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Pawn Sacrifice Or King In Check

First Posted: Oct. 15, 2015, 8:52 p.m. CST
Last Updated: Jan. 2, 2016, 9:54 p.m. CST
Better days

A new feature film, Pawn Sacrifice, is being released about chess great Bobby Fischer starring Tobey Maguire. While cementing his career on the board it will also inevitably draw attention and ultimately more exploitation of the mental illness tarnishing a legacy.

Fischer bears the distinction of being not only the greatest chess player of all time and playing what is considered the most elegant and artful game of the last century but also the only chess player widely popular and celebrated in America. Ever.

This was largely due to sociopolitical accidents.

I love these combowords: it’s good to toss them out in academic papers: sociopolitical, psychosocial, etc, because they make one sound sagacioscholastic. Anyways, during the Cold War Fischer was a prodigy and drew attention globally and particularly in the US because to the Soviets chess had a long and popular history—they had the game monopolized. And, prolly, a chess player will never have such fame again in the Western world. Currently, Carlson Masseuses is gaining popularity but certainly is not covered in Sports Illustrated, let alone given a cover.

Either case: this is not a defense of anything Fischer said or did. However, to anyone able to put two and two together, it was obvious the guy wasn’t referencing the database we like to call reality. He died from it, in his 60s because he was so cutely paranoid he refused Physician care. In fact, much earlier, he had all his fillings removed because he believed signals could be sent into them to control his brain.

Reportedly he underwent a brutal regimen: playing chess against himself for days on end: doing little but studying up and reading the game or playing for 16 hour days. Additionally, he was the first to undergo physical training for a mental game believing it would improve his concentration.

Still despite prodigious inclinations he struggled to make tournaments for a litany of increasingly bizarre reasons. During his match against champion Boris Spassky he complained of the chess board being too bright, insisted the auditorium contain 7 empty rows before the stage and compulsively worried his food, drink, room, car and environment were being poisoned or tapped by the opposition.

The media exploited this illness from the beginning. It played out in a positive way at first. What was paranoia and instability was presented as bravado and the public thought these oddities were strategy, that Fischer was a Prima donna desiring lavish treatment, taunting his opponents and getting into their heads.

Later it turned dark. Fischer was fell deeper into some rabbit hole and through sponsors slew vile so malicious it banned him from his country entirely. And unfortunately, he was given, again and again, funding, platforms and mediums to express these non-stable sentiments by exploitative elements. There's thisvideo from a journalist confrontation because Fischer had known the writers father and supposedly betrayed him...there's an inconsistency that's funny if you listen to it. Reporter: “Without prompting Fischer brought him up [the dudes father]. Fischer: “Your father was X, you were telling me last night.” Idk how it was brought up unprompted if it was discussed prior ...the whole thing smells of beating a dead horse for buck.

Although he disappeared from competitive play after 1972 (save one match) he remained popular being offered the highest purses for chess matches ever record, millions for a single game from dictators, billionaire chess players and entire countries.

It will be interesting to see how the movie plays out. Check out the trailer here and Bob's Game of the Century here.



This article was written by Matija Koracin. Matija is the editor and CTO of ThoughtCow, and an entrepreneur working in real estate technology in Brooklyn, NY and Reno, NV. He received his Bachelors degree in Information Technology in 2016. He plays guitar, hackie sack, and the bongo drums.


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