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Bobby Fischer Against The World

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Product Details

  • Actors: Bobby Fischer, Henry Kissinger, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Directors: Liz Garbus
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Studio: Mongrel Media
  • Release Date: Aug. 30 2011
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0053OUPRG
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #45,273 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Product Description

In 1958, Bobby Fischer stunned the chess world by becoming the youngest Grand Master in history. Over the next decade and a half, his breathtaking rise to the top echelon of the game riveted the world and inspired an international chess phenomenon. Then, at the apex of his success, Fischer vanished from the public eye. Academy Award®-nominee Liz Garbus reveals the true story behind the troubled genius, from his meteoric rise to fame to the growing madness that finally consumed him.


"a complex and fascinating portrait of genius wasted" -- James Greenberg, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

"engrossing" -- John Lopez, VANITY FAIR

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Excellent movie for any fan of the "Real Story" of Bobby Fischer.

However, people should know that he was affected by autism (asperger version of it), which explains most of his behaviors. Journalists always prefer to say that a person was crazy, instead of explaning the reality affecting the man.

Congratulation for the movie and I can't wait to see the new Bobby Fisher in this world. Magnus Carlsen ... who knows.
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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on June 18 2012
Format: DVD
This documentary is one of the best assessments of the late Bobby Fischer's life as the consummate grandmaster and world chess champion. It is, for the most part, a thoughtful and well-developed portrayal of a genius of a man who became so obsessed with the game of chess that it virtually destroyed his appreciation of everyday reality. His colorful but often controversial and troubled rise to chess supremacy in the sixties and seventies is well chronicled in this production. His screwed-up childhood, his propensity to alienate people, his love for chess, his anti-Semitic views, and his gradual slipping into paranoid schizophrenia are all hallmarks of a life that will forever puzzle us when it comes to defining who Bobby Fischer really was as a person. The filmmaker here takes the liberty of offering her viewers a comprehensive and balanced look at Bobby as it entailed an abnormal childhood, a Cold War mentality, an Asperger complex, an indomitable competitive drive, a fear of losing, and an obsession with conspiracy theories. I recommend this documentary to anyone who wants a more balanced perspective on the personality of a man whose antics and achievements changed how the West played the most complex game known to humankind. He is not a freak, nor is he a paragon of virtue; simply a tortured soul who never got a chance to live a normal life.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 50 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Unraveling The Enigma: Chess Legend Bobby Fischer Had Both A Brilliant And A Troubled Mind Nov. 15 2011
By K. Harris - Published on
Format: DVD
Few people, to me, are more inherently fascinating than chess legend Bobby Fischer. Walking a complicated line between genius and madman, Liz Garbus' incisive documentary "Bobby Fischer Against the World" does a fine job highlighting this dichotomy. From a troubled and isolated childhood, to international superstardom, to recluse, to fugitive--Fischer's life had such a dramatic arc that ninety minutes doesn't seem quite adequate to complete a full picture. And yet, Garbus does manage to cover about fifty years in the life of the largest celebrity the chess world has ever seen. When Fischer took the stage to compete against Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Championship, the world paid attention in astounding ways. Fischer almost single handedly turned chess into a spectator sport. But he was never very comfortable in the limelight and the pressures and expectations certainly took their toll.

The centerpiece of "Bobby Fischer Against the World" is the 1972 match. We are introduced to Fischer as a youth through archival footage and given a glimpse of his unorthodox upbringing. The piece really focuses in, however, as Fischer readies for the infamous competition. The Fischer presented is complicated, to say the least, but also a brilliant strategist. The series was riddled with drama and controversy and remains as intense and as intriguing now as it did then. The world wanted to embrace Fischer, but he just wanted to play chess without what he deemed the annoying encumbrances of fame (which was just about anything involving media coverage as far as I could tell). It's not like he was looking for anonymity, though. He wanted to be recognized as the best, he just wanted it on his own terms. Ultimately, he didn't have that much control over public opinion and was overwhelmed by the sheer madness of celebrity idolatry.

