Shelby Lyman on Chess: Crushing an Opponent’s Ego
By Shelby Lyman
Bobby Fischer once said he did not believe in psychology, he preferred instead good moves.
What he meant was, he did not believe in psychological ploys or tricks. He was, in fact, highly esteemed by his colleagues for his respectful behavior at the chessboard.
Fischer hated to win cheaply. He did not like to take sick days and on one occasion, at least, he balked at winning on forfeit.
He believed above all in being prepared for battle.
And battle it was. One observer described him as Achilles without an Achilles’ heel.
On a few occasions, he talked of “crushing his opponent’s ego,” a remark widely interpreted as cruel and sadistic.
Curiously, the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen, when asked about the matter a few years ago on the TV show60 Minutes, agreed with Fischer’s view. Recently, Casey Goff, a football defensive coordinator at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, did the same during an interview with this writer.
Casey, like Carlsen and Fischer, impresses one as gentle in real life. But his own view was also unequivocal.
“No one in athletics would frown on what Fischer said,” he explained. “Any athlete wants to demoralize or crush the spirit of his opponents.
“If you can set the tone from the beginning, they are going to lose.”