Friday, July 17, 2009

Department of A Likely Story : Bobby Fischer

Yesterday's Independent treated us to one of those hastily-cobbled-together list items in which a couple of the less senior hacks in the office are obliged to compile a list of the all-time most significant happenings in any given sphere suggested by a given news story. The Ten Most Ridiculous Celebrity Funerals, perhaps, or Top Twenty Latin American Coups, compiled with the expert knowledge of the journalists, or more likely their expert knowledge of how to search the internet.

One day I might do the Top Ten Inaccurate Newspaper Stories About Chess, assuming I can whittle it down to ten rather than settle for, say, a hundred: yesterday's piece is at least a candidate for the longlist. Simon Rice and Jimmy Leach offer us The Worst Losers in Sport: beginning (perhaps unfairly) with Ricky Ponting and eventually arriving at number thirteen, who turns out to be Bobby Fischer.

The piece on Fischer reads, in full:
During a chess match between Spassky and Fischer in 1971, Bobby Fischer refused to allow any of the spectators to eat fruit yoghurt in the auditorium because he suspected secret messages were being transmitted to Boris through which flavours they were eating!
Since we're making lists: readers are invited to do precisely that and list every mistake which the piece contains. Because I think it may include more errors of fact per word than any other passage about chess I've ever read. Where did they get it from?

[Thanks to Angus for this]


Jonathan B said...

I'll go first ... wrong year for the match which was in 1972.

The really interesting question is, as you ask, where on earth did they get this from? It's hard to believe any source - even on the internet - could be quite so wrong.

Martin Smith said...

I know.....they weren't playing chess. Right?

Anonymous said...

The yoghurt thing was from Karpov-Korchnoi 1978. In the end it was agreed that Karpov could have his yoghurt aslong as it was blueberry. This is all from memory so it may not be completely right.

Jonathan B said...

Raymondo later said his yoghurt complaint was a spoof.

ejh said...

I'll offer:

1. The Fischer-Spassky match was played in 1972 not 1971

2. Fischer was not involved in the yoghurt match

3. Spassky was not involved in the yoghurt match

4. Fischer won his match and therefore can hardly have been a bad loser

5. The yoghurt match was Karpov-Korchnoi 1978

6. The complaint was not against spectators but involved one of the players and his delegation.

I could probably go on....

Anonymous said...

Interesting that they specify "fruit yoghurt". Does that mean non-fruit flavours were OK? How about hazelnut? Is hazelnut a fruit?

Anonymous said...

So tomato yoghurt is ok then?

Mike G said...

I haven't bothered to look up RK's account of the yoghurt complaint, but as I recall the basis of the complaint was that a strawberry yoghurt could be code for "attack on the kingside with g4" whereas other flavours could be other pieces of advice. The compromise solution was that Karpov could have whatever flavour yoghurt he liked but he had to decide before the game (and tell his opponent). And, yes, it was a spoof. This is the match where Korchnoi wore dark glasses so Karpov's parapsychologist mate sitting in the audience couldn't hypnotise him.

Tom Chivers said...

Plain yoghurt would be blandly acceptable.

Unknown said...

Can't see the woods for the pulped trees of newsprint lads. Bad looser? " My head is filled with sunshine" Tal on becoming wchp. "Shove off jerk" Fischer's 1st recored worlds as wchp to a fan who wished to congratulate him. Fischer top of the bad looser chart, only bettered by his bad winner qualities.