Fischer and the “100 Days”
The book you will want to get is Legend on the Road, second edition, by John Donaldson, you can electronically download it on your computer for almost nothing, which has 10 pages by me about the Fischer tour, and it goes from state to state, in chronological order. That book captures how he was in magnificent details and catches him at the peak of his worldwide fame. Now I want to emphasize what happened. I call it “The Hundred Days.” Here’s what’s happening. Fischer is playing the best players in the world. He loses every game to Mikhail Tal in 1959, he’s our U.S. Champion. He is absolutely, naturally not the best player in the world in 1961-62, he’s still a kid. He’s playing the cream of the crop and the Russians, if they had to, would throw games to beat him but he was playing so badly it didn’t matter, he was not remotely in their league. He never even beat one reigning world champion until 1972. He never won a single game against a world champion. To give you an idea, 24-year-old Hikaru Nakamura has already beaten a world champion…Judit Polgár, the highest rated woman player of all time, has already beat three men world champions, she’s beaten all of the top five players in the world in sub-competition but she’s beaten world champions while they were world champions. Fischer never did it. What you have with Fischer is the hardest worker that ever lived. But here’s the thing you’ve got to understand. He writes an article, “The Russians Cheated.” Well, no, they didn’t but they would’ve if necessary. “In Curaçao (the 1962 Candidates Tournament), I had these eight great players to play for the world championship, (Tigran) Petrosian won it, I was fourth, they played real easy against each other and hard against me.” No matter what, he wouldn’t have won the tournament. He wasn’t strong enough yet. But he still did reasonably well. Astounding for a young player. In 1963, December, and early 1964, he begins playing the U.S. Championship and he wins every game. There were people he beat in that tournament that he never beat again his whole lifetime. He never played them again. I mean, it was unbelievable. Finally, on the last day, he plays Anthony Saidy. The game is stopped after 40 moves, a totally crazy custom, and continues the next day. Totally insane. I’ve always thought it was crazy. All kinds of things can happen. A guy can die overnight. That happened once. Okay, so Anthony Saidy has a draw but [Saidy] puts in the envelope the wrong move.
The Brady book is outstanding and its failings are it did not put proper emphasis, probably because Donaldson had published that magnificent book, The Unknown Fischer or Legend on the Road, about Fischer’s tour of the United States [in 1964].
Hundreds of different groups met him, which is the central image that America got of Fischer at his best when his mind was working properly and of the unbelievable player he was. And, finally, he was a tremendous lecturer.
Fischer: Talent v. Work
Fischer was a player of little or no talent. I know, I have spoken to eyewitnesses. And I’ll give you some actual stories from people who were there. First is Richard Schultz, United States Chess Federation expert, probably a master level player, who I met in New Orleans, an engineer at NASA at the time, who lives in the Northwestern United States, out on the West Coast now, along with George LeCompte, also an engineer and worker for NASA, I played them both and they’re mentioned in various news articles about me in the Times-Picayune. Richard Schultz was in New York when Fischer was growing up and played chess [with Fischer]. He had no idea that Fischer—Fischer is certainly not the greatest player of all time, but Fischer, probably the most important chess player who ever lived, no player is even close. As Karpov, the world champion, the most successful tournament player of all time, and the player with the greatest world championship match opposition of all time, said, “We are all living in the shadow of Fischer. Without Fischer, nothing else matters.” Fischer is the seminal, serious chess player in history who made chess coffee cup conversation and who made chess matter. And that is what he will be remembered for. Now, not for his great end game play, not for the fact he definitely was the greatest player of all time, he certainly wasn’t. Many players in history could beat him by enforcing the rules. You must appear exactly on time today or you will lose. If you get to the World Championship in Iceland a week late, you’re playing an exhibition match, the world championship is gone, Spassky remains World Champion. I don’t want to be a stickler—I’d like to give you horse racing [as an example]. You may remember a horse named Secretariat. Secretariat is considered by many