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Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (March 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060510242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060510244
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The duo that crafted the bestselling Wittgenstein's Poker returns to chronicle "the most notorious chess duel in history," the 1972 match between world champion Boris Spassky and challenger Bobby Fischer. Although the competition has achieved iconic status, Edmonds and Eidinow do an excellent job of making the story fresh, recreating the atmosphere of controversy that surrounded both players long before they met in Reykjavik, not to mention the extraordinary hurdles tournament organizers faced in getting the already eccentric Fischer to even show up, which ultimately required a phone call from Henry Kissinger and prize money put up by an English millionaire. Fischer's troubling personality is a matter of common knowledge, but the thawing of the Cold War enables the authors to flesh out the Soviet side of the story, offering a fuller perspective on the friction between the rebellious grandmaster and Communist officials, and revelations about the very active presence of the KGB during the games, while debunking other rumors about plots to poison or brainwash Spassky. (Declassified FBI files also present groundbreaking information about Fischer and his family.) The actual chess has been analyzed to death elsewhere, so the authors don't delve into the games' details much except when the players made horrendous blunders, which segue into the underlying focus on psychology, addressing Fischer's ability to get away with bullying officials into meeting his exacting demands and Spassky's loss of confidence over the course of the match. Even if you think you know the story, this highly entertaining account will surprise and delight.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

From Edmonds, author of the unexpectedly popular Wittgenstein's Poker (2001), comes this intriguing look at the world of competitive chess, circa 1972. That was the year Boris Spassky, the Russian, and Bobby Fischer, the upstart American, fought it out for global chess supremacy. It was a match that held the world spellbound, a two-month marathon that hit the front pages (during the last stages of the Vietnam War and the early stages of Watergate) and turned millions of people into chess addicts. But, as the authors demonstrate, the story was not just about two chess masters; it was about politics, about two countries fighting a cold war. Could Fischer break Russia's decades-long hold on the world chess championship? And, by association, could the U.S. vanquish its nemesis? The narrative never really takes off here, as it did in Wittgenstein's Poker, but the book does a very good job of setting the scene, of making us feel as though it's 1972, and we are witnessing something of truly global importance. Good reading, especially for chess buffs. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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I highly recommend anyone interested in chess, politics or a good story to read this book.
Chiang Hai Tat
The authors do a great job of telling the story, giving just enough history of the game of chess and biography of the participants to set the stage.
Brian D. Rubendall
Another excellent book on this match is "Fischer vs. Spassky; World Chess Championship match, 1972" by Svetozar Gligoric.
M. Byrne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
For a brief time in 1972, chess was the only game in the world. Bobby Fischer came face to face with Boris Spassky in Iceland, and the world took delight in a simple morality play. Fischer was depicted as the lone American hero gunning to win the title from the Soviets who had held it for decades. The Cold War was reduced to the free world's champion versus the apparatchiks spawned by the Soviet socialist chess machine. It was fun to watch the battle in such black and white terms, but in _Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time_ (Ecco), David Edmonds and John Eidinow show that the true story was much more complicated although just as exciting. For instance, Spassky may have been a Russian patriot, but he was not a Soviet patriot and he was not a member of the Communist Party. Fischer was eccentric and asocial, and his bratty behavior seemed un-American to many of his fellow Americans. But both their governments had a stake in the match, and people all over the world who knew nothing about chess watched the contest carefully, and many took up the game. It was quite truly the most extraordinary chess match of all time, just as the book's subtitle says, and the book makes clear in how many ways it was extraordinary.
Spassky loved the game for itself, and, as a well-rounded gentleman who liked fishing and festive parties with his friends, seemed sincerely to be looking forward to what he called "a feast of chess," win or lose. He admired Fischer, but the book shows that beyond a colossal talent for chess, Fischer possessed few admirable qualities. He was a morose man who one journalist said "was likely to greet even an old friend as if he were expecting a subpoena".
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A.Trendl HungarianBookstore.com VINE VOICE on March 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If Bobby Fischer's name is affiliated with a book, it comes to reason that there is some amount of weirdness forthcoming. I am not referring to the chess books Fischer wrote, as those are guidelines to chess perfection. This refers to any discussion of his life, which this book does. The world's greatest chess player, Fischer, has lived his personal life much less logically than his life is an eight by eight square cell.

To help the nonchess reader sort out the menagerie, authors David Edmonds and John Eidinow provide a "Dramatis Personae," listing 21 Americans, 24 Soviets, six Icelanders, four match officials, and six sundry others, explaining their relationship to the Reykjavik, Iceland chess match. They also include a short glossary to educate us in the vocabulary of competitive chess.

The book begins with a vital quote by Boris Spassky, "When you play Bobby, it is not a question of whether you win or lose. It is a question of whether you survive. This sets the tone for all that follows.

Edmonds and Eidinow lay out the social mire Fischer was growing up in, and his quick rise to chess dominance.

In 1954, when Fischer was 11, he was attending matches and doing well enough but not at his later prodigy level. In that year, as he is quoted, he "just got good." Modern chess history, or at least for one its most colorful characters, begins then.

1972: Boris Spassky was the champ. He deserved to be there. Bobby Fischer was the contender. He deserved to have the opportunity. Between these two men stood a world of complex politics, money, national pride, idiosyncrasies, and suitors to the game. Reykjavik, Iceland was the location of what has become one of the most legendary chess matches ever, between Spassky and Fischer.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dash Manchette VINE VOICE on July 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am not what you would call a chess enthusiast. Although I can play the game, I do not do so often. What I do enjoy, however, are good tales about the Cold War. It was on that basis that I purchased this book. It is also on that basis that the book succeeds very, very well.

There are three themes that I thought were well illuminated by this book. First was Bobby Fischer's behavior. Of course I had heard that he was eccentric and difficult, but never did I imagine just how bizarre he really could be. His unbelievable micromanagement of every aspect of a tournament, his antisocial behavior, his forfeiting of a game in the world championship, all these are brought to life in a way that provides the reader a real taste for the character of the man that was wonderful, if frustrating, to read.

Second, the book did an excellent job of detailing exactly how beneficial Fischer, and the Fischer/Spassky match, was to chess overall. Bizarre behavior or not, Fischer took chess from a poor man's game to one in which top players could demand top dollar. This was far more interesting than most people would probably imagine and more interesting than I can convey with a simple review.

Third, and most fascinating, was the description of the Cold War chess match that was being played by the US and USSR on the world stage over the Fischer/Spassky match itself. Think about it - the Soviets not only dominated chess but explicitly stated that their chess superiority was evidence of the superiority of their socialist system. Then, not only are the Soviets knocked off their perch, they are utterly demolished.
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