Fischer wasn't flustered. If anything, his play became stronger. As the week wore on, Spassky began slowly to crack, and on September 1 he resigned.
Fischer's accomplishment cannot be overstated. A brash twenty-nine-year-old high school dropout, armed with little more than a pocket chess set and a dog-eared book documenting Spassky's important games, had single-handedly defeated the Soviet chess juggernaut. Spassky had a wealth of resources at his disposal to help him plot moves, including thirty-five grand masters back in the Soviet Union. Fischer, on the other hand, had two administrative seconds who served essentially as companions, and Bill Lombardy, a grand master, whose role was to help analyze games. However, Fischer did almost all the analysis himself—when he bothered to do anything. "After the games were adjourned, all the Soviets would go back to Spassky's hotel room to plan for the next position," recalls Don Schultz, one of the seconds. "Lombardy said to Fischer, 'That's a difficult position. Let's go back to the hotel and analyze it.' Fischer said, 'What do you mean, analyze? That guy's a fish. Let's go bowling.'"
Fischer returned home to a hero's welcome. In a televised ceremony at New York's City Hall, Mayor John Lindsay presented him with the key to the city. Shelby Lyman recalls, "Here's Bobby in his great moment of triumph. He's resplendent in this beautiful suit. The world is his: he's young, handsome, women adore him, there's all this money if he wants it. And he later said to a reporter, 'The creeps are beginning to gather.' He was referring to press, lawyers, agents—everyone he thought was out to take advantage of him. After that his whole life was about avoiding the creeps."
Fischer didn't in fact get the full hero treatment. "I was never invited to the White House," he said in one of his radio interviews. "They invited that Olympic Russian gymnast—that little Communist, Olga Korbut." In his notorious September 11 interview he elaborated. "Look what I have done for the U.S.," he said. "Nobody has single-handedly done more for the U.S. than me. When I won the world championship, in 1972, the United States had an image of, you know, a football country, a baseball country, but nobody thought of it as an intellectual country. I turned all that around single-handedly, right? But I was useful then because there was the Cold War, right? But now I'm not useful anymore. You see, the Cold War is over and now they want to wipe me out, steal everything I have, and put me in prison."
Following the City Hall ceremony Fischer returned to Pasadena, leaving $5 million worth of unsigned endorsement contracts on his lawyer's desk. It wasn't that he didn't want the extra income; he just couldn't deal with the creeps.
He also stopped playing tournament chess. And in 1975 the World Chess Federation (known by its French acronym, FIDE) stripped him of his world-championship title for failure to defend his crown against the Russian grand master Anatoly Karpov. Such stonewalling was difficult for chess people to fathom, given that Fischer was so much stronger than the competition. The truth was that Bobby Fischer was running scared. "Bobby was always afraid of losing," Arnold Denker says. "I don't know why, but he was. The fear was in him. He said that if he played Karpov, he was going to insist on a long match. After not playing for three years, he was very concerned about how good he would be." Shelby Lyman echoes that assessment. "Hating to lose, and having the myth destroyed," he says, "was a big part of him not playing."