Checkmate Mate Checks Out, Mate


So, Death has swept down and taken Bobby Fischer’s king off to heaven, or given his rampant anti-Semitism towards the end, the other, hotter gaff. There’s probably a more eloquent or technically interesting way to put that first bit, but what I know about the game of chess you can just about fit on the back of a postage stamp, so let’s move swiftly on to some of the more compelling and less chesscentric episodes of his life.

During his prolonged disappearance from the world stage, in 1982 Fischer published the pamphlet “I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!”. It’s quite the read.

After the attacks on New York on September 11th, 2001, he came up with a variety pack of soundbites which hardly endeared him to the world press. “This is all wonderful news,” was one unusually upbeat response.

Our ongoing fascination with prodigies and their frequent and various collapses, falls from grace or simple balls-ups, will not be sated yet by the closing of another peculiar chapter, no matter how singular and compelling it may be. So here’s to you Bobs, you self-hating, anti-Semitic old fool. You can’t help but feel all that chessing blew a fuse upstairs, because there’s just no excusing the Holocaust-denying hateful spiral that left him ignored and ridiculed with cause, spinning out his last days in Iceland.

Also, his influence, or rather that of his persona and precocity can be seen as a thread through some of Wes Anderson’s work, from the character of Max Fischer in Rushmore to the family of troubled prodigies in The Royal Tenenbaums.

To finish up here, a tribute to ol’ Fischface here, in the ribbony lyrics of one Paddy MacAloon in Cue Fanfare from 1984’s Swoon:

The sweetest moment comes at last – the waiting’s over,
In shock they stare and cue fanfare.
When Bobby Fischer’s plane – plane plane – touches the ground –
Plane plane, he’ll take those Russian boys and play them out of town,
Playing for blood as grandmasters should.

Also checking out on Tuesday, was young actor Brad Renfro, tangentially connected to Bobby Fischer via two episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Which I guess is a slightly autistic way to look at it all.

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