Brooklyn-raised, Chicago-born chess icon Bobby Fischer, who became a Cold War symbol when he defeated Soviet Union's Boris Spassky as world champion in 1972, has died at age 64.
In May 1949, the six-year-old Fischer learned how to play chess from instructions found in a chess set that his sister had bought at a candy store below their Brooklyn apartment. He saw his first chess book a month later. For over a year he played chess on his own. At age seven, he joined the Brooklyn Chess Club and was taught by its president, Carmine Nigro.
Bobby Fischer attended Erasmus Hall High School together with Barbra Streisand, though he later dropped out in 1959 when he turned 16. Many teachers remembered him as difficult. When his chess feats mounted, the student council of Erasmus Hall awarded him a gold medal for his chess achievements.
Icon or avatar of a complex game, Bobby Fischer, perhaps like Ezra Pound, Charles Lindbergh, or other artists, geniuses, or heroes whose talent and exploits were overshadowed by their public and political views, leaves behind an enormous reputation in the annals of modern chess.
Fischer died Thursday in a Reykjavik, Iceland, hospital, according to spokesman Gardar Sverrisson. There was no immediate word on the cause of death.
Born in Chicago and raised in Brooklyn, Robert James Fischer was a U.S. chess champion at age 14, becoming a grand master at 15. When he beat Spassky in a series of games in Reykjavik, he claimed the U.S.A.'s first world chess championship in more than a century.
The event was given tremendous symbolic importance, pitting the intensely individualistic young American against Spassky who ws presented at home as a product of the grim and soulless Soviet Union.
The match also was marked by Bobby Fischer's somewhat peculiar behavior - possibly calculated psychological warfare against Spassky - including Fischer's arriving two days late to complaining about the lighting, TV cameras, the spectators, even the shine on the table.
Spassky said in a brief phone call from France, where he lives, that he was "very sorry" to hear of Fischer's death.
Fischer's reputation as a genius of chess soon was eclipsed by his idiosyncrasies.
Fischer was world champion until 1975, when he forfeited the title and withdrew from competition because conditions he demanded proved unacceptable to the International Chess Federation.
After that, he lived in secret outside the United States. He emerged in 1992 to confront Spassky again, in a highly publicized match in Yugoslavia. Fischer beat Spassky 10-5 to win $3.35 million.
The U.S. government said Fischer's playing the match violated U.N. sanctions against Yugoslavia, imposed for Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic's role in fomenting war in the Balkans.
Former Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov said Fischer's ascent of the chess world in the 1960s was "a revolutionary breakthrough" for the game.
"The tragedy is that he [Fischer] left this world too early, and his extravagant life and scandalous statements did not contribute to the popularity of chess," Kasparov told The Associated Press.
Over the years, Fischer gave occasional interviews with a radio station in the Philippines, often digressing into anti-Semitic rants and accusing American officials of hounding him.
He praised the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying America should be "wiped out," and described Jews as "thieving, lying bastards." Fischer's mother was Jewish.
He also announced he had abandoned chess in 1996 and launched a new version in Argentina, "Fischerandom," a computerized shuffler that randomly distributes chess pieces on the back row of the board at the start of each game.
Fischer claimed it would bring the fun back into the game and rid it of cheats.
He renounced his American citizenship and moved in 2005 to Iceland, accepting an offer of citizenship from the country still grateful for its role as the site of his most famous match.
Fischer had been detained for nine months detention in Japan for trying to leave the country using an invalid U.S. passport. Japan agreed to release him after he accepted Iceland's offer of citizenship.
Fischer told reporters that year that he was finished with a chess world he regarded as corrupt, and sparred with U.S. journalists who asked about his anti-American tirades.
"The United States is evil. There's this axis of evil. What about the allies of evil - the United States, England, Japan, Australia? These are the evildoers," Fischer said. --Various news sources
Friday, January 18, 2008
- Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
- A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
- Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
- Negropedia- Patrice Evans
- Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
- Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
- Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
- Paradise Lost - John Milton
- What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
- Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
- Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
- Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
- The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
- Pale King - David Foster Wallce
- David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
- Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
- The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
- Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
- FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
- How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
- Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
- Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
- Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
- First Civilizations
- Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
- The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
- SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
- The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
- Friends of Eddy Coyle
- Brooklands -Emily Barton
- Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
- Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
- Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
- War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
- Charles Addams: An Evilution
- Life in Ancient Greece
- Time - Eva Hoffmann
- Violence - S. Zizek
- Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
- Life in Ancient Egypt
- Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
- Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
- Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
- Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
- Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
- 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
- Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
- How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
- The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
- "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
- Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
- Ubik - Philip K. Dick
- Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
- Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
- Nazi Culture - various authors
- Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
- Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
- Living in Ancient Rome
- Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
- Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
- Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
- Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
- Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
- Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
- John Brown
- Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
- 7 Deadly Sins
- ALEX COX - Alex Cox
- FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
- I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
- Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
- Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
- Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
- Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
- The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
- Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
- Indignation - Philip Roth
- Let's Go Italy! 2008
- Italian Phrases for Dummies
- How to Pack
- Violence - Slavoj Zizek
- Dali: Painting & Film
- The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
- The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
- Spook Country - William Gibson
- A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
- The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
- Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
- Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
- Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
- Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
- Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
- Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
- Howl - Allen Ginsberg
- Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
- The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
- John Adams - David McCullough
- The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
- American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
- Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
- Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
- Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
- Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
- A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
- Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
- Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
- Love & Theft - Eric Lott
- Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
- Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader
- Alexi Murdoch Wait
- Wilco Summer Teeth
- Wilco The Album
- Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
- Polyrock - Polyrock
- 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
- Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
- Yellow Magic Orchestra
- Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
- John Lee Hooker
- Black and White Years
- Together Through Life - B. Dylan
- 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
- DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
- Glassworks - Philip Glass
- Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
- Dinah Washington - Best of..
- Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo