From Kotov’s old book Jokingly and Seriously (1966, the article was written around 1965)
Robert Fischer As He Is
There was no salvation for the Black King. Doomed, he stood among the remnants of his army, still trying to fight off the attacks of the enemy knights. The battle spilled into the King’s fortress, which looked so impregnable just a few moves ago. A White Bishop sacrificed his own life to destroy the defences and allow the White army to invade the heart of the enemy camp. Now, any movement of White was strangling the Black King further and further.
Then the grandmaster employed desperate measures: he sacrificed a Knight to deflect the White’s forces. To placate the opponent with something! He was very skilled at chess, this stranger from overseas, but even his incomparable skill wasn’t enough in this case. White weren’t satisfied with a mere piece: their only target was Black King, and only it! And so, the attackers have driven the King from his last hideout. Defeat was unavoidable. The grandmaster sat pale and perplexed. Making two more moves, met with crushing responses, he stopped the clock, extended a hand to his opponent, congratulated him for his victory, and… cried. There was a tear on his eyelashes, then another, and soon, he would wipe his face with the palm of his big hand with thin, long fingers. The opponent, the arbiter, the spectators watched the crying grandmaster in amazement. Yes, he’s just 15 years old, but he’s a two-time champion of the biggest country, a renowned chess master. And still, he cried like a child.
I first saw Robert Fischer in 1962, when he already amazed the world with his fantastic victories. He won the US Championship at the age of 14, then became an international grandmaster at 15. An incredible record of precociousness! Nobody ever received this title at such a young age. But the young American himself thought that even this tempo wasn’t enough. When FIDE Congress gave the 14 years old Bobby a title of International Master, he exclaimed resentfully:
“Couldn’t they just give me a GM title immediately?”
The talented American just turned 16, but he was already considered a chess title contender. Not even because of Fischer’s astounding tournament successes. Optimistic predictions were based on the fact that his successes weren’t due to random luck. Fischer’s games spoke for themselves. It was clear: the chess world now had a great player who was armed with a lot of knowledge and high technique, despite his age.
Together with the stories of the boy’s unprecedented successes, there were tales of his whims, provocative conduct, ignorance.
“What do you think of Vasco da Gama?” the American grandmaster was asked.
“What club does he play for?” Fischer asked back.
The newspapers wrote about the young champion’s flashy shirts and ridiculous sweaters, about his bubble gum and free-easy walk. They would also often tell – somewhat truthfully, as we shall see later – about the boy’s touchiness; he took every misfortune to heart.
“Bobby, cuckoo!” Mikhail Tal exclaimed when he passed Fischer’s table at the restaurant.
This was an innocent joke, but the American saw something offensive in it: he thought that Tal was making fun of him because he was ahead of him in the tournament.
“Why did he say cuckoo?” Bobby would ask his coach. “What right did he have to say cuckoo to me? Soon I’ll defeat him, and tell cuckoo to him too!”
And the young man cried with the same bitter tears as after losing a game.
The anecdotes about Fischer were retold by chess players when they met each other, printed by the sensation-chasing newspapers, quoted in various humorous articles. These anecdotes painted a very expressive picture of Fischer. So, when I headed to the Stockholm Interzonal in 1962, I was ready to meet a real American fop, similar to those we’ve meet at the streets of New York.
The best chess players of the world gathered in the Swedish capital these days. The youth is always full of hopes, so it’s little wonder that everyone painted rosy pictures before the tournament. Some of them were quite well-founded. Brilliant victories in numerous international tournaments allowed Svetozar Gligoric to maintain winning hopes. The Icelandic chess fans also placed high hopes on Fridrik Olafsson – he showed great progress in the previous Candidates’ tournament! But still, the Soviet players attracted the most interest of the Stockholm crowd. Leonid Stein was mostly unknown at the time, but any small boy knew the names of three others. Efim Geller, Viktor Korchnoi, Tigran Petrosian. A picturesque trio! Each of them won the tournament of tournaments – the Soviet championship, pushing the “old-timers” aside. I came to Stockholm with Isaac Boleslavsky; we both worked as correspondents.
