Saturday, January 19, 2008

Searching for Bobby Fischer

Windmill on Poros 1972
Windmill, Poros, Greece, 1972

In August of 1972, I sat in the shade of a tree by this windmill on the Peloponese island of Poros and opened a nearly week old copy of The Daily Telegraph (I know, but it was just about the only English news broadsheet I could find). I'd been away from England for nearly a month and was desperate for world news and thus I devoured every printed word with gusto. A prominent news story at the time was the battle going on in Iceland between the steely Russian chess Grand Master, Boris Spassky, and American prodigy, Bobby Fischer. The world championship series of matches was played in high drama over the summer of that year and the antics of the two players held me captivated: chess had finally become a true spectator sport. So it was with sadness I read of the passing Mr Fischer yesterday. His genius was never in doubt but at the time of his death he was no longer the iconic figure from the 1970s but, to put it mildly, a highly eccentric individual with a more than messy personal life. He had turned against the land of his birth, and the American government was intolerant of his lack of patriotism and went after him with a vengeance. Possibly the American public, too. Overall a terrible shame considering the entertainment he had once provided.

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