Documentary which exposes the high price the late world chess champion Bobby Fischer paid to achieve his legendary success and the resulting toll it took on his psyche.
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This programme contains some strong language.
I'm going to stick a knight here, it takes it off,
it takes the bishop.
So we took it off this bishop...
..and he's threatening this pawn...
I'm going to do this right away, play here first.
Now he took the bishop.
'Bobby Fischer is one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest chess player in the world.'
Now to the rook.
'Bobby Fischer, United States, world title contender.'
Now, er, black surprised him with this move.
'Bobby Fischer is an isolated man'.
'Bobby Fischer's a strange man, people think there's something wrong with the man.'
The king moves, takes the queen...
'The great Bobby Fischer is here tonight.'
'Like a child, not a champion.'
'His social life is a vacuum.'
'The most arrogant man you're ever likely to meet.'
He takes back, it's checked.
'Looking for Bobby Fischer...'
'Whatever happened to Bobby Fischer?'
Threaten this pawn and it's a lost game.
'Bobby Fischer is searching for asylum.'
'It's Fischer against the world.'
And here, white resigned.
Bobby Fischer interview.
Try not to tense up.
Bobby, you've given virtually your entire life to the world of chess.
What about Bobby Fischer, the man?
What's he like?
I don't know. Er...
Chess and me, it's hard to take them apart, you know?
It's just like my alter ego, you know.
I don't really do anything else.
But there are times when you get away from that chessboard, what do you do?
I don't do too much. I'm really tied up with chess.
I intend to expand but firstly, I get the title, basically.
Bobby, what does it take to make a good chess player?
Talent, skill, patience, you have to study a lot, work.
-What would your ultimate aim be?
-I'd like to be world champion
-and keep it for maybe 20 years or so?
Fischer is to chess what Muhammad Ali is to boxing.
-Can Fischer beat the Russian?
-Yes, Fischer will beat the Russian.
-You honestly think that you probably are the world's greatest chess player?
In the 18-month period
in the run-up to his challenge to Boris Spassky,
Fischer had beaten, and some cases, destroyed,
some of the best Soviet players.
Fischer was wiping away his opposition like flies.
He went on a 20-game winning streak which was unheard of
in championship chess.
Bobby Fischer was exciting not only the chess world, but the world.
There's trouble in Northern Ireland.
Henry Kissinger is shuttling to and from Vietnam.
And, against that competition, the chess dominates.
Moscow today, the Soviet Chess Federation
called an angry news conference to denounce Bobby Fischer...
General Motors recalls 500,000 Chevrolet Vegas
and Bobby Fischer...
..true to his recent erratic behaviour...
..finished off Tigran Petrosian of the Soviet Union,
a former world champion,
is the best news story of the day.
The victory gave Fischer the right to play the world's champion,
Boris Spassky, another Russian, next spring.
We all had hopes, we all wanted him to be world chess champion.
The one person he was yet to beat was Boris Spassky.
You said it's your title the Russians are holding.
You don't like the Russians?
The Russians have cheated at chess, they find every way to avoid me,
to avoid giving me a chance for a match.
And they have slandered my name, and you know,
they just get afraid of me, they have been for years.
-That's the true story.
-And now you're going to get them?
Well, now I'm going to try to get them, yeah!
The Soviets had been winning these tournaments
and I thought it would be good for America,
for democracy, to have an American winner.
The stakes really couldn't be much higher, politically,
popularly, in people's minds.
These were two enemies, who were not fighting a real war
but were trying to outdo one another strategically all the time.
'We will not tolerate being pushed around...'
'We have a desire and the material assets to deal with the Soviet Union.'
This little thing with me and Spassky,
you know, with bombs coming out of the board...
One of the superpowers, the Soviet Union,
had made chess its national sport.
They had spent unlimited amounts of money,
they had hundreds of grandmasters.
They won every tournament, every chess olympiad.
MAN TALKS AND SINGS IN RUSSIAN
For a communist regime, keeping the crown was very important,
The communist state took over chess to use it
as proof of intellectual superiority over decadent West.
Everybody knew that the crown has to remain in the Soviet Union.
In the Soviet Union, everybody of talent was cultivated,
was given financial help, coaching.
All the top players were privileged people.
In the United States, we didn't have any of that.
Every single one of us was on his own.
And here came this lone American,
combating the might of the Soviet chess machine.
National prestige was at stake.
Officials recognised that he was representing not only him,
but the entire free world.
I think there was just too much on his shoulders.