The opening ceremony took place in the small, cozy hall of Apollonia Hotel. There was the usual pre-tournament bustle: happy exclamations upon meetings, questions, jokes, laugh. Before the start, everyone is usually energetic and happy: there’s no bitterness from losses yet. Folke Rogard congratulated everyone who came to the tournament, and then signed for the arbiter Gedeon Stahlberg to begin the drawing procedure.
“Robert Fischer!”, Stahlberg called for the American grandmaster.
There was some confusion. I looked for Fischer with interest: I was eager to see the legendary champion of the American land, whom I hadn’t the chance to meet yet. But nobody stood from their chairs. And then, a loud voice of a small, lively man broke the silence:
“He’s not here!”
“He… didn’t come?”, the arbiter asked.
“No, he’s in Stockholm”, the small man explained. “Here, in this hotel. He’s… sleeping in his room.”
There was laugh in the hall. Bobby again did it! Came into town, but didn’t come to the drawing – this was really pushing it too far. Everyone remembered Zurich, when Fischer came an hour and a half later for the closing ceremony. But no-showing the drawing procedure!
The small man defended Fischer as much as he could. He went to the arbiters’ table and explained something, eagerly and for long. Finally, the arbiters allowed him to draw the lot for Fischer.
After the opening ceremony, the small gentleman would familiarize himself with everyone.
“Arthur Turover”, he would introduce himself; this name didn’t say much to most people, and so he would add, “Do you remember the famous game Alekhine – Turover? I’m the Turover from this 1928 Bradley Beach game. The world champion won a brilliant endgame!”
And then he would give out his greeting card. From the conversations, we learned that the American entrepreneur came to Europe to accompany Fischer and pay all his expenses in Sweden. The rich businessman was a chairman of the special chess fund created by millionaires to support the talented American chess players.
So, I couldn’t meet Fischer at the opening day. “That’s nothing”, I thought. “I’ll see the miraculous young man tomorrow. He’ll surely come to the game: when your clock is started, you don’t sleep in your room!
And so, the first round begins. Our grandmasters, as it was in their habit, came to the hall ten minutes before the round. The arbiters started the clocks, the players moved their King and Queen pawns. There was only one board where no moves were made: the one where Robert Fischer was supposed to play.
What happened to him? Or was it another eccentricity? The arbiters worried, the administrators made some phone calls. Someone even offered to visit his hotel – it was just down the road. What if he sleeps again?
Fischer came only fifteen minutes later.
“This is an outrage. It’s impossible to find a taxi in Stockholm!” he complained as he walked.
“But your hotel is very close”, the arbiter said. “No more than five minutes of walking.”
“So what?” Fischer asked. “I’m accustomed to riding a taxi to the game!”
So, Fischer finally sat down and greeted his opponent. He spent several seconds fitting his long legs under the table, then moved his King pawn two squares ahead. This move didn’t surprise anybody: the American champion always begins his games with e2-e4.
I watched the famous young man with curiosity. Robert looked older than his 19 years; only when he smiled, somewhat shyly and confusedly, his expression turned completely childish. Fischer sat at the board for a long time, without raising from his chair. He concentrated all his attention on the position. Such detachment was an evidence for his whole-hearted devotion to the game and Fischer’s high tournament skills. Sometimes, when a spectator made some noise, Fischer would wince, his cheeks twitching nervously. He would turn his head towards the offender, sometimes asking the arbiter to restore order in the hall.
My first impression from meeting Fischer in person was very different from what I’ve read in all the newspapers and magazines. I haven’t noticed any arrogance or defiant familiarity. On the contrary, he was modest and reserved. Later, I learned that it was very hard to engage him in a long conversation. He preferred to keep silence. And he would never allowed any caustic remarks or arrogant lectures towards his opponents, even though, I must admit, he was head and shoulders ahead of most other players in chess understanding and playing quality.
