The Legacy of Bobby Fischer

NM cldng
Jan 19, 2008, 12:00 AM |
19 | Chess Players

   

                     The Legacy of Bobby Fischer

                      by NM Steven Colding

 Robert James Fischer was perhaps the greatest chess-player of the 20th century. If Bobby was not the greatest he achieved much more than any chess-player could have. He conquered the Soviet chess machine single-handedly and taught us all a valuable lesson about the will of the individual against the will of the state.I wonder how the other world champions  of his age and today would have faired against the odds that he face? I suspect not very well.

    Bobby had for all of his life to struggle. He was born into a country that thought his art was irrelevant, his sport a useless diversion, even a waste of time. From the very beginning Bobby and his mother had to beg borrow and steal for him to perfect his craft. How many of us could have ever faced the challenges and conquer them like the Fischers's had. They developed wills of iron, they had to or perish.

     I did not know Bobby personally but he inspired me to start to play chess. When he won the match against Spassky I had no idea of how great a feat it actually was. I had no idea of how powerful the Soviet Chess machine was. Time has shown me that for him to win in such conditions his character was the stuff of legends. The scope of his achievement fills me with awe. The beauty of his games feeds my soul.

     Yes, Fischer had to fight by himself with very little help from anyone according to him. Was this true? To a certain extent it was but what about his teacher Mr John Collins, or about all of the US players who gave up their positions so he could play in the Interzonal? Or how about that millionaire who doubled the prize fund for the world championship? Yes, Fischer struggled by himself, mostly, but he was not completely alone

     When Bobby won the world championship in '72 he showed the world not only his value but the value of chess. People began to play it everywhere, chess matches were televised. grandmasters became celebrities. Fischer himself was offered countless endorsements...but what did he do?

     He turned his back on chess. He turned his back on all of those people who were still struggling in chess. The masters, the teachers, even the average fan. Fischer could have solved the problem of chess being taken seriously in American society in one fell swoop. Chess would be a very different sport if Bobby would have just for a second thought about the wellfare of others.

    In a recent tourney I saw this young I.M play some magnificent chess beating a couple of GM's and drawing a brilliant game against another. His reward for his creative achievement was not even enough to pay his expenses. G.M.'s play in tourneys that offer only a couple of hundred dollars for first place. Chess is not even on par with bowling.

     This is not all of Bobby's fault that the tournament directors and organizers of chess events and head of chess organizations are all about their own self interest and not the benefit of chess. Maybe they are incompetent or maybe they think that chess is doing well.

     Think of what would have happened if Mr.Fischer would have instead of going into seclusion started giving simuls away to children who might have been inspired? Suppose he did all he could do to make chess a true profession? Suppose he thought of others before himself?

     Yet he gave us an example to follow, one of selfish self interest which is only too prevalent in the chess world today. Fischer never opened a letter unless it was accompanied with a fee, we can't blame him afterall he thought everyone was out to get him. Yet because he did not take these chances he could never have tasted a victory that would have made Reykjavik seem miniscule in comparison.

     I know that people will say well Fischer didn't owe anything to anybody. Well what about himself? Sure he has the games as Mozart has his music but could he have had so much more? His legasy could have been service, humanity, and love and in his not seeing that variation he has made his greatest blunder.

    Mr Fischer was a damaged human being. he was obviously hurt by people but he overcame it all. He overcame everything, everything except himself.   I know this because at the very moment he could have had it all he faltered.

     Chess is an individual sport, with reliance on individual achievement yet for all its power and beauty what have individuals done to make chess at least on par with the other sports or arts? Is it because we think too much of ourselves or too little of other?

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