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He was 64 .

If you were a chess obsessive, especially a kid chess obsessive like me, you replicated with robotic obedience Fischer’s wild championship games with Boris Spassky back in 1972. Fischer defeated the Russian champion after a series of famously goofy delays in which Fischer complained of, among other things, being spied upon and the offensively shiny veneer of the chess table.

Fischer walked away from a 1975 championship match with Anatoly Karpov, demanding an unlimited number of games, as opposed to the set number that had become the FIDE standard. Karpov was eventually named world chess champion by default. Fischer did not play again for twenty years, all the while boasting he had never lost a championship game.

The cranky monomaniac extraordinaire, Fischer’s eccentricities turned antisemitic, Holocaust-denying, and conspiratorial. He was for a time a member of the late Herbert W. Armstrong’s now fragmented Worldwide Church of God. He spent his later years hopping from one country to another, denouncing the U.S. as a Jewish-controlled dictatorship, taking glee in the September 11 terrorist attacks, and finally finding asylum in Reykjavik, the site of his original chess bout with Spassky. (A U.S. arrest warrant had been issued for Fischer after he participated in a rematch with Spassky in Yugoslavia in 1992. An embargo had been placed on “sporting events” in the former East European republic.)

The subject of much amateur psychoanalysis and at least a couple of movies / videos , Fischer both fascinated and repelled. There will be much more to say about him by chess enthusiasts and psychologists alike. One wonders if postmortems will include talk of some form of bipolar disease (think Howard Hughes).



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