Before we realized that the machines were our common enemy, we fought amongst ourselves. Deep Blue would eventually make us all pale in comparison, but in 1972, it was Red vs. Red, White and Blue, in one of the most thrilling contests ever witnessed. In dethroning Russian chess champion Boris Spassky, Bobby Fischer was his unorthodox self, playing like a supercomputer with its wires crossed. An excerpt from Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power, via Delancey Place:
“The first game of a chess tournament is critical, since it sets the tone for the months to come. It is often a slow and quiet struggle, with the two players preparing themselves for the war and trying to read each other’s strategies. This game was different. Fischer made a terrible move early on, perhaps the worst of his career, and when Spassky had him on the ropes, he seemed to give up. Yet Spassky knew that Fischer never gave up. Even when facing checkmate, he fought to the bitter end, wearing the opponent down. This time, though, he seemed resigned. Then suddenly he broke out a bold move that put the room in a buzz. The move shocked Spassky, but he recovered and managed to win the game. But no one could figure out what Fischer was up to. Had he lost deliberately? Or was he rattled? Unsettled? Even, as some thought, insane?
After his defeat in the first game, Fischer complained all the more loudly about the room, the cameras, and everything else. He also failed to show up on time for the second game. This time the organizers had had enough: He was given a forfeit. Now he was down two games to none, a position from which no one had ever come back to win a chess championship. Fischer was clearly unhinged. Yet in the third game, as all those who witnessed it remember, he had a ferocious look in his eye, a look that clearly bothered Spassky. And despite the hole he had dug for himself, he seemed supremely confident. He did make what appeared to be another blunder, as he had in the first game — but his cocky air made Spassky smell a trap. Yet despite the Russian’s suspicions, he could not figure out the trap, and before he knew it Fischer had checkmated him. In fact Fischer’s unorthodox tactics had completely unnerved his opponent. At the end of the game, Fischer leaped up and rushed out, yelling to his confederates as he smashed a fist into his palm, ‘I’m crushing him with brute force!’
In the next games Fischer pulled moves that no one had seen from him before, moves that were not his style.”