Fischer is out there, to be sure, but so elusive as to be almost a figment of the imagination. "It's like this god of chess hanging over everybody's head," says American grandmaster Larry Christiansen.
Yasser Seirawan, one of the world's strongest players, speaks for all young U.S. chess masters when he says, "It's a tragedy. Imagine: The greatest chess player who ever lived is living in our time, and he's not even playing. I've never even met him. It's very frustrating."
Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek, a 41-year-old Czechoslovakian expatriate living in Reston, Va., says, "Players Bobby's age, like myself, are a lost generation. We always lived in the shadow of Bobby. We had him as an idol. He was someone to follow. When he stopped playing, I somehow got lost. We lost our inspiration. The last decade belonged to me in the United States. I was always ahead in ratings, but I can't say I was first because, in the back of my mind, there was always Bobby. He was still alive. He is still alive."
That he was out there, still lurking around, was what had drawn me to the second-floor rotunda of the Los Angeles Public Library at 7:51 p.m. on the night of April 3. Desperately looking for a lead earlier that day, I had visited the chambers of Madame Lola, a clairvoyant working in Westminster, Calif., and sought her help in ferreting out Fischer.
"Have you ever thought he might want to be left alone?" Madame Lola asked.
"Look, Madame Lola, a lot of people are wondering what has happened to him," I said.
"A lot of celebrities want to be left alone," she said.
In my own paranoia, the thought suddenly occurred to me: Maybe she knows Bobby and is trying to protect him.
"Do you know Fischer or something?" I blurted.
There was no doubt that I had become slightly wiggy. I had been prowling the catacombs of the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library for months because Fischer had often been sighted there—as recently as a few weeks earlier—but he had never appeared when I was there. I had begun to think that perhaps he had contacts at the library who would tip him off whenever I showed up. After all, I had a source working at the library, Gordon Brooks, who had promised to call me if Fischer ever showed. In fact, over the last few weeks, I had developed a network of librarians who had agreed to call Brooks, who in turn would ring me, if they spotted him.