One could imagine the fans going absolutely wild, cheering as the hero executes a full nelson while smiling winningly behind his granny glasses, booing as the villain lunges across the ring with a boa constrictor wrapped around his neck. But, alas, the words crowding the marquee of Detroit's Olympia Stadium were meant to be read vertically:
The easy thing would be to damn Bobby Fischer for the wreckage of the world chess title match, in which he was to have played Russian challenger Anatoly Karpov. Fischer would not give in to the world chess federation (FIDE) on what appeared to be a minor point, so FIDE stripped him of his title and handed it to Karpov.
FIDE had accepted the first of Fischer's two "non-negotiable" demands: that the $5 million title match, scheduled to begin June 1 in Manila, have an unlimited number of games, draws not counting, the winner being the first player to score 10 victories. But Fischer also insisted that in the event of a 9-9 tie he would retain his title (although prize money would be split evenly). This was rejected by a 35-32-3 vote of the first Extraordinary General Assembly in FIDE's 51-year history.
Although FIDE considered its action a compromise, Col. Ed Edmondson, executive director of the United States Chess Federation, sees more Byzantine implications. Edmondson notes that on the vote that went against Fischer, 12 Communist and Arab countries voted in a block with the majority. "Exactly what the U.S.S.R. Chess Federation wanted," says Edmondson. " Fischer had their prize egg and they wanted it back." The Russians, he says, were counting on Fischer's celebrated intransigence. If so, they gambled correctly: Bobby once again demonstrated his apparent need to elevate stubbornness over a minor and arguable point to the level of lofty principle.
But if Fischer was mulish, so was FIDE. It is hard to take seriously Karpov's statement that it was a "big day" for Soviet chess now that "the world crown is back in our country." As Edmondson notes, "Karpov probably wanted to play Fischer. Now he'll be only a paper champion."