Reality Inspector, chapter 7

Copyright © 1982 John Caris

The fog was low and damp; it was a San Francisco rain. John walked across Keystone Way toward his house. He was happy. Fog might depress some people, but he enjoyed it. And this was a joyful night. Mary had won her first game of the match, which was now tied at one win apiece. Whoever won six games would be the world champion. Draws did not count; only wins counted. This was one of several benefits that Fischer had brought to the international chess scene.

Mary would be returning soon, and friends would be gathering. He must hurry home to prepare for the party. Luckily, he had some finger food and a variety of munches stored away for an evening like this.

He went through his garden and entered his office, which, though on the ground floor, had originally been a basement. Many San Francisco houses had their basement on the first floor. He opened the door to the storage room and switched on the light. There was enough wine on the shelves, already chilled to the temperature of the storeroom which averaged around 50 degrees. He opened the freezer, taking out several packages of finger sandwiches that he was keeping for a special occasion, and this was the proper moment.

He hurried upstairs and into the kitchen where he turned on the oven and placed the aluminum wrapped food inside. Going about the house, he switched on lights, made a fire in the fireplace, and picked up some books and papers lying on the living room floor.

The doorbell rang. It was Od and Hank. John peeked out behind them as they entered and saw George coming up the street. More people would arrive shortly. Od and Hank offered to bring up the wine and arrange it on the dining room table. The old man set his box in a corner of the dining room and followed Od down to the storage room.

In half an hour eleven friends had arrived. John went into the living room where most were warming themselves beside the fire, drinking wine, and discussing the evening's chess game. Mary should be arriving at any time. Then he realized that the arrivals were all men. Where were the women? He looked out the window and saw lights on at Mary's house. She should be over soon, he thought.

A joint was being passed around, but he declined for the moment. He was on pins and needles waiting for her arrival. But why was she taking so long, and where were the other women?

Impatient, he went to the phone and dialed Mary's number. The phone rang three times.

"Hello." "Mary. Congratulations! It was a great win."

"Thanks, 1 feel real good about it. We're having a celebration over here; why don't you join us?"

John was dumb for a moment. "Did you find the messages I left, one at the Rainbow Inn and the other at your house?"

"Oh, yes. But Stella has been preparing a great feast for my first win. She spent the whole day making it. I guess she just knew I was going to win. Some intuition, right."

"But why not come over to my place. It's better to be honored guest than the honored host. Eleven people, besides myself, are here. We'll come over and bring the feast-makings back to my place. Besides, it will give me great pleasure to host your celebration."

"Let me ask the others and see." There was silence for a few minutes and then a raucous voice spoke. "John, bring your buddies over here. Listen. Hear the music." And rock music loudly broadcasted itself across the phone lines.

"Stella, grab Mary and the others and come over. We'll help carry the goodies."

Mary's voice now appeared. "John. The vote was eight to four to have the party here. You guys come over right away before the food gets cold and the champagne gets too warm."

"Just a second." He put the phone down and went into the living room. "Surprise. The women are throwing a party over at Mary's house. Shall we join them or invite them here?" The vote was nine to three for inviting the women over to his place.

John picked up the phone. "The men voted for all you women to come here. Robert and George are on their way over to help carry things."

"But, John, that's pushy. Why does your vote count more than ours?"

"Well, because we want you more!" And he heard her yell above the rock music, "The male chauvinists want us to trudge over there. What about it?"

"A bunch of pigs!"


"Obstinate turkeys!"

John heard the click at the other end. Well, he would go over himself and try to persuade them. He went out onto the front porch. Robert and George were ringing the bell; and, when the door opened, two women came charging out. They grabbed the two men and danced across the street with them as the rock music pounded its way over to John's house. Then there was bedlam as the other women danced and skipped across Keystone Way.

"We're coming, you male chauvinists. Well give you a party!"

While the men carried the food and champagne, the women took over the house. Many people crowded into the living room to toast Mary's first win. She sat in the seat of honor, a wood chair designed on a classical Greek motif. He had placed the chair near the fire but still in a central position where all would be aware of her presence.

Champagne was bubbling, the fire warming, the conversation hovering below the dancing couples. Many more toasts were given. And the fog enclosed the partying house with its warm, moist body.

Mary and John were dancing when she whispered, "Let's go to my place where we can be alone. The party is fun, but my exhilaration needs some quiet too."

So they snuck away, leaving the others to their own amusement. And no one noticed.

They curled up together on a couch. Three candles broke the darkness, causing shadows to float about the living room. John filled the glasses with champagne. Clinking their glasses, they made a silent toast, one of the heart.

"Oh, I'm glad that game is over," Mary sighed. "It was a turning point, breaking the ice. It gives me strength, knowing I can beat him."

"A battle of the minds, that's what I kept thinking." And he looked at her, seeing her brightness. "By move 20 I knew that you could do it, if you didn't falter, let go."

