Monday, June 06, 2011

"Bobby Fischer Against the World": compelling bio of chess champ on HBO

Female chess champion Susan Polgar introduces the HBO film “Bobby Fischer Against the World” with her blogger entry  (website url) today.
The documentary film is directed and written by Liz Garbus.  HBO has a snazzy site for the film here

The early part of the film covers Bobby Fischer’s upbringing, which is put out as explaining his eccentric and introverted and intense personality. Yet, as a young man, Fischer was handsome and vigorous and could be likeable in his own way.

Much of the film chronicles the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match. Fischer lost the first game with a temperamental blunder and forfeited the second game, refusing to show up over a dispute over playing conditions. He did not like to be photographed and deal with the public then. Yet Fischer came back to win the match convincingly, changing from his usual King Pawn openings to Queenside openings sometimes.

Chess boomed in the US after Fischer won. The match had a lot of political significance in the cold war, and curiously occurred just before Nixon’s reelection and subsequent Watergate.

As he grew older, Fischer became eccentric again, eventually getting into a legal wrangle for playing a tournament in the 1990s in Yugoslavia against orders from the US government because of Clinton’s policy in the Balkans.  He would be arrested in Japan in 2004 but win asylum in Iceland.

The film attempts to model the relationship between chess, with its abstract and deterministic model (even though there are more possible games than atoms in the universe), and the “tree of life”, or perhaps karma.

This would be a good place to note the 1993 film about a fictitious chess prodigy who wants to emulate Bobby, “In Search of Bobby Fischer”, which I saw at the Shirlington at the time it came out. It’s directed by Steve Zailian, from Paramount, with Max Pomeranc as the prodigy. I remember the dialogue line “They’re just pieces.”   That film had amateur scenes in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.

Yet, a documentary, with many live shots of Fischer at many ages and many live shots of tournaments, most of all 1972, and some chess analysis.

The main website for the US Chess Federation is how this.  My best rating, in the early 1980s, was just under 2000.  

Last picture: White resigns! (The Ruy Lopez modern Archangel.)  See the "BillBoushka" blog, Aug. 19, 2008, for my own chess history.

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