Your move, Mr Spassky
January 18, 2008 4:05 AM   Subscribe

Bobby Fischer, former World Champion chess player, dead at 64.
posted by JaredSeth (137 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
endgame

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posted by exlotuseater at 4:07 AM on January 18, 2008


I know it's light, but he's been discussed to death on here.

I am so sorry.
posted by JaredSeth at 4:08 AM on January 18, 2008


check-mate

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posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 4:09 AM on January 18, 2008


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He left us too late.
posted by ibmcginty at 4:14 AM on January 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


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posted by jperkins at 4:22 AM on January 18, 2008


Found him.

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posted by crossoverman at 4:23 AM on January 18, 2008


Dead?
How can they tell?
posted by Dizzy at 4:29 AM on January 18, 2008


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posted by Skorgu at 4:30 AM on January 18, 2008


So long, funnyman...
posted by Senator at 4:33 AM on January 18, 2008


+!
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 4:34 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Filthy Murdering Intergalactic Zionist Conspiritors!
posted by Sparx at 4:36 AM on January 18, 2008


Fischer: Fame to Fallout by Al Lawrence from Chess Life, September 2007 reviews Fischer's life, accomplishments and troubles, as well as his impact on American chess.
posted by notmtwain at 4:41 AM on January 18, 2008


Bd4
posted by Jimbob at 4:43 AM on January 18, 2008


What a great mind lies here o'erthrown.
posted by rdone at 4:44 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


International Grandmaster Susan Polgar, women's world champion from 1996-1999, recently reviewed the key games of the 1972 match: Polgar's Pick: 1972 Revisited.
posted by notmtwain at 4:48 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by Thorzdad at 4:49 AM on January 18, 2008


chess pun
posted by DU at 4:55 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by effwerd at 4:56 AM on January 18, 2008


Your move.

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posted by jonp72 at 4:57 AM on January 18, 2008


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posted by DreamerFi at 5:01 AM on January 18, 2008


I have to admit, as I have before on Metafilter, at being completely dreadful at chess.

Which gives me extra respect for those who have mastered it.
9812;
posted by Jimbob at 5:02 AM on January 18, 2008


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posted by ZachsMind at 5:02 AM on January 18, 2008


Damn you, Unicode!
posted by Jimbob at 5:02 AM on January 18, 2008


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(now cuing up Shine On You Crazy Diamond)
posted by Ber at 5:03 AM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


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posted by farishta at 5:04 AM on January 18, 2008


An extraordinary character in the chess world, all the way to the end. In the late 60's and early 70's he was the Michael Jordan of the chess world. His antics, arrogance and bravado brought chess into the popular imagination.

So interesting that, in his own opinion, he lived a bifurcated life, with a rational chess component and an enthusiastic religious component. Wonder what was going on with his brain.

My older brother played him once.

It seems strange that he was "wanted". The 61-year-old is wanted in the United States for attending a 1992 chess match in the former Yugoslavia in violation of international sanctions. Nine months detention.

It's insane, imo, for a guy whose only previous 'criminal' life was playing chess to be roughly treated in an airport prison.

Fischer has complained of rough treatment during his detention at Narita airport, and earlier in the month said he has not seen the sun or been allowed to exercise since he was detained.

He certainly had haters and I guess he did his share of hating too.

A strange boy with an IQ of 181, he grew up in small rooms, studying chess with the radio on, refusing to wear anything but corduroy pants and striped sport shirts, developing strange ideas about people -- particularly those he loved to call "Commies" and "world Jewry." He shares a small difference -- half-Jewishness -- with two Commie world champions, Spassky and the current champion, Garry Kasparov (born Garik Weinstein), whom Fischer has accused of "pre-arranging" the games of his matches with Anatoly Karpov. Fischer's father, a German-born physicist (who may have worked for the Wehrmacht in the early stages of the war), and his phenomenally strong-willed, Swiss-born Jewish mother, Regina, separated bitterly after news of the Holocaust in 1945, when Bobby was two. The father is said to have moved to South America. Regina, Bobby, and his older sister, Joan, lived in various parts of the Southwest before settling in a fourth-floor walk-up in Brooklyn, when he was six. The following year, Joan bought him a cheap chess set at the candy store on the first floor of the apartment building. He became freakishly single-minded. "All I want to do is play chess," he announced. "Ever."

Fischer-Spassky video at the height of his fame in 1972 and a more relaxed interview with him.

Should there be any mind energy left after the body dies, may his find peaceful resonance in the universe.
posted by nickyskye at 5:04 AM on January 18, 2008 [12 favorites]


Needs the "batshitinsane" tag.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:08 AM on January 18, 2008


#
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:13 AM on January 18, 2008


dead at 64

Guess we won't be sending him a valentine. Birthday greetings. Bottle of wine.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:13 AM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


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Read 'Bobby Fischer goes to War' a while back - good biography...
posted by mattr at 5:25 AM on January 18, 2008


Pepsi Deep Blue.
posted by ColdChef at 5:25 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seeing Fischer after he moved to Iceland, walking around Reykjavik was strange. I mean, he couldn't have looked more stereotypically insane, right down to the stare.

