keep us in suspended terror

 In May of 1972, chess champion Boris Spassky anxiously awaited his riyal
Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik, Iceland. The two men had been scheduled to
meet for the World Championship of Chess, but Fischer had not arrived on
time and the match was on hold. Fischer had problems with the size of the
prize money, problems with the way the money was to be distributed,
problems with the logistics of holding the match in Iceland. He might back
out at any moment.
Spassky tried to be patient. His Russian bosses feit that Fischer was humiliating him and told him to walk away, but Spassky wanted this match.
He knew he could destroy Fischer, and nothing was going to spoil the
greatest victory of his career. "So it seems that all OUT work may come to

" Spassky told a comrade. "But what can we do? It is Bobby's
move. If he comes, we play. If he does not come; we do not play. A man
who is willing to commit suicide has the initiative."
Fischer finally arrived in Reykjavik, but the problems, and the threat
of cancellation, continued. He disliked the hall where the match was to be
fought, he criticized the lighting, he complained about the noise of the
cameras, he even hated the chairs in which he and Spassky were to sit.
Now the Soviet Union took the initiative and threatened to withdraw their
The bluff apparently worked

: After all the weeks of waiting, the endless and infuriating negotiations, Fischer agreed to play. Everyone was relieved, no one more than Spassky. But on the day of the official
introductions, Fischer arrived very late, and on the day when the "Match
of the Century" was to begin, he was late again. This time, however, the
consequences would be dire: If he showed up too late he would forfeit the
first game. What was going on? Was he playing some sort of mind game?
Or was Bobby Fischer perhaps afraid ofBoris Spassky? It seemed to the assembled grand masters, and to Spassky, that this young kid from Brooklyn
had a terrible case of the jitters. At 5:09 Fischer showed up, exactly one
minute before the match was to be canceled.
The first game of a chess toumament is critical, since it sets the tone for
the months to come. It is often a slow and quiet struggle, with the two players preparing themselves for the war and trying to read each other's strategies. This game was different. Fischer made a terrible move early on,
perhaps the worst of his career, and when Spassky had hirn on the ropes,
he seemed to give up. Yet Spassky knew that Fischer never gave up. Even
when facing checkmate, he fought to the bitter end, wearing the opponent
down. This time, though, he seemed resigned. Then suddenly he broke out
a bold move that put the room in a buzz. The move shocked Spassky, but
he recovered and managed to win the game. But no one could figure out
what Fischer was up to. Had he lost deliberately? Or was he rattled? Unsettled? Even, as some thought, insane?
After his defeat in the first game, Fischer complained all the more
loudly about the room, the cameras, and everything else. He also failed to
show up on time for the second game. This time the organizers had had
enough: He was given a forfeit. Now he was down two games to none, a
position from which no one had ever come back to win a chess championship. Fischer was clearly unhinged. Yet in the third game, as all those
who witnessed it remember, he had a ferocious look in his eye, a look that
clearly bothered Spassky. And despite the hole he had dug for hirnself, he
seemed supremely confident. He did make what appeared to be another
blunder, as he had in the first game-but his cocky air made Spassky smell
a trap. Yet despite the Russian's suspicions, he could not figure out the trap,
and before he knew it Fischer had checkmated hirn. In fact Fischer's unorthodox tactics had completely unnerved his opponent. At the end of the
game, Fischer leaped up and rushed out, yelling to his confederates as he
smashed a fist into his palm, "I'm crushing him with brute force!"
In the next games Fischer pulled moves that no one had seen from
hirn before, moves that were not his style. Now Spassky started to make
blunders. After losing the sixth game, he started to cry. One grand master
said, "Mter this, Spassky's got to ask hirnself if it's safe to go back to Russia." After the eighth game Spassky decided he knew what was happening:
Bobby Fischer was hypnotizing hirn. He decided not to look Fischer in the
eye; he lost anyway.
After the fourteenth game he called a staff conference and announced,

An attempt is being made to control my mind." He wondered whether the
orange juice they drank at the chess table could have been drugged.
Maybe chemicals were being blown into the air. Finally Spassky went pubHc, accusing the Fischer team of putting something in the chairs that was altering Spassky's mind. The KGB went on alert: Boris Spassky was
embarrassing the Soviet Union!
The chairs were taken apart and X-rayed. A chemist found nothing
unusual in them. The only things anyone found anywhere, in fact, were
two dead flies in a Hghting fixture. 

Spassky began to complain of hallucinations. He tried to keep playing, but his mind was unraveling. He could not
go on. On September 2, he resigned. Although still relatively young, he
never recovered from this defeat.
In previous games between Fischer and Spassky, Fischer had not fared
weIl. Spassky had an uncanny ability to read his opponent's strategy and
use it against hirn. Adaptable and patient, he would build attacks that would
defeat not in seven moves but in seventy. He defeated Fischer every time
they played because he saw much further ahead, and because he was a brilHant psychologist who never lost control. One master said,

