Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer; 1943 - 2008

I was a chess geek when I was a kid. My neighbor, Roger, and I would replay the Fisher/Spasky matches over again the next day, as the move by move list was in the paper. It was an era where the space race was won, and only Apollo 13 brought renewed interest into the program.

Bobby was a hero, of sorts, in those early 70's days. But it didn't take long for his eccentricity to become evident.
In 1975 Fischer surrendered his world chess title to Soviet contender Anatoly Karpov. The two never met over the board: Fischer contested the ground rules set by the International Chess Federation for the match, and was stripped of his title for his refusal to comply with them.

He lived in relative obscurity for years after that. When he reemerged in public, it was to a controversy that would last the rest of is life.

In 1992, he agreed to a rematch with Spassky, scheduled to be held in Yugoslavia and carrying a prize in excess of $3 million. The match -- which Fischer won -- was a high-profile violation of U.S. sanctions imposed on the Yugoslavian government of Slobodan Milosevic. U.S. officials issued a warrant for his arrest.

The warrant -- and rage against the country that once hailed him -- dogged Fischer for a decade. Known as much in later years for his ideological tirades -- against Jews, in praise of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- he was arrested in 2004 in Japan where he was traveling on an invalid U.S. passport.
I followed the tumult in his life, but it never really distracted me from the younger Bobby Fischer whose games against Spasky I followed like the Twins Box scores I check in the Summer.

Bobby Fischer was 64, the same number of squares on a chess board.

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