Dead at 64
Mad Genius of Chess
By NM Steve Colding
According to the Canadian Press the most famous and controversial chess-player of our time, Robert James (Bobby) Fischer has died at the age of 64. Mr. Fischer was the only US player to become World Champion at a time where the Soviet Union had dominated chess for decades. The cause of death at the time of this writing is unclear.
Bobby as chess-players lovingly called him became a grandmaster at the age of 14 and US champion a year later. He dominated US events and was considered the best US player for 30 years. He won the World Championship from Boris Spassky in 1972.
Fischer was an uncompromising fighter on and off the chessboard. During the world championship match with Spassky he raised the level of psychological tension to a level very rarely seen in any sporting event. Whether planned or spontaneous he added drama to what the world considered a minor sporting event.
Fischer’s conquering of the championship popularized chess worldwide. People began player from all different parts of society creating what was later to be known as the Fischer Chess Boom.
When the time came for Fischer to defend his title he made a demand then considered unfair (in later years the same demand was met in another world championship) and when the ruling chess body denied his demand he left the organized world of chess forever. Bobby always referred to himself thereafter as the true World Champion.
Bobby was considered a troubled genius who at times was his own worst enemy.
Fischer never compromised and always believed in all his ideas thoroughly. This he carried to a ridiculous extreme. Head and Shoulders shampoo offered him a million dollars to endorse their shampoo and his reply was he didn’t use it.
In 1992 a Yugoslav benefactor arranged a $5 million match with Bobby and Boris Spassky. Bobby called this a World Championship match but Boris Spassky was way past his prime and the chess world although interested did not consider it a real world championship. Fischer won the match and $3.5 million of the purse.
Head and Shoulders shampoo was probably happy at this point that Bobby didn’t endorse their product because at this point he was balding.
Fischer had to ignore a US embargo on Yugoslavia. The US government issued a warrant for his arrest. Fischer then became a vocal critic of the US government to the point of even praising the terror attack on 9/11.
Fischer was a vicious anti-Semite making many vile and inflammatory statements on Pilipino radio. He himself said “I am not anti-Semitic, Arabs are a Semitic people and I am not against them.” Fischer’s mother was Jewish.
Fischer was arrested at a Japanese airport in 2004, where he was accused of trying to leave the country on a revoked passport. After considering his deportation to the U.S., the authorities released him to Iceland in 2005 after the country offered him citizenship.
Robert James Fischer could arguably be the greatest chess genius of the 20th century. He like his predecessor Paul Morphy had a spectacular rise and a sad and long decline. It is a stereotype that says the line between genius and madness is a fine one but sometimes stereotypes are sadly true.
Fischer through his genius led many people to chess. He achieved his dream but at the time when he could have helped himself and the chess world he turned his back on both. We should feel sad because such a genius went so wrong but we should learn the lesson of Bobby Fischer which is unchecked ego is ruinous thing.
Bobby Fischer’s play was said to be a beautiful, clear, precise, and profound. Fischer’s games are the result of deep, thoughtful reflection and preparation. It is just a pity that these traits were present in his thoughts about his fellow human beings. Let us celebrate him as a chess-player and pity him as the man.
Update!!! Bobby's cause of death has been attributed to kidney failure.