13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
"Fischer is impossible to understand." - Boris Spassky,
This review is from: Bobby Fischer Goes to War (Paperback)
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. It seems that everyone was certain Fischer was the strongest player in the world even when Spassky was champion, and the main challenge was to just get him to play and prove his superiority to the rest of the world in this game.
This book kept me happy reading in any spare hours for about a week and is a fascinating piece of chess history, and is largely a psychological profile of Fischer. I would find it unlikely for someone interested in grandmaster chess and the grandmasters of the past to not find this book compulsive reading. There are some unanswered questions about Fischer such as rumour that he studied a single move for thirty years to decide whether h2-h4 was a good move or not on a particular position from a 1960s chess game. It is hard not to be awed with some of these details and they may illuminate the person that managed to get such a great edge over the other best grandmasters of the time.