Also, oddly enough, he died on the same day that a particular bit of immigration legislation that affected my life was struck from the law books. I got married in Iceland at 23 to an American who was 22. Just before we got married a law was passed that said that people 24 or younger couldn't get residency permits based on marriage. Having the Icelandic parliament grant Fischer citizenship at around the same time my wife was under threat of deportation was a bitter juxtaposition.
posted by Kattullus at 5:43 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]



posted by Tenuki at 5:44 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


One year for each square on the chess board. I think he planned it this way. From the beginning.
posted by pracowity at 5:44 AM on January 18, 2008 [24 favorites]


International Grandmaster Susan Polgar, women's world champion from 1996-1999, recently reviewed the key games of the 1972 match: Polgar's Pick: 1972 Revisited.

Is there a place where I can see each move laid out on a board so as to follow what's going on? I'm awful at reading notation.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:51 AM on January 18, 2008


It was the Jews. Definitely.
posted by LarryC at 5:58 AM on January 18, 2008


Great link, notmtwain. Thanks for that.
posted by GrammarMoses at 6:04 AM on January 18, 2008


Well, damn. No one should disparage the guy's genius. Or his madness.

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posted by graymouser at 6:05 AM on January 18, 2008


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posted by gcbv at 6:06 AM on January 18, 2008


The Icelandic media are reporting that he died of a kidney failure and that he refused treatment for a disease he suffered from because he didn't have faith in western medicine. That said, he spent most of October and November in a hospital. Also, his fiancee was in Japan at the time of his death.
posted by Kattullus at 6:15 AM on January 18, 2008



I have a theory his anti-semitism and paranoia of a vast Zionist conspiracy stemmed from getting trounced by a five year-old in Chinese Checkers.

I probably should have just posted a "."
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:17 AM on January 18, 2008


Reaper takes King
posted by Poolio at 6:23 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


shakespeherian: Fischer-Spassky games from 1972.
posted by hayeled at 6:23 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


64?
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:23 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


When the game is over, the king and the pawn go in the same box.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:26 AM on January 18, 2008 [22 favorites]


??
posted by greytape at 6:29 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read an interview with Bobby Fisher and he forwarded an idea that, in my opinion, could save professional sports. He said that at the grandmaster level, everyone knew "the next move" and within 4 moves, knew whether the game was a draw. He said that chess had become formulaic, without any innovation. His recommendation? Blind draw chess. All of one player's pieces would be placed, randomly, in their back two rows. This would do two things: make the players formulate defense positions by advancing pieces and make it much harder to "know" what the next move would be.

If you were to do this with any professional sport, you would turn an over priced specialist into an appropriately paid generalist. For example: a team would blindly select 9 players to be on the field, each in a specific position. Would you gamble and throw Carlos Santana in the mix, knowing that he might play Center Field? Maybe. But hopefully, you would begin to develop players that could do more than specialize in one thing. A player who could throw a 87 mph fastball, hit for average and had great speed would be prized over all players because they could fill 50% of the skill positions.

I digress though.

A madman and genius who changed my way of thinking.

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posted by zerobyproxy at 6:32 AM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


It seems strange that he was "wanted". The 61-year-old is wanted in the United States for attending a 1992 chess match in the former Yugoslavia in violation of international sanctions. Nine months detention.

It's insane, imo, for a guy whose only previous 'criminal' life was playing chess to be roughly treated in an airport prison.
What I do in these situations is I imagine it as an 'Oz' pre-prison why-did-this-guy-end-up-here flashback.

Shaky camera. Warped colors. Bearded guy moves a rook two spaces... ominously.

Then I fully grasp its true ludicrosity.
posted by Anything at 6:33 AM on January 18, 2008


Yeah, it was pretty weird seeing Fischer around Reykjavík. I've bumped into him a couple of times, and like Kattullus said, he certainly didn't look like a chess world champion with an astronomical IQ.

Is anybody playing Fischer Random Chess? It would be fun to try it.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 6:35 AM on January 18, 2008


Obligatory plug for one of the most overlooked movies of the 1990s: Searching for Bobby Fischer. With a cast of Ben Kingsley, Laurence Fishburne & Joan Allen, you know it has to be good — and it is. You need know nothing about chess to enjoy it. One of my all time favs.
posted by spock at 6:39 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fischer Random Chess is apparently played here, but I haven't tried it.
I'm not yet to the point that the standard setup bores me.

Always wondered about the IQ of 18x (Higher than Marilyn??)
Can that be verified, or is it an urban myth?

Favorite quote- 'School is for dumb-bunnies.'
posted by MtDewd at 6:40 AM on January 18, 2008


he certainly didn't look like *my preconceived idea of* a chess world champion with an astronomical IQ.

There, fixed that for you.
posted by spock at 6:41 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


endgame

Endgame.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:42 AM on January 18, 2008


zerobyproxy:

Actually in Fischer Random Chess the pawns stay on the second line, the king must be between the rooks, and the bishops must be on opposite colors.

And Carlos Santana ain't playing in any position. Do you mean Johann Santana?
posted by argybarg at 6:47 AM on January 18, 2008


Brain disengagement complete. Well, this is what happens when you post after staying awake most of the night (2 week old baby). I will go to sleep now. But just imagine Carlos Santana on the mound....
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:52 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]




it's a shame he didn't have a happier life
posted by pyramid termite at 7:01 AM on January 18, 2008


I'd love to watch a sport that featured a musician position. "But the big news is that Santana really dominated them with his new riff, and held them to just four points in the third quarter."
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:03 AM on January 18, 2008



I think it's an interesting development that two of the greatest chess players in history Fischer and Kasparov both became persona non gratas in their respective countries. Makes me respect the game even more...