 "He doesn't just
look for the best move. He looks for the move that will disturb the man he
is playing."
Fischer, however, finaHy understood thll;t this was one of the keys to
Spassky's success: He played on your predictability, defeated you at your
own game. Everything Fischer did for the championship match was an atLAW 17 125
126 LAW 17
tempt to put the initiative on his side and to keep Spassky off-balance.
Clearly the endless waiting had an effect on Spassky's psyche. Most powerful of all, though, were Fischer's deliberate blunders and his appearance of
having no clear strategy. In fact, he was doing everything he could to
scramble his old patterns, even if it meant losing the first match and forfeiting the second.
Spassky was known for his sangfroid and levelheadedness, but for the
first time in his life he could not figure out his opponent. He slowly melted
down, until at the end he was the one who seemed insane.
Chess contains the concentrated essence of life: First, because to win
you have to be supremely patient and farseeing; and second, because the
game is built on patterns, whole sequences of moves that have been played
before and will be played again, with slight alterations, in any one match.
Your opponent analyzes the patterns you are playing and uses them to try
to fore see your moves. Allowing hirn nothing predictable to base his strategy on gives you a big advantage. In chess as in life, when people cannot
figure out what you are doing, 

they are kept in a state of terror-waiting,
uncertain, confused.
Life at court is a serious, melancholy game of chess, which requires us to draw
up our pieces and batteries, form a plan, pursue it, parry that of our
adversary. Sometimes, however, it is better to take risks
and play the most capricious, unpredictable move.
leall de La Bmyere, 1 645-1 6 96
Nothing is more terrifying than the sudden and unpredictable. That is why
we are so frightened by earthquakes and tornadoes: We do not know when
they will strike. Mter one has occurred, we wait in terror for the next one.
To a lesser degree, this is the effect that unpredictable human behavior has
on uso
Animals behave in set patterns, which is why we are able to hunt and
kill them. Only man has the capacity to consciously alter his behavior, to
improvise and overcome the weight of routine and habit. Yet most men do
not realize this power. They prefer the comforts of routine, of giving in to
the animal nature that has them repeating the same compulsive actions
time and time again. They do this because it requires no effort, and because they mistakenly believe that if they do not unsettle others, they will
be left alone. Understand: A person of power instills a kind of fear by deliberately unsettling those around hirn to keep the initiative on his side. You
sometimes need to strike without warning, to make others tremble when
they least expect it. It is a device that the powerful have used for centuries.
Filippo Maria, the last of the Visconti dukes of Milan in fifteenthcentury Italy, consciously did the opposite of what everyone expected of
hirn. For instance, he might suddenly shower a courtier with attention, and
then, once the man had come to expect a promotion to higher office,
would suddenly start treating hirn with the utmost disdain. Confused, the
man might leave the court, when the duke would suddenly recall hirn and
start treating hirn weIl again. Doubly confused, the courtier would wonder
whether his assumption that he would be promoted had become obvious,
and offensive, to the duke, and would start to behave as if he no longer expected such honor. The duke would rebuke hirn for his lack of ambition
and would send hirn away.
The secret of dealing with Filippo was simple: Do not presume to
know what he wants. Do not try to guess what will please hirn. Never inject
your will; just surrender to his will. Then wait to see what happens. Amidst
the confusion and uncertainty he created, the duke ruled supreme, unchallenged and at peace.
Unpredictability is most often the tactic of the master, but the underdog too can use it to great effect. If you find yourself outnumbered or cornered, throw in a series of unpredictable moves. Your enemies will be so
confused that they will pull back or make a tactical blunder.
In the spring of 1862, during the American Civil War, General
StonewallJackson and a force of 4,600 Confederate soldiers were tormenting the larger Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley.

 Meanwhile, not far
away, General George Brinton McClellan, heading a force of 90,000
Union soldiers, was marching south from Washington, D.C., to lay siege to
Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital. As the weeks of the campaign went by, Jackson repeatedly led his soldiers out of the Shenandoah
Valley, then back to it.
His movements made no sense. Was he preparing to help defend
Richmond? Was he marching on Washington, now that McClellan's absence had left it unprotected? Was he heading north to wreak havoc up
there? Why was his small force moving in circles?

 Jackson's inexplicable moves made the Union generals delay the
march on Richmond as they waited to figure out what he was up to. Meanwhile, the South was able to pour reinforcements into the town. A battle
that could have crushed the Confederacy tumed into a stalemate. Jackson
used this tactic time and again when facing numerically superior forces.
"Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible," he said,
" ... such tactics will win every time and a small army may thus destroy a
large one."
This law applies not only to war but to everyday situations. People are
always trying to read the motives behind your actions and to use your predictability against you. Throw in a completely inexplicable move and you
put them on the defensive. Because they do not und erstand you, they are
unnerved, and in such a state you can easily intimidate them.
Pablo Picasso once remarked, "The best calculation is the absence of
calculation. Once you have attained a certain level of recognition, others
generally figure that when you do something, it's for an intelligent reason.
So it's really foolish to plot out your movements too carefully in advance.
You're better off acting capriciously."
For a while, Picasso worked with the art dealer Paul Rosenberg. At first
LAW 17 127
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 he allowed hirn a fair amount of latitude in handling his paintings, then one
day, for no apparent reason, he told the man he would no longer give hirn
any work to seIl. As Picasso explained, "Rosenberg would spend the next
forty-eight hours trying to figure out why. Was I reserving things for some
other dealer? I'd go on working and sleeping and Rosenberg would spend
his time figuring. In two days he'd come back, nerves jangled, anxious, saying, 'After all, dear friend, you wouldn't turn me down if I offered you this
much [naming a substantially higher figure] for those paintings rather than
the price I've been accustomed to paying you, would you?' "
Unpredictability is not only a weapon of terror: Scrambling YOUf patterns on a day-to-day basis will cause a stir around you and stimulate interest. People will talk about you, ascribe motives and explanations that have
nothing to do with the truth, but that keep you constantly in their minds. In
the end, the more capricious you appear, the more respect you will gamer.
Only the terminally subordinate act in a predictable manner.

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