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Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time [Hardcover]

David Edmonds , John Eidinow
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mar 2004

Since 1948, the USSR had dominated the World Chess Championships - evidence, Moscow claimed, of the superiority of the Soviet system. But then came Bobby Fischer.

A dysfunctional genius, Fischer was uniquely equipped to take on the Soviets. His every waking hour was devoted to the game. He had steamrollered all opposition to reach the championship. When he became increasingly volatile, Henry Kissinger phoned him, urging Fischer to fight for his country.

Against him was Spassky: complex, sensitive, the most un-Soviet of champions. As the authors reveal, when Spassky began to lose, the KGB decided to step in.

Drawing upon unpublished Soviet and US records, this is a fascinating story of history, politics and chess. And at its core it is a human tragedy, a story of brilliance and triumph, hubris and despair.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060510242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060510244
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 14.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,657,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘The most famous chess match of all time is reconstructed in a style as compelling as that of a thriller' -- Irish Times

‘This is an excellent book, and you do not need to play chess to enjoy it.' -- Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It is five o'clock in the evening of Tuesday, 11July 1972. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coldest of Wars 9 Feb 2005
This gripping book tells of a psychological war fought in different arenas and on different levels.
The opening chapters describe the childhoods and crucibles that forged the World Champion Chess careers of Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer. Brought up solely by his Mother in Brooklyn, Fischer's main struggle in these early years was with the rest of world, desperately trying to exclude everything but his growing mania for the 64 squares. His world collapses inwards, and this warped battlefield is the territory where Bobby would fight all his wars.
Spassky grows up in a land ravaged by Stalinism, characterised by poverty and paranoia. His struggles are more determined by survival than Bobby's comparatively cushioned life. Spassky develops a strong patriotic love for his country, but not it's ruling political ideology, with which he is always at odds. He is a Russian, not a Soviet, never endorsing the party line as his superiors would wish, and at times making comments that would land a less privileged individual in jail or hospital.
The book is fascinating in its insights into the importance of Chess to the Soviet mind, how it becomes politicised into a proof that the superiority of the Russian players means a validation of the superiority of the Soviet worldview.
The insights given into the Chess cultures of both America and Russia are also a fascinating way of exploring the hold Chess has on the imaginations of many, and how these are worked out.
Fischer's incredible hat-trick defeat of Russian Champions makes for a compelling read.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The opening chapters are some of the most fascinating in this book, concerning Fischer's childhood and his obsession with chess and prodigious ability. The story of Fischer's life - which is at least outlined here, though the bulk of the book is focussed on the years around the 1972 world championship match - would make Fischer seem perhaps a little hyperbolic if he were a character in a novel, making the novel slightly unrealistic, but in this case the truth is more fascinating than fiction. It is hard to believe how difficult Fischer was during the match with Spassky in 1972, and I believe that nowadays he would have been accused of blatant gamesmanship in the psychological effect his actions would have had on his opponent. In fact, when reading this book the reader actually takes the stance of feeling sorry for the Russians as though they are the underdogs, despite them having been the titans of chess for decades, (and decades to come after Fischer), so in that respect at least Fischer's extreme fussiness and fickleness got him a fair match, or maybe even an unfair one in his favour. Fischer's future opponent Spassky's childhood is narrated after Fischer's and then chapters concerning the Soviet chess establishment and the big names such as Petrosian, Tal, Botvinnik and Spassky cover the next fifty or so pages. These were the parts that I felt were the least interesting or the least compelling to read, but others with more knowledge of Russian history might enjoy these chapters a lot. The narrative then shifts to the early 70s where Fischer qualifies as challenger for the world title in his famous bulldozing of the top Soviet chess players. Read more ›
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read 1 Feb 2004
Bobby Fischer Goes To War is, as the British Grandmaster Nigel Short has put it, an outstanding piece of investigative journalism. Rather than focus on the chess, it examines the colorful human drama away from the board. In the past it has traditionally been presented as a Cold War battle - the individualistic American genius versus the product of the Soviet machine. In fact, as the authors show, with fascinating new documentary evidence, it was far more nuanced than that. Indeed, both the volatile and eccentric American and the free-spirited Russian were considerable irritants to their respective nations. You don't need to know anything about the game to enjoy this gripping account of this most notorious of all chess matches.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cold War Comes to Iceland 13 July 2004
I'm a chess player. And just about every chess player finds themselves fascinated by the enigma that is Bobby Fischer. Possibly the strongest player ever (though many will put forth other players as possibly stronger), who almost single-handedly changed the rules (and the prize money) for tournament players everywhere, he is also the only man to ever forfeit the World Championship, the only one to earn almost universal disgust for his anti-Semite and anti-American diatribes.
This book details the events and characters that led up to the 1972 World Championship match in Reykjavik, Iceland. You don't have to be a chess player to read this (almost none of the actual game details are covered here - there are many other books that perform this task). The focus is on how a lone American challenged for and finally won the world title, a title that had been held by the Soviets since the end of World War II. The Cold War between these two countries forms the backdrop for this encounter, and incredible as it may sound, diplomats, lawyers, the KGB, high political figures in both countries, and multi-millionaires helped create and shape many of the events leading to the match - for a game that had, at the time, perhaps 10,000 serious adherents in the U.S.
The authors delve deeply into the characters of both Bobby and Boris Spassky, giving a large amount of biographical detail, some of which is either not widely known or newly revealed here, using as sources both FBI files and documents from the KGB and other Soviet agencies. Their assessments of the mental state of both participants will generally ring true, amply supported by documents, interview material, photos and assessments by other grandmasters, though at times I thought they may have gone a bit overboard with generalizations.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good
I've been reading quite a few Bobby Fisher autobiographies and this one was as good as any other. For any Bobby Fisher fan - this book is worth reading.
Published 15 months ago by olivier sainson
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting book
This is the story of the epic 1972 World Chess Championship between Bobby Fischer ( the chess genius and challenger ) and Boris Spassky ( the Champion ). Read more
Published on 16 Nov 2011 by Mr. Leong Wai Hong
4.0 out of 5 stars Genius is no excuse
A compelling account of the 1972 world chess championship, accessible to non-chess players and of interest to students of the Cold War: the account of this match is well... Read more
Published on 9 Jan 2011 by Aidan J. McQuade
2.0 out of 5 stars overlong
This could have been a brilliant, sharp essay, but instead it has been extended into book length, making it tedious. Read more
Published on 16 Sep 2008 by Nt Deregowski
4.0 out of 5 stars Bobby Fischer Goes to War
'Bobby Fischer Goes to War' is an in-depth account of the fischer-spassky matches in Reykjavik in 1972. Read more
Published on 11 July 2008 by Spider Monkey
5.0 out of 5 stars The Yeti of the chess world...
Not much to add to what's already been said, except to confirm that this is a thoroughly engrossing, fascinating and riveting account of the Fischer/Spassky match. Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2007 by Baz
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun to Look Back!
This book covers the infamous Fischer v Spassky match played at the height of the Cold War. Told from a perspective of thirty years, it's clear that the behaviour of Fischer could... Read more
Published on 26 Oct 2004 by R. P. Sedgwick
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if a little slow...
This is quite an unusual book about chess - it concentrates on the human story, and not the games played. Read more
Published on 19 Jan 2004 by JONATHAN BECKETT
4.0 out of 5 stars good, but not much new...
As with their first book, team Eidinow-Edmonds uses the occasion of a "spat" to stand for a whole kind of world, a kind of lens through which they refract the whole of a subject. Read more
Published on 27 Dec 2003
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