Sunday, October 26, 2014
(Published in print: Sunday, October 26, 2014)
Most of us steer a course between independence and conformity.
Not so with Bobby Fischer, who defeated Boris Spassky in a now legendary 1972 world championship match in Iceland. Almost from birth, as few are able, he defined his own reality.
As a child, Fischer was “difficult,” we were told by Regina, his mother. In fact, adults found it easier to adapt to the child’s demands than impose their own.
When Fischer was 16 his mother left — to their mutual relief — to pursue her dream of becoming a physician.
Living in a low-rent Brooklyn apartment with adequate income from his burgeoning chess career, Fischer strove to transcend even larger boundaries. Embattled off the chessboard as well as on, he never ceased to generate excitement and controversy.
A 1992 contretemps, in which he defied the U.S. government to play a politically charged rematch with Spassky in war-torn Yugoslavia, led to his de facto exile from the U.S. and eventual asylum in Iceland.
For the remainder of his life, Fischer dared not leave the island in face of a worldwide Interpol alert to detain and extradite him to the U.S.
Before the 1972 match with Spassky, the British grandmaster C.H.O’D. Alexander offered an apt description of the often enigmatic American: “Fischer makes no compromises, accepts no second-bests and preserves a unity of purpose and personality.”