Combative chess genius Bobby Fischer, 62, died of an undisclosed illness on Thursday in Iceland. Fischer, who became a Cold War hero by defeating Russian Boris Spassky in 1972, lived his last decades in seclusion, emerging periodically to deliver eccentric, sometimes anti-Semitic rants on the radio. (The New York Times, free registration)
What the commentators said
It’s a shame Fischer’s passing didn’t inspire “widespread mourning,” said Jeff Gordon in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch blog. The problem is, “his strident anti-American and anti-Semitic views kept him on the fringe of society.” The dignified chess champion Garry Kasparov put it gracefully by saying that Fischer’s ravings did nothing to improve the image of chess.
“Fischer was a jerk,” said Bill Ordine in a Baltimore Sun blog. There’s no denying that. That was already apparent in his prime, when his constant gripes stood in stark contrast to the “gracious and urbane” Spassky. But the poor guy merely lived the all-too-familiar life of a genius who lost himself after reaching “the pinnacle of his life” too young.
Fischer sure shook up the chess world as a kid, said Sarah Phillips in a London Guardian blog. He “dropped out of school to nurture his talent.” Then he instantly became a Cold War icon by toppling the Soviet champion Spassky. Nobody managed to figure him out in his eccentric later years, but his “story is not likely to be forgotten.”