- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Through various Fischer-related channels, exclusive rights to movie and still photography of the match were assigned by the Icelandic Chess Federation to a little-known American film producer named Chester Fox. Cameramen hired by Fox were to do all authorized filming inside the Reykjavik indoor sports stadium and Fox was to market the resultant pictures and footage to the various media in advance. Income would be divided 30% each to Fischer and Spassky, 20% to the Icelandic Chess Federation and 20% to Fox. In addition, ABC paid $67,500 for television rights.
But other magazines, newspapers and news agencies declined to meet Fox' prices. When the press arrived in Reykjavik for the match it was told that no cameras other than Fox' were to be allowed inside the auditorium, and that play-by-play news reports could only be dispatched three times per game—not frequently enough to allow immediate simulation of play around the world. Both foreign and local journalists were miffed over the restrictions and resolved to defy the rules.
Then, Fischer hit on a real money move. He made an outrageous demand for 30% of the gate, a steal that would not only break the Icelandic Chess Federation, but probably rattle every bank in Reykjavik.
Until late last week the only American in Iceland remotely qualified to declare Fischer's intentions was Fred Cramer, the U.S. zone's vice-president of the International Chess Federation, and he would not venture to predict what might happen next.
At one point he did describe himself as "Fischer's errand boy," and it was he who revealed that Fischer was demanding, among other things, that Lothar Schmid of West Germany, the chief referee, be replaced. The excuse was that Bobby did not want a top-level chess player in such a key spot. Fischer, said Cramer, felt Schmid had competitive ambitions and needed the goodwill of the Russians to ensure himself a pool of strong competition. But the possibility of a chess referee having any effect on a game is slight, and Schmid refused to step down.
With that resolved—maybe—Cramer and Schmid met to consider a few other hard questions. For instance, Fischer refuses to engage in any tournament activity during the Sabbath of the Church of God, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. But in Iceland in July the sun never entirely goes down. What to do? Cramer said what was needed—even though Fischer is not a practicing Jew—was a rabbi's judgment of the time of sundown. But another thing Iceland has none of is rabbis. And so it went.
It is hard to believe the trouble already caused by two men's preparations to sit—or not to sit—before a checkered board for hours on end, occasionally moving carved black and white figures in absolute silence through such defenses as the Poisoned Pawn Sicilian and attacks like the Ruy Lopez. But championship chess is a complex game, and world championship chess the most complex of all. The confrontation is fascinating. At this point Spassky is clearly ahead. His moves have been traditional, his demeanor impeccable, his patience laudable. Fischer has been greedy, arrogant and irrational. But Fischer is renowned for one thing—brilliant use of the unexpected. These matches may be already over. Or they may have hardly begun.