Magazine March 21, 2011, Issue

The Fischer King

Former world chess champion Bobby Fischer gestures during his match against his archrival Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union, in the Yugoslav resort of Sveti Stefan, September 1992. (Ivan Milutinovic/Reuters)
Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall — From America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness, by Frank Brady (Crown, 402 pp., $25.99)

Chess plays an important role in the fiction of Lewis Carroll and Vladimir Nabokov, and in the film of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the characters play chess on a floating board while enveloped in the rising steam of a hot spring. Bobby Fischer (1943–2008) made the intellectual game — one in which there’s no element of chance and the player is entirely responsible for his own fate — popular throughout the world. But, as John Dryden wrote, “Great wits are sure to madness near allied”; and this chess prodigy and champion was mad indeed.

Fischer’s strange childhood provides …

Jeffrey Meyers — Mr. Meyers is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the author of John Huston: Courage and Art.

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The Fischer King

A review of Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall — From America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness, by Frank Brady.

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