Back in 1972, during the Cold War and before his World Chess Championship match with Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland, Bobby Fischer went to an oral surgeon and had all his fillings removed, as well as a bridge which supported the left side of his dental structure, convinced that the KGB had installed radio receivers in his head (via dentists in Pasadena and Burbank in the years 1966 to ‘69) and had been transmitting in the intervening years in an attempt to destroy the concentration and creative powers of the foremost chess player in the United States, some would say the world.
Fischer was correct, the KGB had done this, had lured dentists with cash and promises, and, unknown even to Fischer, had been aided by the CIA, which was attempting to discredit FIDE, the international organizing body of chess, for reasons which are undecipherable to this day. Recent word has it, however, that a secret code for interpreting this plot may be found in the algebraic notation of a variation on game three of the Korchnoi-Petrosian match at the Soviet championships in 1958, suggested by a denizen of McArthur Park in Los Angeles in 1964 and scrawled under one of the stone public tables there.
The variations of this position are too complex for the space I have permitted myself here, so to continue: Fischer didn’t want to go to Iceland because they had no bowling alleys; he wanted to play in Brooklyn, where the noise of pins crashing off 15 pound balls into hard rubber backdrops drowned out the Russian voices constantly playing in his head. At first, he wanted to play in a movie theatre, but after he saw The Daughters of Joshua Cabe, starring Buddy Ebsen and Karen Valentine, in which an old trapper beats a new land law by paying a wayward trio to pose as his daughters, he heard them again: every time the character played by Ebsen was confronted by government officials, he spoke back to them quotations from Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s 1916 analysis of World War I, Imperialism, the Higher State of Capitalism.
Late one evening, the phone rang, disturbing Fischer’s bible study. The voice on the other end spoke English with a German accent and turned out to be Henry Kissinger, calling to wish him good luck.
“Don’t worry about me,” said Fischer, “I give 98 percent of my mental energy to chess; others give only 2 percent.”
“I must admonish you for your arrogance, Bobby,” said Kissinger, at the time Secretary of State. “You must hurry to Iceland, else the match might be halted, with Spassky declared the winner.”
“Spassky? They won’t do that, everyone knows I’m the best.” Fischer paused a moment. “Besides, how can I go to Iceland? My religion demands I observe the sabbath from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, and they don’t even have a goddamn sundown in Iceland this time of year.”
The match finally begun, Boris Spassky was already in an impossibly lost position against Fischer when he noticed that every time he thought of something, the words appeared silently in the curl of Fischer’s lips. Unlike Fischer, Spassky was a worldly man. He experimented: he thought of a beautiful French woman named Annick with whom he had had a brief affair in Bordeaux in 1967; the image of her in his mind, he saw Fischer’s lips open as the quiet name began in the back of the throat, then pushed forward as the tongue inaudibly clicked the roof of his mouth. Thus, Fischer must also be receiving each of Spassky’s moves before they were made. Spassky reacted boldly: he began to concentrate long and hard on the most obvious logical move, then, at the last moment, closed his eyes, reached to the table and moved the first piece he touched, arbitrarily. Fischer was so stunned when Spassky illegally moved a knight four squares to the left in game eleven that he resigned for the first time since game one. But it was too late for Spassky, who, although he had taken advantage of Fischer’s ability to read his mind, still did not know how it had been possible in the first place and, whether because Fischer utilized this ability throughout the match or not, lost decisively to the younger though less dentally stable religious zealot from America.
It turned out to be neither the CIA nor the KGB this time; the Swiss had developed a technology for transmitting thoughts and had chosen the World Chess Championship to test it, though to this day no one knows why, unless to prove that they too could have influence over world events if they chose.
Save the Swiss who knew, only Bobby Fischer ever discovered who had tampered with the minds of Spassky and himself in Reykjavik. He simply deduced it.
He resigned his championship in 1975 and began living the life of a skid-row vagrant in and around Pasadena, altering his appearance and changing his address continually so that no one would be able to find him and offer him money for his story of his chess. His chess was not for sale. Spassky, on the other hand, had no more chess to sell following his loss to Fischer. He wished his thoughts to remain private. He left his motherland and lives now in France all year round; he laughs if you mention chess. Fischer simply runs away, or rather did until recently, when the end of the Cold War made it possible for him to return to the world stage, not as a player, but as representative of a company marketing a new type of chess clock in Brussels.
The American conspiracy has succeeded: the Americans wanted a hero who sells things.
But it is impossible to prove a conspiracy. Even when confronted with evidence of conspiracy, most people will shrug even while admitting the facts, as if distrusting their own ability to recognize them. There is a historical reason for this: during the height of the Cold War, as many of the great conspiracies of our time were being revealed and discussed, use of both mild and strong hallucinogenic drugs continually increased. Nowadays, drug use having been discredited by agencies with control thought in developed nations, most people think of conspiracies as hazy dreams which probably occurred but no longer fit their current lifestyle. They discount their experiences: what is true is abandoned to what is acceptable, and people are ashamed of what they once allowed themselves to think.
Try this yourself. Ask around if J. Edgar Hoover killed John F. Kennedy. People will say, “Maybe,” will shrug and be satisfied with that.