the greatest horse of all time, his argument is he showed up and won the Belmont Stakes and several other races in fantastic fashion. He showed up on time. He did not show up a day late. No special rules were made for him. This is what, in the end, is going to kill Fischer’s claim at being the greatest of all time. On the money track there were many players who were better and on a normal day he would be beaten or would have to draw against many great players, all of whom who came after him and had all of his games. Naturally, the people who come after him have to be stronger. So the idea of Fischer being the strongest player who ever lived is nonsense. And now I want to tell you what the real story is. Fischer was a player of very little talent no matter what anyone tells you, I don’t care what anyone tells you, Schultz came out and saw him play in the park when Fischer was very young, eight, nine, whenever it was, Fischer was losing every game. Schultz told me, “He cried many, many times when he played me and he lost every game. I had no idea I was watching what I would consider the greatest player who ever lived. Jude, I didn’t know it. I couldn’t believe it when all of a sudden he won the U.S. Junior Championship and the U.S. Open. But Jude, let me tell you, Fischer is just an incredible genius.” You know, that’s what he said to me. And here’s what you have to know. In the park, and so on, thousands and thousands of games. Mr. Arnold Denker recalls—1944 U.S. Champion, a tremendous player, and very successful businessman, died at age 91, a beloved grandmaster, a U.S. representative to national tournaments—beat Grandmaster (Reuben) Fine to win by the greatest score the national championship in 1944 ever [until Fischer broke the record about 20 years later]. Denker, an adult, has this little boy in the Manhattan Chess Club, “Mr. Denker, Mr. Denker, you want to play chess?” And people would hide from Fischer in the club because Bobby wanted to play chess all the time, he played hard and so on but the point is this: Denker, who was a tremendous judge, had no idea that Fischer was going to be the greatest player he’d ever seen. And he told me, “Jude, none of us knew.” So I’m telling you right now, it wasn’t like (Samuel) Reshevsky the genius who could play several people when blindfolded when he was eight or nine years old. He just didn’t have that much talent—but that doesn’t mean anything. Unless you can say talent simply is knowing what to do, knowing what to study. There are documented people in the New York Public Library who will tell you that about 1956-57 he closed the place. He had a little chess set, plastic pieces, and he just went—no kid does this but he did it—through the whole history of chess, all the old books, he knew London 1851, who Howard Staunton was…There was a girl I knew at Louisiana State University, she told me that she took her brother to Greenwich Village to play chess and she saw Fischer and her brother beat him and other people beat him, [he was] certainly nothing impressive and there was nobody around. The next summer, she was home from college or high school or whatever it was, I forget what the deal was, but anyway, she is now home during the summer taking care of her brother again, back to Greenwich Village to pick him up, and she notices a tremendous crowd. As her brother is getting in the car, [she asked, "Who’s that?" And her brother said, "That’s around Fischer, Bobby Fischer." She said, "Well, why are they around him? Isn’t he the one that you beat all the time?" He says, "He wins every game." And he was beating grandmasters in five-minute chess, whatever, like a thousand in a row.
So I want to tell you that in my opinion Fischer is ninety-nine percent study and hard work and therefore all credit is to him. Many people had greater talent but that means nothing in my opinion, in this case. People with greater talent than Fischer would definitely be (Anatoly) Karpov—not stronger players, but greater ability to work with---Karpov would have greater talent, Mikhail Tal would definitely have greater talent---I think, not that it means much---(Jose Raul) Capablanca, considered the greatest genius of all time, certainly, and Reshevsky would have great talent---but again, what that means, I’m not saying that in a set match that Fischer would beat all of them, or at least had chances to beat all of them at his best, because he wanted to win more than they did. Not that I’m saying much. A hard worker can beat a person with genius. And finally, I could be mistaken. Fischer could have every bit as much talent, I just didn’t, these stories have simply affected me more. Now I want to give you the greatest teacher of Fischer, Jack Collins, a man in a wheelchair. I accept him as the authority. And