Bobby Fischer Against The World
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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 AwardÂ®-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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
A History of Chess; The Fight for Fischer's Estate
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.
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 -- Gatherfield.com
The media and the world think that Bobby Fischer was against them. But perhaps in some ways, he really worked more against himself. But he didn't have much choice. His mom left when he was in his mid-teens, as "he could take care of himself," and so just like chess, he had to learn the rules of life on his own. In some ways this is good -- many rules that the world imposes on people are very artificial and flawed -- but in some ways bad -- it's difficult to navigate life without understanding the social mores of the "commoners." And Mr. Fischer surely tweren't no commoner. Hey, that's the way it is.
Awhile back, I read the book "Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall," and it was a terrific read. That book went into far more details about Mr. Fischer's life than this movie -- it's much easier with literature -- and it would have been nice in a way if this book dealt with his life a little more outside of chess. This film, if it has a weakness, is that it concentrates so much of its time on The World Championship Match in Iceland. Sure, that was the pinnacle of his success, but it was the point where he threw in the towel as well and decided to retire. I really wish that he would have played against Karpov in 1976 (or so), but it was not to be. Mr. Fischer did not like to lose, and while he probably would have won easily against a patser like Karpov (OK, Karpov was no patzer but he surely wasn't a Bobby Fischer), Mr. Fischer knew there was a chance that he could stumble.
Now, there are a few things about Mr. Fischer that everyone (unfortunately) concentrates on. 1. He retired too early. Check. 2. He was obstinate and "childish" about playing for the world title. Personally, I think that he was a better businessman than people give him credit for. After all, he did make millions off chess, and he never would have if he hadn't pushed for higher earnings for ALL chess players. 3. Anti-Semitism. Well, there is a scene where Jeremy Schaap takes Mr. Fischer to task about this. While Mr. Fischer surely went overboard with his rants, I believe that journalists should report news and not make news. Take that.
I've seen this film twice, and while it's not perfect, it's still really good. I just wish that Mr. Fischer could have fought off his own demons and fought off Karpov right after that.
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.