Can you tell us how old you are and where you're from?
-I'm 15, from Brooklyn.
-He's 15 years old and he's from Brooklyn.
-AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah!
Will you show your headline to camera three and to Dick Clark
because we'll make him go to work on you! It says, "Teenager's strategy defeats all comers!"
-This strategy, did it involve the finances?
-Did you have any help?
-Did it all by yourself. Did it make people happy?
Made me happy!
This young man's name is Bobby Fischer
and already, he is the United States Chess Champion!
He is 15 years old and he has defeated the masters,
he is the United States champion in chess.
I met Bobby when I was 14 and he was 8,
in one of the chess clubs in Manhattan.
He was the youngest kid around.
He was unassuming, he was well-mannered,
he was a nice kid.
His mother, Regina, she was a woman who had to work two jobs,
single mum, supporting two children,
Bobby and Joan.
Regina was really the genius of the family.
She spoke quite a number of languages,
including Russian. She worked as a telegraph operator, a nurse,
a welder, she actually got a PhD in haematology as well.
She was an activist, she was a communist.
The FBI files on her are quite extensive.
His mother was hounded by the FBI
because they thought she was possibly a Soviet spy.
This was a period when few communists were acquitted.
So, his mother denied his Jewishness.
His mother told him... He would be sitting on the stoop,
somebody would come up to him and ask him a question,
he'd say, "I have nothing to say to you."
That was the proper answer that his mother told him to say.
You're from Brooklyn originally?
Chica... Well, born in Chicago, moved to Brooklyn when I was about six, so lived on the coast...
Were you playing chess by then?
I learned in New York.
At what age?
-When did you start to get serious about chess?
About when I was maybe seven!
If you can think back to your childhood and all the things you did
after school and on the weekends,
and imagine just filling all that in with chess study, chess lessons,
chess practice, chess competition.
Sure, Bobby Fischer starts with a very exceptional mind.
But genius is not only about a particular innate gift for X,
genius is about a desire to do X.
It's about a willingness to sacrifice.
It's about an ability to develop that kind of obsessive interest
in perfecting one's ability to do some task.
People who've studied expertise have looked at classical music composers,
at surgeons, at chess players,
interested in figuring out what do high achievers have in common.
They have always, almost without exception,
put in 10,000 hours of deliver of practice first.
That love component is such an enormous part of the achievement
of any kind of genius
because if it's dutiful, there's no way you can be that obsessive about it.
There was nothing else he would rather do.
I started playing games with myself.
'I would make the white moves and the black moves...'
Threaten this pawn...
'..play through the whole game and eventually I'd checkmate the other guy.'
I almost always won!
'..white comes out with the knight...'
Then my mother started to get worried that it wasn't healthy,
playing chess by myself all the time.
'Now, black surprise with this...'
Regina was so worried that she decided to take him to a psychiatrist
and the psychiatrist said, "Don't worry, there are worse things to be obsessed by than chess."
Everybody said to him, "What happened?"
He said, "One day, I just got good."
He was suddenly out of everyone else's league
and everybody knew it.
Fischer would open a chess magazine, like this...
He would open it like this, "Hmmm, OK, here...
Now, it looks like he's just looking at the pictures, that's what you think he's doing.
No, he's not doing that. He's playing through the entire game in his head
in a few seconds, every move.
He went from being my peer in chess
to being the United States Chess Champion.
A quantum leap.
That's when he first became famous. This is 1958.
No chess player ever made much money in those days.
My father basically arranged an exhibition tour for him,
in which he went from city to city,
playing anywhere from 40 to 80 people at a time.
I don't know how much he got, maybe 5 a board.
Regina decided that this was a way to the big time.
She'd call me up and say, "I want Bobby to go on Channel Two
"on Sunday, and he won't do it if I ask him, so I want you to tell him!"
He just wanted to learn the game and she really wanted him to get publicity.
Fame is definitely a mixed blessing.
Almost everybody would admit that at some point in their life, they'd wished they had it.
Once it starts, it's fun, and the fun quickly wears off
when you want to be alone, in private and public, if that's ever possible.
But also, it's horrendous on the psyche for the young,
because it totally destroys their world.
He had all these people around who wanted a piece of him,
if they only wanted to be in his glow.
And people have all kinds of motives, not always in his favour.
They're trying to make money out of him, be associated with him, they're talking behind his back.
He couldn't stand that, particularly he couldn't stand the press
because he was such an individual,
he was an ideal object for caricature.
-Do you watch television?
-No, not much.