this is why, I’m just telling you that despite the fact that Fischer treated me wonderfully well, was very nice to me, played me a two-game match in Baton Rouge, did a thirty-minute TV program with me in Baton Rouge, which was set up by Don Wagner, which was a gift from God, pure luck, I went with him down to New Orleans, he was wonderful in the car, answered many questions, I played a seven-hour draw with him in New Orleans, he was wonderful to me, I have no complaints. I have no axe to grind. I would never knock Fischer for any reason other than honest belief. The reason that I believe Fischer was not a great talent but worked and deserved everything he got on sheer physical work, and that it was an ordeal for him all the way down the line, is because of Jack Collins. Collins told me he had no idea he was teaching the most important professional of all time. Fischer was like forty-fifth on the depth chart. But there were little things that he remembered. Fischer was the only person ever, every single time, to take a Russian chess magazine or something from his library, stick it in his back pocket, and he always brought it back, of course badly [worn], but no other player took books, day and night, all the time out. That was the first tipoff. And to me, that’s the first thing I look for. Does the child like to read little chess books. That’s something I look for when I tell the parents if I think the child should take like $5,000 a year of lessons or whatever. And this is the final [Fischer] story I’m going to tell you. After hundreds and hundreds of hours with Fischer at the Hawthorne Chess Club, Collins’ little private apartment chess club, he was wheelchair-bound with his sister Ethel taking care of him, and I saw him at the Marshall Chess Club as Fischer was playing Petrosian in Buenos Aires (in 1971), he was upstairs with me and he talked to me, “I know who you are, thank you for your letters.” I’d written him as a child. And Jack Collins, the teacher of Fischer, told me, “Jude, when he went off to play in the U.S. Junior and the U.S. Open in Cleveland, Jude, I got a phone call telling me that Fischer had won another typewriter winning the U.S. Junior Championship in San Francisco and that he won the United States Open, I got the news all in the same phone call.” He said, “Jude, I didn’t dream this was possible.” If he’d had the talent visible, Collins would have known. So I’m going to go ninety percent hard work, and a tremendous ordeal for Fischer to play for a long period of time, working in a hotel room eight, ten hours a day, with no days off, and the greatest chess encyclopedia who ever lived.
Fischer v. Medical Advice
Brady’s great services is the final months in Iceland, where he shows you that Fischer was being told, step by step, how he was dying. Fischer deep down inside believes he knows best. He believes that a high school kid is not really suffering from your basic medical information given to a college graduate, or high school graduate, your basic medical advice about diet and so on and doctors, is not reasonably able to keep one alive despite the fact that the evidence is overwhelming, i.e. the average lifespan was under forty in 1900, at 2000 you’re now hitting seventy-eight to eighty-five, a person your age could easily make a hundred without even trying, especially if you’re living in cities, which is now happening. People are now moving toward cities, younger people, sensing the future, that everything will be in the cities, not away from cities but in cities, and you will be near an emergency hospital on the rare occasions you need the help. Many people die because they do not take an aspirin a day, or they don’t take an aspirin while they’re having a heart attack,when all they have to do when the ambulance is coming is take an aspirin and there’ll be enough blood flow to come out of it—usually. In other words, about eighty percent of the people who die could probably pull out of it if they aspirin therapy, small baby aspirin, something like that. This is just simple medical fact. Things like this, Fischer didn’t buy. But here’s the thing I want to point out. He had every chance. And I know of several chances that were given to him, and I told him a couple of things, he had every chance to see the red flags. I would like to remind you of Custer at Little Big Horn. Documented by unimpeachable sources, two crack scouts found hundreds upon hundreds of warm fireplaces nearby, without a single human being in sight and told Custer, “We’re getting the hell out of here,” and they left. They knew something was up. Custer had several reports by great scouts that something was up and he didn’t spread his men out, he didn’t send out his scouts. Fischer had about fifteen warnings throughout his life.