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posted by any major dude at 7:03 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


I liked his books a lot.

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posted by mattbucher at 7:11 AM on January 18, 2008


KING ME!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:19 AM on January 18, 2008


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posted by jquinby at 7:31 AM on January 18, 2008


Why are people dropping periods for a well-known racist?
posted by about_time at 7:46 AM on January 18, 2008


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As a chess player, he was obviously a great inspiration for me.
posted by gyc at 7:48 AM on January 18, 2008


Why are people dropping periods for a well-known racist?

Picasso was a real son of a bitch too, as I understand it, but he was also Picasso. Bobby Fisher was a giant, cuckoo-nutso warts and all.

I think it's an interesting development that two of the greatest chess players in history Fischer and Kasparov both became persona non gratas in their respective countries.

I would, in fact, be a recognized master of the game myself, but I love America too damn much.
posted by cortex at 7:55 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by roll truck roll at 7:56 AM on January 18, 2008


There was no immediate word on the cause of death.

No doubt because the Jewish media conspiracy has already covered up the murder.
posted by Nelson at 7:59 AM on January 18, 2008


Why are people dropping periods for a well-known racist?

Because he wasn't only a racist. Like most humans, there was much good and much evil within Fischer.

??
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:01 AM on January 18, 2008


At a time when the Russians were the undisputed chess champions and the cold war was at its height, he gave Americans pride and brought new excitement and inspiration to the chess world. This helped many of us to want to learn and study the game.

He was a hero to many (as a chess player, not for his personality and politics).

Kasparov is today's chess hero, for his chess playing and for his personality and politics.

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posted by eye of newt at 8:06 AM on January 18, 2008


I had just purchased a commemorative chess set based on the Reykyavik games after Christmas and was studying his matches with Spassky.

RIP Bobby.
posted by cazoo at 8:12 AM on January 18, 2008


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posted by Smart Dalek at 8:13 AM on January 18, 2008


Bobby Fischer's problem was that the only thing ever knew how to do was play chess.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 8:15 AM on January 18, 2008


♔⤵
posted by panamax at 8:20 AM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


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posted by NucleophilicAttack at 8:21 AM on January 18, 2008


Quite sad, and kind of pathetic. He was clearly very talented, but so, so troubled. His childhood comment, All I want to do is play chess. Ever. speaks to a deep kind of disturbance, seeking a sense of safety and order in the game, which ultimately fails to provide it, so that at the end of his life he is criticising chess as "mental masturbation".

Gives a strong picture for me of the perils of giftedness and intellect, that no matter how well you can do certain things, that you need healthy community around you, and people who care about you as a person, not just an athelete/singer/politician/successful trade of choice.
posted by bullitt 5 at 8:32 AM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


Aah, Fischer.

*stares into middle distance*
posted by motty at 8:36 AM on January 18, 2008


Why are people dropping periods for a well-known racist?

People are complex. Stop living so simply.
posted by xmutex at 8:39 AM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


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That said, I prefer Go.
posted by spec80 at 8:53 AM on January 18, 2008


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posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:55 AM on January 18, 2008


Because he wasn't only a racist. Like most humans, there was much good and much evil within Fischer.

Agreed. It'd be good if people would remember this kind of thing in other "obit" threads.
posted by the other side at 9:04 AM on January 18, 2008


with a specially designed, hollowed-out aluminum guitar, carlos santana could be awesome at the plate.
posted by bruce at 9:08 AM on January 18, 2008


This is a prime example why I would rather be the undisputed Scrabble champ. More squares on the board means you get to live to 225.
posted by bigskyguy at 9:17 AM on January 18, 2008


Do you know who else was a chess master?

(Actually, probably not. Not nearly Jewish enough.)
posted by Skeptic at 9:19 AM on January 18, 2008


Why are people dropping periods for a well-known racist?

I think some people understand the profound mental illness affecting Fischer. It's clear that he was not in control of himself. The better question is why some would call a clearly incapacitated man evil.
posted by bigskyguy at 9:21 AM on January 18, 2008


he sweetest moment comes at last - The waitings over,
in shock they stare and cue fanfare.
When Bobby Fischer's plane - plane plane - touches the ground -
plane plane he'll take those Russian boys and play them out of town.

The sweetest moment comes at least - the waitings over,
in shock they stare and cue fanfare.
When Bobby Fischer's plane - plane plane - touches the ground -
plane plane he'll take those Russian boys and play them out of town,
playing for blood as grandmasters should.


-Cue Fanfare by Prefab Sprout.

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posted by Skygazer at 9:38 AM on January 18, 2008


I've always wondered, in my now distant, chess-obsessed youth, what would have happened in a speed chess game between pre-meltdown Fischer and young Morphy, one game wins all. I like to believe that such beauty would never come out of a computer, no matter how powerful.