Fischer’s behaviour after games seemed most admirable to me. In Stockholm, the tournament was held in a hall that had no backroom for players. So, they could perform a post-mortem analysis only in the cloakroom, putting their board on a stool and sitting on the floor beside it. As soon as the game ended, Fischer would pick up his board and pieces and amble with his rolling gait to the cloakroom. Sitting down in a dim corner, he would analyze the variants for hours with his opponent. At midnight, the cloakroom attendants pleaded the American champion to finally let them go home.
Fischer’s appearance was too very different from the descriptions I read. Always neat and accurate, wearing a new ironed suit every day. White shirt, a modest tie. Fischer looked more like a dandy than a tasteless fop. Later he told me that he had a weakness for good suits. With a childish vanity, Robert listed how many suits he bought and in which countries. He was especially proud of the fact that two of his seventeen suits were made by the same tailor who made suits for President Kennedy.
Bobby turned out to be a simple and amenable guy. After the game, he would often come to one of the Soviet grandmasters’ rooms, and then they would play a lot of blitz, with funny and friendly jokes. They joked both in English and Russian. Robert knows many Russian words, though, by his own admission, he reads much better than speaks. It’s understandable: Fischer learned Russian mostly to read the Soviet chess books and journals. Still, he pronounces some phrases very well, without accent. For instance, before beginning a new blitz battle, Bobby would say in Russian, making everyone laugh:
“Seychas ya ego pribyu!” (“Now I’m gonna beat him”)
On the very first day, Efim Geller decided to play a prank on Fischer. When Robert offered Geller to play a 5-game match, Efim pointed at Leonid Stein, whom the American didn’t know.
“Better play with him.”
Fischer agreed, even though he didn’t like the prospect of playing “a certainly weaker opponent”. To equalize the chances, Fischer offered Stein a special condition:
“I’m giving you small odds. You have to score just 2/5. As soon as you win two games, you win the whole match. And I have to win three games.”
Geller, always brimming with ideas, offered a stake: loser pays 10 kronen. A small sum, but enough for joking incitement. Fischer readily agreed, Stein also didn’t argue. The American grandmaster was, as always, sure of his skills. He had no idea how quick and sharp was the young Ukrainian master.
The battle began. Fischer was stunned by the results. He lost the first game, and then the second. He paid 10 kronen and asked for a rematch on the same conditions, but then the newly-arrived Tigran Petrosian interfered:
“Bobby, what are you doing?” he cried. “You’re giving him odds?! Giving odds to Stein – are you mad? You’ll only have any chances if you ask for such odds from him!”
Fischer looked offended, but then remembered Petrosian’s unrivalled ability to evaluate the chances in the chess struggle. Bobby’s opinion of the future world champion was always high, and so he decided to follow the advice of the experienced grandmaster.
“Let’s play without odds”, Bobby said.
But he was thrashed by Stein again. The talented chess player from Lvov was very skilled at blitz. Still, Fischer didn’t give up – he couldn’t imagine that anyone could beat him at anything chess-related. The subsequent games with Stein, however, offered him no consolation.
Fischer may have lost the blitz games in the evening, but during the afternoon tournament games, he knew no losses. His row of wins was only diluted by a few draws. It was very pleasant for anyone who understood and knew chess to see how deep was the American champion’s strategic understanding, how skilfully he maneuvered, how precisely he realized even the smallest advantage. There was no doubt that his great natural ability was enhanced by his titanic work of studying the laws of chess struggle. In the middle of the tournament, it was very clear that Fischer would surely finish in the top 6 and most probably win the tournament.
The intense chess struggles excited the chess fans more and more. Four Soviet players were fighting for top places; with luck, someone of them could even overtake Fischer. That’s why the Soviet embassy workers and trade delegates would visit the games every evening. We were constantly on the phone, receiving the calls from Moscow, Riga, Tallinn: chess fans demanded news from the chess front. Diplomats from Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary would also often visit the tournament.