Fischer v. Karpov
I’d like to mention to you the impossible situation that Fischer was in in 1975. He met Karpov all around the world, which most people don’t fully concentrate on. The guy who was going to play him for the World Championship and Fischer forfeited five million dollars by refusing to play Karpov in the Philippines for the world title in 1975. They met, several times, [to discuss playing] either an official world championship match or a commercial match. Fischer changed the terms all the time and made it impossible for Karpov to play the match. Not that Karpov was in any hurry to give up the World Championship. But the point is, here is the person that Fischer had to deal with, he had already beaten Spassky, the man who had given Fischer so much trouble, more trouble than anyone else in the past twelve years. [Karpov] beat Spassky, the man who Fischer had beaten in 1972, in the qualifying match for the World Championship, and then in a full twenty-four game final qualifying match against (Viktor) Korchnoi to see who played Fischer. He beat Korchnoi. So he played the two strongest active players in the world, beat them both in matches, and Fischer hadn’t played a single game before the Philippines 1975 scheduled world title match. I’m not saying Fischer was afraid. I honestly believe Fischer knew it was going to be too much of an ordeal. He didn’t want any part of it, made impossible considerations, and he wanted just to leave. Honestly, I don’t discount that Karpov would have beat Fischer under any circumstance, no matter what anyone tells you, simply because Karpov proved to be such an unbelievably tough customer over five or six months. He once beat Kasparov five games in a row in the early stage of one world title match, their first, this was no weak sister, and Karpov is on record the greatest tournament player—tournament player, now—of all time, with more tournament first prizes than anyone else. I refuse to believe that he would not have had reasonable chances to beat Fischer, even in 1975. And when you count the fact that Fischer was so out of practice, and Karpov was in stroke, in practice, it’s unreasonable not to think—let’s don’t even say that Karpov probably would have won, let’s just say Fischer was going to go through a tremendously difficult ordeal.
When you say ordeal, is it that he—
First, you’re sitting in your hotel room and you’re getting ready for the next game, you’ve already been over every single game in international play your opponents ever played, you have to decide what you’re going to play for the next game, you’re white, against any of his defenses that you know of, you have to re-check everything that you’re going to play, you know, when you’re playing for several million dollars. If you’re a game or two down, then you’ve really got to get hold of yourself, that’s huge in a world title match. Only on three occasions in world chess history, 1910, Lasker against Schlechter, which I consider the greatest game of all time, the final game Lasker won a game that practically killed both players, the game was so deep even the moves were never translated properly, it lasted about three days and three nights, practically killed both players, and Lasker came down and won the last game to tie for the World Chess Championship against Schlechter, and Schlechter retained his world title…Then, in one of the greatest games of all time, again, two days long in Seville, Kasparov beat Karpov in their third great match, to tie the match, and Kasparov kept his World Championship. And then (Vinwanathan) Anand won the final game of the regulation to beat (Veselin) Topalov to win the world title just recently (2010). Only those three games, in history, have decided the World Championship in the final round. So one game can be just huge. If you’re two games down that’s just earth-shakingly difficult in a match. So if you’re in a hotel room, you don’t go anywhere for a month, two months, three months. Remember, you’re talking about a match that Fischer wanted against Karpov where the games go on forever until one guy wins six games, or ten games, or whatever. You understand, draws don’t count, so you know the match could go on four months, and Fischer would never have finished that match because it was an ordeal. I do not believe that Fischer liked the actual play of chess. I think he liked to look at it, analyze it, I don’t think the actual play of chess at tournaments he liked very much. Finally, I call your attention to the actual physical specimen. I think it’s pretty well-documented Fischer was just about, physically, the healthiest chess player that ever lived, from age twenty to age twenty-seven. One more chilling statistic. In his book, I Play the Pieces, chessmaster Svetozar Gligoric, probably the most popular chess player of all time, a guy who is like Jesus Christ in the world of chess, and who got both Spassky and Fischer on the same radio program over telephone, grandmaster Gligoric was also a radio and television personality, a lot of people in Yugoslavia didn’t even know he played chess, he was the number one national journalist for Yugoslavia, he got Fischer and Spassky on the line, talking about the upcoming match, and he told Fischer after the World Championship on live radio, “Bobby, I just want to tell you over the phone, I’m amazed at what a strong player you are, Bobby, just how good you are.” This is a player who traveled all over the world and played world champions, one of the greatest players ever, grandmaster Gligoric probably played in more international tournaments than anybody in the history of the game, played everywhere…In his book, he says that there is pretty good evidence that your peak age for all artists, musicians, and so on, now, give or take an exception, is age thirty-three…Fischer was only 26, 27, and 28 when his last great performances—imagine, if Gligoric was right, how good he would have been, it’s scary, it’s really scary.
