Is There Room for Controversy in Chess?

Is There Room for Controversy in Chess?


Is there room for controversy in chess?


The word leaves a sour taste in some mouths. At best, controversy brings attention, and, at worst, it can leave something utterly destroyed.


Let’s take a quick look into history's most controversial chess player, the mercurial American genius Bobby Fischer.


“I would rather be free in my mind, and be locked up in a prison cell, than to be a coward and not be able to say what I want." – Bobby Fischer, May 24, 1999.


Without a doubt this is how Bobby Fischer lived his life. Even when technology was not nearly as prevalent as it is now, he managed to rise as a superstar and not only because of his obvious talents, but also for his controversial behavior and attitude. His brutal opinions about women as well as his anti-American and anti-Semitic comments, if released today, would certainly be headliners. Even his birth is surrounded by controversy with books published and sold concerning who his father was.

Bobby in his rematch with Spassky after 20 year Isolation

Well after his death, Fischer's personal life and stories are still being shared for entertainment to a public still fascinated by someone who many believe was the greatest chess player who ever lived. So long as the web is alive, Fischer's legacy will be immortalized with countless media sources still posting about his extraordinary but controversial life. Undoubtedly, more will follow.


Was chess popularity and growth hindered at all from Fischer's exposure? Did it grow exponentially from his influence? It’s hard to quantify this and maybe even impossible. However, numbers do not lie. Chess is definitely not dead and even continues to grow rapidly with the rise of the new superstar, Magnus Carlsen.


With media and the world wide web being so commonplace and the emergence of Carlsen, chess is being put under the magnifying glass. DD sports covered the FIDE World Championship match, and 100-200 million people tuned in to follow the match between Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand. Granted, neither of these stars are associated with controversy in any way, but will history remember them with the same degree of intrigue and fascination as many do Fischer?  


Legitimate competition is entertaining by itself, but controversy can certainly keep us on our toes as well. 


What are your thoughts?


- The MC Team.