Friday, July 16, 2004

Searching for Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer, chess genius, anti-Semite, and all-around wack job, was arrested today in Japan. Here's the link to the story on Sportsline:

If you're not a decrepit old wreck like me, you might not even know Bobby Fischer. He was an enigmatic, brilliant chess player who briefly attained rock star status, something no chess player had ever done before or ever will do again. In his prime, he played chess with stunning originality and an artistry that may never again be approached.
At the peak of his skill, he refused to defend his world championship and dropped out of sight. He's been as reclusive as Greta Garbo for decades, except when he gives rare interviews that mostly consist of paranoid, nonsensical ramblings about Jews. He also has allegedly been playing chess anonymously over the Internet, still whipping grandmasters with shocking ease. Believe it if you want to.

I mention him today for two reasons. The first is a book--Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time. It is an utterly fascinating look at The Match of the Century--the world chess championship between Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavik in 1972. You probably vaguely remember how controversial the match was, but what was going on behind the scenes was pure madness, and this book chronicles it extraordinarily well.

The second reason is that one of the finest movies I've ever seen is Searching for Bobby Fischer, which is nominally about chess but actually about the relationship between fathers and their sons. It is a brilliant, searing film, relatively obscure, and I recommend it highly.

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