Friday, January 18, 2008
Searching for Bobby Fischer
I must interrupt my regularly scheduled blogging to announce that Bobby Fischer has died at age 64 in Iceland, apparently of kidney failure, although what caused his kidney problems has not been revealed.
Bobby Fischer was widely considered a chess genius, and was the first, and still the only, American of the modern period to hold the World Chess Champion title,which he won after defeating the Russian, Boris Spassky, in 1972. He then refused to defend his title and was stripped of it. Many have claimed that Fischer was the greatest chess player of all time, although there is no way of proving such a claim.
There was a time when Fischer was something of a hero to me. I came to chess late but played it a lot in college and played competitively for my first two years in graduate school. I never achieved Masters status but I took the study of the game seriously and did pretty well in local tournaments. I flirted with the idea of pursuing it at a professional level but realized three things, 1) the amount of effort required would be enormous and I didn't have the strength for chess and graduate school both, 2) because of getting a late start in chess, I'd probably never be as good as I wanted to be, and 3) I lack the killer instinct needed to play at the top level.
It was reading works by and about Bobby Fischer that first really brought me to an interest in chess. I played and replayed his games as a learning experience, and they were often things of beauty. At times he created virtual works of art on the board.
Later, I found that Fischer was not a particularly admirable character on a personal level and I lost any sense of hero worship for the man. But, on the chessboard, he achieved greatness, and I cannot help but feel a touch of sadness for the passing of such a talent.