I saw a film today, oh boy
Bobby Fischer had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to stare
Having once been there
I saw the movie Pawn Sacrifice today. It is about how Bobby Fischer became chess champion of the world. It is a good movie, even though it takes quite a few artistic licenses. It gives the overall picture of Bobby Fischer as a disturbed man, growing more and more mentally ill. He certainly was very sick, but that does not mean that he was not the best chess player of his time.
I remember these times well. I remember how Fischer became a phenomenon in chess. I doubt that anyone else in the history of the game had such superiority.
I remember the 1972 championship. I was there when Spassky beat Fischer in game one. I remember the “poisoned pawn” of Game 1, the game that Fischer lost. There was literally a gasp in the room when he made that move, a move that every experienced player saw was disastrous.
I remember Game 2, the game that Fischer forfeited by not showing up. I almost cried when I heard the news on the radio. How could Fischer do this to me? This should have been the game of the century.
I remember Game 3, the only game played in the Ping Pong room in the back of the Sports Hall. I used to play ping pong there. in a way it’s funny, chess and ping pong are the only games that I did fairly well in and that day they met in that room. After the movie I met one of my old chess pals who had been in that room, with Spassky, Fischer and the two referees. He had to write down the moves on a piece of paper and slip it under the door to inform the world of what was happening.
I remember the camera towers, covered with brown material, the same type we used in potato sacks. The lens stood out and was a bit scary. But I never heard any sounds coming from it, but then again I did not have supersensitive hearing like Fischer.
I remember when Spassky demanded that the chairs be X-rayed. It did not happen like in the movie, he would never have crawled on the floor in the middle of the game. But they did find two dead flies in the lamps.
I remember that I and most of my friends rooted for Fischer. We were disappointed when he lost game 11. But by then it was clear that he would win. A friend of mine met Fischer outside the Loftleiðir Hotel and got his autograph on the back of a forged pass. The pass was later confiscated by a hostile doorman at a bar (we were all underaged).
I remember when Spassky’s wife Larissa arrived at the scene, all the way from Moscow. She and a couple of other wives stormed into the hall without tickets. One of the doormen wanted to stop them and we were amazed that he did not recognize them.
I remember when the newspaper showed a photo of Fischer dancing to a girl in my school. She said that he was “a wonderful man”.
I remember that Fischer said on an interview he would vote for Nixon in the 1972 presidential election.
I remember all of this and much more. At the time I knew some of the games of the match by heart.
Then after Fischer was granted asylum in Iceland when he was very sick I met him twice. It was sad to see him and even worse to hear him. Still, I am happy that we gave him a place to die, even though he was haunted by the demons in his head to his final days.
You don’t have to know chess to enjoy the movie Pawn Sacrifice. It is well made and close enough to the truth, even though it is a bit ridiculous to see him living far out in the country (he lived in Reykjavík) and they should not have cut his pal, Sæmi the policeman, out of the story.
Benedikt Jóhannesson [email protected]