THINKING OUT LOUD

You probably saw where the famous chess player Bobby Fischer died last month. What an eccentric guy.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

You probably saw where the famous chess player Bobby Fischer died last month.

What an eccentric guy.

As a teenager, he was beating the best chess players in the world at that very adult game. And in 1972 he became the first and only American to win the World Chess Championship by beating the defending champion, Boris Spassky of the U.S.S.R. It was a very big deal on many counts, not the least of which was the Cold War angle.

At the time, we looked upon him as an American hero. But then he got nutty.

In the 1990s he competed in a chess competition in Yugoslavia which was then under a strict United Nations embargo. He got in a lot of trouble with the U.S. government and that set him off on an anti-U.S. tirade that lasted the rest of his life.

He ended up renouncing his U.S. citizenship and living out his days in Iceland, the country where he defeated Spassky all those years ago. Although both his parents were Jewish, he peppered his anti-U.S. speeches with anti-Semitic comments, as well.

Thus, one of the greatest chess players of all time died with a very mixed legacy.

Looking through a computer listing of my columns recently, I saw one titled "Bobby Fisher." When and what did I ever write about that guy, I wondered. Then I opened it and found that "my" Bobby Fisher was anything but a globe-hopping chess champion.

In fact, he never strayed far from Wakeman. But I owe a lot to this particular Bobby Fisher.

We became acquainted in 1969, my senior year in college.

Dr. Robert S. Raymond had assigned my Marketing class to write a case study about a real-life business.

Dr. Raymond was one of those humorless individuals who tried to help you with tough love. "You don't even know how badly you write," he would tell our class repeatedly in the hopes that we would work harder at it.

And he really laid it on for the case study he assigned.

So I gave it my very best shot.

The business I chose for my case study was Specialized Equipment of Wakeman; young Bobby Fisher's business to manufacture an asphalt sealing machine he had developed.

I interviewed the late Mr. Fisher one winter day in his makeshift factory at the old chick hatchery on U.S. 20 at Fitchville River Road.

And then I told the story of his business in a painstakingly typed case study for Dr. R.S. Raymond.

I felt pretty good about it.

But when it came time to turn in the paper, Dr. Raymond had a little surprise for our class.

"A major problem with the things you write," he began, "is that you try to pad your compositions to make them more impressive.

"In fact," he continued, "tight writing is the most impressive writing of all. And because of that, I will make you this deal: If you choose, I will give you two more days to revise your case studies. At that time, I will ask you to turn in the one you are holding now along with the revision. If you have cut the length of the case study by one-half, I will give you an automatic one-grade increase."

What a deal, huh? Cut out half the words and get a B instead of a C (Dr. Raymond seldom gave As.)

Every single person took his or her case study and left to begin cutting out words.

Except me. I turned mine in.

And two days later Dr. Raymond returned it marked with an A. He even told the class it was a great example of clear, tight writing. My self-confidence about writing went completely through the roof.

So that's the Bobby Fisher I wrote about a few years ago; the one who gave me my first story.

Little did either of us know what that story would lead to: more than ,1600 little essays in this newspaper.

I guess I've got a lot of nerve calling Bobby Fischer, the chess player, eccentric.