Only one embassy showed absolutely no interest in the chess battles – the United States embassy. Newspapers from that country also had no news on the tournament. Chess is bad business, who can be interested in them! Sometimes, I felt sorry for Bobby Fischer. He would buy newspapers from his country every evening and leaf through the endless pages. But in all those piles of paper, there wasn’t a single line dedicated to his successes. Bobby, feeling sore, would throw the crumpled newspapers away.
<...> (A story of newspaper coverage of Miguel Cuellar’s games was omitted)
Fischer won one game after another. In the evenings, he would still come to our rooms. I noticed that the young man would ofter shun the newspaper reporters, but was always glad to chat with grandmasters and masters. His love for chess is unlimited, and this love turns into respect towards the chess players he considers good. I couldn’t help but remember one correspondent’s joking assumption: Bobby avoids girls only because they play chess too badly. He admired precisely one woman: GM Arthur Bisguier’s wife. She had an invaluable (in Fischer’s eyes) quality: she could checkmate a lone King with a Bishop and a Knight!
Bobby fears reporters like the plague: they have cost him a lot of nerves. Dismissing some reporter, Bobby would mutter angrily:
He brands as “crazy” all those penny-a-liners who are trying to make money on sensational fables or on describing Fischer’s eccentricities. Fischer lashes out at anyone who’s trying to use his name in their business needs. Once, two workers, bending down under the weight, carried something covered with white blanket into the tournament hall. Underneath the blanket was a sculpture of Fischer. It was made by a young American woman who was watching the players for the last few days.
“Buy this for the Soviet Chess Federation”, the American woman offered to us.
Fischer himself recoiled in horror when he saw what this enterprising woman did to his looks.
“Crazy woman!” Bobby said of her, as of all the others.
The impudent underlings of the newspaper bosses allow themselves a lot of things when dealing with their champion. Once I saw Gligoric and Stahlberg reading the American Harper’s magazine and laughing. And there was much to laugh about. The magazine printed a big article by someone Ginsburg; he interviewed Fischer in an “informal” environment.
“I invited Fischer to my home”, Ginsburg begins. “Entering my apartment, the young champion asked if I had anything to eat. We drank some whisky (with a 18 years old boy! – A.K.), had a snack and then an in-depth conversation.”
Of course, the half-drunk boy talked a lot of nonsense in this “conversation” and looked quite miserable. “I love going to restaurants”, Bobby said. “I like to be served by waiters.” And here are the familiar intonations: “In the subway, small boys are trying to step on my toes. They envy my pretty, expensive shoes.”
Then the reader learns that Fischer lives alone, that he left his mother. He has a four-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn – one of New York’s central districts. It seems that Mr. Turover and his fund know what they’re doing! Bobby’s days are pretty repetitive. He gets up, has his breakfast, listens to jazz music, reads comic books. And then he studies chess for long hours. Sometimes he goes to the cinema. He dropped from schools and makes it a point not to interact with any teachers.
“What can they do to help me achieve my goal – becoming a world champion?!”
“Are you going to become a world champion soon?” Ginsburg asked.
“Oh yes, very soon!” Fischer answered.
“And what are you going to do?”
“This would be the greatest time!” the ambitious young man enthused. “First of all, I’m going to tour the world. I’ll give simultaneous displays and read chess lectures. I’ll demand big fees. Then I’ll return to the US on the best ship, in a luxury cabin. I’ll organize a chess club bearing my name.”
There’s something from Khlestakov (a character in Nikolai Gogol’s play The Inspector) in these words: “Couriers, couriers, thirty thousands of couriers alone!”
Of course, I asked Fischer about this article. He was visibly embarrassed, it was clear that he was ashamed of this gibberish.
“This Ginsburg is a crazy man!” Bobby waved his hand angrily, labeling the author with his favourite epithet.
