Bobby Fischer in Iceland

I feel a bit remiss about not commenting on Bobby Fischer's passing. As a bookish chess-obssessed kid, I lived for his Boy's Life chess column and, during the "Match of the Century," I was hitchhiking to and from Iowa and the Spassky/Fischer battle of wits was always a safe topic of conversation. (1972 was ground zero for the mainstream born again movement and it seemed like half the people that picked me up wanted a conversion in exchange for the ride. Thank goodness for chess!)

When I moved to New York, I met many chess players who had played Fischer or played in tournaments where Fischer player people on his level. Let's just say that very few of them missed "our Bobby"—but they sure talked about him.

The fabulous Bog of a Bookslut linked to this recollection of his final days in Reykjavik. I believe this is the only place that recorded Fischer's last words, which are pretty touching coming from such a prickly character.

Lionel's picture

I think it's a generational thing, in part. I was born the year of the first Spassky/Fischer duel, and so my memories of him are from his hermit years. His games are brilliant, but they don't make my jaw drop the way that say, Tal's do. His "How to Play Chess" book is brilliant on a pedantic level, but I never wanted to buy it and give the jerk royalties (and used copies are inevitably all marked up, spoiling the fun).There have been chess champions who've been anti-Semitic (Alekhine). There have been champions who were probably mentally ill or autistic (Morphy). There have been champions who have been complete egomaniacs (Capablanca). There have been champions who were totally self-destructive (Tal). It seems, almost, like Fischer got the worst characteristics of all of his chess champion predecessors along with a lot of their brilliancies.Plus, he was just an exceptional asshole. The Bobby Fischer who can be admired died, for the most part, in 1972.

Wes Phillips's picture

Good points, Lionel. Guys of my generation knew of Fischer as "one of us," meaning 'Murican, long before we discovered he was a world-class jerk. We took it hard when we found out, too.And I agree that, for those of us who are not grand masters, his book lacks a lot of appeal, quite aside than giving him royalties. But when I consider the lengths that Fischer went to in alienating everyone around him, I still find his final words poignant: "Nothing eases suffering like human touch."