-I don't know, I read that you get a little radiation from them.
I don't know, I've talked with a few scientist friends of mine,
they say you do, you get a little bit. They don't think it's dangerous.
What kind of magazines do you like?
My favourite magazine is Confidential,
I read that all the time.
Why do you like that?
They've got a lot of the inside stories
on things like water pollution, it's pretty interesting.
I like, read up on that, a lot of things the government is concealing.
'Fischer looked at the world his own way.'
Bobby was not socialised the way the rest of us were.
Every idea he had virtually had to come to him through his own thinking.
In these days, he was unusual
but he hadn't gone off the deep end yet.
Boxing champions have been coming to the Catskill Mountains of New York
for almost half a century to get in shape.
But does a chess champion need to train physically?
Take a look behind that window, into the training headquarters of Bobby Fischer.
Championship chess is a physically exhausting game.
More than just a test of mind and will,
it is a contest of physical endurance too.
VOICE ON TV: Stretch! And rest...
Bobby is 29 and he lives virtually a monastic life.
He lives alone, always in hotel rooms that seem barely larger than chessboards.
A lot of the time, he won't even answer his telephone.
The television set is his window on the world.
Exercise is part of it.
I'm a world-class, Olympic-level coach.
I'm also a world champion in the bench press
and I've trained a lot of celebrities
but no-one can match the fabulous Bobby Fischer.
He was interested in the human body,
how it performed and how it could be more productive.
He said, "I want you to work on my grip.
"See this dynamometer?
"I want to squeeze this thing all the way to the end."
I said, "The world's strongest man has not squeezed 100kg."
He said, "I'll squeeze 105."
I said, "Why?"
"When I shake that little Russian's hand, I want him to feel it!"
I started him off with a little swimming, racquetball which we were quite good at,
a little weight training.
I said, "Repeat this after me...
"I'm a winner! I'm a champion! I'm not a loser!"
He says, "Why did you put the loser in there? You know I'm a champion!"
Bobby is probably the most interesting person I've ever photographed.
There he is, there's Bobby.
And he said, "I need to hold my breath like this,
"and it's..." You know, it was good for his training.
He was in training for Spassky.
He asked me what other jobs do I do.
I told him, "I've just finished one on the New York Jets."
The Jets, he thought that was marvellous.
He wanted to hear about all it,
how they train, and he said, "I've got to train like that as well."
MUSIC: "Get It On" by Marc Bolan and T-Rex
And he didn't mind anything I did.
But it could have gone either way.
He treated everybody else...quite awful.
'Bobby Fischer is a stubborn young man.
'Sometimes he fights for principle, more often just for himself.
'He'll refuse to play a match because his special terms aren't met
'and for the past month, he's been giving fits to the International Federation too -
'not enough money for the winner of the world title, he says.'
There was bidding on the match.
And Iceland got it, I guess, because they put up the highest bid.
Bobby didn't want to play, he said, "The country is too small,
"they don't have the facilities, they don't have communication."
The International Chess Federation wants word by tomorrow morning
from Fischer on whether he's agreeable to 24 games in Iceland.
Fischer is taking his time answering.
You, as president of the Icelandic Chess Federation,
are there times you've been tempted to say, "Let's forget all about it"?
As you know, we are organising a chess match
and our only wish is to enrich the chess world.
'They had all these lawyers'
and they were raising demands all the time.
But at the same time,
it was never clear whether Fischer would come to Iceland.
The principle one was the prize money.
And I said, "We have already settled the money question
"and we will not be ready to discuss that."
There was a real possibility that the match wouldn't take place.
One has to remember with Fischer that he'd dropped out of tournaments before.
This was no bluff necessarily.
He's going, he's not going, then he told me he was going.
He moved quietly, he put his hands on my shoulders and says,
"I'm going to Iceland, Harry."
You know, it was... And the next thing I would read in the paper would be...he's not going!
But Bobby wouldn't sign it.
And then Bobby disappeared.
'Boris Spassky, the World Chess Champion, came to Iceland
'12 days before the match, scheduled to start Sunday.
'Spassky said he wanted time to get used to the place,
'without, incidentally, being constantly molested by newsmen.
'Bobby Fischer was also sensitive about being photographed,
'sensitive to the point that he kept not showing up.'
He was sitting in Pasadena, California,
and my job, my personal mission,
was to get Bobby to go to Iceland and play the World Championship match.
But I didn't see any activity, I didn't see any plane ticket.
I said, "Bobby, I have to go to New York,
"my dad is sick, let's travel together.