In Stockholm, Fischer won the first place, without losses. All Soviet newspapers commemorated this brilliant victory of the American champion. The Soviet players congratulated Bobby warmly and said their friendly farewells until the Curacao Candidates’ tournament. Tigran Petrosian and Efim Geller would occasionally say in their conversations, “Bobby is a good guy!”
Fischer was very modest in Stockholm. When I asked him to evaluate his chances at Curacao, he answered, “I’ll try to finish first, but it’s going to be very hard! Such great opponents: Tal, Keres, Geller, Korchnoi, Petrosian!”
Several weeks have passed. And suddenly we got new surprising messages from overseas. Upon returning to his homeland, Fischer gave several big and very boastful interviews, with self-praise bordering on stupidity.
“Mikhail Botvinnik? I’ll beat him easily. I can give him 2 points odds. I’m already preparing a book about my match against the world champion. I’ll win the first prize at Curacao… What are you saying?! Nona Gaprindashvili? Can a woman play chess any good? I can give any woman Knight odds!”
Fischer didn’t stop his boasting even after finishing only 4th at Curacao. “Soviet grandmasters help each other”, Fischer said after returning to New York. “I can defeat any of them one on one, but they work as a team in the tournament.”
I was surprised to read all this. The tone of those articles wasn’t corresponding to the Fischer I met in Stockholm. What happened?
Nothing! Fischer just was “different”. But he was born in the City of the Yellow Devil (Maxim Gorky’s nickname for New York)! And this all-powerful deity ruled over all his thoughts and actions. Robert was indoctrinated into worshipping it at a very young age. In 1957, I received a letter from Bobby’s mother, Regina Fischer. “I would like you to print a book of my son’s games”, she wrote. “Bobby would be glad to have an account in a Russian bank.” At fourteen years of age!
The next summer, I was going back to Moscow from Belgrade. Fischer was in Moscow at the time, invited by the Soviet Chess Federation. At the Budapest airport, my old friend Tibor Florian met me.
“Look at the letters from Mrs. Fischer”, Tibor told me after we discussed all the important chess news, and he showed me a letter from New York.
“On the way from Moscow to Belgrade, Bobby may stop in Budapest for a few days and give some simultaneous displays. Here’s the fee (a rather large sum). If you give any gifts to him, please do not include any alcohol. You can give him optics or jewelry, however.”
Again she showed her own understanding of the “position”! The caring mom directed her son’s steps to extract maximum profit from them.
Since his childhood, everyone who surrounded the boy and served as his role model zealously worshipped the dollar deity. The long-time US champion Samuel Reshevsky starts an argument with the organizers before any tournament or match: “How much?” He doesn’t care what to get money for, he cares only about the money. Before the 1948 World Championship tournament, the entrepreneurial American demanded to compensate travel and accommodation expenses for his wife.
“We’re sorry, but your wife cannot go to Europe at that time! She’s going to give birth soon!”
“And so what?” Sammy coolly replied; seems that he calculated this response as well. “She has the right to go! If she cannot, so what? Pay!”
And he did get “travel” money for his wife, even though she never left New York, performing her natural functions.
Didn’t the boy see the constant haggle between the two US team leaders, Reuben Fine and Samuel Reshevsky?
“Two thousand dollars”, Fine demanded when offered to play for the United States against the Soviet team.
“Twenty five hundred”, Reshevsky would immediately raise the fee.
How many interesting matches fell through because of this haggling, how many times the American team refused to play in the Olympiads because the organizers failed to satisfy the demands of their chess leaders! Is it any wonder that Fischer follows the steps of his older colleagues?
In the last years, Fine had retired from the chess scene. Fischer took his place in the haggles with Reshevsky.
“First board only”, he demands before every Olympiad, together with a large fee.
Before the 16th Olympiad in Tel Aviv, Reshevsky decided to make life “easier” for his chess superiors.
