A reminiscence of Sidney Fried and R.H.M. Press
Visionaries are by definition impractical. But an impractical visionary with a lot of money can make a difference in pursuit of his dream. I would like now to remember a man whose long-range vision was not achieved because it--or he--was too impractical and because technology was not ready for it. In the process of trying to achieve it, however, he made a real contribution to the game he loved.
Sidney Fried, whose R.H.M. Press produced some of the best modern literature on chess, grew up poor in New York. In his youth, he said, he was a Communist. He abhorred paying taxes. Once he achieved financial success (first by investing in warrants and options, then by writing books and two weekly newsletters on the subject), he made certain that everything of real value that he possessed was legally owned by his company, not by him personally. During the years I knew him well (roughly 1972-1984), he had an elegant four-story townhouse on New York City's east side, a handsome yacht, and a house in Rancho Mirage, California, just a knight's move from Frank Sinatra's estate. The house had formerly belonged to Zeppo Marx and his wife, Barbara, who later became Sinatra's fourth wife. His success in avoiding taxes while he was alive, however, resulted in a tremendous problem for his two sons after he died in 1991 at the age of seventy-two. Though he left a significant legacy in his work for chess, he did not, incredibly, leave a will.
Sidney took very good care of his health. A man of relatively small physical stature, he was always trim and fit. His diet consisted mainly of fish, he did not smoke, and he played tennis whenever he had the chance. He wore his longish hair combed straight back and he was always dressed neatly and simply. His only affectation was a little pencil mustache that rode interestingly up and down on his lip whenever he produced one of his characteristic crooked half-smiles.
He was in love with chess, but it was an unsatisfying, one-way relationship, like an adolescent sexual longing. Chess is not an easy lay, and Sidney was not strong enough to overcome its resistance. Chess...
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