"You'll be that much closer to Iceland."
He said, "Yeah, I think that's a good idea, travel with a friend,
I was getting him closer to where he had to go.
We took him to Kennedy airport,
we were headed for the Icelandic airline's counter.
Somehow, a Daily News photographer spied him.
And Bobby started running.
He wasn't just running, he was sprinting.
I turned around and I stopped, I put my hands up. I didn't say anything.
And Bobby kept running, right out of the airport
to the kerbside limousine and got in and left the airport.
Where to? Nobody knew.
It was only three days before the scheduled start of the match.
Chess history was in the balance...
I said, "You could stay at my parents' home in Douglaston, Long Island."
Don't think the bell works.
Hi, where are you?
Bobby was staying at Saidy's house.
And Saidy's father was dying of cancer at the time,
I don't know whether he told you that.
They were trying their best to get Fischer on that plane to Iceland.
At one point, Saidy said, "You know, er, my father's dying."
And Bobby said, "That's OK, I don't mind."
They could not dislodge him from that house.
This was probably the most stressful week of my life.
-'Are you Dr Saidy?'
-'Yes, I am.'
Mr Fischer made it clear he would try to go to Iceland tonight,
-did he express these thoughts to you?
-Made it clear to whom?
We talked to a few people, they had the impression he was going.
Everybody can have impressions but the only person who knows what Bobby Fischer is going to do
is Bobby Fischer. That's about all I really want to say.
-I want you to all keep cool.
'At one point, during his stay at our home,'
he simply said, "It's over, I'm not going."
'Still no sign of Bobby Fischer.
'Today, the International Chess Federation postponed by 48 hours'
the start of the match, but it said if Fischer is not in Iceland
by noon on Tuesday, he will be disqualified.
if I may ask, are you worried?
I just wondered if you've ever seen Mr Fischer, if you have any proof he actually exists?
That's a good question!
Yes, I think, gentlemen, we can agree on the point
that Mr Fischer exists.
We were losing the whole thing.
We had to get Fischer to come to Iceland.
The Soviet Union had the feeling
that the World Chess Champion was humiliated.
They wanted to call Spassky back to the Soviet Union.
Boris said to me, "This is a very serious situation.
"You have to solve this on a higher level."
Gudmunder Thorarinsson, he asked the prime minister of Iceland
to call Kissinger.
Fischer was very reluctant to go and I placed a call to him and said,
The United States of America wanted Bobby to go there
and win the world title.
By that time, James Slater, the British multimillionaire,
had already doubled the purse, so Fischer's answer to Kissinger
was "Yes, I've decided to play."
What finally did make you decide to go, then?
I feel that the prestige of this country is at stake.
Some people have suggested this was psychological warfare against Spassky on your part.
Did that figure into it?
No, uh-uh. I don't believe in psychology, I believe in good moves.
'Bobby Fischer left New York for Iceland
'and what a scene that was on the morning of July the 4th.'
Nothing like this has happened in Iceland before.
You try to describe the impact on the citizens here of Reykjavik,
it's probably about the same as if the promoters of the next Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali prize-fight
decided to stage their international extravaganza in Butte, Montana.
One observer said the chess match was turning into the biggest thing to hit Iceland since Eric the Red.
Though some people were still mad at Fischer,
others approve of his holdout for more money.
Well, he was fighting for all the chess players over the world.
He's tedious, he's arrogant, he's inconsiderate.
Basically people think that there's something wrong with the man.
CHEERING AND SHOUTING
I became his bodyguard. It was a big moment for me, you know.
I was more of his friend than a bodyguard.
He was quite a character,
you know? He could be gentle
but he could be like a volcano, sometimes.
It was better to know when to speak and when to keep quiet.
Finally, Bobby showed up in Iceland. Now, is he going to really play for the World Championship?
'It's been a long road for Fischer to this game.'
And it will be a long match at the end of that road.
Both he and Spassky have to play 24 games.
The match could last up to two months,
each game runs to five hours.
The most intellectually exhausting battle known to the mind of man -
the World Chess Championship.
We had the Icelandic government, the Icelandic president,
the ambassador of the Soviet Union,
the ambassador of the United States and many foreign guests.
The theatre was full.
Regularly scheduled programmes will not be seen at this time,
so we may bring you the following sports special.
ABC Sports presents the World Chess Championship match,
between Boris Spassky, the defending champion from the Soviet Union,
and 29-year-old Bobby Fischer, the challenger from the United States.
