Bobby Fischer R.I.P.

     Bobby Fischer was not just the greatest American chess player who ever lived, and a supremely weird person, he was the occasion of one of the greatest ad libs I have ever heard.
     It was 1972 and Fischer’s battle against Boris Spassky had got a bunch of us at Reed College playing chess again. As anyone who followed that match remembers, Fischer qualified to play the world champion by the unheard of feat of defeating two international grandmasters 6-0.
    Then Fischer proceeded to unnerve Spassky, and everyone else, by a series of increasingly odd demands. He demanded absolute quiet in the hall. He demanded that Spassky declare ahead of time what flavor of yogurt he would eat that day. He demanded rules on when, how, and with whom Spassky could go to the bathroom. Spassky and the judges acceded to most of Fischer’s demands.
     Fischer lost the first game to Spassky, and forfeited the next one. Then he annihilated the world champion as though Spassky were a club player from the Bronx.
     During this brouhaha, I invited over my friend Steve, a dour New Englander, for a game of chess.
     Unbeknownst to Steve, my new roommates were a couple who had just discovered sex. They happened to be the loudest sex enthusiasts I had ever heard, and they remain so to this day.
     The customary animal noises began at an elevated level, and continued for a long time. Louder and louder they became, reaching ever new heights. On and on it went, and just when you though it could not increase, it did increase. Then they began shouting one another’s names.
     “Oh, (insert name here)!” he shouted.
     “Oh, (insert name here)!” she replied.
     This game, too, continued interminably, at shorter and shorter intervals, at louder and louder volume, until you would have thought the two were buffalos calling to one another over the African veldt, rather than humans doing … whatever they were doing.
     Steve and I had got to a rather complicated position in the midgame when this racket started.
     Steve studied the board, looked toward the back room, made an annoyed face, then resumed studying the board.
     Louder and louder became the noises from the back room.
     Steve selected his move. I responded. Steve studied the board some more.
     Louder and louder the noises became. Steve still had not said a word. Then the name-calling began.
     “Oh, (insert name here)!” he shouted.
     “Oh, (insert name here)!” she replied.
     And so on. Steve, distracted, put his head in his hands. He glanced toward the closed door to the back room. Back at the board. To the back room again. Back to the board.
     Finally, Steve could take no more. He picked up his beer stein and drained it, then slammed it back on the table with a resounding thud.
     “Goddamnit,” he said. “If I were Bobby Fischer, I’d be pissed too.”

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