"That was the trick, of course. Not to freeze, not to make a dumb mistake. I knew I had him. But oh, what a powerful mind he has. His concentration is so strong that I knew I must protect myself, put myself in a space of security. Things happen, mental things I mean. Most people think chess is so routine, so mechanical. But it isn't, not at this level. It is mind! A mind game."

Mary stretched out on the couch while John refilled the glasses. A feeling of warmth and relaxation moved through the room.

"I've often thought that telepathy was involved," he said.

"Telepathy? Well, yes and no. There is a common ground between the two players. In the common ground there are no secrets--all is known to both sides. You might call it second guessing your opponent. But one's own mind is safe from intrusion. It is when you move into the common ground, that's when your opponent can unleash great mind power, creating a turmoil that can trap the unwary, the unprepared."

"What is the feeling?"

"One of great energy, rather chaotic, like shortly before dawn. Some players freak out and commit dumb mistakes. I mean a grandmaster making a stupid mistake--against all reason. But it does happen! And this is my only explanation. The mind is more than the intellect, more than the combination-making imagination. Stepping into the common ground reminds me of the fool card in the tarot deck. One stands on the edge of a precipice. Below lies the abyss. Whirlwinds attack. The heat and cold become unbearable. Panic lurks behind a boulder. But calm is the only path."

"It sounds frightening."

"It is. And more. What I learned tonight was true education. I found the inner mansion that protects one from the buffeting of those blind, overpowering energies. Once I entered the 'still point of the turning world,' I knew I was safe as long as I stayed there. I visualized the common ground as a buffer zone. I just stayed back and used this buffer zone as a protection. For Sam Runner could manipulate only this zone; he could not penetrate my inner mansion. So I just let him do his dance. I waited. And at the right moment I attacked!"

"That's an interesting idea. Maybe that's one of his weaknesses."

"John, when you play chess, you put aside your knowledge as reality inspector. You shouldn't; it's like you revert to a state of dumbness."

"Yeh, I do. It's difficult to erase all the bad habits. When I play chess, it's like I'm still a child. I guess I don't take it seriously enough."

"That's not the point. Look at Sam Runner. He doesn't take it seriously, or at least he doesn't act like it. Always joking. With that big smile on his face."

"Maybe, that's his secret weapon."

"It is for the uninitiated. But I discovered tonight that he is that way. There is no division between his ego and his basic self. He radiates from his own inner mansion, where he stays. He forays out into the buffer zone and has enough power to shape it his way. But he always stays at the still point. Even when I was nastily attacking his king, he was very calm. After the game I realized that the loss did not bother him, even in his inner core."

Mary got up, crossed over to the FM and turned it on. She dialed to KPFA, and galactic music filled the room with a soothing quality reminiscent of some Renaissance music but having the sound of late 20th century. Light from the candles flickered on her blue dress, and she seemed to flow across the room. Her long, dark hair made her aura sensuous. A brightness, even more intense than the candle light, radiated from her face. She was still in the inner mansion.

Yes, it was true. He thought about how in his everyday life he moved back and forth from a position of strength to one of weakness--of dumbness. It took a mental decision to place himself at the still point. But for whatever reasons, in his leisure he often liked to leave that space and enter--what? The mundane world? He liked the image of a common ground, perhaps reflecting the hectic quality of an astral dimension.

Playing chess for him was leisure--fun, and he usually let go for it. He would often joke about his mistakes. But something gnawed at his soul even then. His joking was insincere, a surface that he floated on, where others could take potshots at him.

Mary was correct. The champion did show great power and resolve. John decided that he would like to see Sam Runner in person, to scan his reality. Watching figures on TV provided few clues. They were smaller than life, only an image which the screen filtered.

She was pensive. "Remember the Karpov-Korchnoi championship match held in the Philippines in 1978? That's a case in point."

"How so?"

She set up the chess board and took the book of the tournament's games from a shelf.

"That tournament was important because it brought to everyone's awareness what had lurked at the subconscious level before. Most of the grandmasters were unbelieving. And it was awhile before people talked about it openly. Mind power became visible in that match: not the power of a great computer but the immense resources of the human mind, which is more than just memory and fast computation, more than seeing several moves ahead or creating artistic combinations. The mind has the power to project itself, to manipulate its environment. It has the power to shape external reality according to its inner reality. It is a miniscule reflection of divine mind."

"How does the Karpov-Korchnoi match show that?"

"The first clue occurred during the finals of the candidates' match when Korchnoi beat Spassky. Korchnoi made several complaints about Spassky using some kind of mind power on him. Surprisingly, Spassky had won several games in a row and Korchnoi had made some colossial blunders. Then Korchnoi brought in a British psychologist to witness the concluding games. Korchnoi won those games and earned the opportunity to play Karpov.

"And in an interview a couple of years later, Spassky stated that he believed someone used mind power on him. He remembered thinking about moving his knight but didn't, even though it seemed like a win."

