Yankee Pot Roast



Geoff Wolinetz

From the book’s inside flap:

Meet Bobby.

Meet Boris.

Bobby Fischer has summoned his old foe, grandmaster and former World Chess champion Boris Spassky to his hotel room in Reykjavík, Iceland, the site of their 1972 match for the World Championship. During the course of an afternoon, they will have a bite of salmon caught fresh from the sea and served with a light wine sauce over a bed of wild rice. They will chat about everything from Fischer’s critical misjudgment in Game 1 (missing 30 g3 h5; 32 Ke2 h4; 33 Kf3 h3; 34 Kg4 Bg1; 35 Kxh3 Bxf2; 36 Bd2, which trapped the bishop), to Hilary Duff’s new movie.

And Bobby will explain to Boris how he plans on killing the president of the International Chess Federation.


bobby: Is this thing on? Check, one-two. Check.

boris: Bobby, quit playing with that thing. The red light is on. See? We’re recording.

bobby: Oh, good point, Boris. You’d think there was only one grandmaster in the room.

(They laugh heartily.)

boris: Tell me, old foe, mortal enemy, dear friend, why have you brought me here? Why have you taken me away from writing nasty letters to Garry Kasparov?

bobby: Thank you for coming, Boris. You didn’t have to.

boris: I know that. But then you call me and tell me that you need to see me urgently. I ask you if you’re struggling with a new philosophy of some kind. You say no. I ask if you need me to get you another black-market Russian passport so that you can travel freely around the world without being accosted by representatives from your government. Again, you say no. What else could I do? I packed an overnight bag and got into my car.

bobby: I knew you would.

boris: Why am I in Reykjavík? Do you wish to restage our match?

bobby: No, nothing like that. What I plan to do is far more earth-shattering!

boris: Then tell me already.

bobby: Would you like something to eat? I can have room service bring up some salmon. I had it last night. They catch it in that fjord over there.

boris: Do they have fjords in Iceland? I thought that was only Norway.

bobby: Hmm, you may be right. I can a-fjord to be wrong sometimes.

(They laugh heartily.)

boris: You always did have a knack for puns.

bobby: Let me call room service and have them bring up some salmon. You won’t regret it.

boris: Fine. If it will make you tell me why you’ve brought me here, then order the salmon. Order ten salmon. Just tell me why we’re here.

(Bobby picks up the phone.)

bobby: Hello, room service? Yes, can you bring us some of that salmon with the wild rice? Yes. Yes. Would you like wine?

boris: White.

bobby: And a bottle of white wine. Yes, that’s fine. Good. O.K., thank you. It’ll be about 15 minutes.

boris: Great.

bobby: I’m going to kill him.

boris: What are you talking about? You can’t possibly be serious. Do you know the consequences? The entire chess-playing world will be thrown into disarray. The championships are next week! Who will preside over them?

bobby: I don’t care. He has been poisoning the game that I’ve spent my entire life perfecting. I cannot watch him and his liberal chess-playing cronies stomp all over the game that I love! What does this mean to you: 12 Bxh5 gxh5; 13 Nc4 Ne5; 14 Ne3 Qh4; 15 Bd2 Ng4; 16 Nxg4 hxg4; 17 Bf4 Qf6; 18 g3 Bd7; 19 a4 b6; 20 Rfe1 a6; 21 Re2 b5; 22 Rae1 Qg6; 23 b3 Re7; 24 Qd3 Rb8; 25 axb5 axb5; 26 b4 c4; 27 Qd2 Rbe8; 28 Re3 h5; 29 R3e2 Kh7; 30 Re3 Kg8; 31 R3e2 Bxc3; 32 Qxc3 Rxe4; 33 Rxe4 Rxe4; 34 Rxe4 Qxe4; 35 Bh6 Qg6; 36 Bc1 Qb1; 37 Kf1 Bf5; 38 Ke2 Qe4+; 39 Qe3 Qc2+; 40 Qd2 Qb3; 41 Qd4 Bd3+ 0-1?

boris: That is my play from Game 3 of our match in ’72. Why do you bring this up? What does that have to do with anything?

bobby: He’d have you believe that it’s illegal to play this style, that this sort of passive chess play has no place in our world. Should you not be free to play chess as you see fit? Should you not be able to make the moves that you feel will put you in the best position possible, without having to fear that he will tell you that you can’t play that way?

boris: I agree, but you don’t think that this is the best way to get a reversal, do you?

bobby: What other choice have I? We protest; he ignores. We scream; he shuts his ears. Does the chess world not have a say? Should we not be able to help shape the game that we love?

boris: You cannot kill him. This is not how rational people behave. We have ways of doing this properly. We can start a petition! We can beg for his impeachment. His hands will be tied. He’ll have no way to execute his agenda.

bobby: That’s awfully optimistic of you, Boris.

boris: Yes, but this is the way things get done in a democratic sport, in an intellectual sport. This is a thinking man’s game, Bobby, not a game of impulse. Your method of dispensing of him is contrary to what your sport teaches: patience, strategy. These are the things that your sport is about. And so too should your actions be! You must forget this silly idea and enjoy this salmon with me. If your passport is a problem, I can get you another.

bobby: No, it’s not my passport.

boris: Then come with me! My country home at the Caspian Sea is empty. You can live there as long as you like. I only ask that you water the plants.

bobby: Then how do we schedule his ouster? How do we rid our sport of this immoral and insidious presence? I can’t sleep, Boris. I can’t sleep knowing that he’s out there, ordering the death of the game as we know it!

boris: In due time, my friend. We can make this happen!

(There is a knock at the door.)

bobby: Our salmon is here.

boris: Yes, our salmon is here, dear friend, old foe. Let us enjoy the fish of the water and make our plans as we do our chess moves: with intense thought over several days with no seeming end and probably no resolution at all.

bobby: I think I like the sound of that.