Bobby Fischer

I don’t play chess. Heck, I don’t really understand chess. Still: Bobby Fischer. What a wonderful, strange, tangled, disturbing story. The New York Times obit is a gem, weaving back and forth between the story of the prodigy and overpowering force on one side and the tale of the anti-Semitic whack job on the other. You can’t blame them for not knowing exactly how to play it; the protagonist would take volumes to unravel if you wanted to fight your way through to something like the truth of him. Worth reading if you have a little time: a 1985 Sports Illustrated piece by a writer who went on an obsessive years-long hunt for Fischer. In a sort of wistful denouement, he finds his man.

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2 Replies to “Bobby Fischer”

  1. He’ll be remembered more for his chess than that other stuff. One of our local newspapers published every move of that 1972 World Championship with illustrations. I remember waiting for the paper every day. I play a little chess, Dan, but those guys played something else. My old Chessmaster 3000 had 100 of the greatest games on it. Fischer was featured on at least 20 of them. His chess was imaginative and aggressive almost immediately. They never got old. Most of the other games were defensive and boring taking 25-30 moves setting up defenses before anyone attacked. He’ll join Beethoven and Wagner as brilliant but quite disagreeable artists. He was surely that. He’ll never be forgotten.

  2. I think you’re right that the chess will never be forgotten, even though it’s hard for non-players to understand. But the “other stuff” won’t go away. It’s telling that fellow players were questioning his mental stability when he was still a teenager. When he was about 20, another player told Fischer, seriously, that he should see a psychiatrist; Fischer’s comment was that a psychiatrist should pay him for the privilege of examining him.
    You’re right that the phenomenon of “difficult” geniuses isn’t new. From everything I’ve read, though, Fischer was way out there, especially in his withdrawal from the very stage on which he could express his talent. If Wagner or Beethoven had proceeded the way Fischer did–producing a handful of opuses, say, or one great opera–we’d be saying “Ludwig who? Richard who?” when people mention their names.

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