Roger W. Smith, “My Brief Encounter with Bobby Fischer”

 

I visited Iceland in July 1972 on the way to Luxembourg and Europe via Icelandic Airlines.

After a brief stay in Reykjavík, when I was about to depart and fly to Luxembourg, I was, for some reason, at the front desk of the main hotel. It had something to do with my airplane ticket since the bus for the airport departed from the hotel. I wasn’t staying there.

It was early evening.

As I was standing at the front desk (it was small and narrow), about to ask a question — all alone with no one else there but one young woman desk clerk — there was suddenly a commotion and someone burst into the lobby with one or two other men trailing behind.

It was Bobby Fischer, who was quite tall, thin, and gawky and at that time still young looking, thirtyish. I recognized him immediately.

He had just won what turned out to be a crucial game in a very close championship match against Boris Spassky. Fischer was staying at the hotel. The match was being held elsewhere, in some hall in Reykjavík.

Fischer burst into the lobby, strode briskly to the front desk, and kind of thrust himself forward. The young woman clerk said to him politely in good but accented English, “Congratulations on your victory Mr. Fischer.”

He was rude and abrupt, ignored the remark (basically ignored her), and blurted out something like, “where’s my key, is room service available?”

Then, taking his key without any further comment or discussion, he turned and strode off.

The game was on Sunday, July 23, 1972. I remember that it was a Sunday. The headline in The New York Times (then priced at 15 cents) the next day said, “Fischer crushes Spassky, Takes Lead in Title Match.”

I was extremely interested in the Fischer-Spassky match. All the games and the tournament overall were given a great deal of coverage in The New York Times, and I read it all avidly, this despite the fact that I can hardly understand chess and can’t understand analyses of chess games technically.

A big part of my fascination was the seeming connection of the Fischer-Spaasky showdown to the US-USSR superpower confrontation.

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. He hosts separate websites devoted to the authors Theodore Dreiser and Pitirim A. Sorokin and to classical music as well as family history/genealogy.
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