A Biography Of Bobby Fischer

Chess Players
Bobby Fischer (right) during his 1992 rematch with Spassky (left)

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If you’re new to chess, you should have heard of this name spoken about in different contexts but…

Who actually is Bobby Fischer?

Well., it may interest you to know that Bobby Fischer was a Chicago-born, Brooklyn-bred genius who became one of the greatest chess players the world has ever seen.

Bobby Fischer was an American chess grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion. He was born on March 9, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois, US.

For most, Fischer was the most powerful and enigmatic American player in history.

His sister, Joan bought him his first chess set at the age of 6 and taught him the basic moves.

By 8, he was taking lessons at the Brooklyn Chess Club; by 12, he was holding his own among America’s strongest players, who gathered at the Manhattan Chess Club and the Marshall Chess Club.

His adult opponents called him “the Boy Robot” and “the Corduroy Killer” for his massive will to win.

He won his first of a record eight US Championships at the age of 14. In 1964, he won with an 11–0 score, the only perfect score in the history of the tournament.

Boris Spassky (left) and Bobby Fischer (right) met at the XIX World Chess Olympiad in Siegen, Germany, in 1970
Boris Spassky (left) and Bobby Fischer (right) met at the XIX World Chess Olympiad in Siegen, Germany, in 1970

Qualifying for the 1972 World Championship, Fischer swept matches with Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen by 6–0 scores.

After winning another qualifying match against Tigran Petrosian, Fischer won the title match against Boris Spassky of the USSR, in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Publicized as a Cold War confrontation between the US and USSR, the match attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before or since.

After scaling the heights of fame, Fischer dropped out of chess after refusing to defend his world championship title because he wasn’t in terms with FIDE.

For decades Fischer lived in obscurity. In 1992, he came out of long seclusion for a $5 million rematch against his old nemesis, the Russian-born grandmaster Boris Spassky.

He was triumphant winning the rematch handily. Fischer had wrested the world championship from the great Soviet-Grandmaster Borris Spassky to become the first and, as yet, only American to win the title, one that Soviet-born players had held for 35 years!

Chess players generally think that Fischer agreed to the 1992 Spassky match for the money. But the opportunity to reassert his primacy was attractive as well.

The games were played in a surreal atmosphere in Sveti Stefan, a resort in the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, just a few miles from the bloody warfare then raging in Bosnia.

Although the match was unsanctioned, a banner was put up proclaiming it to be the world chess championship.

At a press conference, Fischer held up a letter from the Treasury Department warning him that his participation in the match, considered an economic project, would constitute defiance of American sanctions against Yugoslavia.

He would be subject to fine and arrest, he was told. In front of more than 150 reporters, he spat on the letter.

Fischer defied this American order, imposing an exile on himself in Budapest, Japan, possibly in the Philippines and Switzerland, and finally in Iceland, moving there in 2005 and becoming a citizen.

Bobby Fischer at his peak (left) and before he died (right)
Bobby Fischer at his peak (left) and before he died (right)

He died on Thursday in Reykjavik, Iceland at the age of 64.

Influencing the Game

Fischer’s victory was widely seen as a symbolic triumph of democracy over communism, and it turned the new champion into an unlikely American hero.

He was invited to the White House by President Richard M. Nixon, interviewed on television, wooed unsuccessfully by commercial interests.

Sales of chess set skyrocketed; so did fees for chess lessons.

He also completed “My 60 Memorable Chess Games” (1969), a classic collection that remains a recommended resource for serious players.

In the 1990s, he patented a modified chess timing system that added a time increment after each move, now a standard practice in top tournament and match play.

He also invented Fischer random chess, also known as Chess960, a chess variant in which the initial position of the pieces is randomized to one of 960 possible positions.

Fischer’s life was not without controversy. He made numerous antisemitic statements, including Holocaust denial.

His antisemitism was a major theme in his public and private remarks, and there has been widespread comment and speculation concerning his psychological condition based on his extreme views and eccentric behavior.

Fischer disappeared from the public eye after refusing to defend his title in 1975, and he lived as an émigré until his death in 2008.

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