Drawing with Browne
I’m getting paid twenty dollars running around with Richard Shoreman, who has 200,000 miles on his Volkswagen, fantastic man with glasses, very anemic-looking, tiny short guy, wonderful human being, friend of firemen, could use their Xerox facilities anytime he wants, teaches firemen how to play chess, policeman, has a chess course at Haywood University, he writes a full page in The Haywood Daily Review, a chess column, and he drives me around California to do prison exhibitions at DVI, Deuel Vocational Institute, which I played just after drawing with Grandmaster Browne, he arrives, I’m out waiting to get picked up after the exhibition having drawn with Grandmaster Browne, I’m not sure if he’s heard about it, he circles the flagpole ten times without looking at me, just drives, I was standing in the middle by the flagpole, and he doesn’t even look in my eyes. It was the greatest compliment imaginable. Fantastic man.
Not having a place to live, I went to work in a little place for elderly people, just serving their breakfast in the morning…That’s where I met John Fogarty, at Fillmore West, and I told him, “You’re a wonderful man but you don’t have a smooth sound for the car radio you’ll probably never have a hit but you’re really great.” And they were like third or fourth on bill, they weren’t huge, and he just put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Man, keep the faith, keep the faith.” And they released—I was in the hotel for the older people, bringing their trays, when I heard “Proud Mary” coming over the radio, which they’d never done in person, but he did tell me, “We’ve got some things, new things you probably haven’t heard yet.” [When] I heard “Proud Mary” coming over the radio, I knew immediately it would be a worldwide hit and the deejay said, “Creedence Clearwater Revival has made it big.” I just couldn’t believe it.
Surviving the Levee Failures in 2005
Why’d I tough it out? I knew Morphy’s history, I knew this land was high ground, and I knew the 150-year-old building I was in would survive—I gave it a real close inspection before I decided, I almost made the fatal error of going to the Superdome as a precaution. And of course they would not have let me out, that was the point. I couldn’t have gotten back. Of course, you realize, I never saw the water. There was water three blocks away from me—I did not realize it was there for about 24 hours. I did not realize that the cemetery at Rampart Street (St. Louis Cemetery #1) was under water, I just didn’t realize it, and I went toward, blissfully at two or three in the afternoon, it was all dry here but there was incredible damage, lots of trees down, and chimneys, no storm, ever, has taken brick-by-brick chimneys down. It was a category five two stories up, no matter what the weather bureau tells you, because no storm has ever taken chimneys down brick by brick, including mine. I’m telling you, it was a category five, no matter what they tell you.…It was the strongest storm to ever hit New Orleans, period. It was a category two stories, three stories up, but the natural barriers at ground level kept the meters, or maybe the meters were even destroyed, I don’t know, or quit functioning, but I’m sure it was a category five storm at its worst. There was very little rain …
Jude finally left the city and, while he was away, Rita flooded his French Quarter apartment.
Sprinkled throughout our conversations Jude offered advice, some personal, but most of it of a medical nature:
A couple cups of coffee a day, aspirin, wine extract Resveratrol, and walk everywhere, get enough sleep, thinking positively, try to get to know as many different kinds of people, go to wild parties, music, everything. Never be a censor. Everybody I know drinks. Everybody I know smokes. It’s none of my business. Any kind of racism seriously affects you—if you have any kind of hatred of Muslims, Jewish people, black people, or anything like that, you’re in serious trouble. It will take away from your life.
People have to remember, at any cost, I don’t care if it costs a thousand dollars, when you have an operation, spend the thousand dollars to stay in the hospital for twenty-four hours, even if you’re perfectly fine. Never check out of the hospital for twenty-four hours after because it costs you your life. If you [have] an infection inside, you can’t get back to the hospital in time and infection is painless, you’re being killed but you don’t realize that you’re dying. Stay in the hospital after every operation. Any operation. All three of these people, (Andy) Warhol, and others died because they did not provide for care under good supervision. And you never go during the night when the temporary staff is on. You go during the day when the head honchos are there, because the temporary staff have to get out of bed to get down there, you could die while you’re waiting. If you’re not feeling good you go down there in the afternoon instead of the evenings, and if you do you go to the emergency room, the best are there twenty-four hours a day. And you go to a public hospital emergency room because they’ve got much more practice.…
By the way, I tipped you and your wife off on Resveratrol. Very available, triple strength. You can get two bottles for the price of one every two weeks. You can go get them now and your wife and you should begin taking them now. You will begin to realize something strange, you feel very fine and you just [feel] very steady, you never have headaches, and it’s immediate, and they don’t know why it works. But your cells stay the same.
