Something like this. Names, details, word choice, subject matter — anything could change and probably will. Resemblance to actual events or persons is merely a jumping-off point. Feedback most welcome.
World Chess Champion Viktor Kravchuk, narrowly leading a small tournament field in Copenhagen, picked up a knight to make the 27th move of his fifth-round game and dropped dead of a brain hemorrhage.
The chess world greeted this news with a collective shrug.
Of course the tournament organizers called for an ambulance. That was mostly a formality; the Ukrainian was clearly dead before he hit the table. And a few mainstream American and UK newspapers found space on a slow news day to mention the spectacular way the Grandmaster died, along with vague speculative warnings about the dangers of thinking too hard.
But in the chess world, death by brain hemorrhage was not remarkable. The Cuban prodigy Jose Capablanca, after all, suffered the same fate in 1942. Harry Nelson Pillsbury, one of the few Americans of world class talent – well, Pillsbury actually died of syphilis in 1906, aged 33. Same difference.
The chess world had another and more critical reason to shrug. Kravchuk’s World Champion title had been gathering dust for more than a decade. Championship matches cost money, and chess had no money.
The international federation IDCF was in disarray. The global economic recession meant grants and private sector patronage withered and disappeared. Municipalities and local businesses did fund occasional smaller tourneys like the one in Copenhagen; Kravchuk hand-selected and thrashed a marginal title challenger every few years. Otherwise: No money, no prizes, no championship cycle matches.
Kravchuk died, the title became vacant, and life in chess trudged forward without breaking stride.
But three months later, on July 7th of the same year, an American laundromat chain owner named Robert McCurdy issued a brief announcement via his Welsh-Irish press attaché: McCurdy was purchasing the assets of the bankrupt IDCF. To find Kravchuk’s successor, McCurdy would finance the most comprehensive World Championship Cycle in decades.
And with a top prize of $7 million dollars, the most lucrative in history.
That’s when things really started to come together.