Shelby Lyman on Chess: Fischer Found the Right Move
Sunday, August 31, 2014
(Published in print: Sunday, August 31, 2014)
In his early and mid-teenage years Bobby Fischer’s attire — dubious even by some middle-class standards — became an issue for at least a few in the New York chess community.
Denims, flannel shirts and sneakers — clean and tidy but sometimes of less-than-thrift shop quality — were his usual attire. Fischer regarded neckties, a modest expression of propriety, with ill-concealed disdain.
His clothes apparently were an expression of social class and limited economic means rather than stylistic choice.
But for some, his dress was a flagrant distraction in the complex, multilayered and status-driven society of New York and elite international tournaments.
Reflecting the sense of indignation which Fischer’s attire sometimes provoked, his biographer Frank Brady referred to his clothes at one international tournament as “atrocious.”
On a couple of occasions, haphazard attempts were made to ban Fischer from New York’s elite Marshall and Manhattan chess clubs. Not surprisingly, they failed.
Though his clothes didn’t meet the grade, his spiffy moves on the chessboard were better than those of anyone else. And being better than anyone else was what the tempest in the chesspot was all about.
Fischer eventually surrendered to the pressure for sartorial splendor by ordering and buying suits, designer shirts, neckties and shoes of the highest quality from master tailors and purveyors all over the world.
Never willing to lose at anything, he beat his critics at their own game.