Fischer's borderline-insane, cartoonish antisemitism -- maybe only a symptom, one hopes, of the undeniable larger mental issues that plagued him these last 35 years and destroyed his career and life -- is indeed a stain, an extremely ugly one, as of now, on his legacy, and it'd be unfair to let someone off the hook on ethical grounds on the basis of their intellectual greatness, but I'm hoping that since, thankfully, Fischer never had the power to turn his obscene rants into actual danger for the Jewish people -- they only remained the trash talk of a possibly insane man -- I'm hoping that in a few years or decades what is left of his legacy is just the blinding beauty of his game. And his inexcusable hatred gets demoted to just a very ugly and sad footnote.

Sometimes I open his books, and I go back to them even if I don't really play anymore, just to admire the genius of Fischer's game the way one would leaf through the score of Così Fan Tutte and hear the music in one's head.

and thanks to the wonderful nickyskye for the usual wonderful linkage.
posted by matteo at 9:43 AM on January 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


“Always wondered about the IQ of 18x (Higher than Marilyn??)
Can that be verified, or is it an urban myth?”

IQ’s under 300 don’t impress me.

“Picasso was a real son of a bitch too, as I understand it, but he was also Picasso”

The chess player was a whole other guy than the Jew hating psycho. The chess player I respect, as much as any master, but he stopped playing chess. Far as I’m concerned he died a long time ago and this other guy took over what was an otherwise promising life.

(That story from ‘The Paper’ - is based on a real anecdote, dunno if the story itself is true, but it was circulated before the film. - Bunch of journalists in a posh resturant ordering wine and food like kings and when the bill comes it’s mucho thousands, so they’re all pointing the finger at each other and a little old guy at a table nearby gestures for the bill, takes a look at it, scribbles something on it, signs it, and takes care of the check. It’s Picasso. Say what you will about him, he was a class act. But the point of that story in the film - and a valuable point here - is that some folks might travel in those circles, but they are not OF those circles.
But the reverse is also true - artists and geniuses and people of great talent and wealth might be in high orbits, but they remain tethered to the Earth lest they become madmen. And for Picasso, that act was a re-assertion of his connection to the world. Fisher cut *himself* loose. And not only did he thus leave the world of genius and enter the realm of the mad, he stopped producing. Coleridge might have been a nut, but at least he kept writing, kept sending signals to the Earth. Fisher was just gone, and worse, by design. When your voyage of self becomes more important than your form, you are no longer a master (at least according to a little Korean man who used to kick the hell out of me every once in a while))
posted by Smedleyman at 9:44 AM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


posted by cortex Picasso was a real son of a bitch too, as I understand it, but he was also Picasso.

Yes, but Pablo Picasso was never called an "asshole".
posted by fandango_matt at 10:03 AM on January 18, 2008 [8 favorites]


Chess? Is that the game with the little horsies?

The only thing I know about Bobby Fischer is that when my older brother and I were kids and would play chess he had a move he called "BOBBY FUCKING FISCHER!".

Notice the all caps? Okay.

By chess I mean he would show me a rough approximation of how some of the chess pieces moved. The rest we made up.

Each piece had a sound effect. The pawns screamed in pain. The knights made horse noises, of course. The Bishops chanted "Domini Padre Sanctos Christus Omni..." The castles (rooks - we didn't know that is what they were called) made sounds, according to my brother, like "the First SS Panzer Division crashing through the forests of the Ardennes, smashing Patton's fleeing 99th infantry."

Btw. Did I mention that some pawns were also "Para-troopers"? IE; my brother would, at random, just drop them into the middle of the board, yelling "Geronimo!" If they landed base down they stuck the landing and lived.

Any way, his coup de grace was of course the use of the Queen. In his approximation the queen was a suicide commando type of piece.

The game was over when he would jump up, grab his queen, and hurl it at the board smashing over all your pieces and scream...

"BOBBY FUCKING FISCHER!"
posted by tkchrist at 10:10 AM on January 18, 2008 [13 favorites]


Yes, but Pablo Picasso was never called an "asshole".

Being only 5'3 has its advantages.
posted by maxwelton at 10:19 AM on January 18, 2008


"Why are people dropping periods for a well-known racist?"

My first instinct was to say something snarky. While I have been known to be petty in grave threads like this, this time it didn't seem worth the effort. So I just left a dot. Heck, it's never worth the effort. It's a grave thread. Being snarky in a grave thread is pretty much always petty, not that it's stopped me before.

I disagreed with Fischer on a lot of stuff, but I was never particularly mad. His crazy rants and ravings were more entertaining than inciting. I reacted towards Fischer the way I hope most people react to me when I make crazy rants and ravings. It's all in good clean wholesome family kinda fun.

I didn't take it personally when he renounced his American citizenship. Part of freedom means having the right to opt to walk away from it - or rather, define for oneself what it truly means to be free.

It's one of those "I disagree with what you have to say but would fight to the death for your right to say it" kinda things. I'll probably leave a dot the day Mel Gibson dies too. Just sayin'.

When I get to the AfterLife, I will find it mildly amusing when I learn that heaven found him too bad to stay, and hell found him too good. Wherever he ends up, I'll look into making that my holiday home.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:34 AM on January 18, 2008


So long, potzer. Better luck next time.
posted by Kinbote at 10:36 AM on January 18, 2008


His crazy rants and ravings were more entertaining than inciting.

