Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer RIP

I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art—and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) French artist

During the summer of 1972, I really became a Rolling Stones fan with the release of "Exile on Main Street," which was the background music to all our neighborhood chess games. I played every chance I could; Bobby Fischer and his game against Boris Spassky is who I can thank for my interest in the game. With my new iMac computer, I was pleased that a chess game was included.

From the New York Times: Bobby Fischer, the iconoclastic genius who was one of the greatest chess players the world has ever seen, has died, The Associated Press reported Friday. He died on Thursday in a hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland, his spokesman, Gardar Sverrisson, said. He was 64. No cause of death was given.

The world championship match against the elegant Spassky was an unforgettable spectacle, the cold war fought with chess pieces in an out-of-the-way place. Mr. Fischer’s characteristic petulance, loutishness and sense of outrage were the stuff of front page headlines all over the globe. Incensed by the conditions under which the match was to be played — he was particularly offended by the whirr of television cameras in the hall — he lost the first game, then forfeited the second and insisted the remaining games be played in an isolated room the size of a janitor’s closet. There, he roared back from what, in chess, is a sizable deficit, trouncing Mr. Spassky, 12 ½to 8 ½. (In championship chess, a victory is worth one point, a draw a half-point for each player.) In all, Mr. Fischer won 7 games, lost 3 (including the forfeit) and drew 11.

Through July and most of August, the attention of the world was riveted on the Spassky-Fischer match. Americans who didn’t know a Ruy Lopez from a Poisoned Pawn watched a hitherto unknown commentator named Shelby Lyman explain each game on public television. All this was Mr. Fischer’s doing. Bobby Fischer the rebel, the enfant-terrible, the tantrum-thrower, the uncompromising savage of the chess board, had captured the imagination of the world. Because of him, for the first time in the United States the game, with all its arcana and intimations of nerdiness, was cool. And when it was over, he walked away with a winner’s purse of $250,000, a sum that staggered anyone ever associated with chess. When Mr. Spassky won the world championship, his prize was $1,400.

Mr. Fischer, the most powerful American player in history, had renounced his American citizenship and moved to Iceland in 2005.


B2 said...

1. Ah, Bobby -- checkmate (someone had to say it).

2. Seriously, who listens to the Rolling Sotnes while playing chess?

3. I think your chess game can work on voice command.

4. One teeny mention at the bottom of his renounced citizenship hardly seems enough, given the controversial nature of his later years...

The Misanthrope said...

B2, I did a bit of rearranging of the article. I was more interested in the '72 match that created a chess craze.

Jack said...

He was a hell of a player, nuts, but a hell of a player.

The Misanthrope said...

Hey Jack, yes he was on both counts.