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Kasparov on Fischer's Follies
Almost hate to start another thread on the subject, not because it's not an interesting discussion, but...well, you know. Nevertheless Gary Kasparov wrote a kind of retrospective on Fischer for today's Wall Street Journal. wsj.com is a pay site, but you can read the article for free (after a registration process) at www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110005371. It's a nice bit, and I recommend it.
Gary, as a "contributing editor" to the Wall Street Journal, is actually a fairly frequent contributor to its opinion pages. This is not surprising, given his political stake in today's Russia. However, I was interested to note that today's piece identifies him as "the world's top-ranked chess player," while one on terrorism printed just a few days ago called him "the world's leading chess player." I remarked on it to myself at the time, thinking it displayed a touch of hubris (certainly not hubris! not from Gary!), but today's line sits much better with me.
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In case you don't have an account on the site...
Chess may have been the only thing that kept the champion in touch with reality.
BY GARRY KASPAROV
Monday, July 19, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT
The stunning news of Bobby Fischer's detention in Japan came at a moment in which the American former world chess champion was already very much on my mind. I am currently finishing the fourth of my six-volume series on the game's great players and it is precisely this volume of which Robert James Fischer, forever known as Bobby, is the star.
This project has involved going over hundreds of Fischer's chess games in minute detail. It also means trying to understand the man behind the moves and the era in which he made them.
Despite his short stay at the top there is little to debate about the chess of Bobby Fischer. He changed the game in a way that hadn't been seen since the late 19th century. The gap between Mr. Fischer and his contemporaries was the largest ever. He singlehandedly revitalized a game that had been stagnating under the control of the Communists of the Soviet sports hierarchy.
When Bobby Fischer rocketed to the top of the chess world in the early 1970s he was a fine wine in a flawed vessel. His contributions to the game, both at the board and from a commercial perspective, were nothing short of a revolution in the chess world. At the same time, his brittle and abusive character showed cracks that deepened with his every step toward the highest title.
Today, it is hard to imagine the sensation of Mr. Fischer's success when he wrested the world championship away from Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1972. In the middle of the Cold War, the Brooklyn-raised iconoclast took the crown from the well-oiled Soviet machine that had dominated the chess world for decades. And this after he barely showed up for the match at all, and then lost the first game and forfeited the second!
Partially due to Mr. Fischer's outrageous behavior leading up to and during the "match of the century," the international media coverage was incredible. The games were shown live around the world. I was nine years old and already a strong club player when the Fischer-Spassky match took place, and I followed the games avidly. Fischer, who had crushed two other Soviet grandmasters on his march to the title match, nonetheless had many fans in the Soviet Union. They respected his chess, of course, but many quietly enjoyed his individuality and independence.
After the match ended in a convincing victory for the American, the world was at his feet. Chess was on the cusp of becoming a commercially successful sport for the first time. Mr. Fischer's play, nationality and natural charisma created a unique opportunity. He was a national hero whose popularity rivaled that of Muhammad Ali. (Would the secretary of state have called Ali before a fight the way Henry Kissinger called Mr. Fischer?) Sales of chess sets and books boomed, and tournament prize funds soared. With Bobby Fischer in the lead, chess was headed for the popularity of golf and tennis.
With glory, however, comes responsibility and tremendous pressure. Mr. Fischer couldn't bring himself to play again. He spent three years away from the board before the precious title he had worked his entire life for was forfeited without the push of a pawn in 1975.
Astronomical amounts of money were offered to lure him back. He could have played a match against the new champion, Anatoly Karpov, for an unheard of $5 million. Opportunities abounded, but Mr. Fischer's was a purely destructive force. He demolished the Soviet chess machine but could build nothing in its place. He was the ideal challenger--but a disastrous champion.
The conventional wisdom says that Bobby Fischer was a guileless and petulant child who just wanted his own way. I believe he was conscious of all his actions and the psychological effect his behavior had on his opponents. The gentlemanly Mr. Spassky was ill-prepared to deal with the belligerent American in Reykjavik. In 1975, Mr. Fischer's challenger was the young Mr. Karpov, whom I would later meet in five consecutive world championship matches.
Unable to even contemplate defeat, Mr. Fischer left chess. Bereft of the only thing he had ever wanted to do in his life, he turned his destructive energies inward, espousing a virulent anti-Semitism--despite his own Jewish heritage.
The Fischer drama had a final act in 1992, when, almost 50 years old, he was brought out of seclusion by the lure of millions to play a rematch against Mr. Spassky in war-torn Yugoslavia in violation of international sanctions. The chess was predictably rusty, although there were a few flashes of the old Bobby brilliance. His mental stability, however, had atrophied even more during the 20 years of solitude. Later, Mr. Fischer's profane remarks would span from accusations of Jewish conspiracies to a welcoming of the events of 9/11.
