Saturday, January 17, 2009

bobby fischer died one year ago, today: january 17, 2008

bobby fischer, the greatest chess player of all time, died in self-imposed obscurity one year ago today. his death left me with mixed emotions since i had long ago come to loath what fischer had become - which, to put it mildly, was a rabid anti-semite, rabid anti-american (he ultimately renounced his u.s. citizenship), and full blown lunatic trapped in a web of real and imagined conspiracy theories (all aimed at him).

since i first watched fischer beat boris spassky to become the world chess champion in 1972, i was hooked - and considered myself a major fan. the fact he was a brooklyn boy was icing on the cake as we all cheered the amazing outcome in iceland. but when he walked away from defense of his title in 1975, simply because they wouldn't play be his rules (right or wrong), and gave the title to anatoly karopov by default, the bloom was off the rose.

from that point on, fischer could do no right - and slid into self-imposed exile, not only from the chess community, but the world at large. he reemerged in 1992 - to the shock of all that had followed him - to have a rematch with boris spassky in yugoslavia. since he thumbed his nose at the u.n. embargo (which included sporting events) in effect, and the specific u.s. prohibition against playing there, he became a fugitive with the issuance of an arrest warrant. he never, in fact, returned to the united states after that.

while most greeted that "rematch" with spassky will rolled eyes, the final straw - for me personally - was in the hours after 9/11 when fischer felt the need to pontificate on how the united state, to paraphrase, got what was coming. i won't go into the vulgar comments that spewed out of that sick mind as he was interviewed on the radio (they can be found here), but fischer, the mortal, was dead to me from then on. there was no coming back from that degree of callous obscenity.

still, for that brief, magical run to the top of the chess world that peaked in 1972, this is the image of fischer that will stay with me:

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