It was the Super Bowl.
The audiences were gigantic.
People stayed home from work.
People were lining up in front of TV sets in department stores, there were chess groupies.
In Times Square, they were showing the game live!
It was that important!
'Let's find out from you if there are any late-breaking developments.'
'They might fuss around with the chess pieces and the lighting,
'but I'm fairly confident the match will start on time.'
Boris Spassky, the World Chess Champion,
was there with all his assistants...
..but Fischer was not here.
'The clock has now been started, it was officially five o'clock in Reykjavik.
'Spassky is obviously anxious about the whereabouts of Mr Fischer.'
Bobby was nowhere to be seen.
And all of us despaired.
'If Fischer doesn't show up by the time one hour has elapsed,
'he forfeits the game automatically.
'Oh, there he goes now, he's just played one pawn to queen four.'
'You saw Spassky make his move then he touched his clock
'which turns his clock off but turns his opponent's clock on.
'So Fischer's time is now ticking.'
There was no certainty that even though
this was the biggest match of his life,
he would actually show up.
Many people think that his antics were designed
to upset Spassky, to discombobulate Spassky, which they did,
but I don't think that was their intent.
I don't think any of this was directed against Spassky,
it was his own inner demons he was fighting.
'Unpredictable Bobby Fischer...'
'Nobody knows why Bobby Fischer does or does not do anything.'
'The most individualistic, intransigent, uncommunicative,
'solitary chess master of all time.'
'He has no permanent home.'
-'Fischer is a nomad.'
-'Speaks to almost no-one.'
-'No contact with his family.'
'He hasn't seen his mother in over ten years.'
Is your mother still living? Do you get a chance to see her much?
I haven't seen her in a few years.
What about your father?
No, I don't see him.
Are they living together?
'"I never talk about my father," that's what Fischer said.'
This was what lead me to realise
there is something special about his father that nobody else knew.
Regina Fischer has a 900-page FBI file
and one of the things it reveals is that
Bobby Fischer's father was not Gerhardt Fischer, as had been
supposed and as the family had allowed to be known.
In fact, Bobby Fischer's father was a man named Paul Nemenyi.
Gerhardt Fischer, who was officially listed on the birth certificate,
never came to America.
Regina and Paul Nemenyi met at a university near Denver
and they had an affair.
Regina moved on and took the baby Bobby with her.
Regina often, because she was destitute and needed help,
would go to social service agencies and ask for help.
Paul Nemenyi would show up and consult with the social workers
because he was very concerned about Bobby.
He said that Bobby, even at a very young age,
was a very upset child, he was afraid he wasn't being raised right.
Later, when Bobby moved to New York City,
Paul would come and take him out to restaurants and would admonish him
for having bad table manners.
And would basically act towards him in the way that a father would.
One day, Bobby asked his mother, "Where's Paul?
"Why isn't he coming around any more?"
When Nemenyi died,
that's when his mother told him he was his real father.
He learned about her only about the time he was nine years old.
Chess, to him, was the ultimate escape,
his single obsession.
'Well, Spassky is waiting.'
'Right, waiting and wondering whether Bobby will show or not show.
'And there's absolutely dead silence in the hall.'
'Spassky's pacing, he's nervous...'
'Wait! Here comes Fischer, coming on to stage saying he was caught in traffic, and, er...
'and I think Spassky's visibly relieved.'
'And also perhaps pained.'
It didn't look like this match would happen but finally it happened
and it was phenomenal!
How do you spell "relief", OK?
'Now, for the first time, we're looking at Bobby Fischer,
'the man that eight times has won the United States Open Championship...'
I remember saying on TV at one point during the match,
"We're really lucky to be alive at this moment when Bobby Fischer is playing Boris Spassky."
'There's his first move, one knight to king bishop three.
'Now watch, see Fischer turn around here?
'He's checking to see that camera location.
'And now he goes over, to protest those cameras being there.'
'There's Lothar Schmid in the background.'
Bobby said, "I feel disturbed.
"I cannot have that, please!"
'Spassky remains serene and imperturbable throughout all this.'
The first game started out with some minor psychological games
in the opening but then it calmed down
and the position they reached after 28 moves
seemed like a complete draw, seemed like they're going to agree to a draw shortly
and move on to the next game.
All the pieces were traded, they got into an end game,
each side had a bishop and a bunch of pawns.
It was very easy, it was a dead draw,
the position reached, a very even position, very symmetrical.
And Fischer went haywire.
He did something that hardly anyone would do except a rank amateur.
He grabbed a pawn, allowing his bishop to be trapped.
He made a colossal beginner's blunder.
He took a pawn, which allowed Spassky to trap his bishop.
We couldn't believe it.
This looks like an error but this is Fischer playing the move,
there must be more to it than that, there must be an explanation.
There must be some deep combination that we've missed.
Bobby saw six moves ahead here, when he made the move.
He just didn't see seven moves ahead.
White can interpolate a move, he can play bishop to queen two.
Notice that that cuts off the escape square.
All that white has to do on the next move is play king to knight two,
and the bishop is lost.
That was the shot heard around the world.
It was inexplicable.
I still don't know how that happened.
Spassky won the first game.
He had to get 12 and a half points, the best of 24.
A win is one, a loss is zero and a draw is one half.
He had an agreement that the cameras be quiet.
And Bobby said, "They aren't quiet and they disturb me."
He claimed that the noise from the machines
was so high that he couldn't, you see,
he couldn't think or concentrate.
I believe that, by the way.
I think that he had hyperacusis,
a medical condition characterised by excessive sensitivity to noise.
Fischer said he would boycott the match until hidden movie cameras
were removed from the playing hall.
The promoters said the entire financial structure of the match
depends on recording and exhibiting the play.
He asked to put the camera away.
He wanted me to clear the cameras out of the hall.
And I said, "No."
You have to start in time. If a player is not present,
you have to, as the arbiter, press his clock.
Fischer had been known to quit matches over trivia
so we were afraid that he would just, you know,
run back home and that would be the end of it.
Bobby did not show up. I had, as the arbiter, to forfeit him
and for a moment, I thought it, I made the right decision.
Was it fair? Was it correct?
But it was necessary, there was no other way.
This night, I remember that I have been woken up by tears in my eyes,
that I, as an arbiter, had to destroy a genius.
He was now trailing 2-0. Very hard to make that up in a 24-game match.
Half the world thought, "That's it, the match is over, he'll never come back."
Why would he bother trying to come back from such a difficult situation?
During the match, he would knock on my door
about one or two in the morning
and we'd just walk and walk.
We'd sit and look at the animals.
He loved animals.
And he would talk. But he didn't like to talk about his childhood.
It was a bad subject.
He did tell me that from the age of two or three,
he was left alone all day with his sister.
Regina, for all of her gifts, was not a traditional mother.
She was a person who moved her kids around, from place to place,
even every few months when they were really little.
There was obvious conflict between Regina and Bobby from an early age.
He didn't like to have his mother around,
she would end up having to send his sister, Joan, abroad with him on tournaments.
He wouldn't play if his mother was along.
Regina moved out of the apartment that he shared with her
in Brooklyn, when he was only 16 years old.
He told his mum to leave, I don't know how politely, and she left.
In a way, he rejected her because she was so like him.
So pushy, so self-centred...
Maybe he was...splitting off part of himself.
1960, Regina went to Europe to get her MD degree.
Bobby would have still been living in Lincoln Place in Brooklyn then.
I went to his apartment a couple of times, it was roach-ridden, a walk-up tenement.
He had chess books all over the place
and it was just in a complete state of disarray.
The fact is, his mother left him.
Think about it yourself, if suddenly your father wasn't there
and your mother disappeared.
How would you feel?
I wonder what would happen to you.
Bobby is all chess. I don't play chess
and I don't pretend to speak for Bobby.
But I feel that whatever I do here,
whatever I say to help make the Vietnam come to an end more quickly
will help every son, every daughter in the whole world.
ALL: One, two, three, four, sign the treaty, end the war!
One, two, three, four, sign the treaty, end the war!
One, two, three, four, sign the treaty...
You're not going to believe this...
Fischer said, "I'll continue but the third game has got to be away
"from the auditorium, inside a sealed room,
"there's a little ping-pong room at the back of the stage."
And Spassky agreed.
You can't change the location without both sides' permission,
once a match has started.
He could have claimed the match on a forfeit.
He didn't have to play in that back room.
If he hadn't, Fischer would have not played
and the match would not have continued.
Bobby started again to quarrel.
"No, not this one! and not that!", etc.
And Boris said in this moment, "So I retire. I do not want this.
"This is too much for me. If so, we end the match."
The two boys were standing together at the table
and I took them here, both.
Pressed them down in the stools. "Now will you play?"
Boris automatically made his first move.
The game could still be watched by a closed-circuit TV camera.
The audience was in the hall
and they could follow the game move by move.
