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Tag: bobby fischer

Master Class

In the New York Review of Books, Chess master Gary Kasparov reviews the new Bobby Fischer biography:

Fischer’s remarkable life and personality will surely produce countless more books, and probably movies and doctoral theses as well. But there is little doubt that none of the authors of those future works will be more qualified to write on Bobby Fischer than Frank Brady. A close acquaintance of the young Fischer, a “chess person,” as we call them, himself, as well as an experienced biographer, Brady also wrote the first and only substantive biographical book on him, Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy (1965, revised edition 1973).

It is hard to imagine a more difficult subject than Bobby Fischer to present in an accurate and evenhanded fashion. He was a loner who trusted no one. His charisma attracted both starry-eyed sycophants and spiteful critics. Fischer had strong opinions of the kind that tend to create equally categorical sentiments in those who knew him—and in those who didn’t. He had a very small family and both his mother, Regina Fischer, and his only sibling—older sister Joan Targ—have passed away. Fischer’s general inaccessibility also led to countless rumors and outright lies about him, making the biographer’s task a challenge.

With all that in mind, Brady’s book is an impressive balancing act and a great accomplishment. Before even picking up the book there is no reason to doubt that Brady liked Bobby Fischer and that he has a friend’s as well as a fan’s rooting interest for the American chess hero. But there are few obvious traces of that in Endgame, which does not shy away from presenting the darker sides of Fischer’s character even while it does not attempt to judge or diagnose it. What results is a chance for the reader to weigh up the evidence and come to his own conclusions—or skip judgments completely and simply enjoy reading a rise-and-fall story that has more than a few affinities with Greek tragedy.

This is a lengthy piece but worth the time. Fascinating stuff.

Searching for Bobby Fischer

Over at the Times, Janet Maslin reviews a new biography of Bobby Fischer by Frank Brady:

“Endgame” is a rapt, intimate book, greatly helped by its author’s long acquaintance with Fischer, who died in 2008, and his deep grounding in the world of chess. Mr. Brady was the founding editor of Chess Life, the official magazine of the United States Chess Federation, but his book is entirely accessible to readers who have never heard of that publication. Nor does “Endgame” require any prior knowledge of chess luminaries, chess strategies (no charts here) or chess tournament etiquette. It requires no expertise to appreciate a one-liner like the one the 19-year-old Fischer delivered after a visit to a brothel in Curaçao. “Chess is better,” Fischer said.

Mr. Brady, a biographer dangerously drawn to megalomania (he has also written books about Aristotle Onassis and Orson Welles), takes a demystifying approach to Fischer’s eccentricities. He sees the person behind the bluster, and he presents that person in a reasonably realistic light. Mr. Brady also makes use of unusually good source material, from Fischer’s own unpublished manuscript to 50 years’ worth of his own conversations with Fischer’s associates, mentors and relatives. Note the omission of the word “friends.” Fischer never had them.

Fischer was a genius as well as a madman. Do yourself a favor and check out Bill Nack’s terrific SI piece on his search for the reclusive Fischer: “To find him, to see him, had become a kind of crazy and delirious obsession, the kind of insanity that has hounded other men in search of, say, the Loch Ness monster.”

[Photo Credit: Times On-Line]

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