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Face in the Crowd

Filed under: The Squib Report   Tagged: , , , ,

Two months ago, I alerted readers to the amusing fact that both Martha Stewart and Vince Foster managed to garner mention in The New Yorker a great many years before they achieved broader fame.

I’ve found another one.

Bobby Fischer became one of the most breathlessly discussed people in the world in 1972, when he beat Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland, to win the World Chess Championship in what someone recently called “a Cold War epic (of a particularly neurotic type).”

But if you want to know what people thought of him fifteen years before that, The New Yorker has the goods.

In the September 7, 1957, issue there appears a lengthy TOTT by Bernard Taper about the precocious titleholder of the U.S. Open Chess Championship, which a few weeks earlier Fischer had become the youngest person to secure. Titled simply “Prodigy,” Taper’s piece is very good, delving into Fischer’s mediocre academic record at Erasmus Hall High School and introducing readers to the extreme contrast between conventional chess and speed chess (here called “blitz”).

It’s a little like coming across an ancient copy of Sports Illustrated at an antiques store and finding someone like Terry Bradshaw in that great “Faces in the Crowd” feature.

Which reminds me. Sports Illustrated actually beat The New Yorker to the punch on Fischer, who was listed as a “Face in the Crowd” in 1956. —Martin Schneider

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