I’ve been poring over (it’s poring not pouring, right?) a type-set proof of King’s Gambit: A Father, a Son, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game in search of annoying typos.
Gremlins are inevitable in a work of 150,000 words (yes, I have a lot to say!) but I’m hell-bent on reducing them to a minimum. I’ve had nightmares ever since a well-intentioned copy-editor inexplicably changed Veselin Topalov’s first name, which I had corretly spelled, to Vaselin. Now maybe Vaseline is an apt nickname for a grandmaster who is as oily as petroleum jelly (after being down two games in last year’s world-championship match, the slippery Bulgarian tried to distract the chess world from his pathetic 0-2 score by charging his opponent with going to the bathroom too frequently and consulting a chess-playing computer while on the privy).
Now Vaseline does figure in King’s Gambit, but not as someone’s first name. In Chapter 8, “I’m Not the World’s Biggest Geek,” I describe the late Alexander Wojtkiewicz, who was perhaps the most active grandmaster on the U.S. weekend tournament circuit.
“In a chess world full of oversized characters, Wojtkiewicz was still a stand-out. He was equal part hustler and naïf, and the stories about him were endless and amusing. Like the time he wondered unknowingly into a gay bar with a male friend and a woman. At some point the woman had a nose bleed and Wojt got the attention of the place when he anxiously and loudly asked the bartender for Vaseline, an old Polish remedy for her affliction. There was also the time that he was staying with friends in Chicago, disappeared for a weekend without telling them, and returned with no explanation, as if he had just stepped out to buy a paper, except that he was now on crutches.”