NOT SO GRAND MASTERS
The openings of classic chess matches are always of intense interest to followers of the game. Herewith, the early moves in the Fischer-Spassky encounter:
1. Fischer gains the initiative with a series of smashing victories in qualifying matches. Accompanying publicity clearly establishes him as the world's most famous chess player.
2. Fischer's bent for publicity, despite the grumpy image he projects, creates extraordinary interest in his forthcoming meeting with Spassky and attracts a prize of $152,000, which is 10 times greater than anything these chess masters have competed for before.
3. Fischer pushes his advantage by demanding Belgrade as site of matches.
4. Spassky, countering at last, insists on Reykjavik.
5. A compromise (half the matches in Belgrade, half in Reykjavik) fails. Spassky recovers much lost ground when Reykjavik is picked.
6. Fischer tries a new gambit: the Long Island Sulk.
7. Spassky, overaggressive, reaches Reykjavik too soon.
8. Fischer feints brilliantly by making and canceling several flight reservations.
9. Fischer, playing confidently again, demands more prize money.
10. Spassky is in trouble: the matches are postponed to accommodate Fischer.
11. Fischer gains sensationally when British capitalist James Slater agrees to add $125,000 to the pot.
12. Fischer, running out of time, has to fly to Reykjavik, thus losing the advantage of reluctance.
13. Spassky attacks strongly, demanding apologies from everyone in sight, especially Fischer.
14. Fischer apologizes, sort of.
15. Spassky, pressing his advantage, rejects the apology.
16. Fischer apologizes again, this time more abjectly.
17. Spassky makes careless move: he arrives 12 minutes early for the drawing to decide who gets the white pawn.
18. Fischer regains the ascendancy by being 22 minutes late.
19. But Spassky gets lucky. Fischer draws the black pawn, giving Spassky the desired white.
It has been a complicated opening. The position to date is that the chess fan has been rooked.
President Nixon's super alltime all-star baseball team has to be ranked with the super alltime all-star publicity ploys, even though some of the attention it got was not laudatory. Jackie Robinson, singled out by the President as the best all-round athlete of the era, described the selections as a political gesture ("I mean, how many games has Nixon actually seen?" asked Jack), and Columnist Red Smith jumped on Mr. Nixon's sportswriting style as cliché-ridden.
Then the Philadelphia Phils did a reverse twist on the selections. Not doing too well in the standings, the Phils tried to get their minds off their troubles by naming the alltime best President.
"Harry Truman!" said First Baseman Tom Hutton. "He'd be a scrapper. He'd do anything to win. Anyone who has lived that long has got to be tough."
"No," said Catcher Mike Ryan. "It's Nixon. I pick him because he's always being second-guessed, like a catcher."
"JFK," said Shortstop Larry Bowa, on image. "You hear people saying bad things about Nixon, but I never heard anyone say bad things about JFK."
"Zachary Taylor," said Second Baseman Denny Doyle. There is no scouting report on Taylor. Why Taylor? "Nobody else thought of him."
"Abraham Lincoln," said Pitcher Barry Lersch, "because he had long hair and a beard."
Hutton, perhaps after a look at the Phils' wan batting averages, came back with the most logical choice of all. "Taft," he said. "What was he, 300 pounds? He could hit the long ball."
The selections could have gone on and on, but the Phils decided to stop wasting time and get back to something they knew about.
A cheerful note for anglers and conservationists: Atlantic salmon are coming back in Maine, and reports indicate they are flourishing in New Brunswick. Oldtimers, who have been disappointed the past five or six seasons, say fishing on the storied Miramichi will be the best in 15 years.
Early (Gus) Wynn, who won 300 games in the major leagues, pitched his last one in 1963 and now, at 52, is managing the Minnesota Twins' Orlando farm team in the Florida State League. Yet he wants one more turn on the mound in the majors. "If I can get into one more game," Wynn says, "I'll be the only human being ever to play big league ball in five different decades." He is one of a handful who have played in four decades; another is Ted Williams, who broke into the majors in 1939, the same year Wynn did.
The old pitcher has talked to Calvin Griffith of the Twins. "He tinkered with the idea, but he worried about taking a man off the roster to make room for me." On the other hand, Griffith probably thought about the crowd, too. Wynn says, "I think a lot of people would come out to see an idiot in his 50s trying to pitch. But I'll tell you this. I wouldn't do it if I thought it would turn into a farce. I work out with our club and I know for one game I can whip myself into shape. And not just for one pitch. I'd like to start.
"There's a twist, too. I saw Williams at an oldtimers' game, and he said if Griffith lets me get away with this he plans to put himself in as a pinch-hitter for the Rangers." Maybe Gus could pitch to Ted?
