Seirawan's finest moment came in his efficiently designed victory over Gudmunder Jonsson, yet another grandmaster. Talk about knight-leaps. Playing white, Seirawan brought his queen's knight across the board in three leaps to join in a kingside attack on Jonsson's position. While Jonsson was moving about like Custer at Little Bighorn, Seirawan brought out his queen on the 21st move, ready to join the attack. She looked innocent enough then, but by the 26th move, when Seirawan pushed her into the fray, she had Bette Davis eyes. Seirawan made another knight-leap, slipped Bette inside, sacrificed the knight and then rushed a rook to its doom. Bette takes pawn, check, mate! Or as Fischer was wont to say, "Crunch! Splat! Pow!"
Jonsson resigned on the next move, his 30th. They brought out a bottle of champagne to celebrate the moment, for Seirawan had risen from an international master to a grandmaster with that victory. The mate Jonsson faced was forced. The applause that came from the crowd was not. "I felt like Reggie Jackson hitting his third home run against the Dodgers in the '77 World Series," Seirawan says, but winning the tournament was the least of the honors that came to him. Not only had he also made himself a grandmaster, but he had landed a job to boot. Korchnoi seemed as charmed as Garcia had been. He approached Seirawan after the tournament. "Would you like to work with me?" he asked. Seirawan was stunned. "I would have paid for that experience," he says. Korchnoi asked him if he could come to Switzerland to help him prepare for another drive to win the world title.
"I'll pay your air fare," Korchnoi said to Seirawan. "And would five thousand Swiss francs [about $2,750 then] a month be acceptable?"
"Huh?" Seirawan said. He was thinking: You're gonna pay me?
"Yeah," he finally thought to say. "I think I'll be available for you." Two months later he flew to Switzerland and joined two other seconds, Michael Stean and Lev Gutman, as they began the job of assisting Korchnoi in analyzing moves and mapping strategy for what would be 18 months of chess—from Korchnoi's string of victories in the candidates' matches through the final struggle against Karpov in Merano.
For the first time in his life, Seirawan was required to immerse himself in a study of chess theory. In Merano, on days when no game was scheduled, Seirawan and the other seconds met with Korchnoi for five or more hours at the challenger's villa, working over two large chess sets, setting up positions and playing the pieces through the endless variations to which this opening or that defense might lead. They analyzed adjourned positions and all completed games—whether won, lost or drawn.
Aside from the occasional day of skiing in the Tyrolean Alps or a game of tennis or dancing with a date at a Merano dance hall, nothing could distract Seirawan from his job or relieve him of his sense of frustration and helplessness as he watched Korchnoi slip into poor positions and squirm while he tried to extricate himself. Korchnoi's generally lackluster play, from the day he lost the opening game, became the unsolved mystery of Merano. Seirawan's frustration hit a peak on the night following the adjournment of the second game, after Korchnoi had played a solid opening and gradually self-destructed. By the adjournment, he was coming down in flames. While the Russians toasted the night away in the hotel next door, Seirawan plopped down on a couch in the Palace Hotel—his coat off, his tie askew, his shirt open down the front. "Why can't he play?" he said. "He can't play!"
"It's like the trainer of a boxer having prepared his man to jab a lot in a fight, and suddenly the guy refuses to jab," Seirawan said. "I mean, the frustration! It's heartbreaking. You can't reach in there and say, 'Come on, do like we showed you!' It's hard to sit on the sidelines and have to watch. The job is no fun."
The job came to an end after Korchnoi sealed his 41st move at adjournment time in the 18th game, knowing he was doomed. Karpov was ahead 5-2 in games and needed only one more win to retain the title. Korchnoi left the playing hall, and as he climbed into his waiting car, said without rancor, "Unfortunately, the match is over." It was perhaps Korchnoi's last chance. Now Seirawan wants his first.
Margaret sees it coming. The others in this tale have found their destinies. Max is living in Saudi Arabia now, married to the Syrian woman to whom he had been originally betrothed, the firstborn daughter of his father's best friend. Lord knows where Vallance is. "He has no residence," Margaret says. "He could be in the desert now. He could be in Virginia Beach. He could be on the moon."