I'm a pretty good chess player having achieved a USCF expert's rating in my twenties and even in my sixties gaining a draw with International Master John Donaldson at the US Open in Los Angeles in 2003. (He offered a draw in a losing position. Since I had little time left on my clock I accepted.)
I should also say that I am a personal friend of Larry Remlinger whom I have known since childhood. He played against Fischer in at least one US Junior Championship in the 1950s. He recalled that after the games one day he and Fischer played blitz chess well into the night. Larry told me that Fischer (a year and half younger than Larry) was winning at first but as the night wore on Larry pulled ahead. Larry despised Bobby Fischer as well he might since even then Fischer was a narcissistic spoiled brat of a human being. And of course he only got worse as the paranoia and schizophrenia kicked in.
Frank Brady did not interview Larry Remlinger and Larry did not contact Brady. Too bad.
Nonetheless this is an outstanding biography, painstakingly researched and documented, beautifully edited and written in the kind of prose that tells the story without flourishes or pretension, the kind of "invisible" prose that George Orwell admired and practiced. And it is a "fair and balanced" account, celebrating the genius of Fischer's mastery of chess while not shying away from reporting his great failings as a human being. Moreover it is a great human tragic tale, the sort of story that would engage the mind of Sophocles or Shakespeare, and may someday find its great author to dramatize the sadness.
This well detailed biography begins with Fischer near his final years, a fugitive from the law, wanted in America for sanction violations (playing chess in the former Yugoslav republic in 1992) and a marked man for his hate-filled rant on the radio after September 11. The Japanese authorities have captured Fischer at the airport and have put a sack over his head while he throws a tantrum.
From this disturbing scene, we shoot back to Fischer's childhood during the Mcarthy Era in which his mother, who lived in Russia and was involved in Leftist political activities, is investigated by the FBI. Fischer as a child with a genius IQ of 180 becomes obsessed with chess and is soon hailed as a prodigy beating adults around the world, including US's rival, Russia.
As Fischer becomes more and more prominent, Brady captures the demons that begin to consume Fischer: He becomes more and more anti-Semitic though he himself is a Jew, he becomes a hypochondriac, a paranoid malcontent, and a grouch who cannot elicit the reader's sympathy, at least for me.
Brady takes us to Fischer's final years in Iceland (the only country that would host him after he renounced his US citizenship and became a wanted man by Interpol all over the world), referred to as a "devil's island," a place where Fischer must spend the rest of his life.
We get the picture of a broken man with no will to live, mildly consoled by eating at restaurants 3 times a day and refusing medical treatment for his urinary tract and weakened kidneys.
Growing up in the 1970s and taking pride in Fischer's domination over the Soviets, I found this a bracing read, a portrait of a man too smart for his own good and too delusional. Highly recommended for those who want a biography that neither praises nor condemns Fischer as much as it gives us a lucid portrait of him.
74 internautes sur 81 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Bobby Fischer was someone who used to turn up in the news every now and then in some remarkable way, and then disappear for years; this book fills in the gaps. I played a lot of chess in college, in the late fifties, and remember reading about Bobby Fischer then and thinking that he would revolutionize the game. Then in 1972, he really did, with the Fischer-Spassky match triggering the chess mania that swept the country and got me to dust off my old set. Then... silence, except for occasional weird news: he's on skid row; he's been arrested; he's spewing anti-Semitism.
This book is a fascinating account of what happened in between these flashes of news and succeeds in explaining what Fischer was all about. You don't have to be a chess fan to enjoy it (or even know the moves). It's easy, vivid reading, and kept me up beyond my bedtime. It's full of all sorts of interesting details: where his strange religious and political views came from; the files the FBI had on him and his mother; whether he was circumcised (!); the fact that he was Russell Targ's brother-in-law. The author certainly knows his subject.
Fischer was one of the most extreme "outliers" of his generation: totally brilliant, tragically self-destructive, utterly ungrateful, but thoroughly captivating. Whether you remember Fischer or not, you'll enjoy this book as a character study of an amazing figure.
49 internautes sur 55 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
A compelling biography of a troubled man11 janvier 2011
Brady has written a compelling biography of Bobby Fischer, who disappeared from the public stage after winning the world championship in chess. You don't have to know anything about chess to appreciate the book, which is about the man and not the game.
Some features of Fischer's personality emerge from the book. First, he was apparently unable to understand that business agreements require that both sides get something from the deal. He believed that if other people profited at all from his activities, then they were taking advantage of him. As a result, he walked away from over ten million dollars in business opportunities after winning the world championship. It's tempting to say that this view reflects the zero-sum nature of chess, and his own playing style, which sought victories and not draws.
