"I know every two-, three-, four-and most five-letter words in Funk &
Wagnalls. And I know a lot of tricky words, too, like ouistiti. It's a form of
monkey. But my alltime favorite is rotl. I don't know what it means— you don't
have to, you know—but the beauty is that the plural of rotl is artal. Isn't
Great, too, is
his concern about the future. Not the winning but the wearing. "People say
I'm too tense, that I won't be able to keep up the pace," says Browne,
"but that's not true. The reason a lot of players have trouble with their
digestion and so on is because they keep the tension inside. Well, I let it
out. Yes, the toll of the role of No. 1 will be great. It is going to take a
lot of energy to get through the serious strain of it all, but I think I can do
exclaims Racquel. "Poof! The energy thees guy has, eet ees crazy. The other
players are so quiet, so passive. But Shawn, the way he walks, plunk, plunk,
plunk! Nobody can keep up weeth heem. I am like Japanese woman all the time,
chasing behind heem. He ees very pushy. He talks very loud. He always shut up
everybody. He has drive. He has chareesma. He ees alive. He says, 'I am here! I
am Walter Browne!' He is a special case, no?"
Still, what will be the toll of the role? Browne is all too aware that Paul
Morphy became a recluse, suffered from acute paranoia and abandoned competitive
chess forever at age 22. He knows, too, that the mental strains caused by Harry
Nelson Pillsbury's feats of simultaneous play were said to have contributed to
his premature death at 33. He has read about the erratic behavior of world
champions Wilhelm Steinitz (1886-94) and Alexander Alekhine (1927-35) and how
both died in poverty. And he has heard the sad lament of world champion Emanuel
Lasker (1894-1921), "In life we are all duffers."
And that is why
Browne is bent on maintaining "a very healthy attitude toward life."
Racquel, who specialized in treating schizophrenics in Argentina, insists on
it, saying, "The American chess players are the most crazy because they
have to do eet all themselves. That ees why Bobby Fishair cannot handle
success. He has got conflicts. He needs love, Bobby Fishair. I must get heem
Latin girl friend." As for Walter, her therapy is strictly shock. "Eef
you get paranoid, Shawn," she warns, "I weel cut off your
Late one autumn
night, while sipping a glass of vintage red from his amply stocked wine cellar,
Browne observed, "For me it's not a question of do I want to be world
champion or do I want to be happy? I will be both. I realized all the dangers
long ago. It's like taking a voyage from which you may never return. Think of
Columbus. Everyone warned him about sea monsters and all that, but he succeeded
and he came back. And so will I, because I have a heightened sense of
awareness, the ability to zero in without being narrow. With Fischer, on the
other hand, it is all chess. Diversification may be his downfall."
onto his terrace and surveying the twinkling expanse of San Francisco Bay,
Browne said, "People think Bobby is untouchable, but I can touch him. I
think it's possible to beat him. When the time and the money are right—it will
take a million, maybe a million five up front—I'm going to challenge Bobby to a
match and smoke him out. The one time we played I had him beaten, but then on
the 98th move I tried to win too artistically, and he lucked out with a
draw." He laughed. "Now they call him Lucky Bobby."
"Think about asking a Little Leaguer if he could be as good as Babe Ruth.
That's what it is like to be a chess player with someone like Bobby around. But
in this case I think I can beat him, I really do. Look, everybody has always
been putting me down. All those school counselors kept saying that 99% of the
time when a kid drops out of school it doesn't work. They said I wasn't that
one in 100. Well, the kid made it and now I can laugh back."
animated, he said, "The most important thing in life is to do what you want
to do. I love chess. And I'm good enough to make a living at it. How many
people can say they do exactly what they want and get paid for it, too?
"I'm going to
cultivate my own school of learning. I could be another Leonardo da Vinci. I
want to do everything. I'm reading a lot now. Books like The Rise and Fall of
the Third Reich. I want to find out about everything that was bad and great. I
want the straight stuff. I'm going to buy musical instruments. Drums! I'm going
to play the drums! I'm going to do everything in my life. I feel I've got a
thousand, a million lives inside me. I'm gonna be a lot more than a chess
champion. When I'm 70 I'm gonna look back and say, whatever else I was, I was