Bobby Fischer

Where have you gone, Bobby Fischer?
May 17, 2015
By Telly Halkias

Many years ago, while on vacation in Mallorca, I bought a chessboard, an inlaid mahogany slate with tournament-caliber playing pieces. The purchase was impulsive, and a nostalgic salute to my adolescent fervor for the royal game – along with an attempt to motivate myself back to regular play.

While the latter never transpired, recently I came back to chess. After making it through just one minute on a news report on how the 2016 election campaign is already in full swing, I turned off the TV and reached for a magazine to find a retrospective on the late American chess great, Bobby Fischer.

The article brought back memories, and mercifully delivered me from civic frustration.

Arguably history’s greatest chess player – easily one of the most eccentric – Fischer died in exile in 2008 at the age of 64. After reading the piece, I sauntered over to the mantle where the chessboard now sits and recalled how Fischer affected my youth, and in what current context I found his demise.

Fischer’s rise from a fatherless childhood to the pinnacle of chess mastery was Hollywood fodder. Dropping out of high school at age 16 to haunt the Manhattan and Marshal Chess Clubs, he then steadily rose in global chess prowess, and collided with destiny in the summer of 1972 in Reykjavik, Iceland.

There, in one of the most dramatic World Chess Championship matches, Fischer dismantled Boris Spassky, the first and only American to topple the dynasty of Russian-born grandmasters.

Overnight, chess left the realm of nerds and became cool. Despite our other emerging interests, my friends and I were sucked into that vortex. Chess kept us off the sandlot, much to our parents’ bewilderment.

We held epic matches, and neighborhood tourneys sprung with each passing day of the two-month Fischer-Spassky marathon. The guys flipped coins for the honor of being Fischer. We used official clocks to time our moves and documented every game in classical and algebraic notation.

When we ran out of permutations of the rivalry in Iceland, we would play by labeling ourselves after historic grandmasters: Morphy, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Smyslov and Vidmar, to name a few.

Following Fischer’s triumph, we continued for the next few summers. Some players moved away and we recruited replacements. Chess was everywhere – print, radio and TV – and Fischer had become a Cold War Caesar who dared to cross the Rubicon and conquer the Soviet bear.

Full article here.

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