I will get it.
Just to repeat, for your readers or listeners, it’s one thousand, five hundred glasses of red wine, it’s a natural product, it’s the reason people in France live [so long]. They don’t know why it works, it just does. Your cells stay the same, they don’t get smaller. In general, they don’t really know why it works but it does. It definitely affects the brain and very favorably so. You don’t feel anything and all of a sudden everything works. You’ll also discover your eyesight works and you’ll also discover your duct glands in your eyes have more moisture. That’s all I can tell you. As far as walking, I never get tired. It’s just unbelievable. I don’t understand how it works, it just does. And it’s a very common product like aspirin. You can buy it by the ton at Walgreens. Resveratrol. And get it by the ton.
Walk everywhere. I got it from Fischer. I heard he was walking everywhere in New York. Browne told me this, Grandmaster Browne, who I played in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the same place I met Fischer, [Browne] told me, “Jude, for two years I’ve known Bobby in New York, and man, he never gets in a car. He has an appointment across town, it’s nothing for him to be there in 15 minutes, he knows he get out on the road and start walking,” and he says, “I’ve gotten in that habit too.” And [Fischer] walks faster than anyone you’ve ever seen. He walked everywhere. I got walker-conscious because of him. It’s added many years to my life.
The other thing that really bordered on genius. I’ve had several people try to give me cars. I refuse to ever take as a gift a car. I never drive. This was a multi-million dollar break. You save money on gas over time and health, because it’s every dangerous to drive, not because you’re a bad driver but [everyone else]. Plus, I’d think about chess and run off the road.
Eric Paulson & PM Magazine
I went swimming at the Hyatt Regency pool, I believe it was a Monday, and I had my watch on and I knew that at 6:37 in New York Eastern Time Zone millions of people were watching Jude Acers and I will not die forgotten. Then at 7:37 the Midwest gets it, and so on, and strangely, I looked down at my watch and it had stopped and never worked again. It just stopped and I had to buy a new watch. And I was in the pool, all alone, I didn’t tell anyone, “This is the day.” It had been postponed from earlier in the month and got moved to July 21st, I still have the press release from the New York Chess Federation, which I’ll see you get a copy of. It was a great one and very reassuring that there would be some record of me.
The day he died, 47 years later, he went there to deliver fish and so on, on July 10, 1884, as always, heavy suit, heavy boots, and he jumped into a cold bathtub—he was mentally ill—and he just died in the bathtub. You may not have read the great book. Which, by the way, is in the New Orleans Public Library, where so many of the great books are. But many people have realized, the very basis of my chess education, which made me hundreds of thousands of dollars and drew a match with Grandmaster Walter Browne in Berkeley 1970 and got a game voted one of the top games in the world by Informator in Belgrade, came out of that library. There’s a book in there that is the best ever on Morphy, Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess, a huge mother, in the large book section in the back of the chess books, by Lawson, and I actually talked to people who he interviewed in New Orleans, he was a Morphy fanatic, and he has it all right. He has all of the basic Morphy material down there, except for two things that I’ll mention.
Morphy was never seriously mentally ill but he had foibles. He would go to the barber in the morning and be shaved, the frock over him, thirty, forty days in a row, talking about the news, there’d be no problem, and then suddenly, for no reason whatsoever, he’d just be sitting there with the shaving cream on him—it happened once or twice—and he would just jump out of the chair, for no reason, and just run out of the barber shop, with the thing on, the shaving cream on, and just disappear. And then the next day he’d come back, get shaved like normal. And he would sit on Canal Street, watch women go by occasionally, in magnificent suits and so on. There was just small things. There was nothing really huge but he was eccentric. He definitely knew he was famous. He was huge. All the Union soldiers knew who he was. I think he liked women. He definitely was bisexual, I should mention that. There are private comments by F. M. Edge, his private secretary, and he and Edge traveled [together], and the private letters indicate interest in both men and women.
