« Blue House Bonhomie - 6 | Main | Little Red Riding Hood »

Delanceyplace: The 48 Laws Of Power

Robert Greene recalls the greatest chess match of all time.

The Soviet Union's masterful Boris Spassky versus America's
unpredictable Bobby Fischer was the greatest chess match of all time. At the time,
it was a proxy for the cold war between the U.S. and Russia -- fought without nuclear
weapons. It was Ali versus Frazier, the Yankees versus the Red Sox, and the Superbowl
all rolled into one. Spassky was the reigning champion and the USSR was dominant
in chess. In previous games between Fischer and Spassky, Fischer had not fared
well. Spassky had an uncanny ability to read his opponent's strategy and use it
against him. Adaptable and patient, he would build attacks that would defeat not
in seven moves but in seventy. He defeated Fischer every time they played because
he saw much further ahead, and because he was a brilliant psychologist who never
lost control. One master said, "He doesn't just look for the best move. He looks
for the move that will disturb the man he is playing.":

In May of 1972, chess champion Boris Spassky anxiously awaited his rival Bobby
Fischer in Reykjavik, Iceland. The two men had been scheduled to meet for the World
Championship of Chess, but Fischer had not arrived on time and the match was on
hold. Fischer had problems with the size of the prize money, problems with the way
the money was to be distributed, problems with the logistics of holding the match
in Iceland. He might back out at any moment.

Spassky tried to be patient. His Russian bosses felt that Fischer was humiliating
him and told him to walk away, but Spassky wanted this match. He knew he could destroy
Fischer, and nothing was going to spoil the greatest victory of his career. ...

Fischer finally arrived in Reykjavik, but the problems, and the threat of cancellation,
continued. He disliked the hall where the match was to be fought, he criticized
the lighting, he complained about the noise of the cameras, he even hated the chairs
in which he and Spassky were to sit. Now the Soviet Union took the initiative and
threatened to withdraw their man.

The bluff apparently worked: After all the weeks of waiting, the endless and infuriating
negotiations, Fischer agreed to play Everyone was relieved, no one more than Spassky.
But on the day of the official introductions, Fischer arrived very late, and on
the day when the 'Match of the Century' was to begin, he was late again. This time,
however, the consequences would be dire: If he showed up too late he would forfeit
the first game. What was going on? Was he playing some sort of mind game? Or was
Bobby Fischer perhaps afraid of Boris Spassky? It seemed to the assembled grand
masters, and to Spassky, that this young kid from Brooklyn had a terrible case of
the jitters. At 5:09 Fischer showed up, exactly one minute before the match was
to be canceled.

The first game of a chess tournament is critical, since it sets the tone for the
months to come. It is often a slow and quiet struggle, with the two players preparing
themselves for the war and trying to read each other's strate-gies. This game was
different. Fischer made a terrible move early on, perhaps the worst of his career,
and when Spassky had him on the ropes, he seemed to give up. Yet Spassky knew that
Fischer never gave up. Even when facing checkmate, he fought to the bitter end,
wearing the opponent down. This time, though, he seemed resigned. Then suddenly
he broke out a bold move that put the room in a buzz. The move shocked Spassky,
but he recovered and managed to win the game. But no one could figure out what Fischer
was up to. Had he lost deliberately? Or was he rattled? Unset-tled? Even, as some
thought, insane?

After his defeat in the first game, Fischer complained all the more loudly about
the room, the cameras, and everything else. He also failed to show up on time for
the second game. This time the organizers had had enough: He was given a forfeit.
Now he was down two games to none, a position from which no one had ever come back
to win a chess championship. Fischer was clearly unhinged. Yet in the third game,
as all those who witnessed it remember, he had a ferocious look in his eye, a look
that clearly bothered Spassky. And despite the hole he had dug for himself, he seemed
supremely confident. He did make what appeared to be another blunder, as he had
in the first game -- but his cocky air made Spassky smell a trap. Yet despite the
Russian's suspicions, he could not figure out the trap, and before he knew it Fischer
had checkmated him. In fact Fischer's unorthodox tactics had completely unnerved
his opponent. At the end of the game, Fischer leaped up and rushed out, yelling
to his confederates as he smashed a fist into his palm, "I'm crushing him with brute

In the next games Fischer pulled moves that no one had seen from him before, moves
that were not his style. Now Spassky started to make blunders. After losing the
sixth game, he started to cry. One grand master said, 'After this, Spassky's got
to ask himself if it's safe to go back to Russia.' After the eighth game Spassky
decided he knew what was happening: Bobby Fischer was hypnotizing him. He decided
not to look Fischer in the eye; he lost anyway.

After the fourteenth game he called a staff conference and announced, 'An attempt
is being made to control my mind.' He wondered whether the orange juice they drank
at the chess table could have been drugged. Maybe chemicals were being blown into
the air. Finally Spassky went public, accusing the Fischer team of putting something
in the chairs that was altering Spassky's mind. The KGB went on alert: Boris Spassky
was embarrassing the Soviet Union!

The chairs were taken apart and X-rayed. A chemist found nothing unusual in them.
The only things anyone found anywhere, in fact, were two dead flies in a lighting
fixture. Spassky began to complain of hallucinations. He tried to keep playing,
but his mind was unraveling. He could not go on. On September 2, he resigned. Although
still relatively young, he never recovered from this defeat.

Author: Robert Greene
Title: The 48 Laws of Power
Publisher: Penguin
Date: Copyright 1998 by Joost Elffers and Robert Greene
Pages: 124-125

The 48 Laws of Power
by Robert Greene by Penguin Books
Paperback ~ Release Date: 2000-09-01
If you wish to read further: Buy Now http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001250-G02DhKx1vH9IKwwg7vVfwnLvEykZeSR2B_Rdlg11nIUFMqCAhGm6T0Z3D-szxgjVDXnQY_D82QIhSVnvDRlzcLBFrKi606QKdPuaDmoyqyRRtGM2EFCOK9HQdAPFeFIQCP8DUzts8C2QoABRR1TdxCaoBlCrOgDqDzsABT7x95lPfe04rd_W8Xu0m7kxFVEgDXXZb7t2sl3ntkDbGE2Ivo0YBp5wdy-09-HnQaRtOrTTicRxXSvkdctpJjyggOofYfFcS4Tbac2eAbbITOozhtUc4jz8gew7AeIndSxiKJ8hZ6JK3utF4KPk-Wc6SD0buTu-ZwJJT2c4hHIrjyhUW8PoYIEis6icyCzzLrgukVRW9TmEaSU72N1i4msuBPDY8F19mEA=

If you use the above link to purchase a book, delanceyplace proceeds from your
purchase will benefit a children's literacy project. All delanceyplace profits
are donated to charity.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.