remembering bobby fischer
September, 1972 I had just become a junior in high school. That would be the year we started a chess club at Varina High School here in Richmond. It also happened that the church youth group I belonged to had bought time every Friday night on WDYL radio. I guess it was actually Saturday, since the show started at midnight and ran until 6:00am. We sang, did skits, preached, testified and played music. My brother, a country music fan would sometimes host an hour of country gospel. We would take turns playing DJ. Sometimes we would have special guests who would join us in the fun. By the time I got home I would have just enough energy to stumble into bed and crash until the afternoon.
This was back in the days of the old teletype machines. We would check out the news reports sometimes to see if anything was coming in that we could use on the air. I remember one particular night toward the end of the Fischer-Spassky championship the teletype machine printed the moves of every game played so far. What a discovery! I was already hooked on the game and an avid player. Gleefully I tore off the prints and took them in to school. My friends and I poured over every move, trying to gather some wisdom which might help us in our games.
At that time Russia was still communist and our rival in just about everything. To me it seemed their chess players, even though they were great, had no real personality. They were somewhat dark and brooding. Fischer’s brilliance underscored the stark differences between our two societies and the way we each approached the game, besides the fact that the pulled off what might be the greatest psych-out of all time.
Shortly after his victory he appeared on a TV special with Bob Hope. Hope asked him if he and Boris Spassky spoke much while they were competing for the championship. Fischer replied. Not much, in the mornings he would say, “You’re late.” And in the evenings I would say, “Checkmate!”
Those were heady times to be in high school and playing chess.