Here at Friday’s Finest I usually present movies, but today I would like to delve into one of, if not my favourite documentary – Bobby Fischer Against The World. I revisit it regularly, like I did just the other night and find it captivating and a rich learning experience each time. This is not the first time I have mentioned this film. I wrote an article on one of my most prized books in my small and modest collection (I’m not a book hoarder) – Bobby Fischer – My 60 Memorable Games (First printing 1969).
I wrote: ‘More than any other chess player I found Bobby Fisher the most compelling, not only because he revolutionized the game and won the USA it’s only world chess championship during the height of the cold war, but because his personal life and psychological state were so perplexing‘.
Bobby Fischer Against The World contains so much rare film archive of Bobby and interviews with his closest friends, associates and chess experts whom explore Bobby Fischer’s family and upbringing, his remarkable chess feats (including a breakdown of his World Championship win against Russian Boris Spassky), and eventually to his life as a fugitive on the run.
Each time I watch it, I am staggered by how he coped with the amount of political and peer pressure representing the US against the Russians during the Cold War. It’s one of the greatest achievements ever accomplished.. full-stop. It’s marvellous that Liz Garbus was able to capture all of this to make one feel like they were there at the time seeing this all play out.
Liz Garbus began her work on the film after Fischer’s death in 2008. She said of Fischer: “It’s hard to imagine that in 1972, all eyes were on a chess match, but it does, in fact, seem to be the case. Bobby Fischer was this self-taught Brooklyn boy who took the New York chess scene and then the national chess scene by storm. And the Russians had been dominating the sport for decades. … So for an American to have a real chance at beating that [Soviet] machine, this was big stuff. … The symbolism of the match was enormous.“
Recalling the day Bobby Fischer died on January 17, 2008 Psychiatrist Dr Skulason stated, ‘Once, towards dawn, he woke up and said his feet ached and asked if I could massage them. I tried my best, and it was then that he said his last words to me and, as far as I know, to anybody. Responding to my hands on his feet he said, with a terrible gentleness, “Nothing is as healing as the human touch.”
One of the poignant You tube comments below (which features the entire documentary) I’d like to use to close this article:
‘His youth and upbringing were marred by a lack of love, direction, and identity. Combine these with genius and a extraordinary proficiency at applying that genius to chess and you have a recipe for pain, rejection, foolishness, and antagonism. Never underestimate the power of a good mother and father.‘