Saturday, January 19, 2008

Le Roi est Mort

Bobby Fischer winning the 1958 United States Chess Championship at age 14

At age 13 he defeated Donald Byrne an International Grand Master of Chess.* He was the youngest US Champion (14), the youngest Grandmaster of Chess (15), and the first American World Champion of Chess beating the Russian Boris Spassky in what was by far the most dramatic duel since Burr-Hamilton. He was an iconic national hero, a genius (his IQ was estimated at 181), and he made chess cool. He was also an incredible egomaniac, later a bitterly reclusive anti-Semite and in the end almost certainly mad. His slow descent into mental illness, early signs of which could be seen as far back as the 60's, was profoundly painful for the world to watch.

Bobby Fischer has reposed at the age of 64. May his memory be eternal.

"Oh for God's sake let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings."
-William Shakespeare

A commenter corrects me in noting that Mr. Byrne was not yet rated as a grandmaster when he was defeated by Fischer. See comment # 1.


Anonymous said...

"At age 13 he defeated Donald Byrne an International Grand Master of Chess. "

When Fischer beat Byrne at age 13, Byrne was not yet a an International Grand Master, nor yet even an International Master. It was the brilliance of Fischer's play in "The Game Of the Century" that brought him to world attention, not the quality of the opponent.

Ad Orientem said...

Thank you for the correction.


A Red Mind in a Blue State said...

Can't say RIP for the man who was probably to chess what Ty Cobb was to baseball-- for a time, the best there was.

But also a miserable, tortured human being.

We can't help who impacts our lives, and when those that did pass on, I guess it's reasonable to reflect.

I had a lot of fun that summer of '72; a lot of Americans did. It opened a new world to many of us, and it loomed large as a bloodless Cold War victory until it was surpassed by the "Miracle On Ice" in 1980.

I thought the tone of "Searching For Bobby Fischer", a really nice movie, hit it about right-- Fischer after 1972 was so despicable, but so clearly mentally ill, that it was just....sad.

handmaid mary-leah said...

All the more reason to implore God's mercy...