I chortled and guffawed through a recent piece of semi-fiction regarding the famous game Donald Byrne-Bobby Fischer, “The Game of the Century”, played at the Marshall CC in New York City in 1956, as recounted by ChessBase online.
This excerpt is Chapter 3 from the book “Endgame” by Frank Brady. I put sections in bold that are particularly comment-worthy.
Let’s take a look at some of the writing in this chapter with my own comments in color.
“The club – which was located on Tenth Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, one of Manhattan’s most attractive neighborhoods – had been quartered in this venerable brownstone (built in 1832) since 1931, when a group of wealthy patrons, including one of the Roosevelts, bought the building so that their beloved Frank J. Marshall, the reigning U.S. Champion, who would hold the title for 27 years, would always have a place to live with his family, and to play, teach, and conduct tournaments. Walking down the street with its rows of stately brownstones festooned with window boxes of flowers, and a private boarding stable on the same block, Bobby could have easily felt he was transported back to the Gas Light or Silk Stocking era of the 19th century.”
GM Kavalek has said the most dangerous thing to do for an analyst is place himself inside the head of the player. I doubt Fischer felt anything like this, but I am certain Brady did, or does!
“Certainly, there was a sense of decorum that permeated the Club, even when it came to dress. Bobby’s habitual mufti of tee shirt, wrinkled pants, and sneakers was considered an outrage by Caroline Marshall, Frank Marshall’s widow and the longstanding manager of the Club, and on several occasions she informed him of his sartorial indiscretion, once even threatening to bar him from the premises if he didn’t dress more appropriately. Bobby ignored her.”
Mufti? Geez. What is this, 1830 Calcutta? On a more humorous note, many years later Leslie Braun took on the role of fashion and manners police, physically booting young Maxim Dlugy out of the club for over-boisterous behavior. I was booted simply because I was near young Maxim. To give the readers a clearer sense of what was going on, Bobby had on crummy outfits. Similar to outfits favored by future champions Fedorowicz and Rohde. What do we expect, ascots and lace?
“A kibitzing GM here said that Black was simply lost in this position.”
Out with it, man! Name this GM! The only person I can think of is the late GM Larry Evans. I don’t see the point of not naming the individual.
““What is he doing?” said someone to no one in particular. “Is this a blunder or a sacrifice?””
Am I the only one who finds the above rather ludicrous? Someone says to no one? Maybe it was Jackie Beers talking to Asa Hoffmann. And where are they located? Near the restrooms? Near the coke machine? Near the pay phones? Right next to the players?
“Bobby’s opponent that night was the urbane college professor Donald Byrne, an International Master, former U.S. Open Champion, and a fiercely aggressive player. Dark-haired, elegant in speech and dress, the 25-year-old Byrne invariably held a cigarette between two fingers, his hand high in the air, his elbow resting on the table, in a pose that gave him an aristocratic demeanor.”
Eh? Byrne played quiet, passive openings, favoring long drawn-out English opening type positional battles. This was no Tal. Brady might be thinking of Robert Byrne (Donald’s brother), a much more aggressive player. As for the cigarette, imagine a lot of smoking going on with no a/c and you can get a sense of how difficult it was to play in the summer there. Again with the dress in this passage? The dress would be more interesting if we were talking about Hastings 1895.
““The onlookers were invited to sit right next to you and if you asked them to leave or be quiet they were highly insulted,” Bobby recalled”
No criticism here, just a hearty laugh because there still are a bunch of the same type of people at the club! (and also at the Manhattan Club while it existed).
“A whisper of spectators could be heard: “Impossible! Byrne is losing to a 13-year old nobody.” “
What are the odds someone said this bizarre sentence? Not very good. And what is the plural spectators about, are we to imagine some kind of Greek chorus calling out this inane patter? I can easily see instead some C-player babbling “Byrne’s losing to a freakin’ kid” near the Coke machine (curse words deleted). It does sound accurate if this was Hastings 1895, for example: “Balderdash! Lasker is losing to an erstwhile Pillsbury Dough Boy!”
“On the 41st move, after five hours of play, with his heart slightly pounding, Bobby lifted his rook with his trembling right hand, quietly lowered the piece to the board, and said, “Mate!” His friendly opponent stood up, and they shook hands.”
No criticism here, just another hearty laugh because many years later Tom Davidoff slowly executed a move with a trembling hand against veteran club member Alex Kevitz (I will wait for confirmation from Davidoff that this was, in fact, the Marshall CC – there is a chance it may have been at the Manhattan CC which does not lessen the humor) and Kevitz barked out “Just move the piece, ya trembly-handed schmuck!” Good times.