I never dreamed there would be a thing called the Internet and there are over twenty-five thousand listings of me on Google alone. People now are shooting photographs, four or five a day, and I ask people, I guess I still have this thing where I fear I’ll be alone and forgotten, I don’t know why, but I ask people, be sure to put it on the Internet, everything helps. Maybe I just know it’s good for business, or a combination of both, but I’m in super-human health, and I’m 67 years old, and I cannot explain why I’m so lucky to have all of these things going for me like magic.
Every great player in history, every move they played in official tournaments, is remembered forever, in particular the best in the world, free, New in Chess database, which the whole world is given in Holland, New in Chess Magazine has made sure that all official international games, world championship games, all career games of every great player in history, all of them, are online free of charge for every person in two hundred countries to read. And also it replays for handicapped people, you don’t have to keep hitting the move, you punch it and it plays it automatically, and you hit the next game and it continues to play the game, and an audio feature will also let blind people hear the games, and you understand what this does. My fears that only the world champions, only Fischer, would be remembered, are now gone forever. I now know, in my own case, hundreds of trips to small towns by Greyhound bus, maybe fifty prisons, I honestly thought I’d be forgotten, I did an index of the New York Timesand they mention several times that I’d been to prisons in the New York area…there are hundreds of listings of me now, and more appearing every month, from little towns where I played thirty years ago, I thought it would all be forgotten, but I’m now the Johnny Appleseed of chess.
The only thing that has changed my pessimism about evil, the idea that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing, is the Internet. I now know that if three people are taken to a jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi, held by the police so they can be murdered by a mob that night, today the word would be out to every federal court in twenty minutes, there’d be state police in Mississippi, state police, white and black state policeman with guns, telling the local police to get out, there’d be federal marshals there within half an hour. You’d never be able to hold people overnight. If you had the Ku Klux Klan assembled to murder three guys in a road, the state police would be there with machine guns. I know that the Internet has changed the world and it’s only going to get better. By freeing the Internet, all of the hate groups identify themselves on the Internet. Don’t you think that the Jewish nation, worried about Iran, considering bombing nuclear facilities, suddenly realized about four years ago that it would not be necessary ever for Israel to bomb Iran because they’re getting so much intelligence from the Internet they know where the nuclear program is and can sabotage it using the computers as well, which is what they did. But furthermore, also using the Internet, cluing people inside Iran, “Cool it, we’re about to bomb you otherwise.” The moderate, very good thinking—there are a lot of smart people in Iran, Iran is ninety percent literate, there are a lot of good people in Iran—they will keep the nuclear program from ever happening to Israel will never have to bomb. Because of the Internet…And I firmly believe, the Internet will help freedom in every way. I think Israel will get much more information and will not have to [use] such extreme action. I also feel Palestinian people, we’re going to become more and more aware of how Palestinian people need good places to live, good plumbing, electricity and everything, and I think Israel will be one of the first to help. I really believe Israel is going to help Palestine, if given the chance. But you can’t be shooting missiles over the border. It’s going to change. And the Internet, also, is cluing in Israel, so they don’t have to declare full-scale war, they know where the killers are in Palestine, and when Hamas fires missiles, the Internet feeds [the Israelis] the information, they know how to, through the Internet, feed bank accounts to help informers, to pay for information. But of course Palestine also can get Internet information and this helps their peace movement as well. I feel the Internet is the central factor in eliminating hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and so on…
Preparations for Opatija
There are times when I go to the grocery store, even now, and I find myself increasing enormously in strength, even now, and the pieces begin to move before my eyes. Especially important, I’ve been playing a variation for twenty years, the same variation, with mixed results, and a grandmaster in 1999 played a much better sub-variation that I had not caught on to, making my variation even better, and the grandmaster’s name was Hodgson of England…and as I’m going to the grocery board, the moves are playing in my mind. That is, the key variations, which make it work, even better than my lines. And actually I’d played highly similar variations before, but can you imagine, walking down the street with chess pieces, [the variations] which you know are going to occur in your play because you’re going to Hodgson’s moves. I’ll even tell chess players what the move was. When they play the pawn at g2 to g4 attacking your bishop at f5, you move the bishop not to e6 or d7, you instead move it back to c8. Hodgson’s novelty, bishop at f5 to c8. And Hodgson and chess player connoisseurs will know what I’m talking about. And tell them I only found it out, in of all places, Standard Chess Openings by Schiller, the standard pulp book, and it was the only thing that had it and I only found it a couple days ago. So I’m walking to the grocery store and the pieces are moving around [in my mind].
