Friday, January 18, 2008

Searching for...

...Bobby Fischer, who passed away this week in Iceland. Fischer was once called the Mozart of chess because he began drubbing opponents as a child prodigy at age 6, and is widely considered the best American-born chess player of all time.

Here is Reuters's writeup. I really hope the Economist does an obituary on Fischer next week, (the obituaries are always exceedingly well written there), and I'll post a link here if that happens. UPDATE: Here's the obituary in the Economist. Frankly, they've done better.

I've always been interested in chess, though my casual interest pales in comparison to Fischer's. When I went to Russia with my dad in 1997, we purchased a Russia v. United States wooden chess board for me that was just small enough when folded up as to fit neatly in my backpack. I would take this chess board with me to debate tournements when I was in high school, and my friend Nephi and I would fill the inevitiable hours of downtime by playing game after game.

When I returned to Russia in 2004, I tracked down and visited a local chess club, just to see what they were like. This was one of the most masculine (defined as: not feminine) places I have ever been. The place reeked of urine, beer, and unbathed men. The competition was intense but memorable; I decided to just watch on the sidelines.

Of course, Bobby Fischer is indelibly connected in most of our minds with the Soviet era and his epic battle against Boris Spassky in the 1970s in which he became the first American world chess champion. His games with Spassky became a microcosm of the Cold War, and for some, Fischer's victory was a foreshadowing of an inevitable American triumph on the larger world stage.


Rebecca said...

That mug shot would not be out of place with the caption "grumpier old men."

Rebecca said...

He's much tidier in this one.

Matthew Sederberg said...

Yes, I thought this would be a great post, and everyone would get the movie quote "Searching for Bobby Fischer," and be amazed that he looked like that first picture towards the end of his life. But then I realized after talking with a few friends and family that none of them knew him, so I decided to put a tamer picture up so as to not be thought too radical on my own blog;)