In game three, Bobby played an opening, a defence, he had never played before -
the "Benoni", which means "son of sorrow".
It is so risky,
so fraught with danger,
that, whenever you play that, you're simply saying,
"We're not going to make a draw. This is win or lose. This is a fight to the death."
Bobby moved his knight to the edge of the board.
There's a saying in chess, "Ein Springer am Rand bringt Kummer und Schand".
"A knight on the side, I will not abide." It was against principle.
It's not considered a good idea, because the centre of the board, typically,
is the most important battleground and that's where we want to position our pieces,
or least in a way that our pieces attack the middle of the board.
Not only did he move the knight to the side, but also could have been captured by a bishop
and he would have had a very ugly-looking double pawn on one side.
It was very unaesthetic, let's say.
Ah, more tense than you've seen him?
He may what? I see.
Spassky did not find the best continuation
and was consistently outplayed,
until Fischer won his first game of his life against Spassky.
He was on the scoreboard.
-What do you think of Bobby Fischer?
-I like him. I like his style.
-Are you following the game?
-Yes, I am.
The American chess players are behind Bobby 100%,
and they're all anxious to see him get in there and win the championship.
Do you think that Fischer will win for the first time over the Russian champion?
I think Fischer will win because he's playing for 200,000.
If Spassky wins, most of the money will go to the Russian government.
People sat in bars betting on what the next moves was going to be
the way they bet on whether there was going to be a hit in a baseball game.
That's when chess really exploded.
-Tell me what turns you on about chess.
-Do you hope to be as good as Bobby Fischer one day?
-I hope so, but I doubt if I will be.
-I just think Fischer's about the best player in the world,
and not very many people can get to be as good as he is.
We're watching the looming presence of Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer,
as sketched by LeRoy Neiman, noted artist and familiar face to the Wide World.
LeRoy is here with me at the Wide World studio in New York
and he's going to be sharing some of his artistic impressions with us in just a minute.
Larry, I thought watching a chess match would be like watching the grass curl.
-It was far more exciting than I expected it to be.
-I thought it was exciting, too.
It was just like the Ali-Frazier fight all over again.
This is Bobby Fischer leaving the hotel for the fight,
like a matador leaving the Palace Hotel in Madrid.
Onstage, the tension is developing. It's a real prize fight. That's when Fischer's a fighter.
This right hand is like... and drew blood on Spassky.
The score was even. Two and a half, two and a half.
Spassky was not himself. All these shenanigans
had affected him adversely.
He was not playing his true game.
HE SPEAKS RUSSIAN:
They believed that the chairs had been wired and the lighting fixture
to destabilise Boris's concentration. That's when Boris cracked.
Spassky complained that
there was some radiation which was affecting him.
During the match I felt myself quite unusual, like before.
So that was a reason to be for myself...
I'm not a suspicious man. ..To become suspicious.
There might be something in the chair.
There might be something on the surface of the chair. There might be something in the light.
They inspected the chairs and the lights
to see whether the Americans were up to some kind of hanky-panky.
They found two dead flies and that was it.
Game six is very celebrated. It is probably the most reprinted game
of the entire match.
It was like a symphony of placid beauty.
Right on the first move, Bobby Fischer came up with a major surprise to the entire world.
He almost always starts the game moving the pawn in front of his king two pawns up,
HE SPEAKS RUSSIAN:
And in this game, everybody's shocked.
He started with the English opening, by playing c4.
Spassky's preparation was out the window.
I'm sure he prepared for many things, but not this.
Fischer did not play his usual game.
He played a different kind of game.
A placid, positional, slowly-building-up game,
where he deprives Spassky of mobility.
Pushed him back,
where his pieces could not do anything.
And it was just a beautiful game.
I don't know what more can be said about it.
It was just a model of precision.
It was such a beautiful game
that when the crowd applauded at the end of the game,
Spassky himself stood up and applauded Fischer.
On his way back to the hotel, Fischer said, "Did you see what Spassky did?" he said.
"That's a sportsman. He's a real sportsman."
Game 21 reached move 40.
The move at which the game was adjourned for the two players to go study it.
This is NBC Nightly News, Friday, September 1st.
We'll have more on the developments in the Watergate bugging case.
We'll hear George McGovern talking about tightening up his campaign organisation.
And we'll have a look at the new unemployment figures. First, Bobby Fischer.
Today was the day when Fischer and the Russian champion, Boris Spassky,
were to have finished the 21st game of the World Championship,
a game they started yesterday, but Spassky, after what must have been an agonising night
spent analysing his position, didn't even show up to play.
