Bill Lombardy

An End to a Chess Grandmaster’s Eviction Battle Could Be Near
The Appraisal

William J. Lombardy was in the midst of explaining the virtue of the Philidor Defense when a knock came at the door of his sixth-floor apartment in Stuyvesant Town on May 27, 2014. A grandmaster and a mentor to Bobby Fischer, Mr. Lombardy excused himself to answer the door.

He walked past a few tarnished and taped-together trophies, rough abstract sketches of chess pieces, a cross from his years in the seminary and old cigar boxes stacked nearly everywhere. When Mr. Lombardy opened the door, a man on the other side handed him a package, which he passed to his student, David Siudzinski. Inside were eviction papers stating that Mr. Lombardy was $27,124.82 behind on rent.

“If I owed that much, I’d have been out on my rear end long ago,” Mr. Lombardy, 78, said last week at his apartment. He maintains he always paid his rent, if not always on time. Stuyvesant Town’s records, which Mr. Lombardy calls a fraud, suggest otherwise.

Since the 80-acre redbrick apartment complex north of the East Village, was sold a decade ago, its management has been accused of employingtough tactics with tenants. Yet Mr. Lombardy was afforded many openings by his landlord and the courts to prevent his eviction, according to records. His responses have only prolonged the case. For one of the country’s greatest chess players, it is a familiar approach.

“His abilities were native, with a natural talent,” said Anthony Saidi, a fellow grandmaster who played with Mr. Lombardy on the top American teams in the 1950s and ’60s. “He always seemed to drag his matches out so long, getting out of jams until his opponent couldn’t.”

In housing court, such maneuvers have proved less successful, and Mr. Lombardy could be evicted any day now.

The child of an Italian father and Polish mother, Mr. Lombardy grew up in Hunts Point in the South Bronx, where another boy in the neighborhood taught him to play chess at 9. He soon began frequenting chess clubs across the city, including a 1954 visit to the Manhattan Chess Club where Mr. Lombardy claimed to have discovered an 11-year-old Robert James Fischer.

In 1957, Mr. Lombardy won the World Junior title with a perfect score. Three years later, he became a grandmaster and had a decisive victory over Boris Spassky, the future world champion, at the 1960 World Team Championships. This gave the Americans their first and only team victory over the Soviets and helped cement a rivalry to challenge the one in space. This culminated with Mr. Fischer’s win over Mr. Spassky in 1972, when Mr. Lombardy served as his old friend’s second, the equivalent of a cornerman in boxing.

“It’s kind of like Mozart and Salieri,” said Frank Brady, former president of the Marshall Chess Club in Greenwich Village and an occasional contender to both men. “Lombardy might have been the greatest of his generation if Bobby hadn’t come along.”

Mr. Lombardy entered the seminary in 1961, which some feel distracted from his play. After ordination, he worked in the Bronx but left in 1973, complaining of unscrupulous pastors who objected to his playing chess.

Full article here.

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