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New Fischer Documentary

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April 9, Sunday night at 8-9pm EDT on GSN. It's part of their "Anything to Win" series. Other subjects include Johnnie Cochrane and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They say there will be never before seen archival footage as well as recent stuff from Iceland. The copy sets up a lot of "mad genius" stuff and it's clear they are looking for scandal.

While few question the destructive and self-destructive energies of Bobby Fischer, the balance among immaturity, tactless honesty, declining mental stability, and crafty psychology can never be known for sure. It has been popular in the West to discard any hint of conscious manipulation by Fischer, but it's ignorant to believe he was unaware the effect his antics had on his opponents, even if he wasn't always in control of them.

I'd never heard of this channel or its previous incarnation "The Game Show Network." It's channel 117 on my NY cable and I've set my DVR to "stun." They have a channel finder here.


Thank you very much. I will watch this tonight on 116 for me.

Hmm..It seemed to be pretty basic stuff, at least the first half-hour that I watched. He went from prodigy to recluse in 30 minutes, which tells me the rest was going to be nothing more that "he's a nut". I've heard all that before. I'd rather hear about his great chess.

Evan provides a great short analysis. We'd rather talk about his chess! For those wanting a longer version...

I watched the special in it's entirety and here are my thoughts right after viewing:

First, the title "The Mad Genius of Bobby Fischer" let's you know that this is not going to
be a feel-good piece (duh), albeit much of the ammunition was provided by Fischer himself!

It's clear that the producers relied heavily on two books, one magazine article, and Jeremy Schaap's unfortunate run-in with Bobby in Iceland 2005.

1) Frank Brady's book "Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy", ISBN 0-486-25925-0. Frank Brady is the primary interview figure and at one point his book is shown lying on the table in front of another interviewee (the story is told in narrative format, using those interviewed to help tell the story, since neither Bobby nor his close friends are talking).

2) The book "Bobby Fischer Goes to War" (don't know ISBN right off hand, only have a copy of the uncorrected proof). The co-authors, David Edmonds and John Eidinow are interviewed, and the book describes Bobby as a "dysfunctional genius".

3) The Magazine article "Chess Great Bobby Fischer and the Shadows of Genius" by Peter Nicholas and Clea Benson (who are also interviewed throughout). I can't remember
name of magazine or find my copy immediately.

One big dissappointment for me was that they skip from 1975 to 1992. It would have been nice if they had made some effort to discuss Bobby's activities/whereabouts during this timeframe.

The one startling revelation for me was the photo of Paul Nemenyi (supposedly Bobby's biological father, not Gerhard Fischer). While this is not new info, the photo of Paul Nemenyi bears a striking physical resemblence to Bobby and certainly makes me believe this to be true.

The last "revelation" was that my impression of Bobby and Jeremy Schaap's row in Iceland being Jeremy's fault for "going after" Bobby for a story, was wrong. After seeing this story and the supporting footage (longer clips than I'd seen before), it would seem clear that Bobby went after Jeremy's deceased father in a very ugly and unprovoked manner. It's hard to tell for certain though as I've never been able to see the full interview, uncensored.

In the end, I felt that the story's overall portrayal is on the money, if not all of the
individual facts. It's very sad what became of Bobby and all the great chess we never go to see. In the end, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, the former President of the Icelandic Chess Federation hit the proverbial nail on the head with his parable of the man who put himself in a nutshell and thought he was king of the universe. That should probably be the final word on Bobby's life.

Fischer is mentally sick but apparently some people pretend he is not. Everyone makes a fuss about Fisher's anti-semitic and anti-US comments but tell me, would you pay attention to the words of someone who is mentally ill? I would not.

The man has left us many beautiful games and that's what matters. Just like Van Gogh left us many beautiful paintings. Some in the media are just trying to make a few bucks by exploiting the hallucinations of a mentally sick man. I have the interview that young Schaap made with Bobby in Iceland. It is disgusting: a young and ambitious reporter trying to generate a catchy story by interviewing a schizophrenic. Pathetic to say the least. Yes, we are all in favor of free press but why on earth would someone try to interview a mentally sick man? One cannot hold a normal conversation with a schizophrenic because he/she inhabits another world. I would like to believe that most of us admire Fischer for his games not for what he has to say about Jews or the US. Leave him alone.