“I’m ready to play at any board”, said the grandmaster, quite a haggling expert. “If I play on the first board, you pay me $1000. If I play on the second board, you pay me $2000. I can even play on the sixth board, but then you should pay me $6000!”
Fischer also made similar “proportional” demands, but… demanded twice more money than Reshevsky.
Bobby himself felt the power of the dollar. In 1962, a match between Fischer and Reshevsky was organized in Los Angeles. This was an interesting event: the clash of titans attracted a lot of attention even outside America. Eleven hard-fought games gave no advantage to anybody – 5.5 to 5.5! Imagine what a strain it was for both players, considering that the prize sum was quite large.
The 12th game was scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday (Reshevsky doesn’t play on Fridays and Saturdays due to religious considerations.) Fischer was preparing for the game when the arbiter called him:
“Tomorrow, the game is to start on 11 a.m.”
“Why?” Bobby asked.
“Mrs. Pyatigorsky won’t get to her husband’s concert in time otherwise.”
The wife of a famous cello player Georgy Pyatigorsky is a big chess fan. It was she who organized this match, and she gave a considerable money donation. You aren’t born in the arch-millionaire Rotschild family for nothing! Well, such love for chess is most commendable. But still, there’s a point that can’t really be argued: no amount of sponsorship money gives the sponsor any rights to flout elementary sporting norms and order grandmasters about.
Fischer rebelled against this despotic order.
“I cannot play so early”, the American champion said, and then stated a touchingly naive reason: “At eleven o’clock, I just get out of bed.”
The arbiter repeated the demand of the rich woman.
“Can’t Mrs. Pyatigorsky just come late to the concert, or leave the game early?” Bobby asked.
“You’ll do as Mrs. Pyatigorsky demands!”, the obliging servant said. “Tomorrow, you come at eleven o’clock.”
Fischer didn’t come and lost the game by forfeit, then he left Los Angeles. He lost the match and received 35% of prize fund. The young man appealed to the US Supreme Court, but it was futile – don’t they bow to the highest power of dollar as well?
Interestingly enough, a year later, the same Pyatigorsky couple organized a tournament of world’s eight strongest grandmasters in Los Angeles. They invited Fischer as well. The US champion agreed to play, but only on the condition that he be paid those $2,000 he’d lost because of sponsor’s despotism. The golden calf, of course, was offended by that, and so Fischer didn’t play.
Since childhood, young Robert also learned the other law of American prosperity. Praise yourself, praise constantly, shamelessly, without restraint! Forget about modesty and self-respect. Promote yourself, your qualities and achievements as loudly and flashily as you can. Disregard the fact that this is abominable and flies in the face of common decency. Don’t lose any opportunity to tell the world that you are the best, the strongest, the most talented. Your words will go down in people’s memory, and, in the daily rush, in the wild tempo of life, they won’t even notice that it was you who said them.
Reuben Fine published a lot of articles in the American magazines, with obvious intentions. “Alexander Alekhine is a weak player”, the grandmaster boasted. “Five or six players in the world can easily beat him, especially me, Reuben Fine.” And how many times did Samuel Reshevsky say that he was the true world champion and that he would crush Mikhail Botvinnik in a match? “Just give him to me”, the raging American threatened, demanding to bypass all the necessary qualifying tournaments.
No wonder that the young champion emulates his older colleagues in this. To get any funding, you have to prove that you have chances to win. And Bobby is trying very hard. He promised to win the first place when he went to Curacao. And so, the purse of the dollar fund opened a little wider! The Soviet grandmasters beat him in the tournament, and this threatened his well-being. What can he do without the sponsors’ help?! And so, he had to resort to an old trick often used by Reshevsky. “I cannot play against several Russians at once”, Fischer said, and people believed him. And so he wasn’t pushed away from the feeding purse. And so, the young man shifts and dodges, forgetting about objectivity, pride, decency, especially considering that everyone around has a very peculiar concept of decency. Seize the moment, grab the dollars – that’s the basic principle of the entire society; why then should we wonder that Fischer also follows this principle.