Second, there was a healthy dose of paranoia in Fischer's makeup. He was convinced that the Soviet Union, and later the United States government, were out to get him, as were the world's Jews. Of course, paranoids can have real enemies - - the Soviet chess establishment did collude to try to keep the title in their community, and the U.S. government did go after him for violating international sanctions against Yugoslavia. Fischer's anti-Semitic paranoia seems purely irrational.
Third, I was amazed at how much loyalty Fischer could command from his friends despite treating them poorly and discarding them all too easily. Brady does not convey exactly why people put up with this treatment, even though Brady was a sometimes friend of Fischer himself. I suspect that hero worship helps explain why people tolerated mistreatment in order to remain close to such a gifted chess player.
Brady himself remains surprisingly loyal despite having been estranged from Fischer for many years. He characterizes the man but does not judge him as a person. He does judge Fischer as a chess grandmaster, who was probably the greatest ever to play the game. This is not the book for studying his games, but it's an insightful and fast-paced biography of a difficult human being.
142 internautes sur 179 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Before launching into a review of a bio of Fischer, I'd like to disclose my personal biases which may influence my review of the book. Like many tournament chess players who started that hobby in the early 70s, I was a product of the "Fischer Boom". I knew of Fischer and his previous monumental successes through his chess column in Boy's Life magazine, and later his book, "My 60 Memorable Games". Those exposures led me to believe that Fischer was a personable and friendly man with a playful and helpful spirit. I wasn't to learn for many years that all of his chess columns and most of the prose in his book were ghost written by Larry Evans, and the positive qualities I ascribed to Fischer were in fact those of Evans. Later, when Fischer won the World Championship, he was even more cemented in the role of hero of American Chess that he had already filled for more than a decade. Many of us were shocked when he then went into severe seclusion, and fatally sabotaged any chance of defending his title against Anatoly Karpov three years later.
Fischer gradually faded from the consciousness of most chess fans and tournament players, finally re-emerging in 1992 to play a privately sponsored rematch against Boris Spassky. Both men were paid handsomely for the match, with the major problem being that they were being paid by war criminals whom the US State Department had already proscribed any business contact with by US citizens. An arrest warrant was put out for Fischer, and he never returned to his native land. Fischer may have already harbored a resentment for America, but regardless of whether one already existed, this episode placed Fischer fully at odds with his homeland. He was unceasingly critical of the USA for the rest of his life, in a manner consistent with the way he had attacked everything and everyone that at some point became the target of his lifelong paranoid fantasies. I still had some sympathies for Fischer until he publicly stated after 9/11 that the USA "deserved" the attack. I realized at that point that Fischer was irredeemable, as he was actually celebrating the murder of more than 3000 innocent civilians in the city he grew up in and from which he launched his early successes.
Brady has written books about chess off and on for decades, and wrote an earlier book on Fischer, "Profile of a Prodigy". He knew Fischer at least from personal meetings, but as has been mentioned by others, it is unlikely that anyone really KNEW Fischer. Ultimately Fischer suspected and rejected even long time friends and associates like Larry Evans, who would have done nothing but give him good advice. I'll have to say that most of the "powers that be" in the chess world did Fischer no good on a personal level. Fischer was so difficult to deal with and so unpredictably bratty that people tended to take extraordinary actions in attempts to get him to play in important events, even including his successful world championship match, that were just as good for American chess organization as they were personally for Fischer. What Fischer needed was consistent rejection of his own poor behavior, and maybe he would have adapted in a positive fashion. Instead those in contact with him coddled him to the point of becoming enablers. Everyone is certainly responsible for their own individual behavior, but it is certain that Fischer got little help in the form of external influences, and rejected the advice and relationships of the few who tried to be honest with him.
Brady's book seems a bit like those enablers, and seems to want to play both sides of the street. He doesn't want to completely reveal the deeper reason for Fischer's behavior, even tho all the episodes (call them tantrums) are reported. I can only imagine that he is walking the tightrope between alienating those who might still regard themselves as fans of Fischer, while at the same time providing an expose for those either interested in or revelling in the man's fall from grace, and participation in any sort of a normal life. So if you are interested in a fill in the blanks sort of story about eras in Fischer's life about which you are in the dark, you'll get that here. If you are looking for a frank appraisal of the depths of the reasons for Fischer's increasingly depraved behavior, you'll find that somewhat glossed over.
I give the book only three stars for three reasons:
First, because I feel that it is more in line with yet another attempt by the world around Fischer to cash in on what remains of his fame, rather than motivated by a desire to reveal the truth about the man.
