Chess

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The Independent Culture
THERE is something strange about Bobby Fischer. That he should emerge from a 20-year exile to play a rematch with Boris Spassky was astounding, but not totally out of character: he had, after all, withdrawn from play for long periods in the past. His curious requests for a higher lavatory seat and smaller chess table were nothing special: he had always insisted on perfect conditions. That he should lose a couple of games early in the match should also have been no great surprise: even the best cannot avoid some rust forming in two decades. His flashes of sublime brilliance in the first and 11th games were also nothing unusual: we all knew that beneath the rust there lurked the greatest chess mind of all time.

But the news from the closing party in Sveti Stefan that Bobby Fischer was laughing and playing friendly games with journalists comes as a real shock. And as for his joining in a conga dance, and bopping to Yugoslav folk tunes, these are signs that the man is seriously disturbed. Did Howard Hughes ever conga? Did John Paul Getty II ever bop? Such behaviour can give a recluse a bad name.

Can it be, after all these years, and with a few good wins again under his belt, that Bobby is becoming more human? Is he losing his other-worldliness?

All the evidence suggests that he is. And behind it all lurks the figure of Zita Rajcsanyi, the 18- year-old Hungarian girl who was the first to contact the match organisers with the news that Bobby wanted to play again. 'I do believe it's love,' said one chess analyst present at the start of the match. 'Love wins everything, even the champion of the world,' said another. And (Freudians please note) Fischer did, after all, in game 4, for the first time in his life, accept the Queen's Gambit.

Yesterday's answer: The last two moves are 7. d8=N+ and 8. c8=N mate.

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