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Pausing for a pit stop at the Excellent Diner in West-field, Browne said, "I remember this place. Played backgammon in here once with a guy. Two bucks a point, and I won maybe $100. A real gambler is not a gambler at all, you know. If I play, I only play with people I'm going to beat. If not, I leave. But backgammon and poker are nothing more than something to relax with before you play chess. Chess is an art, a science—it's everything. It's like being on a high plane looking down. I feel sorry for people who don't play chess. They're missing something."
Standing under an elm tree outside the Westfield YMCA, Browne removed his tan leather jacket, emptied his pockets into his suitcase, delicately removed a fleck of lint from his shirt and began bouncing on his toes like a welterweight awaiting the bell. "Ya gotta be light as a feather," he rasped, "mean as the weather."
Moments later he burst into a large upstairs room at the Y with a menacing, slit-eyed look that said I can lick any patzer in the joint. "Nice to see your smiling face again," said Denis Barry, the exhibition's organizer. Then, pulling Browne aside, he whispered, "Listen, you know some of the other grandmasters made a nice impression here by shaking hands with the players and..." "Whaddya mean." Browne interrupted, "I'm very frrriendly."
Positioning himself next to a large cloth demonstration board hanging from a coat hanger, Brown e announced, "I'm going to lecture on the Game of the Decade in which I played white against Bisguier's Petrov Defense. Bobby has a Game of the Century, but it's just a question of taste as to whose is better." Then, muttering "Chomp, chomp, gobble, gobble," he flashed through the first 13 moves and declared, "For 40 years nobody has been able to find the right move in this position. But I found it. And here it is, the zonker!"
After a rapid-fire analysis of the follow-up attack, Browne concluded, "Well, do you think the Petrov is still viable? I think that line is out of commission. I remember I spoke to Bobby about it on the phone and he said this move and I said that, and then he didn't have much of an answer."
Then Browne was off on the first leg of his race around 49 boards arranged in a sprawling rectangle. As Browne lurched along, Barry said, "I remember when Walter was 14 and he came here for a tournament. He kept slipping off to play pool in the basement, and when he got back for one game we had to call a time fault on him. He threw the clock at somebody, and then smashed the pieces. I made him pick them up and fined him $5 for a broken bishop."
As the hours wound on and the victims began to mount, Browne started jogging between the widening gaps. By the sixth hour he was sprinting among the last few hangers-on and, given less and less time to ponder before the hawk was again fluttering threateningly over them, one after another they began to blunder. Final score, 40 wins, five draws, four losses.
"If it's not an excessive amount I'd appreciate cash," Browne said afterward as the chess club treasurer counted out $375. As he left the Y and headed for Manhattan, Browne exclaimed, "Whaddya mean there's no depression? Only 49 boards! What is this?"
It was after midnight when Browne arrived at the May-fair House of Bridge, an exclusive gamesmen's club in a penthouse above Manhattan's East Side. Within moments he worked his way through a group huddled around a backgammon game and declared, "God, this guy needs help if he makes moves like that! C'mon, get the game over with. What're you afraid of? If they hit you back, they got a double risk inside. Get the four-point prime. Play solidity. Jack it up. Zap 'em. Hey, I got the next game, right?"
Right he was, and several long, loquacious hours later Browne emerged into a gray, drizzly dawn. Still clutching his tennis racket and oversized bag, he teetered down the damp, deserted streets toward Brooklyn, wayworn, forlorn, and $108 richer.