one of the obvious reasons a lot of folks don't just smile and shrug when Fischer makes hateful statements is the fact that there are many who share his views who are thrilled to have such a spokesman. They usually insist he isn't "mentally sick"...but persecuted...a brave man willing to speak his mind. I think responsible journalists have a duty to report on public figures with obnoxius views like him. If he was institutionalized it would be another matter. Bobby was my boyhood hero..it hurts to see what's become of him. I still enjoy his great games..but I can't just "ignore" his statements. If a family member of mine began behaving like Bobby I'd step up and get involved and talk sense to them or get them help. Some of Fischer's family or friends should have done that long ago. The elder Schaap tried to mentor Bobby..and we see the results. I'd like to hear from some of his chess pals over the years up into the 70's or so as to whether any of them ever tried to straighten him out or saw somebody else in his circle attempt to.

I agree with most of what noyb had to say, the only new insights for me were the pics of Bobby's mother, and his father Paul. If there were any doubt, take one look at Paul and the resemblance is astonishing! Also one of the first times I have heard from Dr. Saidy about Bobby as well. With regards to the period from 1975-1992 being exempt, I agree, guess we will have to wait for Rene Chun's Bio on Bobby to shed some light on this time frame. Chun says he will cover everything from the "cradle" onward. Including this "lost" era. Really expected to see some footage from the celebrity tennis match that Bobby participated in around 1973 or 1974 with the folks from Dewars. Dick Cavett's interviews with Bobby would have been expected as well. Too many comercials as well:-) The "History" channel provided the "park" interview with Bobby with more footage and questioning, but why have we never seen or heard the full interview?? Where is also all the closed circuit footage from the 72 match? We seem to see the same frames over and over as if they are saving the rest for what, I don't know. Put the "History" bio together with this one from "GSN" with a little editing, and I'd give it a 4 on a scale of 10. In order to get the numbers higher we need to hear from the folks that were really close to Bobby, seems like they are still on gag orders.

Where was Larry Evans? Where were the interviews with some of the people who actually played Fischer in some high level games? There are so many players from that era still alive, they should have been interviewed. I'd love to have heard from Spasky or even Karpov and their opinions/observations. Did Karpov think he could win? What was Spasky's evaluation of thier rematch in 92 of Fischer's strength (or mental condition)? Most of what we saw was well-travelled ground. I should have watched the Gospel of Judas.

Speaking of interviews, I caught a BBC interview this G. Kasparov Saturday morning (on my way to a tournament - talk about inspiration!). It was mostly politics, but still good. I had never heard his voice before and it just didn't match my mental "voice" that I had assigned him. He was asked a lot of political questions. I don't know how recent the interview was, but it was still good.


The Kasparov interview was current (i.e. either live, or at most a day or two old) -- as indicated on another thread here.

The Fischer documentary quite obviously was intended not for a chess audience, but a general audience. That was clear enough from Mig's post that began this thread, even though he wrote it before the segment even aired.

Most such efforts in the mass media should be viewed through a lens that bears such considerations in mind. (i.e., It would have been pointless for "Game Show Network", the producer of the Fischer documentary, to have comments about Fischer's strength from people like Karpov or Spassky; they would have been of little interest to a non-chess audience. No one outside the chess world and Russia even knows who Karpov is. Yeah, I know that's sad.)

FYI, I've been informally researching chess coverage in the (US) mass media of late, and have found that:

1) It's overwhelmingly concentrated in the print (newspaper), rather than broadcast media -- just as one would expect

2) A sizable portion of what is printed, actually does appear to be aimed at a chess-playing audience. However, this portion is limited to the regular "Chess" columns published in a handful of big-city newspaper, which are limited to annotated games and usually are authored by titled players (i.e., IM Jack Peters in the L.A. Times, GM Kavalek in the Washington Post, GM Byrne in the New York Times).

3) In contrast, mass-media coverage of Daily Dirt's stock in trade, chess controversies, gossip, and anything else that happens off the board, is mostly written by non-chess playing journalists and is quite clearly aimed at readers who know nothing about the game. Oddly, many of these are based on what I would call "Dog bites man" premises, such as, kids playing chess, public schools teaching chess to their kids, etc. Stories about Fischer's rantings also fall in this category. (By "dog bites man", I mean conventional, routine, low-surprise-quotient subjects. When I was in J-school I was taught an old adage that, "When a dog bites a man, it's not news. When a man bites a dog, that's news." Evidently journalism has evolved beyond that truism -- at least where chess is concerned.)

