Saturday, December 25, 2010

Definitive Book on Bobby Fischer

The holiday season has given me the time to read the uncorrected proof of Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Frady, the definitive book on the life of Bobby Fischer. Endgame is a page turner, like a detective novel except the mystery never gets solved because Fischer's life is stranger than fiction.

If you read Endgame, you will find everything you wanted to know about Fischer's enigmatic life, and a few things you really didn't! I learned that, when his older sister Joan bought their first chess set, Bobby was living in Manhattan because the family had not yet moved to Brooklyn. And, until reading Endgame, I had never realized how upset Fischer became after losing to Mikhail Tal at the 1959 candidates tournament.

For me, the most memorable scene occurs when Fischer and Brady are dining at the same Greenwich Village restaurant as Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. What little humor there is takes place on Bobby Fischer Day in 1972 when Fischer says to the audience, "It is not true that Henry Kissinger phoned me during the night to tell me the moves."

IM Jeremy Silman summarizes Endgame well when he writes, "Fischer is America's greatest antihero. This fascinating biography is filled with hope, Cold War intrigue, the fulfillment of genius, and an explosive fall from grace that is both deeply moving and, ultimately, profoundly sad."

I will add that Endgame is more than the story of an eccentric genius. It is a commentary on the sorry world that we live in, which treated the Mozart of chess so disrespectfully.