Despite Bobby Fischer's long absence from the chess arena, many authorities favor his chances.

"I'll take a flyer and say that he'll win pretty convincingly," said Jack Collins, a well-known master and chess teacher who was Fischer's first mentor back in the mid-1950s. "He's playing an older rival, and one he beat before," Mr. Collins noted in a telephone interview from his New York home. "Furthermore, he's probably not as stale as you think. Over the years I've heard that he's kept up with the game."

International Grand Master William Lombardy, who was Fischer's coach and adviser in Iceland in 1972, cautions that "I still have to see the first move," a reference to Fischer's history of walkouts and no-shows. "But if he does play, I think he'll win. I don't see any reason why he shouldn't."

Mr. Lombardy, a former world junior champion and long-time competitor, met Fischer and Spassky over the board on numerous occasions. In a phone interview he played down the importance of the long layoff, saying: "Preparation and natural ability are more important. Fischer should come to the match prepared - and we all know he has tremendous native ability."

"Whatever happens," Lombardy concluded, "I hope he doesn't retire again. Fischer may be controversial, people may disagree with his philosophy or his actions, but everybody loves his chess. He's a great favorite to serious players, casual players - even people who don't play at all. He makes chess go. He's an exciting personality.

"We need Bobby Fischer."

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