4) The main current exception to #3 is the New York Times. They have a culture & arts reporter, Dylan Loeb McClain, who writes chess-based features fairly often. Chess people differ about the quality and depth of his work (viewed from an inside-chess perspective). But he does understand the game and the tournament environment. He plays in tournaments regularly and does quite well. (McClain is rated in the high 2200s USCF, and his results were even better in recent tournaments where he and I both played.)

5) The Wall Street Journal for many years did an even better job of producing chess-related feature stories that were somewhat sophisticated in their presentation of the chess culture. But they don't seem to be doing that any more. Probably, the reporters with a penchant for that left the paper (such as Roger Lowenstein).

I thought the show had both positive and negative aspects. I agree with many other comments that they only focused on his climb to the top for about 20 minutes. Also, they would only show the program for about 4 minutes at a time then show 3 minutes of commercials. However, the parts concerning Fischer's family were very insightful! I also enjoyed some of the extended film clips of Fischer. The best part of the show however, was Dr. Anthony Saidy almost breaking down at the end. It was very cathartic for him and very touching to the audience. You could tell he really cared for Bobby. His comment about "wasted potential" was very true and makes you wonder what could have been.

Talking about Fischer... I just wanted to point out the fact that on the US fide list, apart from Fischer you can see Pal Benko, Byrne, Lombardy, Larry Evans, which, with Fischer, makes a lot of chess legends (just think about the openings lines those players created). (Noooo Larry Evans didn't create the Evans gambit !!)

They could play a nice tournament with Spassky, Smyslov, Taimanov, Lilienthal (still alive !!), Korchnoi, Bronstein, Averbakh, Krogius, Gligoric and Unzicker.

Hmmm ... maybe in Zurich? Double robin, 15 players, 28 games. I put my bet on 1st Fischer 2nd Korchnoi 3rd Spassky !!!

Oh my god !! I forgot Bent Larsen and Portisch !! And maybe Panno ? That makes 18 players. Double robin would be too much (it's better to finish the tournament with the same number of players ...). What do you think about it?

Fischer dysfunctional, that is hardly reality. He is uneducated but not dysfunctional. Issues more complicated than just black and white get reduced to the bi-color symmetry of the chessboard. Compromise is impossible you either agree or disagree, friend or enemy, kill or be killed. Later in life he had to quit talking chess and invent a new game because he was aware he had been surpassed in depth and accuracy by Kasparov's analytic ability. He may be a bit on the touched side, but Fischer can understand the genius of Kasparov's play, but he will never have the guts to admit it. Fischer was a good player that could have been a great champion.

I wouldn't say Fischer didn't know the effect his behavior would have, but I would also not necessarily agree that he was pulling those stunts for competitive advantages--I think it was more of a compulsion than a strategy.

To all those that say Fischer was dysfunctional and uneducated. Hah! What do you think of Bush, a colossal liar... weapons of mass destruction indeed! A thug invasion of a country in this day and age! And the equally dysfunctional and ignoramus americans. Where did Bush get his education to blatantly lie and cheat just to continue his father's legacy and fervent desire to invade Iraq. Is that what so called education does to National Leaders? Produce cheap liars and invaders towards their own goal? Wow!! And the genius that Fischer had, he didnt need that kind of meaningless "enlightenment". What takes us mere mortals 16yrs to amass by way of formal education, Fischer could have done it in next to nothing of the time. Look at the mess the world is in with our formal education...greed, envy, fighting, carnal lust - disgusting. Jesus Christ had no formal education, yet he had the greatest knowledge and wisdom, and what did he get for all that... a degrading crucifixation by the so called elite and debased. As a human race we have not evolved at all from those times..we are same duffers.

Whoa, Fks! Flaming on a 6 month old thread? Cool. And how perceptive you are about the lack of human being growth in the area of civilization. Perhaps the "12 Steps To A New Civilization" caused many to stumble on the First Step? "Wars and rumors of wars..." seems to never go away I must say. On an uplifting note, the Fischer/Spassky documentary on YouTube has taken over 15,000 views! Shows that appreciation of true genius is timeless. Namaste Chessistic Ones!

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on April 8, 2006 10:24 PM.

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