Long Con

For sales teams, I used to show a clip from the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer where Ben Kingsley smacks all the pieces off the chess board. I preached about seeing the board, focusing on account strategy. Think the long game. Plan your next five moves. That sort of thing. I’m not sure of using this as a learning tool, but I do love this movie. It’s based on the life of Josh Waitzkin, who wrote a great book called The Art of Learning. 

Although the Hollywood scene is fantastic, real life might be better. When Bobby Fischer faced off against Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship, the game mattered little. The political element loomed large. Chess was symbolic to show the Soviet’s intellectual superiority over the West. The Russian chess machine was well funded, supporting multiple grandmasters. And they had studied the US Champion for years. Fischer was known for using few openings but executed each flawlessly.

Against Spassky, he changed the game entirely. In the last game, Fischer used a line of the Sicilian that he had never before played as Black, and further surprised Spassky with a novelty on move eight. He deviated from his previous routines in almost every match. It was as if he watched the rematch between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. Fischer fought Spassky left-handed and took the day.


  • The Wikipedia page on Bobby’s life. I found the Spassky rematch fascinating. Unlike the other players, he used no computers and held on to older beliefs of playing.
  • The clip from the movie.
  • Rook. Chess board was purchased in China, somewhere in the mid-2000s.