Bobby Fischer Against The World (12A)

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The Independent Culture

The life of US chess superstar Bobby Fischer divides quite neatly into three acts: Fame, then Obscurity, then Notoriety.

The first part of Liz Garbus's bio-doc is the most fascinating, tracing the arc of a boy who, aged seven, became an obsessive chess player, won the US championship aged 15 and peaked aged 29 in 1972 when he beat Boris Spassky for the world championship in Iceland. With the Cold War still ongoing, this was also a political triumph for the US: Henry Kissinger had intervened by phone to persuade Fischer to play. As for the man, he is elusive: having won the world title Fischer virtually disappeared, refusing to defend his title. Variously described as "eccentric" and "stubborn", he had a troubled relationship with his activist mother and seemed to prefer the company of animals to people. At some point he may have been overwhelmed by the maintenance of his genius, having recognised the number of moves in chess as equivalent to "atoms in the solar system". It's possible his mind was deranged by the game. Even the most perceptive of Garbus's interviewees are at a loss to explain Fischer's later years, fogged by paranoia and violently anti-Semitic delusions – this from a man whose mother was Jewish. It's a sad story of genius paying for the gift.