Back to the Future: Fischer Pulls off classic Trump-playbook Hustle?
Exactly 48 years ago today Fischer forfeited game #2
On July 13, 1972 Bobby Fischer failed to show up to play the second game. At 18:00 hours, with Spassky having patiently waited at the board for a full hour, the match arbiter, Lothar Schmidt, reluctantly, declared Fischer forfeited as per regulations.
The score became 2-0 in favour of World Champion Boris Spassky and suddenly it seemed as though the much anticipated ‘Match of the Century’ was about to be called off.
Everybody knows what happened next. The story of how Bobby Fischer turned what looked like certain defeat into a crushing victory has become part of chess’ folklore. The stuff of legends.
Much has been written since that summer day of what really happened. Fischer never revealed what was going on in his head, and the world has been left to speculate.
Was it all a diabolical plot to fluster Spassky (whom Fischer had never before beaten) or just the immature lunacy of a genius?
Tal thought that it might be the former. Years afterwards he was quoted in Volume_3 of Kasparov’s ‘Predecessors‘ series:
‘‘Fischer’s behaviour in the 1972 match was devised and planned by a highly-qualified psychologist, although it was extremely risky’.
Karpov also thought that Fischer’s behaviour at the beginning of the 1972 match was not accidental:
‘This was a brilliant move. A move aimed at Spassky… If, say, Petrosian had been in hs place, he would have merely licked his lips and regaled himself with the gift point. But Spassky the philosopher, the imperturbable Spassky, the highly experienced Spassky lost hs equilibrium.’
Up by a score of 2-0 and with Fischer still misbehaving, Moscow wanted Spassky to return home. But something prevented Spassky from doing so, and he even played the third game in an isolated room offstage just to please Fischer.
Many have spectulated why, but perhaps Spassky himself, many years later, described it best:
‘A few days before the 3rd game I spoke for half an hour on the telephone with Pavlov, who demanded that I should declare a ultimatum, which neither Fischer, nor the organizers, nor even the FIDE President would have accepted, and the match would have been wrecked.
The entire conversation consisted of an endess exchange of two phrases: “Boris Vasilievich, you must declare a ultmatum!” – “Sergey Pavlovich, I wil play the match!”
After ths conversation I lay in bed for three hours, I was shaking… I saved Fischer, by playing the third game. In this game I essentially signed my capitulation of the entire match.’
All of Fischer’s tactics – if indeed they were planned that way – worked perfectly. Spassky lost the 3rd game, easily. Spassky was no longer able to play his normal level of play, and a deep crisis set in.
In the next 7 games Spassky scored only 1.5 points, three draws. The match was for all intents and purposes already decided.
What happened? What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a sort of sophisticated head game. It is a manipulative psychological technique designed to create doubt in another person. Once this doubt is planted, the person’s confidence in himself begins to erode and soon his behaviour/performance changes, usually for the worse.
Spassky had prepared long and hard for the Fischer encounter that distant summer. He arrived in Reykjavik early, rested, motivated and focused. Ready to do serious chess for the next 2 months.
By the time the 3rd game was played, everything had changed. Spassky was disoriented, distracted. He did not know whether Fischer was coming or going. Infact, he only was made aware 90 minutes before the start of game 3 that Fischer would actually show up! And even then the dramas were not over…
His sense of reality was called into doubt, it was as if Spassky was living an imagined reality. Fischer’s behaviour was outrageous. Predatory and unpredictable. Manipulative. Narcissistic.
Instead of being able to focus on chess, Spassky could not extricate his thoughts from the only game in town that counted: Fischer’s showmanship. Nor could the world tear its eyes away from the antics of the genius from Brooklyn.
The behaviour of Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik is in many ways identical to Donald Trump’s narcissistic behaviour. Trump constantly telling so many lies – almost one after the other – is a technique: meant to get the listener question his own reality. To create doubt. To get you to even question what you know to be absolutely true…
Once this seed of doubt is planted, he becomes the predator. He steals the show. No wonder, in the time of this terrible pandemic, more people are talking about Donald Trump than the virus itself! Trump needs to be the centre of attention, and once he has your attention…you are already half way lost.
His world becomes your world. Divided. Ugly. Intolerant. Inevitable. Polarizing. You find yourself drowning, and only Donald Trump can save you…that is Gaslighting!