Bobby Fischer Against the World
Regular readers of American Thinker might pass on the documentary I'm recommending, but it's not primarily about chess.
Bobby Fischer Against the World (2011) is mainly about the psychology of a troubled mind. But it's also a sweet little slice of history. It touches on the Cold War rivalry between the Soviets and America, where America's David takes on the Soviet Goliath in the storied 1972 Reykjavík match between Fischer and Boris Spassky. It also treats Fischer's defiance of the travel ban to Yugoslavia in the 1992 rematch, which made Fischer a fugitive.
The flick is primarily about Fischer's demons -- his descent into mental illness. We see Bobby as a teenager when he became the American chess champion at age 14 and when he takes the world title at age 29. Then the film follows him through the downward spiral of his life, as he becomes involved in Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God (and then leaves the Church when Armstrong's prediction don't come true). And there's Fischer's embrace of anti-Semitism and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, despite his Jewish heritage. Bobby also looks at other chess greats who descended into madness. (Do crazy men play chess, or does chess make men crazy?)
Some say Fischer was the greatest chess player of all time, but at what price? When you see what a sweet kid he was, you think of the waste. If Fischer had trained his considerable mind on curing cancer or doing something important, what a contribution he could have made.
Chess is probably a ruined sport anyway, as computers have bested carbon-based life forms. What need is there for creativity and genius when there's the brut force of gigahertz and terabytes?
Liz Garbus' Bobby Fischer Against the World is a gem that should interest a wide array of folks. It has high production values, has a bunch of fascinating interviews, and tracks beautifully. And it looks great on an HDTV.
This blog might seem like an advertisement, but I checked Netflix and Bockbuster and I don't think Bobby is out on DVD yet. Hopefully, it will be soon. But HBO has scheduled airings for Saturday the 11th and for the following Tuesday. So set your DVRs. You can also order it "on demand" from HBO.
Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.