Friday, January 18, 2008

Fishing For Bobby Searcher

Another icon from my youth has passed away. Bobby Fischer, World Champion chess player died in Reykjavik, aged 64. His later years were troubled, with mental problems and paranoia keeping Fischer out of the limelight. Breitbart covers it here.

Fischer started a chess boom in America, bringing it out of nerd-dom and into more homes than before -or since - I'd imagine. In an era of sports heroes like Mark Spitz, Fischer was the "brain over brawn" cultural Cold Warrior. His defeat of Soviet Union master Boris Spassky, and successful defense of that title, was a very big deal at the time.

Saint Patrick's grade school in Mauston, Wisconsin offered it's students a chance to purchase paperback books. Scholastic Books, if I recall correctly, had a book called 'Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess", which I got on my big brother's recommendation.

I learned enough moves to put up a decent game with the adults, but apart from my early college days, I ended up playing more cribbage than chess. I was saddened and surprised to hear about his rather militant stances at the end of his life, but I suppose that every real genius is firstly a world-class acrobat, walking and sometimes running, down the sanity wire.

So long, Bobby Fischer. Thanks.


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