Bobby Fischer, when he was 12 years old, playing in a match at the Manhattan Chess Club on Sept. 14, 1957. (Sam Falk/The New York Times)

Brilliant player, bad moves

Recounting Bobby Fischer’s tragic path from prodigy to pariah
By Matthew Price
February 6, 2011

Chess is not the likeliest path to worldwide celebrity, but Bobby Fischer was no ordinary player. The freakishly talented, freakishly flawed Fischer, who defeated the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship, one of the great spectacles of the Cold War, played the game as if it was a blood sport. Dick Cavett once asked him in a TV interview “where is the greatest pleasure” in a match, and Fischer responded, with glee, “When you break his ego — this is where it’s at.”

Spassky said of him that “[i]t’s not if you win or lose against Bobby Fischer; it’s if you survive.” Combative and charming by turns, Fischer, for a time, put the cloistered, cerebral world of chess in the spotlight — he even made the cover of Sports Illustrated. But Fischer’s fame curdled into infamy, and in his last years — he died at 64 in 2008 — he was known more for his anti-Semitic ravings and battles with the US government than for his moves on the chessboard.

Full article here.

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