Far away, beyond the ocean, in New York, in the 4-bedroom Brooklyn flat, a young man who recently turned 22 spends long hours behind his chess board. In Fischer’s apartment, everything is devoted to chess. There are more than 200 chess books, piles of magazines with black-and-white diagrams, three chess tables beside three beds. The eccentric young man sleeps on each bed in turn, depending on his mood.
Chess is the main and only meaning of life for Fischer. He’s trying to learn everything the humanity ever created in this wise, ancient art. After studying all modern masters, Bobby diverted his attention to the “oldies”. In the recent times, he purchased game collections of Wilhelm Steinitz, Mikhail Chigorin, Paul Morphy. The young champion varies his playing style, trying to incorporate all useful things he learned from the past games. And the results of this work show themselves: recently, he won his sixth US championship in a row, with an incredible result – 11/11! Fischer devotes all his strength and time to chess. Science, arts, literature seemingly don’t exist for him.
After visiting the biggest European museum of art and sculpture, Bobby said, very characteristically for himself, “Still, chess is better!”
He is lonely, this young, talented man. In New York, he has no friends, no good-natured critics, no advisors. It was so bad that he had to ask the Danish grandmaster Bent Larsen to be his coach at the 1959 Candidates’ tournament in Yugoslavia.
Chess are not popular in the United States, they don’t get much media attention.
“I like listening Moscow radio”, Fischer confessed once, “especially the chess programs.”
The young grandmaster doesn’t even try to hide his dislike towards sponsors, who, in their turn, don’t favour chess players much.
“We are dependent on tournament prizes, which are, for most part, negligible”, Fischer said in one of his interviews. “The millionaires do support chess, but not nearly enough. They can easily spare $30,000 for a golf tournament, but only throw a couple of thousands for chess players – and then boast about it! They give their own names to the tournaments, everyone should bow before them, play when they say. And all this for a couple of thousands. Even these money are deducted from their income tax, so they lose nothing.”
Millionaires and their underlings don’t like his rebellious attitude. Perhaps because of that Fischer is often attacked by the media? Because of that the most talented chess player ever born in the United States lives in such a hostile atmosphere?
Fischer has many good qualities that haven’t died yet in the fight for success and glory.
Among his colleagues, during big international tournaments (such as Stockholm), Fischer becomes a “normal”, sympathetic man. During these period, he’s capable of honest, principled actions. When Pal Benko intentionally lost on time against Geller at Curacao (to help Efim share second place with Keres and have a small revenge for several losses from him), Fischer refused to fly in the same plane with his dishonest compatriot. But then he returns home, where people demand to prove his “genius” – and this is the only thing that can secure comfortable living for him, and so he changes drastically. He shamelessly lauds himself, always comes up with new promises and threats, tries to slander and humiliate his colleagues – in other words, tries to enhance his own reputation. The newspapers are waiting for such unceremonious outbursts to immediately pick them up and spread around the world.
After the Stockholm tournament, I spoke with Fischer for a long time. Robert again complained that the reporters write lies about him, “quoting” things he never said.
“You know, Bobby”, I said. “You’re complaining that newspapers write bad things about you. But that’s your fault as well.”
“How so?” asked the American.
“Why, for instance, are you talking about money so much? ‘Dollars, pay me dollars’. Try talking about them a bit less, and the reporters will lose one of their main trump cards against you.”
“Yes, you’re probably right”, Fischer nodded in agreement.
We continued our conversation, remembering Moscow.
“Did you like Moscow?” I asked.
“Yes, very much.”
“Would you come to USSR to play in an international tournament?”
“Gladly!” Bobby said, and then added after a pause: “But on two conditions.”
“Strong tournament line-up and…”
“Good prizes!” the young grandmaster finished.
I understood that my efforts were futile. There is no strength capable of fighting the Yellow Devil; it had already corrupted the soul of the talented American champion!