Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fond Memories

Match of the Century

Because it took place during the Cold War, the 1972 World Chess Championship match between champion Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union and American challenger Bobby Fischer got a great deal of press.

For chess fans like me, though, the politics of it meant very little. It was the chess that made the match so exciting. The match began on July 11, 1972.

That Fischer was playing for the title at all was something of a miracle. In 1967 he had withdrawn from the Interzonal tournament that was part of the 1969 Championship Cycle while leading the event undefeated. It was at the culmination of that cycle that Spassky became World Champion. Fischer's petulant behavior continued with his refusal to play in the 1969 U.S. Open, which meant he could not participate in the 1972 championship cycle either. Fortunately, Pal Benko agreed to give up his spot in the
1970 Interzonal at Palma de Mallorca.

Fischer in 1970
Fischer was absurdly dominant in that tournament, easily outdistancing the field by winning 15 of 23 games, with only a single defeat. He won his last seven straight games,
a remarkable feat given the frequency with which games at the highest level of chess end in draws.

But Bobby was just getting started with jaw-dropping results.

Fischer crushed Soviet grandmaster (GM) Mark Taimanov in the 10-game Candidates Quarterfinal match by winning the first six straight games. It was an unprecedented feat, but Bobby duplicated it in the Candidates Semifinal match, beating Danish GM Bent Larsen (considered the strongest Western player other than Fischer) in each of the first six straight games as well.

Fischer ran his unprecedented streak to 20 consecutive wins in the first game of his Candidates Final match against former World Champion GM Tigran Petrosian, who won Game 2 of the match to end the streak. That was Petrosian's only win of the match, though, which Fischer won by a wide margin to set up the match with Spassky.

Fischer's fans had reason to be pensive as the match began in Reykjavik, Iceland.
In their five previous games Spassky had won three, with two draws. Fischer had never beaten him.

And Bobby's pre-match behavior had many of us concerned about a repeat of the 1967 Intezonal debacle.

Our worst fears seemed to be realized when Fischer lost Game 1 of the match in shocking fashion, then forfeited Game 2 over a dispute about the cameras filming the match. There was widespread concern that Fischer would simply walk out rather than risk being beaten for the title over-the-board.

Needing only 10 more points in the remaining 22 games to retain his title (by FIDE
rule a 12-12 tie would leave Spassky the champion), Spassky was in a strong position.
It didn't matter, though, as Fischer proceeded to win the title by winning 7 of the next 19 games to Spassky's 1. There were 11 draws, including seven straight leading up to Fischer's clinching victory in Game 21.

The match ended on September 1, 1972 when Spassky resigned following an adjournment of the previous day's game.

It was widely felt that Spassky could have held the draw in the game had it not been for a serious error on his sealed move. After a night of analysis, Spassky informed the match arbiter Lothar Schmid that he would not continue the game, giving Fischer the title. There was some disappointment that Spassky had not shown up in person to shake Fischer's hand at the game's conclusion, but Bobby's own behavior made it difficult for him to comment on anyone else's.

44 years ago today, then, Bobby Fischer became the first and still the only American
to be World Chess Champion. Sadly, that triumph marked the end of his career. Fischer stopped playing competitive chess altogether following his triumph, forfeiting the title 
in 1975 in a dispute with FIDE over the conditions of his title defense match. His games against Larsen in Denver were the last official games he played on American soil, as he descended into mental illlness. He sought political asylum in Iceland in 2005 and died there three years later at age 64.

Agreed...a truly heartbreaking end to a brilliant career...

Thursday Night Football

Tonight my beloved Kansas City Chiefs
will complete their pre-season schedule with a game against 
the Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium.

Virtually none of the team's top players will appear, of course, but that doesn't mean the game is entirely without interest for fans.

"And with regard to the 2016 regular season you're..."

Cautiously optimistic...that will probably last until midway through the first quarter of the Chargers game...

Happy Birthday!

On September 1, 1947 Edward Joseph Podolak
was born in Atlantic, Iowa. After graduating from Atlantic High School (the original one, not the newer one where I taught for 8+ years), Ed played both quarterback and running back for the University of Iowa and was drafted in the second round of the 1969 NFL/AFL joint draft by my beloved Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs won Super Bowl IV in Ed's rookie season, and in his nine seasons with the team he rushed for 4,897 yards, fifth in franchise history.

Podolak's value as a runner, receiver, and return man was illustrated in the famous Christmas Day 1971 playoff game against the Miami Dolphins, the "Longest NFL Game Ever Played." Ed had a combined 350 rushing, receiving, and return yards that day, which remains an NFL playoff record.

Marketing 101

From the indispensable comic strip Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller, which you should read every day, as I do (even though Wiley is a squishy liberal).

Until Next Time...

As I have noted in this space before, the decade of the '80s was a pretty bleak one for me, musically. The main exception to that was R.E.M., the Athens, Georgia-based quartet that became my second-favorite band of all time, after The Who.

R.E.M. was a pioneer of what came to be called alternative rock, and their first four albums (Murmur, Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, and Lifes Rich Pageant) gave me something worth listening to when hairdo bands and dance pop were dominating the airwaves and MTV. Songs from all four of those albums still get regular plays in various of my iTunes playlists.

Those albums all enjoyed modest commercial success, poking around the Top 30 of the Billboard 200 and earning the band four gold record certifications, but as my fifth year teaching in Casper, Wyoming was getting underway the band took a big step forward.

On September 1, 1987 the band released Document, their fifth studio album. It sold significantly better than their earlier efforts, peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart (none of the group's previous albums had cracked the Top 20). It was also their first album to receive a platinum certification from RIAA.

The album's sales were boosted
by the popularity of its first single, "The One I Love," which became the group's first popular radio hit, peaking at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart.

The band wasn't quite sure what to make of this newfound notoriety (in December Rolling Stone magazine featured them on its cover, calling them "America's Best Rock & Roll Band"). Only three of their previous ten singles had even charted, none higher than No. 78. Now all of a sudden everyone knew who they were. Document would be the band's last studio album for tiny independent label I.R.S. Records, as they signed a deal with Warner Bros. that would yield five consecutive multi-platinum albums, propelling the band to eventual induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Today's send-off is the 2006 remaster of their breakthrough hit, done for a compilation of their best material from their time with IRS Records. Enjoy...

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