Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fischer's Feisty Finish

"Chess is war on a board, the object is to crush the other man's mind". Robert Fischer did as he said and crushed all the brightest chess minds that denied him a path to what he considered his destiny. His rise to fame at the height of the Cold War made him an unfathomable warrior in a mind bending war, using intangible forces and weaponry that took on an extraordinary reputation as a confrontation between the two most powerful nations on Earth.

It was September 1972, when American Bobby Fischer faced off with Russia's Boris Spassky, then the World Chess Champion since 1969. Fischer singlehandedly took on the Russian chess machinery in his final battle with what he termed "the free world against the lying, cheating hypocritical Russians", employing brilliant moves and strategies, on and off the the game, not only to defeat the opponent but to demolish them into submission. Fischer emerged triumphant, winning 12.5 points against 8.5 on the 21st game, when Spassky resigned after the 41st move.

Bobby Fischer was the US Chess Champion at 14, became a grandmaster at 15, and was considered the most serious threat to the Russian Supremacy in the game. The Russians dominated the sport and monopolized its international championship tournaments by preventing non-Russians from gaining a finals berth. Like an iron wall, they fenced off other nationalities successfully by drawing games quickly with fellow Russians to earn half a point; and aid a countryman as seconds in a long drawn out match to tire the opponent when playing versus a "foreigner".

The Russians gave chess a prominence as a game for the intellectually superior possessed with strategic genius, staking their reputation as a world power on the number of grandmasters they have against any other country, and on the Chess titles which have been with Russia since after World War ll. Bobby Fischer comes along, reclusively studies all the Russian moves and game tactics, and pulverizes the iron wall to reach the championship by beating 24 Russian grandmasters in succession. The final battle against the behemoth chess machinery of Russia made allusions to a confrontation between the US and the USSR in a different battlefield inevitable. The championship match was headlined daily worldwide, and gave chess an unprecedented popularity; and Fischer superhero status.

But Fischer was a sportsman, perhaps an uncharacteristic one, who played and won the title not for political considerations or power struggles between two countries, but for himself. He was challenged by the Russian method that was unfairly skewed in their favor, and was determined to prove that he can best any Russian and vanquish their entire system, all by himself. Which he did, alone. As a sportsman, he was disgusted by cheating, lying, and decried those that did; he was against any form of domination and oppression in the game and spoke vocally and brusquely about it. In much the same way, he spoke against other forms of domination and oppression in areas around the globe, even against his own country, as many Americans do today. In the aftermath of 9/11, he uttered statements that favored the pulverizing of what he believed was the symbol of unfairness and greed in the acquisition of wealth to the impoverishment of other peoples and nations, in the same manner that he pulverized the Russian machinery of unfairness and greed. It was a personal antipathy with him toward American foreign policy, not directed towards the American people.

His death at age 64 (equal to the number of squares on a chessboard) due to kidney failure in Reykjavic, Iceland, where he battled Boris Spassky in 1972, is a tremendous loss for all those who loved and admired him despite his different nature. What should be remembered of Bobby Fischer is his genius, his courage, and his rebellious nature that outraged the formal and hypocritical structures of our time.

Bobby Fischer should be regarded as a hero, at least a sports hero, and should be accorded his proper place in the annals of successful men whose contributions inspired millions to emulate his accomplishments. He was mis-understood, and it would be difficult to bring out all sides in the life of a complex and complicated human being.

The fact that a lot of his former countrymen treat him as a pariah is the unkindest cut of all.



blogtommy said...

Complex and complicated to say the least. I was awfully small but I remember that match in 72 on TV. Talk about a social consciousness at the time...It was huge!


durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Yes Blogtommy, he was larger than life to many people, but to those who were close to him he was a nice guy who lived a normal life. He only wanted to elevate the game, and disdained being used for political purposes, especially by those whose policies he could not agree with. Thanks for dropping by. --Durano, done!