The Ruy Lopez

My late and ex was an Expert ranked chess player, which is not quite a Master and far from a Grandmaster, but his love for the game could not have been greater. On our wedding night — granted, we had moved into the house a few months before — we came back from the Frisbee throw and picnic which had done duty as a reception, took the balloons off my bumper, and he sat down with a lap board and played over a master game before coming up to bed.

It’s a chess thing. Locally, the run of Chess, the Musical! has been extended, but when I found out the story was loosely based on the rivalry between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer, and that the story involves a love triangle entangling the two grandmasters, I decided to give it a pass as desperately unreflective of the character of chess players.

My former husband liked to tell the “Buenos Aires story.” Apparently Larry Evans — whose chess column my ex followed all the time we were married — was one of the few people ever to employ successful gamesmanship against Fischer, by fixing him up with a girl (some versions of this story forthrightly allege an old-fashioned cathouse was involved). Fischer was then still short of his twentieth year and had been beating the shit out of other high-level competitors for so long that they were getting fed up with it, like the grandmasters in Von Goom’s Gambit.

Whatever the nature of the contract, according to the version passed on by my ex — who certainly spent many an hour in chess circles — Fischer was asked the next morning, indelicately enough, if he had enjoyed his evening’s diversion. Referring to a popular chess opening, sometimes also called the Spanish opening, Fischer supposedly replied: “It was good, but not as good as the Ruy Lopez.”

As I said, it’s a chess thing.

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5 thoughts on “The Ruy Lopez

  1. A ha moment! A ha!

    I imagine there are many stories like this one in the chess world–they’re so smart and methodical. They’d make great spies.

    My ggg grandfather was one of these types in Lithuania but the gene stopped several generations later…

    • I don’t know about smart and methodical. I seem to have encountered more the bewildered and autistic (see: Bobby Fischer, later life).

      And yet you gotta love the single mindedness.

  2. We used to have a four-way chess game in college, that was fun even though I went with my usual strategy: attack with everything and then stall for a stalemate.

    One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble indeed.

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