Despite the ugliness of his decline, Bobby Fischer deserves to be remembered for the great things he did for chess and for his immortal games. I would prefer to focus on not letting his personal tragedy become a tragedy for chess.
An entire generation of top American players learned the game as kids thanks to Mr. Fischer. Today's flourishing scholastic chess movement could be harmed as his woes and beliefs make headlines around the world. People may believe that this is what happens when a genius plays chess--instead of what happens when a fragile mind leaves his life's work behind.
Mr. Kasparov, the world's top-ranked chess player, is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal.
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I was informed by a member that perhaps the posting of this article was not entirely legal. My apologies if this is indeed the case. I was simply trying to save other members the trouble of having to sign up for an account on the website. I have a particular distaste for these sorts of tactics by websites that potentially use the account information to generate additional spam mail or facilitate lucrative marketing schemes. Again, my apologies if I broke a few copyright laws in the process. I found the article particularly intersting!
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and even interesting! ;)
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Well done grove!
I think you did a nice thing! :-) You saved a lot of my time ;-)
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Kasparov on Fischer's Follies
Thank you, groove, for taking the time and effort to post the WSJ article written by Garry which was most informative. I really wouldn't worry about the legality of this. You're not making any money from this posting, it's an article that's available to the general public and you gave credit to the source of your information. This is more akin to sharing info among friends than plagiarism. Anyway, thanks and good luck in your games.
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Much appeciated Groove (an an excellent summation by Mr K.)
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Ok, the same article is now available at ChessBase.com (with permission from The Wall Street Journal)
No registration required. So, the ones who don't want to spoil their carma, by reading the "stolen" version of the article in this thread, can check it out on the Chessbase website :)
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Interesting to note in that article kasparov stated he is working on his 4th book, when he hasn't finished his third, or has he? Perhaps he will release the two at the same time, as i believe he did with the first two editions.
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The Everyman site has this up at the moment: www.everymanbooks.com/display.php?id=224
so it looks as if it is about to be published in the autumn. I noticed that it describes it as a paperback - I really hope they don't mean that, I was hoping for another matching hardback to adorn my shelves! The blurb describes it as being about Petrosian, Spassky and Fischer, but only the two former are pictured on the front cover. Volume 4 looks to be devoted solely to RJF, and is scheduled for November 2004, see www.everymanbooks.com/display.php?id=223
It remains to be seen whether they will be published on time, of course, because the first two certainly weren't!
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I have some thoughts about how RJF/"Bobby" might feel, were His picture "used" upon the front of that book ! But they are NOT Very Deep ones :)
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His picture IS on the front of volume 4. Presumably he can think whatever he likes about the use of the photo - I assume Everyman have the permission of the holder of copyright on the picture so they are well within their rights.
Surely, even Fischer wouldn't make a fuss about anything as trivial as that! Or do you mean he might object to the title of the book? It's accurate and, to my mind, inarguable, but I suppose he might feel differently.
Perhaps you're referring to his claim to still be world champion. Well we all know what he could do about that. When the boxing world took Ali's title away from him he came and took it back. Your move, Bobby!
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Hi Chris, ....You were "here" for the Spassky match. So I know you'll understand the suggestion that Bobby has been a little particular in the past about use of his image...? And now "by" Kasparov yet, more or less !. I'm boggled. Considering K's ethnicity, nationality, and his past comments on the champ and his games. And RJF's inclinations (of his public persona at least?).
(Is this the same Bobby that I've heard to be calling Larry Evans "a jew" now, after the suggestion of collaberation on 60 Memorable was heard...? Whether due to that or something else, or not?) (Understanding that to be one of his major supporters for long, long .... and his favorite word in Bobbyspeak for "He who I really, really don't like" , it has seemed. )
But isn't it nice when bygones be bygones.
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OH, to clarify....Supporter
to mean personal, & Chess, but not to say prejudiced. Quite contrare from what I've seen re LE. So dont misconstrue that, plz.
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I didn't realise ...
that Mr. Kasparov was such a good writer. Has anyone bought and read any of his recently published books?
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Letting bygones be bygones, ccmcacollister? Yes, it is nice, but is it Fischer? :-) Kaspy can hardly leave Fischer out of consideration when considering his "Great Predecessors" though - even if it does risk another Bobbyrant.
roland_l - Yes, I have both book so far published and have read them cover to cover. The thing I like particularly is that Kasparov isn't presenting his analyses as the last word on the games he considers. He has been inviting comment and further analysis via the internet in order to get as deep an understanding as possible of the games in question. The books themselves are well written/translated and contain a wealth of info about the various champions and their challengers. Not that it's information that wasn't perhaps available elsewhere, but to have it all brought together is quite useful. The games themselves seem well chosen, and the analysis, by a Fritz-assisted Garry is deep, and helps to make the ramifications of the positions clearer. Well worth the money, and well worth a lot of attention in reading, in my opinion.