I still remember those days in the summer of 1972 when everyone was talking chess There were chess boards everywhere It was really cool here was this board game making the front pages of newspapers and the nightly news broadcasts After lengthy negotiations, the championship tournament between the American challenger Bobby Fischer and the title holder Boris Spassky, from the Soviet Union, was to be held in Reykjavik, Iceland Mostly it was about the quirky American challenger, Bobby Fischer, usurping Soviet hegemony of the chess world But Bobby was definitely a head case Page 271 my bookOne writer wrote to the Washington Post Fischer is the only American who can make everyone in the U.S root for the Russians Bobby didn t show up in Iceland and by default lost the first game Before, and constantly during the tournament, he had a nonstop list of demands And stuck in the middle of this was poor Iceland As the authors make clear this was the biggest event to happen in Iceland EVER An epic confrontation of chess, of superpowers, with an erratic American who kept threatening to not play, to not show up, and with a fluctuating list of never ending requirements Without Fischer s presence the tournament was doomed and all the attention would evaporate the world s media would pack up and leave and Iceland would recede back to its isolation in the North Atlantic The authors suggest that if the tournament had been held in a major centre one on the list was Amsterdam Bobby s petulant demands would not have been met and Boris Spassky would have retained the championship Iceland just had too much invested to simply ignore Bobby Fischer.One aspect the authors do not mention is that the Soviets and East European countries, where chess is much popular, would groom their prodigies and ensure that they had outside interests besides chess In other words, they tried to ensure that their chess geniuses would act like normal human beings This didn t happen to Bobby Fischer for Fischer chess was not just an obsession, it was everything.We get really interesting portraits of the chess world of both Fischer and Spassky and also of the pressure of being a world class player in the Soviet Union The authors spoke to many people to write this book including Boris Spassky who was very cooperative Bobby Fischer refused the authors request, or was unavailable, no surprise there We also get a view of chess as a really grueling psychological grind.Page 286 Boris SpasskyIn a long match, a player goes very deep into himself, like a diver Then he comes up very fast Every time, whether I win or lose, I am so depressed I want to die I cannot get back in touch with other people I want the other chess player I miss him Only after a year will the pain go away A year Very sadly Fischer never played competitive chess after winning in Reykjavik He went completely off the rails Among other stupidities, he became viciously anti Semitic despite having Jewish parents and praised the 9 11 hijackers He died in 2008 after this book was published As of this writing Boris Spassky is still around and is 81 years old He lived in France for several years, but is now living in Moscow. This is a fascinating look into the Fischer Spassky chess match in Iceland in 1972 One thing I really liked about it is it showed what a narcistic kook Fischer was but used his real life antics as an example as opposed to the usual he was crazy because he said mean things about Jews nonsense To be honest the fact that he was willing to say non pc things was about all there was to like about Bobby Fischer Its virtually unbelievable the hoops that were jumped through to accomodate Fischer in order to make this match happen Whether he meant it to work out this way or not Fischers antics also served as psychological warfare that completely drained Spassky of his energy and focus This is not a conspiracy related book but there is also a whole chapter that looks into whether the CIA was somehow poisoning Spasskys food or using some sort of radio wave type secret weaponry to disrupt his thought patterns during the course of the chess match Spassky himself brushes it aside but to this day many people who were there, including Spasskys wife, believe that this was the case This is the best book I have run across pertaining to Bobby Fischer.
Excellent book on the match the chess and the antics though the authors get a bit over their heads trying to relate it to contemporary Cold War politics Fischer is a one of kind loony, beyond any game theory the Rand Corporation could invent. Especially interesting for an insight into Spassky and how impossibly difficult things were for him Having seen him grow in something to say the last uninspiringI was amazed to discover that he was, leading up to the match with Fischer just incredibly brave No wonder he ran out of steam later. When the tapes begin, the narrator is a neutral reader carefully pronouncing all the difficult names of Soviet chess champions He continues to gamely read the now almost obligatory setting the scene information that sounds like it was taken from newspaper headlines front page world news to the sports pages yawn He traces the Cold War and chess in the Soviet Union Boris Spassky is presented as a decent man, a good guy who plays brillant chess But when Fischer comes on scene with his frustrating demands and histrionics, the book becomes crazy good and you can hear the narrator grinning as Fischer makes wild demand after wild demand I was laughing out loud as I drove You can hear the narrator s sympathy for the kind Icelanders and the chess authorities struggling to make this match happen It was great The descriptions of each game were also high points the authors built the tension and made the significance of certain moves easily understandable even for one unschooled in chess Unfortunately the book sometimes disjointedly cuts back and forth from the games to other stuff that was really boring in comparison A couple of times I even checked the tape to find out if I had put it in upside down because the continuity was so odd The book ends with an astonishing final chapter or addendum. This is another book I don t really have time to properly review right now, but even for someone like me, an expert player and an amateur Fischer historian, this was enlightening and very interesting.But this would be good for anyone who has never played chess Fischer is a very compelling, interesting person, and this book overturns one of his most popular narratives that of the conquering, Cold War hero.This book really makes me want to know about Spassky Even within chess circles, he is largely remembered as the guy who lost to Fischer , but he seems like a very complex, interesting person.My only knock on the book is in the organization of it At times, I felt like the book lost focus, and perhaps this was from stretching the minutiae of some of the less interesting storylines In other words, because the authors took us down some of the corridors, they had to let us into the rooms, but not all the rooms were interesting or all that relevant to the central thesis.Overall, a very good read Recommended for chessplayers and non chessplayers alike. In cultural history, certain events are churned up, when the world tunes into them and it appears that that a majority of heads are fixated on what is going on here.In July, Reykjav k Iceland had the World s focus on it because two men were shuffling wooden pieces over 64 squares The game was Chess, it was the World Championship and a wildly peculiar genius was about to end the quarter century Soviet domination of the event.This game became known as the Match of the Century and in this book the authors go to work, clarifying what took place over two months in Iceland.Why this book works, and why many people still remember this time, is because Bobby Fischer is enigma at the heart of this story How this child prodigy at Chess came to represent the United States in a battle that took place against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War is quite a story in itself.Only ten years previously the world stopped as the Cuban missile crisis appeared to bring us all to the edge of the end days Now a Jewish kid from Brooklyn raised by his mother who was both a teacher and nurse, was taking on the best that the Soviet chess machine could throw at him in the form of Boris Spassky.Bobby lost the first game, where he should ve been able to manage a draw and then forfeited the second because he demanded the withdrawal of TV Cameras When he came back to the table he won game 3 and began to turn the whole match around His play was always aggressive and exciting but the level of paranoia and intrigue which he brought to the match only served to heighten the excitement and wild speculation about at that time.After his victory his celebrity was at it s height Unfortunately, he refused to defend his title in 1975 and became reclusive and never really played again until 1992 when he did a rematch against Spassky but angered the US Government by breaking an embargo by going to Yugoslavia to play the match.He was anti American and anti Semitic, strange for a Jewish American you might think and produced his own radio shows where he would vent these hatreds He returned to Iceland in 2005 and lived out his last three years there, on the island where he d ascended the heights to be World Chess Champion back in the Summer of 72.This book is a great history of that summer when the world watched Bobby take his crown.