Sorry, can't go there with you. He pretty much said that the folks who died in the towers on 9-11 had it coming. Not to mention the persistent corrosive antisemitism. He betrayed his talent , his admirers, and the game about as completely as one can, all in the service of an ever-metasticizing cancer of the ego. He's the only childhood hero of mine that I would cross the street to avoid.
posted by Kinbote at 10:46 AM on January 18, 2008


And yeah, I still had a god cry about it this morning. Asshole.
posted by Kinbote at 10:47 AM on January 18, 2008


Night takes king.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:56 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


His crazy rants and ravings were more entertaining than inciting.

Uh, he said that all Jews should be arrested and every synagogue should be demolished. I don't know about you, but to me thats not really very entertaining.

Personally, I think we should treat Fischer as if David Duke suddenly became an incredible chess savant. Hey, it's great that he was so smart and talented -- but he was also an insane racist asshole, so good riddance.
posted by Avenger at 10:59 AM on January 18, 2008


If David Duke was a chess savant, then there would be one thing I would respect about him, which is one greater then it is now.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2008


People are complex. Stop living so simply.

It's a simple and straightforward decision to not applaud the accomplishments of racists. It's not like he helped orphans but was also a racist and it's a murky issue. He hated people for their ancestry and beliefs. He was hard to beat at tic-tac-toe, checkers, and chess, and he used the fame from those skills as a soap box for spreading hatred.
posted by about_time at 11:33 AM on January 18, 2008


For all those missing the reference to pablo picasso.
posted by about_time at 11:35 AM on January 18, 2008


And Carlos Santana ain't playing in any position.

Carlos Santana, the baseball player, plays in the minors.

On Topic: "This is all wonderful news." --Bobby Fischer, after the 9/11 attacks.

I felt sorry for Bobby Fischer. A formerly brilliant man consumed by his own brain.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:52 AM on January 18, 2008


It's a simple and straightforward decision to not applaud the accomplishments of racists.

Oh fer fucks sake. He was less of a racist asshole than he was extremely mentally ill.

It's like that dude with the cardboard sign outside of Nordstrom downtown. He screams about 9/11, fluoridation, invisible bugs on his flesh and the exterminating the Jews. He is what we call... nuts.

Have some fucking compassion.
posted by tkchrist at 12:05 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Goodbye you Jew hating nut.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2008


I would just like to know if the things that made him the greatest chessmaster also eventually made him crazy.

clearly you don't have to be crazy to be a grandmaster. but the obsessiveness and focus that made him a great player, how would those qualities affect the rest of a person's life?
posted by cogneuro at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2008


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posted by schyler523 at 1:34 PM on January 18, 2008


He castled, but still lost the game.
(Shoulda challenged Death to a match.)
posted by not_on_display at 1:51 PM on January 18, 2008


cogneuro - if anything Fischer probably had to struggle against his mental illness. Clearly, he failed. Shame really. But his genius doesn’t excuse that. There were other chess geniuses - by all accounts Capablanca was a decent guy, and hell, he was a diplomat. And his chess is sometimes judged to be stronger than Fischer’s (whom he influenced).
Lasker was a mathematician and philosoper and was chummy with Einstein. Kasparov might be a little eccentric, but he’s risked (& is risking) his life in opposing Putin’s autocracy, which is laudable. Fischer himself rated Paul Morphy pretty highly chess-wise, and Morphy’s ethics were pretty solid (refused to serve in the Confederate army, opposed secession, opposed the war) and he actually tried to work dispite being filthy rich.

I’m remembering the Moliere quote:
“What a terrible thing to be a great lord, yet a wicked man.”
posted by Smedleyman at 1:56 PM on January 18, 2008


but the obsessiveness and focus that made him a great player, how would those qualities affect the rest of a person's life?

Single focused genius's always seem to be a bit kooky, don't they. I wonder if they are undiagnosed highly functioning autistics. I knew a kid in college who was singularly obsessed with some niche aspect of particle physics and neglected almost everything else that college life provides. The whole thing was way over my head. But he was amazing in that he wanted it to mean something to you as well. So he went to great animated lengths to explain it all. I used to try and fix him up on dates and these poor gals would sit and smile politely never getting a word in edgewise while he did his Mr. Wizard schtick completely unaware of why they were there for or what the concept of what a date was about.
posted by tkchrist at 1:57 PM on January 18, 2008


Seconding your opinion tkchrist.

Without knowing more about Bobby Fischer's story, enough details of his close relationships, I can make an educated guess and speculate he lived with Asperger's Syndrome. There were harsh realities in his childhood too, growing up without a father and a Jewish mother in WWII, surviving hand to mouth. Single parenting in those post-war days was extra difficult and not socially accepted.

Parenting a child with Asperger's Syndrome is not easy, even for those who have studied the it. Those days were not kind to people who were 'different' in any way. There was a doctor who put ice picks into children's brains to lobotomize them for "misbehaving". Joe Kennedy (father of JFK) had his daughter, Rosemary, lobotomized for being dyslexic and occasionally moody.

Little was known then about high functioning autists, who typically (76%) have "an advanced chess aptitude", specialized math, music or game skills. People with Asperger's usually know they have obstacles to work on when it comes to communicating with"neurotypicals". In fact, Asperger's is recognizable by the lack of social skills.

