A Psychological Autopsy of Bobby Fischer

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A Psychological Autopsy of Bobby FischerWhat would Bobby Fischer’s life and career have looked like had he received appropriate mental health services throughout his life? And is there a way for society to help troubled, often defiant prodigies become less troubled, without diminishing their genius and eventual contribution to society? These and other issues are discussed in a Miller-McCune research essay. Chess player Bobby Fischer’s tortured life illustrates why promising young talents deserve better support programs, argues Joseph G. Ponterotto in his research essay A Psychological Autopsy of Bobby Fischer.
At a 1958 tournament in Yugoslavia, Mikhail Tal, a legendary attacking grandmaster and one-time world champion, mocked chess prodigy Bobby Fischer for being “cuckoo.” Tal’s taunting may have been a deliberate attempt to rattle Fischer, then just 15 but already a major force in the highly competitive world of high-level chess. But others from that world — including a number of grandmasters who’d spent time with him — thought Fischer not just eccentric, but deeply troubled. At a tournament in Bulgaria four years later, U.S. grandmaster Robert Byrne suggested that Fischer see a psychiatrist, to which Fischer replied that “a psychiatrist ought to pay [me] for the privilege of working on [my] brain.” According to journalist Dylan Loeb McClain, Hungarian-born grandmaster Pal Benko commented, “I am not a psychiatrist, but it was obvious he was not normal. … I told him, ‘You are paranoid,’ and he said that ‘paranoids can be right.’”
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