18 January 2008

R.I.P. Bobby Fischer

Here's a man gone long before his time. Bobby Fischer, perhaps the most brilliant chess mind to ever walk this earth (and raving antisemitic paranoid nutcase), has passed away at age 64. Although I don't talk about it much, I'm an avid player of the game and in my youth spent many a weekend at tournaments mixing it up with the old guys who would show up on Thursday, sleep in their cars all weekend long, and wear the same ever-rumplier suit each day.

Fischer became a hero in the USA when he defeated Boris Spassky for the world title in 1972, an event that was so much more than a chess match because it happened against the backdrop of the Cold War, just as the 1980 Lake Placid "Miracle on Ice" was so much more than a hockey game. However, Fischer never defended his title, and the title went over to his would-be challenger, Anatoly Karpov, in 1975. Fischer probably would have beaten Karpov, although Karpov is a brilliant tactician who held the title until 1985, when Kasparov -- maybe Fischer's only equal -- unseated him.

The guy was a loon even before that, but after he won the world title, his looniness was on full display, even if he wasn't -- he went into hiding before spending the last several years in Iceland, scene of his historic triumph. It is rumored that he still followed the game and in fact during the last world championship match between Viktor Kramnik and Veselin Topalov he apparently was on chat boards analyzing the games and suggesting improvements for play.

Chess has changed so much since Fischer ruled the roost; computer databases store every game ever recorded, computers regular vanquish their human counterparts, and cheating has become much easier, thanks to these technical improvements (in fact, Topalov's team believed Kramnik was using his frequent bathroom breaks to receive information and analysis from his team).

It's a sad note that Fischer's early triumphs will always be shadowed by his eccentricities and coupled with his antisemitic conspiratorial ravings.

1 comment:

m.a. said...

I was going to write something about bobby fischer, but you did a way better job.

Checkmate to you, Cuff!