It wasn’t until 1994 that the American Psychological Association recognized AS as a pervasive developmental disorder. So imagine what it must have been like for this Aspergered chess genius over half a century ago, he was completely misunderstood, globally ridiculed at the same time as he was pedestalized. Not an easy combo for anybody to live with.

I was prompted by memail to comment further on my remark upthread that my brother once played with Bobby Fischer. My older half-brother is, what I would call, a brainiac. On his father's side, he has a bunch of brainy ancestors and when he was a kid he was one of those child chess geniuses who played in championship matches. I knew that. What I didn't know and that he told me the last time we lunched together, was that he played Bobby Fischer, won a game and lost two, which had me sitting across from him listening in awe with my soup spoon in mid-air, just amazed. And that's all I know.
posted by nickyskye at 2:08 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think that his (later justified) paranoia that Soviet chess players were colluding against him during chess tournaments might also have contributed to his later full-blown paranoia against Jews/U.S. Government/etc.
posted by gyc at 2:15 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:19 PM on January 18, 2008


The chess player was a whole other guy than the Jewself hating psycho.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:38 PM on January 18, 2008


Interesting how some people seem to be unable to grapple with the concept of mental illness and fall back on good old "eeeeeeeevil!" Look, here's an easy test to distinguish who you should consider feeling sorry for and who you can probably just condemn: did they hurt anybody (and I don't mean hurt feelings) or just shoot off their mouth? Fischer did the latter. I suggest everyone read matteo's compassionate and brilliantly written comment above until they get it.

I also suggest anyone interested in the conjunction of chess and madness, or just in great writing, read Nabokov's The Defense. (Nabokov was a fine player himself.)
posted by languagehat at 3:35 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the "good riddance" folks really aren't looking at Fischer in a realistic light. He was a genius, and he had a long moment in the spotlight. Since then, the media's let him be a bit of a spectacle as a man who went from the top of the international chess world to paranoid ravings and being wanted in the United States on a ridiculous charge, exiled in Japan and then Iceland. Still a genius. And I'll maintain that you still ought to respect the talent and mourn what was pretty clearly a case of undiagnosed mental illness.
posted by graymouser at 3:50 PM on January 18, 2008


Even asperger's doesn't excuse what he said, but being batsh*t crazy probably does.

Open chess diary 281-300

Even the paranoid are sometimes persecuted. The chessworld has always agreed that in the Candidates Tournament of Curaçao 1962, there was a Soviet conspiracy against Bobby Fischer.
Among eight participants, there were five Soviets: Tal, Korchnoi, Geller, Keres and Petrosyan. And in those days you didn't have to be paranoid to think that their first objective might have been to make sure that Fischer would not win.
Tal, who was in bad form and bad health, and who dropped out after 21 rounds, has never been accused of being part of a Curaçao conspiracy, and Korchnoi has always vehemently denied any such thing. But Geller, Keres and Petrosyan only played fightless draws against each other, which helped them to eight extra resting days each.
The Soviet Union does not exist anymore, the sins can be admitted. "Of course it was rigged," Yuri Averbakh has recently said (in an interview with Jules Welling in the Dutch magazine Schaaknieuws). According to Averbakh, who was in Curaçao as a member of the Soviet delegation, it had been decided that Keres, being an Estonian, should not win, and neither should the Jewish Ukrainian Geller. It had to the Armenian Petrosyan. Why an Estonian and a Jewish Ukrainian (and the Jewish Russian Korchnoi!) were not suitable and an Armenian was, Averbakh sadly fails to say, or Welling did not ask.
Well, a conspiracy - but how poorly those evil Soviets managed their conspiracy! With two rounds to go, the disobedient Keres was in first place, and he had to play the outsider Benkö. Had he won, no conspiracy could have prevented an Estonian becoming Botvinnik's challenger - but he lost. Yes, that was a relief, Averbach now says, Benkö's win was a Deus ex Machina which prevented suspicions.
In his famous piece in Sports Illustrated in 1962, titled How the Russians fixed World Chess, Fischer has given this position as proof of the conspiracy.

posted by mecran01 at 4:08 PM on January 18, 2008


I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place.
Even your emotions have an echo
In so much space

And when you're out there
Without care,
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Possibly
posted by bwg at 4:13 PM on January 18, 2008


mecran01, Asperger's Syndrome Characteristics include the possibility of varying levels of paranoia depending on the severity of the disorder.
posted by nickyskye at 4:52 PM on January 18, 2008


pracowity said:

One year for each square on the chess board. I think he planned it this way. From the beginning.

so true.
bye Bobby, i miss you.
posted by Substrata at 4:55 PM on January 18, 2008




hopefully link that works, Asperger's Syndrome Characteristics
posted by nickyskye at 7:31 PM on January 18, 2008


Well, Asperger's does not cause you to be paranoid, rabidly anti-semitic, or have any of the other wild ideas that he had. So it could not have been Asperger's alone.

but IANApsychiatrist.
posted by cogneuro at 7:41 PM on January 18, 2008


I love this gem of a quote from this article back when Fischer moved to Island in 2005:
Soon after the Reykjavik contretemps, Schaap was at a news conference promoting Mike Tyson's June 11 fight against Kevin McBride. Tyson asked him what he had been doing in Iceland. Tracking another former world champion, Schaap said.

"Bobby Fischer," Tyson said. "That guy's crazy!"
posted by gyc at 12:01 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


1960's and 70's Bobby was a real hero to many people, including me, and he disappeared completely.

