Fischer, in a match in Vancouver, British Columbia to determine the challenger
of Boris Spassky for the world chess championship:
1) Demanded that
no spectators be allowed to watch him play (demand refused).
2) Demanded that
no spectators be allowed to bring chess sets to the games (granted).
3) Changed his
hotel room four times, seeking peace and quiet.
4) Won six games
in a row, an achievement unparalleled in modern chess history.
Mark Taimanov of the Soviet Union, was less demanding. He merely refused to
play in the Graduate Centre of the University of British Columbia because the
windows could not be opened in the air-conditioned room, agreed to play in the
Student Union Building, which has no windows at all, and refused to stop pacing
the floor during games as Fischer demanded.
Taimanov is one of the most genial and easygoing of the formidable Soviet chess
masters. He is 45 years old, a veteran of 19 years of international
competition, a theoretician of the openings who even has one named for him—the
Taimanov Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Once a top-ranking Soviet star but
long relatively inactive, Taimanov made a strong comeback to qualify for the
current world championship elimination matches. He is a concert pianist when he
is not playing chess, and says that he leads a double life. When he is on the
concert stage he thinks how pleasant it would be to be playing chess, and
"when I devote myself to chess I think of returning to music."
There were many
occasions in Vancouver when he must have wished he was pounding out Bach or
Beethoven. It began when Fischer arrived late for their first game. Fischer has
taken up tennis, and had tarried a half hour at the court before going to the
hall. In deference to Fischer's complaints about lights and spectators, the
auditorium was dark, the stage indirectly lighted and the first four rows of
seats kept vacant. Taimanov, with the white men, began boldly with a
venturesome knight foray on his 12th move. It cost him a pawn, but Fischer
faltered in turn on his 20th move, giving Taimanov another offensive
opportunity, which the Russian failed to profit from. The game was adjourned on
the 40th move, after nearly five hours of play, with Taimanov in a hopeless
position. He resigned that game without resuming play.
elsewhere in the world, three other quarterfinal elimination matches were being
fought out. The procedure for determining the player who is to challenge
Spassky, the world champion, is excessively complex. The world is divided into
chess zones, and the winners in the various zones meet in an interzonal
tournament The six top finishers in the interzonal, together with the former
world champion and the former runner-up, meet in four separate matches. A win
counts for one point, a drawn game gives each player one-half point, and the
first player to score 5� wins the match. While Fischer and Taimanov were
meeting in Vancouver, the ex-world champion, Tigran Petrosian, played a young
newcomer, Robert H�bner of West Germany, in Seville, Spain; Viktor Korchnoi of
Russia played his countryman Yefim Geller in Moscow; Bent Larsen of Denmark met
Wolfgang Uhlmann of East Germany in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.
None of these
matches had results remotely comparable to the Taimanov-Fischer struggle. In
Seville, for example, Petrosian and H�bner drew their first six games. A frail,
22-year-old college student, H�bner said before the match, "My chances are
absolutely nil." They were not. The games were played in a ground-level,
windowless room; the crowds were large, the air conditioning failed and H�bner
was bothered by street noises that failed to disturb Petrosian, who is nearly
deaf. Nevertheless H�bner held the former champion, a masterly defensive
player, to six draws in succession. In the seventh game H�bner overlooked a
winning move, became demoralized after he saw his mistake, lost, burst into
tears, withdrew from the match and flew home to Germany.