I can literally play thirty, forty moves out, because I’ve been there before. And I can literally see the end. If it’s simple. If it’s complicated, I can see the general gist. The one thing I’ve got to do with the approach of the international tournament, I’ve got to take very difficult positions. I’m looking at a lot of games by (Hikaru) Nakamura, a lot of published games with notes by grandmasters, you’ve got to have notes, I don’t like just looking at a game, I like to argue with the grandmaster, and finally they start showing my lines, and then I sit down and really look to see to see if I start to visualize five, six, seven moves out, if it’s difficult, and ask myself, “If this difficult ending,” which this guy could’ve won easily, the grandmaster points out how he was absolutely dead, “Is this right?” “In the game, would you have ben able to polish the grandmaster off, rather than let him get out with a draw, as occurred in this game?” I’m thinking of an article by a player named (Georgi) Kacheishvili, which is in the current issue of Chess Life and Review (June 2011, p. 30) [in] which he describes game for game this electrifying win of an open tournament with hundreds of players in Las Vegas over the Christmas holidays with Irina Krush getting him on the plane at the last second and the unbelievable things that had to happen for him to win and how strange his moves looked when he went wrong and made all these errors and he gets out against this 2600 player (Ilya) Smirin and he goes on to win the tournament by tie breaker. I’m looking at those games slowly, you know. I’m trying to visualize carefully the notes because I know in four months I will have the greatest opportunity anybody has ever had. No American player, not Fischer, anybody, has ever been in a tournament—ever, on the planet—where they have a chance to [play] forty or fifty grandmasters in a tournament. Every person above sixty years of age who is officially a grandmaster in all of Europe, I believe, is going to be given a free hotel room, free entry fee into the World Senior International, so I will get to play fifty to seventy grandmasters—I mean, I will get to play seven or eight out of eleven games. If I even got a plus score, my international rating [would go up]. And then my backers are trying to talk me into real quick playing in four or five tournaments in a row, one after another, internationally rated, and bring the grandmaster, the international grandmaster title from the World Chess Federation (FIDE) back home. I’m still debating it. But I will tell you this. Just the idea of flying directly to a world championship tournament with no one telling me, “You can’t play because you’re from New Orleans,” or “Your rating is one point short of 2400, you’re a 2399 player,” and I’m saying, “For thirty years it’s been 2399 and I’ll die before I kiss your boots.”
And remember, when you play internationally, it’s a totally different world. No one from New Orleans has ever had an opportunity like this. These people who are sending me all over the world, it’s heaven. And when I get off the plane I have no friends. I’m civil, I’m nice, but it’s going to be—they know what’s coming. I’ve had several games that went eight hours, seven hours, just hundreds of moves. I won them all—the longer the game goes, the stronger I get somehow.
The strangest thing is as I’m walking in the dark toward the tournament room at two in the morning, the grandmasters in the shadows know who I am. I see them pointing to me. They know who I am. I live like an island. Get a cup of coffee in my place, buy a chicken from a vendor downstairs before twelve noon, and live on instant oatmeal with maple flavor out of my suitcase, instant coffee, and have a wonderful life. Like I said, live free or die. I’m going to play it the way I want to play it and not worry. And above all, when it comes down to it, when it’s all on the line, if I have a chance to go for it I’m going for it. I mean, I could take a draw, win money, but let’s go for it.
Excerpts from interviews conducted by Derek Bridges in April-May 2011. Originally published at B2L2.com.