Fischer v. Spassky, 1972.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

“To placate Fischer the third game was played in another room and broadcast to the dismayed audience on closed-circuit television. He won handily. The players returned to the exhibition hall for the rest of the match, and Fischer soon grabbed the lead and held it, albeit still complaining about the presence of cameras (in the end very little of the match was filmed), the surface of the chess board (too shiny), the proximity of the audience (he insisted that the first seven rows of seats be removed), and the ambient noise. Distressed at their countryman’s poor showing, members of the Soviet delegation began to make their own unreasonable demands, hoping to unnerve Fischer. They accused him of using a concealed device to interfere with Spassky’s brain waves. The match was halted while police officers searched the playing hall. Fischer’s chair was taken apart, light fixtures were dismantled, the entire auditorium was swept for suspicious electronic signals. Nothing was found. (In a subsequent investigation a Soviet chemist waved a plastic bag around the stage and then sealed it for lab analysis. The label affixed to the bag read “Air from stage.”)” Bobby Fischer is a nut.

There are a bunch of other good chess-player rock-star bits in the story. To wit:

“To generate income, however, he resorted to selling himself to chess fans and curiosity seekers. The going rate for an hour’s phone conversation was $2,500. Bob Dylan is said to have received a call from Fischer as a gift from his manager. For $5,000 a personal meeting could be arranged. A student of the three-time U.S. chess champion Lev Alburt once paid $10,000 for several “chess consultations.” Alburt says his student considered the money well spent.”

“The old Bobby Fischer was back, and more bizarre than ever. This was made eminently clear when Fischer informed tournament officials that he wanted the toilet in his bathroom to rise higher in the air than anyone else’s.”

“But returning to America is no more real a possibility than the rook-shaped house he once dreamed of building. The federal arrest warrant issued in 1992 will not expire, and it is unlikely that Fischer will be shown much leniency—especially since he referred to George W. Bush during one of his radio interviews as “borderline retarded.”“

What a life…