The guy who showed up later was so incredibly sad. I'm amazed that anyone who heard his radio rants (or read transcripts) hears malicious instead of broken. I'm not talking about "in light of his earlier accomplishments," I mean listening to a human being, he just sounded so absolutely broken.

I don't know. I've heard invectives spat my direction by the mentally ill, and when they hit raw areas they can still do damage, but honestly none of it ever struck me nearly as painfully as the concrete realization that someone landed in *that* aspect of the human condition.

I was truly hoping for a healing coda for him. I'd like to think that having a country embrace this guy somehow managed to hold at bay some of his demons, if not manage the exorcism that I'd wish for if it were me.

I think there are enough periods closing my above sentences, so I'll refrain from belaboring the point.
posted by johnjoe at 12:38 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: With my zero years of experience as a psychiatric professional, I can say definitively that the subject is afflicted with Asperger's syndrome.
posted by Hat Maui at 3:46 AM on January 19, 2008


Hat Maui, I said, I can make an educated guess and speculate he lived with Asperger's Syndrome. Looking at the characteristics and the chess aptitude, it's not a difficult nor an illogical stretch of the imagination.

That said, the man who performed the ice pick lobotomies, 2500 lobotomies in 23 states (in my opinion, basically a kind of quiet mass murder), Dr. Walter Jackson Freeman II, was a full on psychiatrist/medical doctor (which is required for being a psychiatrist). "Freeman attended Yale and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, then studied neurology and psychiatry in Europe."

Dr. James Watts, partnered with this Water Freeman nutcase and was co-lobotomizer with Freeman in making sure Rosemary Kennedy was a vegetable and could be parked in an institution for the next 60+ years of her life. Watts performed his neurosurgery training at Massachusetts General Hospital and later became chief of neurosurgery at George Washington University Hospital. Highly regarded, Dr. Watts became the 91st president of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia. He was associated with the George Washington University Hospital until the late 1980s.

If the popular psychiatrists of the day got their hands on Fischer, it's possible he would have ended up unable to add 2 plus 2, much less play a chess game.
posted by nickyskye at 7:55 AM on January 19, 2008


He was set to make an appearance in India, to play Viswanathan Anand.

I think I first heard about him in the movie mentioned upthread "Searching for Bobby Fischer" (and yes--it's highly recommended), and wanted to know more about this man. Seems like he was every bit as interesting as the movie had made him out to be.
posted by hadjiboy at 7:58 AM on January 19, 2008


Oh, and thank you for your links nicky! Much appreciated.
posted by hadjiboy at 8:02 AM on January 19, 2008


He was set to make an appearance in India, to play Viswanathan Anand.

From what I've read, since 1972, there were numerous instances when Fischer would appear to be seriously interested in playing a match, and just when almost everything was finalized, he would back out at the last second, the rare exception being his match in 1992 against Spassky. Thus, although Fischer versus Anand or Kasparov would've been exciting to see (if not for the chess, since I think that Fischer, due to his rust and age, probably would not do that well), it probably had very little chance of happening.
posted by gyc at 10:28 AM on January 19, 2008


Remember, people, a lot of the people you admire have the weird quality of being human. It's a heavy burden. Bobby Fischer broke under it; other greats have bent.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:23 PM on January 19, 2008


Interesting how some people seem to be unable to grapple with the concept of mental illness and fall back on good old "eeeeeeeevil!"

What's the difference? Is there any rational basis for race hatred? If we grant that the average white supremacist believes what he says, is he evil or just not all there?

here's an easy test to distinguish who you should consider feeling sorry for and who you can probably just condemn: did they hurt anybody (and I don't mean hurt feelings) or just shoot off their mouth? Fischer did the latter.

This strikes me as a matter of "moral luck." He couldn't hurt anybody because he wasn't in a position of power or influence from which he could hurt anybody. I'm not saying that Fischer shouldn't be forgiven for what he said, or that he wasn't mentally ill, just that the boundary between illness and what we call "evil" isn't as clear a line as you imply.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:04 PM on January 19, 2008


Like most humans, there was much good and much evil within

Interesting how some people seem to be unable to grapple with the concept of mental illness and fall back on good old "eeeeeeeevil!"

What's the difference? Is there any rational basis for race hatred? If we grant that the average white supremacist believes what he says, is he evil or just not all there?

the boundary between illness and what we call "evil" isn't as clear a line as you imply.


Hmm, the evil topic is interesting. I don't agree with the statement that most human beings have evil within. I do think war can put people into a situation where people commit acts that could be considered evil, especially by the families of those killed. The actuality of war seems evil. But sometimes the effect of war is not evil, as it stops even greater evil.

hmm. I think evil has more to do with a deliberate intention to do harm of the heinous or depraved variety, especially to those who are defenseless. This is way beyond being a jerk, bastard, bitch or a creep of the run of the mill human frailty kind.

Fischer didn't commit acts of evil. He wasn't in a position to commit such acts and as such I think his racism, as bound as it was to his illness, whatever it was, were/are construed as being that of an ill person.
posted by nickyskye at 3:05 PM on January 19, 2008


What's the difference? Is there any rational basis for race hatred? If we grant that the average white supremacist believes what he says, is he evil or just not all there?

