Pawn Sacrifice

It was to be Bobby Fischer’s last publicly sanctioned international chess competition. He specifically requested an Eames Executive Chair for the event, which took place in Reykjavik, Iceland. He said he could concentrate better sitting in that chair. When Russian opponent Boris Spaasky saw the seat, he refused to play until he got one, too.

In September 2015, Pawn Sacrifice, a movie that focuses on this great chess match, will be released in the United States.

Herman Miller executives, in response to an introduction from the Eames Office,  went out of their way to provide filmmakers Gail Katz and Ed Zwick with chairs made to vintage specifications in order to ensure the accuracy of the film. These chairs can be seen in the recreation of the final game seen.

Herman Miller also helped back in 1972. Below is the story, as reflected in a July 1972 document found in the Herman Miller archives. You can also see an image of Bobby Fischer of the U.S. (right) and Boris Spassky of Russia (left) playing their last game together in Reykjavik, Iceland, in an August 31, 1972 file photo. (AP Photo/J. Walter Green, file):

** FILE ** Bobby Fischer of the U.S. right, and Boris Spassky of Russia, play their last game together in Reykjavik, Iceland, in this Aug. 31, 1972 file photo. Fischer who renounced his U.S. citizenship, has died at the age of 64, Iceland's Channel 2 television reported Friday, Jan. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/J. Walter Green, file)

Bill Crooks, customer service chief at Herman Miller Inc., Zeeland, Michigan, manufacturers of furniture, spotted a syndicated news story out of Reykjavik, Iceland that smelled like a call for special customer service.

It seems that Bobby Fischer had arranged for a certain Charles Eames-designed black leather chair—the ES104—to be shipped to him at the hall where his world championship match with Boris Spassky is to start today. The president of the Iceland Chess Federation, Gudmundur Thorarinsson studied the chair and said: “It would look better if both Spassky and Fischer had the same chairs.”

Crooks called Herman Miller’s New York showroom manager John Buglisi, at home. Buglisi spent most of the night calling Iceland, rousing Icelandic Airlines executives out of bed and arranging for Herman Miller dealers, R & G Furniture Service Inc., to rush a chair to Iceland.

In the morning Herman Miller President, Hugh de Pree, sent a cable to Thorarinsson saying, “We agree Spassky and Fischer should have identical chairs. Another Eames-designed leather chair is being air shipped to Mr. Spassky today.”

Eames Executive Chair by Herman Miller

The chair is being taken to Kennedy airport in a limousine, put aboard the first flight out at 19:30 (July 11) to arrive in Reykjavik in time for the second day’s play.

The 28-year-old American chess champion is well known for his fussiness about the environment of his matches. In his victory over former world champion Tigran Petrosian in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last fall, Fischer interrupted play to demand a replacement for the tournament chair which he judged uncomfortable. Herman Miller’s partners in Argentina, Collection S.A., rushed over two of Charles Eames’ chairs and play was resumed. It is one of these chairs that Fisher had sent to Reykjavik and which its manufacturer, Herman Miller, sent to Boris Spassky.

This classic Eames chair is still available to everyone—chess masters, movie lovers, and executives alike—at both the Eames Shop and Herman Miller retailers across the globe.