With the Russian
masters thus assured of another victory in their long string, the interest of
the Cuban enthusiasts shifted to Fischer's individual record. After his first
15 games Bobby had 13 wins, two draws and .the gold medal in his pocket. His
only rival was Petrosian, who finished with 11� points out of a possible 13—10
wins and three draws. Bobby had faced tougher opposition than Petrosian and
played more games. He could have stopped after his 15th game, with first place
at first board safely in his grasp. There is no question that the Russians,
under such circumstances, would have chosen to play it safe. After the
tournament some criticism was directed at Captain Donald Byrne for allowing
Bobby to take on more than 15 opponents. But Bobby was given his head, and, in
effect, beat himself in his 16th game.
Rumania's No. 1 player, Florin Gheorghiu, two years his junior. Offered a draw
by Gheorghiu, Fischer refused it. Had he been willing to accept a draw, he
would have had no losses, three draws (the same number as Petrosian) and far
more wins than Petrosian—for a higher percentage and the gold medal. But he
lost to Gheorghiu, which still gave him 14 wins, two draws and one loss to
Petrosian's 10 wins and three draws. Petrosian's winning average was 88.46 to
Fischer's 88.23, a microscopic difference of .23, but enough to give him
Bobby's coveted gold medal.
The drama of
Fischer's decision to refuse the draw was not lost on either the Russians or
the Cubans, though it was given scant notice in the Havana newspapers. Cuban
enthusiasts who, right up to the last day, expected that Fischer would win,
attached a special importance to it.
The fans were on
Bobby's side just as enthusiastically over another bold challenge he made.
Midway in the tournament Fidel Castro gave a banquet at the Palace of the
Revolution, at which Fischer approached Stein and suggested that they stay on
in Havana after the Olympics and play a match. In the past Fischer's attempts
to promote man-to-man matches with the Russians have been rebuffed.
But caught off
guard in Havana's festive atmosphere, Stein agreed. Fischer immediately led him
to Castro, to announce their intention and to obtain Castro's approval. The
Prime Minister, not wearing his cap on this occasion, listened attentively
while Bobby explained things, occasionally puffing thoughtfully on his cigar.
"The Prime Minister said that it was all right with him," Bobby told
the newspapermen, "and that furthermore he would like to watch the
match." But the next day, after second thoughts and consultations (and
perhaps a message from Moscow), Stein announced that he considered Fischer's
proposal a mere publicity stunt and ended the discussion by postponing the