28 August 2022

Was Fischer Avaricious?

There's no question about it: World Championship chess needs more cartoons. That's this month's theme in the ongoing series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). The closest thing I could find to a cartoon in the series was Chess Strategy Woodcut (March 2017), and that was a serious drawing, not satire.

A recent Fischer Friday post, Bags of Loot (August 2022), featured an excellent example of how poor was Fischer's public image just before the 1972 match. The post explained,

A remnant of that general lack of sympathy [for Fischer] are the political cartoons of the day. Often appearing on a newspaper's editorial page, often accompanied by an unsympathetic editorial, the cartoons ridiculed Fischer mercilessly.

He was ridiculed for being avaricious, for being impossibly demanding, and for being an unlikely symbol of the post-WWII cold war between the USA and the USSR. Avaricious? On top of 'Bags of Loot', consider the following two cartoons.

Left: Check... or Cash? (newspapers.com); DM (or DN?); Detroit Free Press; Detroit, Michigan; 16 July 1972
Right: $-$-$... (ditto); Lurie; The Honolulu Advertiser; Honolulu, Hawaii; 12 July 1972
>>> 'Clipped by BobbyFischer' <<<

The irony here is that many observers have speculated that money wasn't all that important to Fischer. What was important? From Edmonds and Eidinow, 'Bobby Fischer Goes to War' (HarperCollins, 2004, p.29):-

Cash itself was about status and again about control and domination: if he was offered five, he wanted ten; if he was offered twenty, he wanted fifty. Perhaps his unwillingness even to put his signature on a contract stemmed from the same need; an agreement took his control away. Somehow, the actual amounts were immaterial.

This isn't the first post in the 'Sociology of Chess' series to focus on chess as a potentially lucrative profession. Last year we had Is It Only About Money? (March 2021). There I noted,

The description of the CNBC 'Make It' video says, "Alexandra Botez, 25, is a professional Twitch streamer who makes six figures playing chess online. She and her sister Andrea Botez, 18, have over 650,000 followers and are signed with Team Envy, a global esports and entertainment company."

More recently, in last month's Yahoos post Candidate and Olympiad Yahoos (July 2022), one of the articles I featured was:-

2022-06-29: Hikaru Nakamura: Meet the world’s wealthiest chess player (elpais.com; Leontxo GarcĂ­a) • 'The 34-year-old American has spent half his life in the game's most elite circles, but it is online streaming that has made him a millionaire'

Later, on his popular Twitch stream, GM Nakamura read and commented on the El Pais article. It's classic Nakamura.

Meet the World's Wealthiest Chess Player (15:58) • '[Published on] Jul 25, 2022'

The description of the video says,

Hikaru reads and reacts to an El Pais article Meet the World's Wealthiest Chess Player published on June 29, 2022 by Leontxo Garcia.

How much of a connection can we make between Fischer's 'Bags of Loot' and the success of today's streamers? Not much, probably. After 1975, Fischer disappeared from the chess scene. Between 1972 and 2022 were five World Championship matches between Karpov and Kasparov. The two Soviet stars had much to do with raising the financial stakes at the highest level of chess. No one called them avaricious.

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