Searching for Fischer’s Legacy

By FM Mike Klein
January 19, 2008
Chess Life Online

The clock has stopped on the life of Bobby Fischer. After 64 years of battles, both over the chess board and in life, Fischer succumbed to kidney failure Thursday night in Iceland. Where do chess players go from here?

Will his legacy be lasting, and will it be positive? Must writings about the man involve asterisks and conversations include, “Yes, but…”? How do we reconcile his genius and vitriol?

GM Art Bisguier has had plenty of time to ruminate on the questions. He has witnessed Fischer’s inspiration and his divisiveness. Bisguier was besieged by phone calls Friday, but he said he has really been answering for Fischer for the last 30 years. Having seen the young prodigy grow into a man and then a World Champion, Bisguier spent a lot of personal time with the late grandmaster. He traveled with Fischer, competed against him, and accompanied him as his second to tournaments all over the Western hemisphere.

“Chess players will be able to separate the chess from the sickness,” Bisguier said, referring to the prevailing belief that Fischer suffered from mental illness.

Bisguier said he began to distance himself from Fischer when he witnessed the early signs of paranoia. In 1961 he made his first public statements despising Jews. Then after the Curacao Candidates Tournament in 1962, Fischer leveled charges against the Soviets of match-fixing (recently declassified documents show that he may have been right). The public conundrum began.

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