Second, because in his attempt to make the story of Fisher's life more "interesting", he has engaged in page after page of embellished surmises. Granted that Brady knew Fisher for a long time. However, he repeatedly dreams up descriptions of events where he was not present and indulges himself in seemingly endless minutiae. A description of Fisher's thought process at age 6 as he solves a page in a puzzle book ... the description of traffic and noise on a street where Fisher walked, in another incident before Brady even knew him ... the list goes on. Its as if Brady finds the facts too difficult to make interesting, so he must arrange flowers around them to pretty them up for the reader. For me personally, I find it tedious when an author embellishes a biography with fanciful fictional notions for "my benefit". Tell me what happened Frank. Tell me what you know people said. Don't give me a blow by blow of words you imagine might have gone though Bobby's mind during an event at which you were not present.
Third, the last half of the book is particularly dull, not to mention very depressing. Only the Spassky rematch livens things up a bit, but Brady doesn't really bring much life to even that high note of Fischer's post 1972 life. Granted, Brady doesn't have much to work with. Fischer's life post 1972 was indeed particularly dull and depressing. It doesn't even serve as a cautionary tale from which you might learn life lessons. Fischer's behaviour was so far out that not many readers are likely to be in a similar position from which they can learn from Fischer's mistakes. About the only lesson from Fischer's later life would be: "Don't be abusively and ignorantly rude to those trying to befriend you". However, the lack of good source material isn't an excuse. Brady chose his subject and its framework, then failed to elevate it to an interesting read. Maybe some readers are interested in a lengthy blow by blow of the opportunistic and unseemly squabbling over what was left of Fischer's 1992 prize after his death. I wasn't. Of course, that sordid story was left unfinished, so even it had no satisfactory sense of completion.
For myself, I ceased to have any feeling whatsoever for Fischer after his 9/11 remarks. It is possible to disagree with and disapprove of actions taken by your country without crossing the line to become a traitor. I personally feel that Fischer crossed that line, and his mental illness is not a good enough reason to excuse him for it.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Good enough, but beware rehashed material23 avril 2011
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Frank Brady, author of PROFILE OF A PRODIGY, one of the best books on the rise of Bobby Fischer to the World Chess Championship in 1972, is "back at the board" with a full-length general-reader biography that completes Fischer's bizarre odyssey to (and beyond?) "the edge of madness" and the man's pathetic end as a stateless, anti-Semitic quasi-hermit in Iceland, the site of his great victory. Brady certainly knows as much about this strange genius as anyone, and he does deliver a readable book, but the end product is not what it could have been, thanks in large part to Brady's patchy (to put it mildly) and occasionally cynical (to put it harshly) use of material from PRODIGY. A "newbie" unfamiliar with chess literature will no doubt have a more positive opinion of the work.
To give him his due, Brady does expand upon some events that were only touched upon in the earlier book. He gives a good description of Bobby's childhood and fleshes out such incidents as young Bobby's appearance on "I've Got a Secret" in the late 1950s, but skims over some others that would appear to be particularly germane to the theme of Fischer the tortured genius. Why not more on Ralph Ginzburg's ATLANTIC MONTHLY interview with Fischer from 1961, a piece which did considerable damage to Fischer's reputation very early in his career? Brady describes the Fischer who appeared in that portrait as "homophobic" and "misogynistic" but doesn't give us any particulars. When the subject turns to Fischer's amazing run through the qualifying rounds prior to his 1972 duel with Boris Spassky, Brady suddenly "becomes a camera," reproducing entire passages from PROFILE verbatim. Other writers have been able to dig up much more information on the Fischer-Spassky match (especially now that the old Soviet archives have been opened) and produce highly enjoyable works. The fact that Brady did not avail himself of these new data was highly disappointing.
Fischer's post-1972 life makes profoundly depressing reading, and Brady's book is at its most interesting (in a perverse sort of way) here. While he had a certain ability to charm people, Fischer's devouring need to control all aspects of his environment ultimately drove all but the most loyal of his compatriots away. His late-in-life anti-Americanism (e.g. his notorious cheering for "death to America" after 9/11) is attributed in part to a late detonation of warnings about "FBI snooping" passed on by Fischer's leftist mother, but the cynic in me is more inclined to blame his legal quarrels over money and unwillingness to pay taxes. (This is, after all, a man who wanted to be paid more for a chess championship defense than Muhammad Ali and George Foreman got for their "Rumble in the Jungle.") There is something touching in Fischer's desire to find romantic love as he aged, but in all other respects he is a particularly noxious example of how genius can destroy itself from within. I certainly think that there will be better Fischer biographies in the future, but this is a good "first draft" of Fischer's twisted history.