May 24, 2004
Book Review: Bobby Fischer Goes to War
Posted by Gordon Smith

coverOn the trip home from China, I read this story of the Cold War chess match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. The central events in the story took place in 1972. I was nine years old. Nixon was in the middle of trouncing McGovern -- the Watergate story had not yet unfolded -- and Vietnam was the focus of American political discussion. In the middle of all of that, I remember hearing about Bobby Fischer, and having warm feelings toward him. He was, after all, an American doing battle against the Soviets ... at least that is the way I viewed it. That is the way Bobby Fischer wanted me to view it.

This book restored some of my memories of those times, and destroyed any lingering fond feelings that I had toward Bobby Fischer. The authors have done an exhaustive job researching the chess match of the century, speaking to many (other than Fischer himself) who had a hand in the match, including Spassky, and researching both FBI and KGB documents. Their descriptions of Fischer's behavior seem almost too bizarre to be credible, but Fischer's own record (check out this website [Warning! This site contains lots of anti-Semitic material. Click at your own risk.], which is operated by Bobby Fischer or this story in The Atlantic) suggests that he is a deeply troubled individual whose brilliance at chess cannot redeem him.

By the way, if you are into the chess, check out this site, which allows you to see every move in every game of the Fischer-Spassky match.

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