Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer - RIP

Those of us who were playing chess in 1972 will always be able to remember something from Fischer-Spassky that had some impact on their chess game. Though my timing was such that I played in my first rated tournament in 1972, I don't consider myself a Fischer Boomer. However what I do remember about 1972-1973 was the excitement about chess, and the overwhelmed organizers who had more players then they had space for.

Bobby got totally weird on us, but we'll remember his brilliant chess. These pictures are from November 12, 1971 LIFE magazine. The article was written by Brad Darrach who would go onto writing a book called "Bobby Fischer VS The Rest of the World" about the Fischer-Spassky match. The LIFE article is a very interesting look at Fischer in Buenos Aires after his match with Tigran Petrosian. Some of the photographs that accompanied the article showed another side of Bobby that most people would never have seen.

Not ready for the PBA Tour, but I don't think I would have bet against him to win at bowling.

Bobby with man's best friend. What's not to love about this picture?

I won't forget the horrible things he said after 9-11, but I'd like to remember him more for what he did in 1972. I'd like to think that these pictures show the real Bobby, and that what he became later was an aberration. Thanks for the brilliant games.


happyhippo said...

And thus, another chess great has gone to play chess with the likes of Tal, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Alekhine, Lasker etc.

RIP Bobby Fischer (1943-2008).

Tom Panelas said...


This is a good post. I have mixed feeling today, in part, I think because for all the awful things Fischer thought and said, it always seemed clear that there was a profound mental illness at the root of it. As long a meshugenah like him is still alive, there remains some hope, however faint, of treatment, recovery, and redemption. Of course it would never have happened in his case, I know, and it was probably too late anyway. Maybe we'll never really know what made him squander his great gifts and bring shame to chess after he had brought it so much good will.

Glenn Wilson said...

(Loved your first rated tournament post!)

I don't know if I am a Fischer boomer but Bobby Fischer changed my life. I learned Chess at the age of 9 (1967 or so) from the rules included in a chess set and from reading the encyclopedia. We lived in a rural area and there was no one to play against. The family moved two to three years later and I came across Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess. That might have been 1970. I played in my first USCF tournament probably around 1973 and on my high school team from about 1973-1976. I don't know if these tournaments would have existed or if there would have been a high school chess league without Fischer. He influenced chess here even before winning the WCC.

As Tom said I came to think Bobby suffered from profound mental illness. Sad. But his chess was brilliant and that will always live.

Polly said...

I agree with Tom and you on Bobby's mental health. Who knows if someone had intervened and gotten him help whether things would have been different. Maybe he would not have been as brilliant a player. We can speculate, and say "what if?" It doesn't chnage what he brought to chess.

I feel fortunate that my foray into rated chess did start in the Fischer Boom years. I have fond memories of those tournaments, and some of the goofy things that I did in my pursuit of chess back then. Maybe I'll have to clear out some of the cobwebs in my brain, and write about some of those early tournaments.

Anonymous said...

I was a "chess-crazy," fourteen-year-old boy in 1972 with a USCF rating of about 1,500. Fischer was every American chessplayer's hero as he took on the "Russian chess establishment." Only in retrospect can we realize just how great a triumph Bobby's win in Reykjavik actually was! He didn't just beat Boris Spassky, (a truly fine gentleman) but he clobbered the whole Soviet chess apparatus and for that, despite his later transgressions, he must be considered one of the all time greats. Bobby's decline was a painful and embarassing thing to watch. Those of us who grew up respecting him were terribly disappointed. I often thought in those years that chess was the only thing that kept Fischer from going completely "over the edge." He clung to the game like a drowning man with a life preserver. He had nothing else. Sadly, his life was not a happy one, and you can't help but wonder if there had only been a little more love in his life and a little less suspicion in his psyche what might have he accomplished? In the end there will always be the absolutely brilliant chess. When you look at his victory over Donald Byrne in so-called "Game of the Century," you can only be awed. Rest In Peace, Bobby.