The only real flaw, alas, is that Wynn would not be the first to play in five decades. Nick Altrock, who worked for years as a clowning coach for the Senators (his boss was Calvin Griffith's uncle, Clark Griffith), beat him to it. Altrock broke into the majors in 1898 and, after starring with the Chicago White Sox, was washed up by 1909. But, coaching for the Senators, he made brief appearances in 17 games, most of them late-season fun affairs, scattered from 1912 through 1933, the last when he was 57.
Admittedly, Altrock's record is a shallow one. And it would be nice to see Wynn's beefy torso and no-nonsense face on the mound again. Bring him back, Calvin. Go get 'em, Gus.
Denver's continuing trouble over the 1976 Winter Olympics may be coming to a head. A citizens' group opposed to the Games has petitioned to have a proposal put on the ballot in November that would prohibit the state of Colorado (though not counties or cities within the state) from appropriating funds or making loans for the purpose of putting on the Olympics. Governor John Love said, "I'd be very ashamed if the people of Colorado backed out on a deal. I don't think they will."
But they might. And if they do, it will mean the Denver Olympic Committee will have to scrounge around elsewhere for the money needed to stage the Games. Denver expects $40 million in federal funds, including $21.5 million for housing that will be converted after the Olympics into medium- and low-income units. "If the people vote against the Olympics," said one official, "there is no way the federal money is going to come through. At least, not enough of it."
In the wings watching is Lake Placid, N.Y., which staged the 1932 Olympics and which seems increasingly willing to take on the 1976 renewal. Already, Lake Placid is poised to put on the bobsled and possibly the luge events, for which Denver does not expect to have facilities, and there is talk of installing a new speed-skating rink. Nothing serious, Denver. It's just that if you drop the ball, Lake Placid would kind of like to pick it up.
In most places where baseball is played, a rain check means you get a free pass to another game if the one you hoped to watch is rained out. In Houston's Astrodome, which has sprung a few leaks here and there, a rain check means you get a free pass to another seat if the one you're sitting in gets rained out.
Mickey Lolich of the Detroit Tigers wore a blue glove in the first inning of his recent victory over the Baltimore Orioles and a more traditional brown leather glove thereafter. Manager Billy Martin explained, "A sporting-goods guy told Mickey if he wore the blue glove the first inning he'd get a new set of golf clubs. I'd have done the same thing."
It was a Game of the Week telecast, which helps explain things. The precedent is interesting. Can't you see an alert, money-conscious base runner, well aware that the zoom lens is coming in as he steals second, turning to the camera and holding up a) a razor, b) aftershave lotion, c) a tube of toothpaste or d) a whole 'nother smoke?
Women's tennis, with old lady Billie Jean King fighting off young upstarts like Evonne Goolagong and Chris Evert, seemed far more interesting at Wimbledon than the men's matches. However, male chauvinists can take heart in a report that the NBC telecast of the Ken Rosewall-Rod Laver final in the World Championship of Tennis back in May attracted 21.3 million watchers, the largest television audience in tennis history, topping both the 1971 telecast of Forest Hills and the 1970 coverage of Wimbledon. According to the poll, more people saw the Rosewall-Laver match than the finals of either the NBA championship or the Stanley Cup playoffs.
When television rights to the upcoming hockey series between Russia and Canada were put up for sale, MacLaren Advertising Company Ltd., which controls Canada's weekly "hockey night" from Montreal and Toronto, put in a bid of $500,000. Everyone assumed MacLaren had a lock on the show. Then a second bid of $750,000 popped up, this one the joint effort of Harold Ballard, president of Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, and a vigorous young organization called Bobby Orr Enterprises.
The new bid created quite a stir, what with Hockey Star Orr emerging as Business Tycoon Orr, particularly since a recent knee operation makes it unlikely that Orr will play against the Russians. MacLaren muttered something about raising its bid, but the Ballard-Orr steamroller let it be known that it was prepared to go to $1 million, if necessary, and MacLaren decided to back off. It was probably just as well. Alan Eagleson, who among other things is secretary of Orr Enterprises and who represented the group in the negotiations, said, "I am prepared to put Bobby Orr's money where my mouth is."
THEY SAID IT
•Mrs. Laura Quilici, hearing that her son Frank had been named manager of the Minnesota Twins: "Oh, the poor kid. He's going to get an ulcer now."
•Ron Santo, Chicago Cub third baseman, after playing second base for the first time in the majors: "Now I know why second basemen limp so much."
•Jack McClure, former stock-car racer who has taken to drag racing, after hitting 190 mph in a rocket-powered go-cart: "During the run there is a panorama of feeling and sensation—luscious colors, feelings of weightlessness, a sense of everything being quiet and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. And, oh yeah, it's freaky as hell."
•Calvin Hill, Dallas Cowboy running back: "In this business, you're old when you're 30. I look at my friends who graduated with me from Yale and see what they're doing, and it makes me feel I'm wasting my time."