In addition to lots of stock footage and other relevant film, Garbus has interviewed a number of people that were directly involved with Fischer or contemporary chess figures that were influenced by him. Overall, the insight into Fischer is admirable. Ultimately, this is not about chess but about a man who was obsessed by the game. And it is a fair minded portrait. It is hard not to be in awe of the man's genius, but equally dismayed and disgusted by the latter segments of a very outspoken Fischer. The last third of the film deals with the decades after he won the championship. He all but quit playing chess, disappeared, resurfaced with a splash both politically and legally, and degenerated into open hostility and paranoia. It's a harrowing and unpleasant picture in the end. Bobby Fischer will probably, in many ways, always be an enigma. But this is as close to understanding the man (and not the legend) as we've come so far. A must-see for those with an interest in the topic. KGHarris, 11/11.

Bonus features:
A History of Chess; The Fight for Fischer's Estate
30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Interesting look at a true prodigy Dec 7 2011
By K. Swanson - Published on
Format: DVD
3.4 stars

I was in early grade school when Fischer played Spassky, and I got so swept up in the Fischer-inspired Chess Boom (seems such a quaint idea now) that I ended up playing matches over the phone for hours every night by the time I was 12. Captain of the high school chess team as a sophomore, I was poised to rule the world. And then, suddenly...the CIA!!

I kid (about the Agency, I really was a chess geek though), yet Fischer's madness is one area this film spends a lot of time on while refusing to really probe from both sides. WHY did Fischer get so into the Protocols Of Zion and risk his whole "career" to talk about Zionist conspiracies? He's shown to be brilliant, but then derided out of hand as insane, given zero credit for being able to perhaps see a few moves ahead of the rest of us. Yet the most startling thing in this whole film for me was the early interview where he mentions that he likes reading about water pollution (this was years before the media paid it much mind at all) and how the government controls us. Not many folks were saying that out loud at that point, let alone young chess prodigies. And how many chess prodigies worked out like a boxing champion?

Fischer seemed exceptionally poised and alert then, and it struck me that a mind that sharp will always see the world a few moves ahead of most other people. He was well ahead of his time in terms of ecological concern, but of course this film shows clearly that Fischer's crazy theories of Zionist bankers destroying the world economy via the constant inflation of money supplies while controlling currencies were obviously totally insane.

What a nut! Yet he seems actually very lucid until the end in Iceland. His fitness obsession makes it clear how very bright Bobby was, and how well he understood the mind/body connection. How many chess greats worked out like that? Ummmmm....only the "really crazy one"!

He worked Spassky every which way, to be sure, mainly via his paradigm-shifting openings, but this film focuses on the personal stuff far more than the chess, to its detriment. It's Fischer's chess that made him great, and the brief analyses of his finest games here are scant. As if this film won't eventually be watched by almost all serious chess players. There's more than a few still around...

Instead, this film seems to have the chief agenda of pointing out what a crazy nut Fischer became, because why focus on his genius instead of his madness? Other than making a better film, of course. We get more than enough of his disapproving colleagues clucking like old hens about his follies, but not enough of Fischer himself from the many clearly very interesting interviews. I want to hear more of what Bobby thought and said, and less from his bitter little peanut gallery, thanks.

Fischer and especially Fischer's chess deserve a better film than this. Though well-made, it glosses over the best of Fischer and oddly delights in the worst. It's as if we're being told, "Pay no attention to the man behind the iron curtain. He was hyper-sharp but he was insane...please remember that at all times."

More chess and less judgment, please.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Good documentary for the universal audience. Jan. 18 2013
By Dhaval Vyas - Published on
For those who do not play chess or know anything about it, the game is something that is commonly referenced in books, poetry, movies, etc. It is seen as somewhat of a metaphor for happenings in real life. For those who play chess and are in love with the game, it is something of an art or science, or something cosmic that is unexplainable. They may often be frustrated as to why the majority of society does not share their passion.

