Norman Tweed Whitaker


by Sam Sloan

I have just come across the proof of something which I have been stating for years, which is that Fischer played chess in Cuba during the mid-1950s. Of course, it is well known that Fischer played in the Havana Chess Olympiad in 1966 and that he played by radio from the Marshal Chess Club in the Capablanca Memorial in Havana when the State Department would not allow him to travel to Cuba, but what I have been saying is that Fischer played in Cuba on a previous occasion, about 10 years earlier.
Norman T. Whitaker in 1956 with Sam Sloan, age 12, facing him and Creighton Sloan in the foreground. This photo was taken by Dr. Marjorie Sloan

I have asked many chess players about this, players who knew Bobby during that period. All of them said that Fischer never went to Cuba. Also, the biography of Bobby Fischer contains no mention of him playing in Cuba during that time.

However, I distinctly recall Whitaker telling me about Fischer playing in Cuba during a junket arraigned by E. Forry Laucks of the Log Cabin Chess Club. This fact is confirmed by an article by Whitaker in Chess Review magazine for December, 1969, page 503, which stated:

"Often I am asked about Bobby Fischer. I know him better than most others. We spent three weeks on a chess tour through many southern states and Cuba. The team of eight voted that I play Board 1, Fischer on Board 2. Naturally, I had stronger opposition, but in the end our scores were the same -- each won five, lost one and drew one. I urged Fischer to play 1. P-K4. In the dozen years since, as I recall, Bobby has never played any other opening move."

This statement has apparently been ignored, perhaps because, for certain reasons, International Master Norman Tweed Whitaker has not been regarded as the most reliable witness.

However, now I have the proof, which has always been there, actually.

In Chess Review for April, 1956, page 101, there is a photograph of Fischer giving a simultaneous exhibition. The caption states:

"At the Club Capablanca (Havana), Log Cabin President E. Forry Laucks slips into exhibition (facing Bobby Fischer). Besides Laucks and Fischer, Log Cabin ensemble included Wm. Walbrecht, Sec. New Jersey State Chess Association; N. T. Whitaker, Director of Washington Chess Divan; Team Captain Ted Miller of Fool's Mate C. C. in Newark; Robert Houghton of the Public Service C. C. in Newark; and E. R. Glover, President of Mercantile Library C. C. The trip extended 3500 miles: Philadelphia; Hollywood, St. Petersberg, Miami, Tampa (Fla.); Havana; and Clinton, N. C."

Of course, it must be pointed out that Fischer was 12 years old at the time. This explains why Whitaker would play on board one and Fischer on board two.

What's the big deal?, you ask. Actually, the big deal is that this means that somewhere deep inside of Communist Cuba there must be a few scores of games played by Bobby Fischer at an early age, games which many collectors and other interested persons would like to get their hands on.

For more about Norman T. Whitaker, see: Norman T. Whitaker

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