was born some four years after Lombardy and Fischer met! Lombardy was over the years prepared to look after his “little brother” in any emergency. In short, the relationship between the two Chess Geniuses was such that Lombardy is the one authentic authority on Robert James Fischer. All other claims to such authority must be considered as fabulous.
Curiously, after the Reykjavik “Match of the Century”, Fischer from 1972 refused to speak with Lombardy for some thirty-five years after that Match. The presumptuous “Little Brother” had no right to be displeased that Lombardy had in 1973 written a “Sport’s Illustrated article, which aptly detailed the events at Reykjavik. However, Lombardy soon learned the true reason for Bobby’s displeasure with the article.
From 1993 through mid-2001, Lombardy was desperately reviewing the Article, as it was determined that he would soon lose his eyesight. He was destined to go blind! Sordidly, neither Social Security nor any other Social Service offered him any assistance!
In those times, In reviewing and reediting the Article while knowing he was “going Blind”, Lombardy found that his text in the Article had been conveniently and crimenally edited(crimenal tampering) by one Brad Darrack(A pen name!), who, by his edititorship for and blithely allowed by Time-Life, “sweet ole Brad” sought to assure the undeserved success of his own planned fable “Bobby Fischer Versus the Rest of the World.”
During the Match Fischer allowed Darrach exclusive presence in observing Fischer, who for the privilege accorded to Darrach, received a fee of $25,000.-from Time-Life, of course! Lombardy warned Bobby that the relatively insignificant fee from Time-Life was courting serious problems and that he should abandon that dangerous business relationship, as Darrach was not to be trusted! But Bobby refused to act, despite the fact that he was not sorely in need of money and was told that he was biting off more than he could possibly chew!
Lamentably, Fischer was irresponsible in trying to punish his big brother for writing what was originally a glamorous renditionessentially , and further, for what was his own desperate recalcitrance and ingratitude to Lombardy. So Fischer, in effect, punished himself! He had forgotten what he owed Lombardy over many years and perticularly for the Reykjavik Assistance, without which he would not have continued nor completed the Match. Parenthetically, Bobby rewarded Spassky (who turned out to have been the greatest of hustlers!) by profiting him in another Match 20 years later from Reykjavik. Fischer in that Sveti Stefan Match appointed a replacement second! Strange what a distraught human can do in order to certify his own rectitude! On that point more will be exposed at an appropriate time.
In short, Lombardy, only so many years after the Match discovered to what degree Darrach had tampered with the Article Darrach conveniently named Lombardy’s Article “A Mystery Wrapped in Enigma”! Darrach had changed the tenor of the Article by subtly insertig his own creative opinions and Imperfect Truths (somewhat like the current producers of “Pawn Sacrifice” and the author of “The Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer”. And Darrach’s grossly creative opinions, certainly would justly displease much later when Bobby himself discovered what and how didtortedly Darrach had tampered with theTruth. Since certain key opinions expressed in the Sports Illustrated Article were not those of Lombardy, nor historically verifiable! [Other thoughts shall be expressed in the Biography.]
Articles written by William Lombardy:
Articles written about William Lombardy:
On the day he won the world chess championship [August 31, 1972], Bobby Fischer posed by an Icelandic hot spring, enveloped in its vapors and a native blanket. Since then he has shrouded himself in obscurity, venturing out of seclusion only once — in the Philippines — to play a chess game in public.
Last year I wrote a blog article on William Lombardy, one of America’s biggest stars from the 20th century. I have added new material since then (and William has a website now), some new photos and games, and I am certain that the reader will enjoy reading about the life and career of this remarkable individual.