Chess has survived for thousands of years and is arguably the hardest game in the world. Through the eons, if there is one name or one master that has towered above anyone else, it is the American Bobby Fischer. When Fischer defeated Boris Spassky in 1972, the match created more publicity than any other chess event in history (even more than when IBM's computer Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov in 1996). A lone American had defeated the mighty Soviet chess machine during the cold war. What should have been just the beginning of an already great career for Fischer, it was actually just the end.

Bobby Fischer made one of the great disappearances of any famous person of the 20th century. He did not die, but was as elusive as Bigfoot after he won the world championship. For those who encountered him only would end of becoming frustrated because they realized he was slowly going insane. 20 years after winning the Championship (1992), Fischer reappeared to play Spassky for another match. When he appeared, it became even more obvious that the man had lost his mind. When the September 11th attacks happened, Fischer shocked the world when he applauded the acts on a radio program. He never played again and passed away in 2008.

This HBO program is fantastic in that it is presented in a manner that is suitable for those who barely know anything about chess or those who know the intricate details of Fischer's career and life. It keeps the viewers' attention by playing nice music in the background throughout. The program shows numerous photographs and television footage that most people have never seen. The central focus of the program is the Fischer - Spassky match of 1972, but it juxtaposes all kind of other topics such as Fischer's family and love life, and his affiliation with a cult group. The program even has Henry Kissinger talking about the match. Kissinger had encouraged Fischer to follow through with the match when Fischer was about to not show up. But, the program does not blame Fischer's religious obsession with chess for this mental breakdown. It posits that it could have been a possibility.

I will have to strongly disagree with one part of this documentary. It stated that when after Fischer won the world championship, he was arguably the most famous man in the world (aside from Jesus). I find this really hard to believe. One because Fischer was a merely just a chess champion and (2) there were many other gigantic figures at that time; Muhammad Ali, Richard Nixon, Chairman Mao, just to name a few.

In the end, the enigma will always remain the enigma. Nobody really knows why Fischer quit playing after 1972 or what caused his mental disintergration. Even though he forfeited his title to Karpov in 1975, why did he completely give up playing even tournaments and simuls altogether? What we are left is speculation. Many chess lovers will proudly proclaim that Fischer was the best player of all time. There maybe some truth to this, but I believe Garry Kasparov finally deserves this title. This is because Kasparov was willing to take on all comers, human beings or computers. Kasparov did this for almost 3 decades. Kasparov defeated an ongoing Champion Anatoly Karpov (one of the top 5 players ever) 5 times and he continued to defend this title beating brilliant and talented young players - Ivanchuck, Shirov, Topalov, Anand, Short, Leko, Kramnik, Kamsky, and so many others for another 2 decades.

*Please do not comment if you are going to get into a "greatest ever" debate - it will be yet another endless discussion and will lead to nowhere.*

Fishcer's story is one of the great tragedies of chess, but in the short time that he was brilliant, he shined so brightly that it continues to illuminate to this day. Although his life ended to a sad decline, keep in mind, we remember and admire him for what he produced.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The first serious attempt on portraying Fischer's life in a visual medium! Nov. 15 2011
By Xenios Theocharous - Published on
Format: DVD
Making a documentary film is always a challenge for the creator, especially when the topic has been barely touched. Director Liz Garbus, in making the documentary "Bobby Fischer Against the World," had to overcome three critical obstacles.

First she had to portray Fischer's complex character. Since filming started after his death, Garbus had to dig up footage--scattered around the world--and weave together the various strands of Fischer's life. Not only that, she had to gather together all those who played important role in his life.

The second critical obstacle for Grabus was that she had to depict the period where the tension of the Cold War was emerging (because of the Vietnam War), and the whole world was going through major changes, with the entire planet becoming a mortal battlefield. Although chess had started to become popular, the hostility of that time was somehow deeply reflected on the chessboard, and this was soon exploited even more, when the world of politics penetrated into the world of chess.

