Pawn to king 4. Last Tuesday, Bryant Park was a chess fest. Young and old, seasoned and novice players sat head in hands contemplating plastic pieces on the checkered mats. You could hear a pawn drop. Some, like Jay Bonin and Asa Hoffman, were guys I knew back in the day when I was dating my husband, Bob Salpeter, a player who would haunt the clubs like the Marshall, a sponsor of this event. For me, a chess widow, this event was a reminder: in the game of chess, the queen has all the power, but the king is the prize.
The afternoon was also sponsored by HBO, which on June 6 will premiere a documentary directed by Liz Garbus about Bobby Fischer, perhaps the best and most famous chess player ever, with perhaps the most captivating biography, which makes him the ideal subject for cinematic scrutiny. Featuring the photography of Harry Benson going back to the historic 1972 match in Iceland when Fischer played the Russian master Boris Spassky, the film shows how Fischer made chess famous as a pastime and sport, even for those who never played, and is also fascinating for the wife of a chess player with issues.
Meeting Liz Garbus, I particularly wanted to know whether she, like me, suffered similar chess neglect, how she became interested in this subject. But no, on the way to the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2008, she read Fischer's obituary -- he had died the day before, at age 64, exiled in Iceland. Intrigued, she got to work immediately seeing how she could move ahead with a documentary portrait. The result, Bobby Fischer: Against the World, is now being celebrated.
Later that evening, the HBO screening room was packed: Robert Kennedy, Jr. attended with Cheryl Hines, Sofia Coppola, Sandra Bernhardt, Lauren Hutton, Garbus's dad Martin Garbus, Griffin Dunne, Clive Davis, Judd Hirsch, Malcolm Gladwell, Robert Hess, Susan Polgar. Henry Kissinger has a pivotal scene in the film: when Fischer, publicity shy, seems to have disappeared just before boarding the plane for Reykjavik, the tension mounts. Kissinger calls and says, and this got a big laugh from the crowd: GO!
Afterwards, the party continued at Forty-four at the Royalton. Actor Josh Mostel, a committed chess player, regaled us with stories from the Manhattan chess world, including one about the actress Sylvia Miles, how everyone gathered around this ultra womanly woman when she would play. She just didn't have the profile of the typically chess obsessed.
This post also appears on Gossip Central.