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Putting the Human Face to Chess

Fischer-Spassky was the seminal event in the last half century of chess, sparking interest in the game the likes of which has rarely been seen. Rather than the actual moves on the board, it was the human interest angle, especially Fischer’s quixotic quest, and his quirky personality amid the backdrop of the US-Soviet Cold War clash, which engendered the massive outpouring of interest.

My point in writing K2K4 (Knight to King 4: The Fischer-Kasparov Match) was not to definitely answer who would prevail. Indeed, my chess knowledge and the lack of sufficiently sophisticated chess computer programs dictated that the book would not focus on moves on the board. Rather, in the spirit of the ’72 Reykjavik event, my goal was to create a human interest story and in so doing stimulate discussion and interest in this elegant game.

I am not going out on a limb to say chess today is not part of our popular culture as it was in 1972. Crafting stories like K2K4 that have chess as the focal point, or even where chess is merely part of the setting could generate a wave of enthusiasm. Remember how Reese’s Pieces sales spiked after their bit role in Steven Spielberg’s E.T.? Heck, if I had my way, I would love to see a science fiction book where time travel allowed Paul Morphy to play Bobby Fischer. The parallels between the two are significant, both from the standpoint of chess excellence, to the oddities of their respective personalities. Indeed, the chess outcome of a Morphy-Fischer match might be less thrilling than seeing which man smashed a chair over the other’s head first.

In any event if Fischer-Spassky proved anything, it is the untapped potential that exists for proselytizing the game. There may not be a Fischer-Spassky today to jump start it, but that does not mean we cannot take it out of the chess manuals and introduce the game anew to the society at large.

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