"I've got the
talent," says Browne. "All I need to do is persevere. And I will,
because I'm concentrating all my energies on becoming world champion. I have
this fantastic discipline to study chess six, eight, 10 hours a day, this drive
to win at all costs short of physical violence. I got this aggression that
never quits, this feeling of terrific power. I feel this big hot thing like the
sun inside me. I'm not bragging. I really feel as if I can beat anybody at
While waiting to
overpower the world, Browne spent two months last fall polishing off the entire
United States of America, purple mountain by fruited plain, town by town, pawn
by pawn. More than a promotional tour, it was an organizational tour de force
that he conceived as "a new kind of fun game." Called a "simul"
in the trade, the format was standard if exhausting grandmaster exhibition
fare: for a $225 guarantee, one night's lodging and $7.50 for each additional
player over the 30-board minimum, Browne gave a lecture and then took on all
comers. What made this road show extraordinary was that he was in effect
playing one unending series of simuls, driving up to 13 hours a day,
hopscotching across the country like some knight-errant in quest of a
From upper Oregon
to lower Florida, Massachusetts Bay to the Mexican border, Browne played in
YMCAs, motels, universities, factories, shopping malls, VFW halls and a prison.
By his calculation, $15,000, 15,000 miles, 2,000 games, 60 days, 50 cities and
40 states add up to an "inhuman feat."
reckoning it was "loco completo." Het sentiments are understandable;
she was doing the driving. "My husbond weel get to be world chompion,"
she said shortly before their departure, "but he weel not get his driver's
license." Unhearing, Browne kept enthusing about the throngs that would
turn out to play him. "It's their chance to do a very personal thing,"
he said, "like throwing a football with Joe Namath."
"I'm going to trick 'em, trap 'em," he said. "If I don't get 'em in
the opening, I'll get 'em in the middle, and if not in the middle, then I'll
get 'em in the end. And if not in the end, then they will have passed a test of
the highest order." Stamina? "If I don't hold up, I will kill my
wife." "Eef you play bockgommon when we get to New York," Racquel
countered, "I weel keel you."
And so at noon on
a Friday in the middle of October—tennis rackets, chess books and snow chains
stowed in their burgundy BMW sedan—off they went. "When we get back,"
Browne promised, "I will have played more people in two months than the
average tournament player would meet in 200 years."
And that was just
for starters. Coming up: Inhuman Feat No. 2, an attempt to break the world
record for simultaneous play set by Argentina's Miguel Najdorf when he took on
250 opponents in São Paulo, Brazil in 1950. Browne says, "I'm going to play
at least 260 people—just 251 would look bad." Figuring that it will take 18
to 22 hours, he adds, "It's not a question of can I do it but how well, how
fast I do it. Talk about the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. People
don't know what that is compared to what I'm going to do. It will be the
marathon of marathons! A fantastic event! A spectacle!"
lays claim to two other world marks. In 1971 in Adelaide, Australia, he played
and defeated 29 challengers in 45 minutes. "Forty-five minutes!" he
exclaims. "You know how fast that is? About a minute and a half a game! And
some of the games went to 50, 60 moves. This combination has never happened
before and will never happen again. It's almost physically impossible. If I'd
stopped to take a drink of water, it was all over."
Chess City two years ago Browne played 106 opponents, including a Columbia
University computer called the Ostrich, and won 94 games, drew nine and lost
three. "That is probably the best score ever for that many people," he
says, "and the record without doubt is that I finished in seven hours, 20
minutes." (Browne had the computer beaten in just 15 moves. "Tell your
Ostrich to read Nimzovich," he sniffed, referring to the father of the
hypermodern school of chess.)
talking about ticktacktoe here, you know," Browne concludes. "We're
talking about the most profound game ever created. That's why there is not a
computer alive that can beat me. They lack imagination."