"I remember now. That was similar to the championship match too. Korchnoi blundered and yet eventually tied the match at five even."

"And in the middle of the match Korchnoi was befriended by two Americans who taught him to meditate. No doubt, that's why he was able to make his great comeback and even the match. But Korchnoi was not proficient yet, so he faltered. But even more important was Karpov's friend and adviser Zoukhar, a parapsychologist, who attended the tournament so that he could study native beliefs about faith healing and other psychic events. First, Korchnoi tried to make Zoukhar sit several rows back from the stage, and then he asked the judges to remove Zoukhar from the auditorium. The judges did ask Zoukhar to sit further back. But they were not impressed by Korchnoi's reasons. I don't blame them. Why would they suddenly believe that psychic powers could affect the outcome of the game, and especially the powers of a kibitzer?

"So, the outcome of the tournament can be explained in several ways--chance blunders on one side or sharp playing on the other side. Or some kind of mind power influencing the players; it is a difficult idea to suddenly accept.

"Of course, the judges acted totally normal. They wanted only to preserve the conventions of the game. Their pride was at stake. No one ever challenged chess playing in this way. That's why the tournament was a turning point, especially for younger players who were more willing to entertain such an idea. So the idea moved underground, only discussed among friends. But more players took this mind power into consideration when playing tournaments. And the idea was born fully into the light of day when Sam Runner published his book Zen and Chess."

"It was earthshaking. It turned everyone's head inside out. And now you hope to beat Sam. You truly have a challenge, Mary. "

She opened the book to the last game of the Karpov-Korchnoi match. "Let's go through this. Sam made a brilliant analysis of this game. He made only one assumption--that some type of mind power exists. So he asked himself how this game might reflect or demonstrate that mind power. Actually, he was interested in describing the characteristics of the psychic force. He knew about the existence of this force from his Zen practices. So he wanted to discover how it could operate in a chess game.

"Korchnoi's weakness, and the reason for his loss, was a lack of space. He was so hemmed in that he had little room to maneuver his pieces. In fact, he crossed into enemy territory only twice and remained there for a short time. By move fifteen Korchnoi had only one piece beyond his third rank.


chess board 

Karpov (next move)

"Of course, he was frustrated, so he developed a queen-side attack. He was encouraged in this by Karpov, who never took his focus off his target, the king file. So on move 23 Korchnoi was elated when he played R-R5 (Ra4).


chess board 

Karpov (next move)

"Korchnoi appeared to have at least opened up his space for maneuvering. The twenty-third move was an obvious one, especially for someone looking for breathing space.

"Now, keep in mind the only assumption Sam Runner made in his analysis of this game--the psychic power of the human mind. For this final game Karpov and his delegation broke the agreement that they had made with Korchnoi about the seating arrangement of spectators. In particular, Zoukhar, who had been sitting toward the back of the auditorium, was now placed in the fourth row. Throughout the whole game he sat there, his eyes covered by his hands, motionless in deep concentration. And in the first row sat two important members of Karpov's delegation, the vice-minister of sports and culture and a Russian cosmonaut.

"Zoukhar, sitting in the fourth row, influenced the fourth rank. But using the mirror image of descriptive notation, Korchnoi also had a fourth rank. This row of squares was the boundary between the two sides; an imaginary line ran between the fourth and fifth ranks.

"Karpov's two associates, sitting in the first row, influenced the king and queen files. They prevented Korchnoi from defending his center. It's like Korchnoi was blind; perhaps, they turned the fog machine on; perhaps, they placed a veil over these two files. At moments Korchnoi had intimations of potential disaster but never developed an adequate defense for his center. He was lulled into false security.

"And. so, on move 23 Korchnoi had been pulled into a trap because of his desire for breathing room. Sam Runner argued that Korchnoi should have pushed into enemy territory earlier. If on move 19 he had continued pushing forward into enemy territory, for example with P-QN5 (b4), he probably would have eliminated the two passed pawns that won the game for Karpov.

"Why did Korchnoi stop there? Because of the psychic wall that Zoukhar had erected. Korchnoi was unable to think of moves taking place in Karpov's territory. So on move 25 Karpov began his attack on the king and queen files by playing P-K5 (e5), and of course Korchnoi answered with PxP (dxe5).


chess board 

Karpov (next move)

"On move 26 Karpov played QxKP (Qxe5)and gained control of the king file. On the following moves, Korchnoi lost his QNP (b5) and QBP (c5). That loss produced two passed pawns for Karpov. From then on Korchnoi's position disintegrated. Here is the way the board looked when the game ended.


chess board 


"Notice that Korchnoi's KP (e7) was still riveted in its original position. It was a weakness; he would be better off without it. An open king file is advantageous for both sides.

"Korchnoi had evened the series at five all by winning three of the four games when Zoukhar was not sitting close to the stage. For the final game he sat in the fourth row. Isn't that a mate for Sam Runner's argument?"

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