- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (March 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060510250
- ISBN-13: 978-0060510251
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 108 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How A Lone American Star Defeated the Soviet Chess Machine Paperback – March 1, 2005
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“Readers will savor a marvelous portrait of East against West, with perceived societal superiority as the real prize.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“[An] intriguing look at the world of competitive chess, circa 1972.... Good reading, especially for chess buffs.” (Booklist)
“[A] praiseworthy, terrific book… marvelous.” (Chess Life)
“Bobby Fischer Goes to War tells the story in fine, brisk style…conveying the richness of the world beyond the chessboard.” (Time magazine)
“[Edmonds and Eidinow] show themselves once again to be grandmasters of nonfiction narrative.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“The book will be one of the major sources of history for new generations of chess players.” (Boston Globe)
“David Edmonds and John Eidinow have penned a delightful book about the politics of that legendary match.” (Washington Times)
A superbly researched reminder of a 20th century culture clash.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
“A fascinating story well told.” (Nashville Tennessean)
“Engagingly written... a real page-turner!” (Library Journal)
About the Author
David Edmonds is an award-winning journalists with the BBC. He's the bestselling authors of Bobby Fischer Goes to War and Wittgenstein’s Poker.
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I had often wondered how this historic chess match came to be played in Iceland of all places and this book tells you how that happened along with the whirlwind of behind the scenes preparations, accommodations, negotiations and drama regarding Fischer's demands and the demands of other parties involved with this match. I felt sorry for the Icelandic people because the Fischer-Spassky match disrupted their obscure peaceful lives but they adapted gracefully.
Even though this book is mostly about the people, events and issues surrounding the famous chess match it also provides some general background information about Fischer, Spassky and the chess world leading up to the match. There is more information concerning the Russian side than Fischer's side but that's only because Russian chess was a well-organized government funded sport that involved several committees, trainers, doctors and other Russian chess grandmasters. Bobby Fischer on the other hand was a loner who took up chess at the age of six and got deeply and passionately involved with the game and who mostly studied and taught himself chess. At a young age Bobby set the chess world championship title as his goal and he relentlessly pursued the title with intensity. Besides Bobby's passion and talent for chess I don't believe Bobby's life was interesting or special in any way. In fact, he grew up relatively poor with no father and dropped out of school to devote as much time as possible to the pursuit of excellence in chess. This is a guy that always carried a pocket chess set with him and he would pull it out anywhere and anytime he was bored or uninterested with his surroundings. One of Bobby's famous quotes is "Chess is life" at least chess was Bobby's life.
The Russians knew years before the famous match that they would have to contend with Bobby Fischer for the world chess championship title and when he finally did achieve the right to challenge the Russians for the chess championship at the relatively young age of 29 he had become a juggernaut, mowing down all of the grandmasters in the candidates round, a feat without precedence in the history of chess
Were the Russians concerned? You better believe it. But, since Fischer had never defeated Spassky in the past Spassky wasn't that concerned and that was part of his undoing. As we all know Bobby Fischer won the match convincingly and the repercussions were felt everywhere because the media had hyped this event as an east vs. west cold war showdown. The Soviet chess machine was dethroned and shaken to it's foundation, Bobby Fischer went from unknown to an instant heroe and international superstar celebrity overnight in a way that hadn't been seen since unknown pilot Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic ocean from New York to Paris non-stop to win the Ortieg prize in May 1927. The big difference is that Lindbergh basked in his new found celebrity status and prospered well and went on to promote aviation for many years. Bobby Fischer disappeared and forfeited his title to Karpov in 1975 when he refused to defend his title because the FIDE agreed to only 178 of his 179 demands thus adding more mystery and confusion to the enigma that was Bobby Fischer. Some people say Bobby didn't defend his title because he was afraid of losing, I don't believe that for a minute because as I wrote before Bobby had become a juggernaut and was in his chess playing prime. I will add another Fischer quote "The Russians have held my title for ten years and they're going to be in for it when I win the Championship. They're going to have to wait and play under my conditions." Besides Bobby's intense animosity towards the Soviet commies, and his desire to be in control due to his distrust of chess organizers, Bobby knew that the Russians were masters at drawing games and the one demand that the FIDE would not agree to was for draws not to count for half a point that way there would be more pressure to win a game than draw a game also Bobby believed it would truly decide the superior player and matches wouldn't last as long due to more decisive games and fewer draws. The FIDE thought the opposite way; they believed that with draws not being awarded half a point could cause matches to last indefinitely. I believe Bobby was right, thus Bobby's attempt to change some tournament and match game rules for the better was negated and he truly withdrew from chess competition.