Garbus' third critical obstacle was that Fischer's life can be divided into three parts: i) his life (and chess career) before 1972, ii) his battle for the title in 1972, and iii) his life after 1972. This means that Fischer's life is often summarized within the boundaries of a single event, stripping away all the aspects that formed his character up to that point. How was Garbus then, going to tell the story of a man who spent half his life playing chess and then disappeared? To overcome these obstacles, Garbus chooses a nonlinear storytelling. Going back--to Fischer's childhood and early years, and then later--forward to his life after the championship games, Garbus uses the 1972 events as the spine of the story.

Visiting Fischer's childhood and adolescence, Garbus shows us his love for (and dedication to) chess, his mother's strong personality, his father's abandonment and absence, and how the precipitate publicity affected his privacy. But what no one mentions in the interviews is that Fischer, at a young age, struggled to gain the respect of others. He was a boy among men, playing (and trying to understand) their game. That struggle was slowly draining away Fischer's childhood (and transforming the first 29 years of his life to a prolonged chess game), the result of which Garbus masterfully displays--at what could be the climax of the film--when she shows Fischer, soon after he won the title, in an amusement park sitting inside a little airplane--flying towards his lost childhood.

The tense climate between the U.S. and the Soviet Union--and its echo in the chess world, is brilliantly shown by Garbus through the rare and previously unseen footage she managed to dig up. Unfortunately, Spassky is the great absentee from this documentary. Although the title of the film is Bobby Fischer Against the World (meaning that Fischer fights against everyone and no one at the same time, indicating that Fischer's whole world is nothing but chess--and Fischer himself is nothing but chess--therefore Fischer's only opponent is... Fischer), Garbus mistakenly diminishes Spassky's unique and independent personality by putting him in the same basket with all the others. After all, Spassky was the final external obstacle in Fischer's road to the crown--the one guy he did not yet win. And to paraphrase Thorarinsson, "I think we can agree on the point that Mr. Spassky exists."

However, Garbus does a great job regarding the events of 1972. She leaves out, though, the drama of the two players not having similar chairs (with Fischer's chair being superior to Spassky's), but generally, she covers the events accurately enough: from Fischer's training program, his antics of not showing up, his lists of demands, his growing hatred towards the Soviets, the defending of his principles, the antipathy to cameras and photographers, to his so long-awaited win, Garbus quietly and unpretentiously illustrates the events of the 1972 summer in Iceland.

There is another level in this documentary, a hidden level that Garbus unconsciously created. All the interviewees in the film are trying to label Fischer to a degree that fits their world of understanding. They believe that Fischer should have a particular role in their world, and serve that role in a specific manner.

We are in a society where everyone needs something to have a form in order to understand it. That's why we put labels on everything, and don't let things just be. In that sense, for me, Fischer died in 1972 and reborn after that, as a man with no home and no childhood, trying to play chess on a higher level, the one we all play and eventually lose...

Xenios Theocharous --
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Great on Fischer's fraying mental state, not so good on the chess Oct. 24 2011
By David Ljunggren - Published on
Format: DVD
This is a comprehensive documentary on American chess star Bobby Fischer, who overcame increasing mental frailty to beat Boris Spassky for the world chess title in 1972 in Reykavik and then turned into a recluse. The makers of the documentary have tracked down everyone involved in this sad tale, even down to the Icelander who acted as his bodyguard all those years ago. This was an era when superpower rivalry was at its peak and chess served as a useful battleground -- who was best, the United States or the Soviet Union?

Bobby Fischer Against the World puts the championship match into its proper context and shows how the very private star overcame his mental demons to win the the game, and how he unravelled afterwards when it became clear the entire world wanted a part of him. The film's fairly serious flaw is the almost complete lack of actual chess. We're told time and time again that Fischer was a genius and the best in the world and we don't see a single successful game he plays. I imagine that at least some of the people sitting down to watch this will have at a rudimentary understanding of the rules and yet at no point are we shown a game he's played with an explanation of his great moves and why they were so successful. This may sound like a minor complaint but it really detracts from the documentary.

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