Um, mental illness is hardly synonymous with irrational thought. Seriously. Not at all.
posted by Bovine Love at 3:33 PM on January 19, 2008


mental illness is hardly synonymous with irrational thought

I didn't mean to imply a one-to-one correspondence. There does seem to be some overlap, though.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:53 PM on January 19, 2008


just that the boundary between illness and what we call "evil" isn't as clear a line as you imply.

I'm all for the Platonic notion that if we truly understood then we'd actually want to be morally good, that all forms of evil are really distortions or perversions of comprehension of what is ultimately desirable.. But there is still a difference here between the kind of 'disease of the soul' that leads to traditional acts of unethical behavior - an inability to see what true happiness consists of & so forth - and the kind that we usually call mental illness. This article gives a little sense of where Bobby Fischer's head was, and I think it's pretty obvious that he's no ordinary skinhead. His own mother was Jewish, and very likely his biological father as well, for starters.
posted by mdn at 3:55 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I said prevously, "His crazy rants and ravings were more entertaining than inciting."

Perhaps 'entertaining' was inappropriate in light of his death. When he lived, and I heard he had ranted some attention-getting absurdity again, I'd laugh. I enjoy absurdity. It makes me happy. I also like watching cartoon cats get their heads blown up by explosives. It's a weakness. I'm a bad man.

Kinbote: "Sorry, can't go there with you. He pretty much said that the folks who died in the towers on 9-11 had it coming. Not to mention the persistent corrosive antisemitism..."

And I'm not saying you have to 'go there' with me. However, the next time you hear someone - anyone - voicing negative sentiments that are prejudiced, please consider the source. Moreover, consider the condition of said source.

And please I beg of you, stop taking these imbeciles seriously. You'll live longer.

Not that I mean to call Mister Fischer an imbecile in light of his death, or in light of his obvious chess champion genius. I'm just saying that a woman as beautiful as Jessica Simpson can be dumb as a brick, and a person as smart as Bobby Fischer can be ...well, dumb as a brick.

Like I said: absurdity makes me happy.

JohnJoe: "...hears malicious instead of broken. I'm not talking about "in light of his earlier accomplishments," I mean listening to a human being, he just sounded so absolutely broken..."

That's about the size of it. I think people who blanket a man like Fischer with racism or antisemitism or anything like that are just kicking a man when he's down. Sure he said horrible things. Big deal.

I'm not pardoning it. I'm not condoning. I'm not anything. Did he say those things? I'm not questioning that. I'm simply weighing its relevancy faced with the good he had accomplished in his youth, and I find the bile wanting.

It'd be so nice if never was heard a discouraging word, but that's not reality. I'm not aware of Fischer's hatespeak doing anything more than ticking people off. It's not like scores of prejudiced peoples rose up and stirred themselves up into a frenzy cuz Fischer said it'd be okay.

I see his hatespeak more as cries for help than anything. Venom that had long since lost his steam. A man who had felt wronged, and no one came to his aid when he felt it mattered.

Had I walked a mile in his shoes, I may have hated me too. I can't fault him for that, and neither should you, else you're just as petty and sad and pathetic as he was in the end. If that's what you want, I don't want to walk a mile in your shoes. I've already been there.

I'd rather laugh at the absurdity of a soul, than wallow in hatred for same.

To paraphrase Mister King, I love you Mister Fischer. I'd rather die than hate you.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:21 PM on January 21, 2008


The Economist's obituary. Excerpt:
What exactly was wrong with Bobby Fischer was a subject of much debate. The combination of high intelligence and social dysfunction suggested autism; but he had been a normal boy in many respects, enjoying Superman comics and going to hockey games. He had got mixed up in the 1960s with the Worldwide Church of God, a crazed millenarian outfit, and perhaps had learned from them to hate and revile the Jews; though he was Jewish himself, with a Jewish mother who had tried psychologists and the columns of the local paper to cure him of too much chess, but who still couldn't stop the pocket set coming out at the dinner table.
posted by Kattullus at 12:28 PM on January 25, 2008


Bókin, or The Book, is essentially a 1950s version of New York’s Strand Bookstore. Besides the books stacked head-high, under card tables, and on plywood shelves, the first thing you notice about Bókin is its smell, decayed and airless. Walking inside the 35-year-old establishment is like entering a Parisian flea market without the noise: overwhelming, a paralysis of the senses. But it was here, between narrow aisles lined with thousands of fraying biographies and history books, sitting in an ordinary chair whose varnish had worn thin, where Bobby Fischer could be alone in his thoughts. It was here where he could contemplate his place in history by poring through books on outlaws and rebels from Russia, Britain, Libya, and the Soviet Union with whom he could relate. And it was here, beneath the quiet hum of the fluorescent lights above, where Bobby Fischer could, for at least a few hours a day, seem to live a normal life.
From an article about how Fischer spent his final years in Iceland largely at a particular used bookstore in Reykjavik by Sara Blask, staff writer at Atlantica, Icelandair's inflight magazine.
posted by Kattullus at 8:51 AM on January 29, 2008


Enjoyed your comment Kattullus. From the article you linked:

Skúlason was at Bobby Fischer’s bedside when he muttered his final words and passed away: “Nothing eases suffering like human touch.”
posted by nickyskye at 9:12 AM on January 29, 2008


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