No one in history has done more for chess than Bobby Fischer. Even today using Bobby Fischer's name will sell books, DVD's and magazines. For the first time since the Fischer-Spassky match people were able to make a living from chess because of its increased popularity. It took someone like Bobby Fischer with his antics, demands, brashness and genius to get the chess world noticed in this country. Bobby Fischer was the perfect person to take on the Soviet chess machine because he was totally unpredictable. Even the Russian psychologists after studying the profile they had on him came to the conclusion that he was a psychopath.
How do you play against a psychopath? to quote Spassky, "When you play Bobby, it isn't a matter of win or lose, it's a matter of if you survive" Spassky claims it took him a year to recover from the match with Fischer.
The losers to Bobby's withdrawing from chess competition is all of us who enjoy playing and love the game of chess because one can only imagine the wonderful games and brilliancies he would've performed had he continued to engage in chess competitions. Thus, when Bobby stopped playing chess, I stopped playing chess also but, I started to have another interest and my new interest was girls. Since no girls played chess and no girls were interested in chess and no girls were interested in guys that played chess, I stopped playing chess completely until I bought and read this book two years ago and started to take up the game of chess again and it was such a joy to relive the summer of 72 again. Thank you Bobby Fischer, you are the immortal king of the immortal game. RIP
The book is an excellently detailed description of the match and the events that led up to it. The first few chapters of the book form a biographical background of the two opponents. Bobby Fischer grew up in the United States, mainly in New York City, and was a chess prodigy from a young age including winning many titles while still a teenager. Boris Spassky grew up in the Soviet Union. In the post-war world, the Soviet government saw chess as an important playing field to prove the superiority of communism over capitalism. Spassky, like many other Soviet chess players, would receive government support to enhance their chess skills.
For the quarter of a century before 1972, the World Chess Championship was dominated by the Soviet Union often featuring a match only between players from the Soviet Union. Because of this, and the fact that chess was not very popular in the United States, these championship matches attracted little interest in the West. This changed as Fischer fought through the tournaments and won the right to challenge Spassky to the title of World Chess Champion.
Fischer had a reputation for bizarre and stubborn behavior and his approach to the championship match was no exception. While Spassky wanted to compete out of the love of chess, Fischer had numerous demands. The book goes into detail about the peculiarities that went into the planning. Some doubted that the match would even be held at all. It seemed that Fischer was most interested in the large prize money, but wanted more. Eventually, a multimillionaire British businessman and chess fan donated a large sum to increase the prize to help entice Fischer to play. Fischer ended up showing up, in Reykjavik, Iceland for the match, late. Many breathed a sigh of relief when he finally showed up.
But the drama would not end there. Fischer demanded that everything be set up according to how he saw fit. This went everywhere from the size of the squares on the chessboard, the type of chair he sat in, and the type of lighting to be used. Many people were frustrated over these numerous objections from Fischer, but for the most part they acquiesced. Game one went by with Fischer blundering causing him to lose. He ended up forfeiting the second game over objections that the match was being televised and claimed that the sound of the cameras disrupted his concentration. More frustration followed.
Eventually the match continued with some more exciting games and some mundane ones until Fischer had won after the twenty-first game following Spassky's resignation.
Following the championship, Spassky returned to the Soviet Union and continued to play chess, but eventually remarried and moved to France. Fischer became a recluse after the celebrations following his triumphant return to the United States. He stopped playing chess professionally and refused to defend his title in 1975 against challenger Anatoly Karpov. The organizers had apparently run out of patience in dealing with Fischer's antics.
The last chapter of this saga would come in 1992 when Fischer and Spassky agreed to a rematch in Yugoslavia. It was the last time Fischer publicly played chess. He became a refugee after the U.S. government issued an arrest warrant for him because the chess match, with the large monetary prize, violated sanctions on Yugoslavia at the time.
This is an excellent book detailing the behind-the-scenes actions of the 1972 World Chess Championship. One of the most impressive aspects was the Soviet side of the drama which features many people both working closely with Spassky and others in the Soviet government. This is not a traditional piece of chess literature and there is not much description about the games themselves. I would recommend this book to those interested in chess history.
I knew a certain amount about Bobby Fischer before reading this book, but little about Boris Spassky, the World Champion Fischer defeated. As the subtitle suggests, this book is particularly informative on the subject of the Soviet chess program of that era, and how that program did and didn't cope with the personalities of both players. It also chronicles a number of Fischer's demands, escapades, and eccentricities. I would have liked the authors to address more directly (as the title promises) the question of to what extent Fischer was intentionally waging psychological warfare -- which, in effect, he did quite successfully.
There are a few odd discontinuities, contradictions of sorts between earlier and later chapters, as well as redundancies, both of which may be the result of some problems with the authors' collaborative process.