18 January 2008

Bobby Fischer 1943-2008

(crossposted from Chess Skills)

Robert J. "Bobby" Fischer was a singularly historic chess player. He remains an icon of unsurpassed chess skill and of the social awkwardness that often afflicts anyone with a single-minded pursuit of a single objective. He died yesterday in Iceland.

When he became a Grandmaster at age 15 in 1958, he was the youngest to achieve that title—a record that stood until 1991 when Judit Polgar achieved the title slightly more than one month younger than Fischer had been. The age of achievement of youngest Grandmaster has fallen frequently in recent years as noted at ChessBase News.

Fischer's battle with Boris Spassky for the World Chess Championship became a minor skirmish in the four-decade long Cold War—a lone American individualist taking on the chess machine of the Soviet Union and winning, winning despite an abysmal start that included a forfeited game due to squabbles about noise and lighting.

After becoming World Champion, Fischer stopped playing tournaments. In 1975, negotiations broke down regarding terms for his title defense and he was stripped of his title, thus facilitating his claim, and that of many of his fans, that he remained the champion. In 1992 he played a rematch with Spassky, winning decisively. His political difficulties with the United States government grew worse because this match violated U.S. economic sanctions against Yugoslavia, where the match was played.

Continue reading at Chess Skills


Edward Carson said...

I have often wondered if we (Americans) created a false hero in Fischer for the purpose of nationalism and democracy; in some ways it is like Rocky IV except it is not. Bobby represented maybe the 1980 hocky team that defeated the Soviets in the semis.

But the reality is that Fischer either was or became a nihilist. His racist anti-Semetic tone is what shaped him after his exile. His story is great, but it will end differently. I wonder what directions historians will take him?

James Stripes said...

Edward, Have a look at Jon
Swift's piece
for a conservative view that deserves attention by historians.

Carson said...

I saw that; he did address my comment here on your blog very well. Thanks.

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