Searching for Bobby Fischer
It was the chess match of the century, the eagle pitted against the bear, the tempermental and high strung American Bobby Fischer versus the formidable Russian grandmaster, Boris Spassky.
I loved to play chess and had participated in many tournaments, so in the summer of 1972, I was glued to my TV watching Bruce Pandolfini run the play by play on my local public broadcasting station. And now, Fischer pulls a daring rook takes pawn…ooooo my!
I chuckled to myself, noting Pandolfini’s long, wiry hair and blue jeans, not suspecting that I would be introduced to him in the near future. Pandolfini was conforming to the counter culture’s non conformity. From my point of view as a young female, he was a refreshing variation from the generally nerdy males that I encountered on the chess circuit. Pandolfini was clearly a great player in his own right. That historic Fischer-Spassky match took place in Iceland and made world news every evening as they see sawed back and forth…one day Fischer won, next day Spassky…on and on. Finally, finally, Fischer took the match. America had the final triumph at long last and Fischer took flight.
In early ’73, I moved to New York City from the Long Island nest that had sheltered me throughout my childhood, teens and college years. It wasn’t long before I met Jeffrey Kastner at a chess exhibition at Macy’s. He was already a chess master and only a few ranking points from the coveted grandmaster title. It was Jeffrey who introduced me to Bruce Pandolfini at the Marshall Chess Club. A few months later, Jeffrey became President of the prestigious Manhattan Chess Club and he proudly invited me over to visit him in his new office. I was only too happy to oblige.
Bobby Fisher had gone into hiding following his win over Spassky. He was being sought by every media organization in the world but no one could find him. His disappearing act was, in itself, big news at that time. I arrived at the Manhattan Chess Club (Fischer was a member) and Jeffrey showed me around. We went into his office where he smugly grinned at me and said “Nobody knows where Bobby is, but I do. He gave me his address.” I looked at him, smiled and said “I will bet you that I can tell you where he is.” A bold statement, to be sure.
“Bullshit!”, he snorted. “Nobody knows except me and I haven’t told anyone!” I smiled again, closed me eyes and began….slowly….”He is in the USA…west coast….California…Los Angeles…Wilshire Boulevard…10961…
I opened my eyes to see that all the color had drained from his face. He was nervously reaching into the back pocket of his jeans where he withdrew his wallet and pulled out a folded slip of paper. “Ha!”, he exclaimed. “You missed one of the numbers!”
- Bobby Fischer, Age 14 (forbes.com)
- Bobby Fischer Against the World (2011) (myfilmviews.wordpress.com)
- Storyville: Bobby Fischer, Genius and Madman, BBC Four, Super Tiny Animals, ITV1, review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Sport on TV: Fischer mind games show price to be paid for talent (independent.co.uk)