I was going to photograph Spassky in the morning.
He came straight over to me, shook my hand and said, "There is another world champion.
"His name is Robert James Fischer."
I went back to the Lofteidir, to Bobby's room,
and I told him, Spassky just retired.
And I want to be the first to congratulate you.
Congratulations! Tell us how you feel, babe. Tell us how you feel!
-I'll see you later.
-Listen, will you talk to us, Bobby?
Bobby, roll the window down!
Bobby wanted to get away, cos they were banging on the door and all that.
Just to beat it, out into the hills.
Someone brings up the New York Post and it says "Bobby Is The Champ!".
His mother has said to him,
when she saw she couldn't separate him from chess, she said, "OK, go play chess.
"When that's over you can start your life.
"You can do something important."
NBC news correspondent Dick Schaap was in Iceland today and here is what Fischer said.
How does it feel now you have the World Championship, you're the best in the world?
How does it feel inside?
It feels pretty good, yeah. But my goal now is to play a lot more chess.
I feel I haven't played enough chess.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-How did it feel? Had you ever thought of anything like that?
-No, I never, you know,
thought it was going to happen with chess. I hope it keeps on.
I just had a premonition that something awful was going to happen to him.
I didn't know what it would be, but I didn't feel good about it.
One of Fischer's problems was that, after the match,
he was supposedly better known by the population of the world
than anyone except for Jesus Christ.
And he was a guy who treasured his privacy.
He had a problem.
The entire world knows the name Bobby Fischer by now.
Was it a letdown after it was all over, Bobby?
I mean, there must have been a tremendous...
It was. I woke up the day after the thing was over
and I just felt different, like something was taken out of me.
He didn't really, after he won, know what he wanted to do with his life.
He reached an end point when he was 29.
He was 29 years old and he hadn't had a childhood.
Is it not true that chess masters are always young men?
And that they don't last?
That's true, generally speaking, but there are exceptions.
-Steinitz - he was 63 when he was World Champion.
-But you're in a fortunate position.
Because most of us in life, no matter how successful we think we are,
we have to do what other people want us to do, just to hold jobs.
But you don't have to hold a job. You're on your own. It's a unique position.
That's right. You can't say, "If Fischer won't come, we'll get some other chess genius."
Bobby Fischer, the world champion chess player,
has until midnight tonight to decide whether to abide
by the international rules of chess or give up his title.
If Fischer defaults, the title would go to the challenger, Soviet grandmaster Anatoly Karpov.
He wanted, probably, to play the kid from Russia, Karpov...
And beat him. I mean, it would be an easy task.
On the other hand, part of him knew he could lose.
And that's death to Bobby. He didn't want to risk that.
So what came out was a series of new demands on the rules.
First of all, I like to play matches without draws.
And they have to increase the prizes if they want me to play...
Well, if they want me to play for the title. I'm not going to play for their minimum prizes.
Accepting all Fischer's demands
was unacceptable, politically, for the Soviet Chess Federation.
Baring a very unlikely last-minute change of heart by Fischer,
Anatoly Karpov becomes the new champion by default.
The world chess body gave him about 95% of what he wanted.
But that was it. He didn't defend his title.
HE SPEAKS RUSSIAN
INTERPRETER: I think he was unable to cope with his own invincibility.
He got more or less scared to sit down again in front of the board
and risk losing.
But only he who never plays never loses.
We all felt disappointed that he'd let chess down.
He'd let the American masters down.
Yeah, we all felt kind of a betrayal.
Others could suffer from creative depression after such debacle.
I went out to California on a job, phoned Bobby.
Picked him up in Pasadena at some cult place he was staying.
I've had so many bad experiences with...
He would talk about nuclear disarmament.
Our capabilities, ICBMs and that, you know?
And that would go on for about an hour and a half.
..The Worldwide Church of God.
Bobby had been involved with the Church of God since 1962.
And after he won the championship, the church was providing him with a place.
The Worldwide Church of God was a group of people that believed
in fundamental principles of the Bible.
Some people would probably call us fundamentalists.
..Will bring on the Great Tribulation and that will end in the Second Coming of Christ!
The end of this civilisation!
Basically, they said there was an impending coming Christ
and we needed to prepare for that Second Coming.
I told him it's all a bunch of hooey, but that's what he chose to do.
'I have warned, you may be living in the time in which you will see...'
I went to his apartment in Pasadena.
It seemed to me pretty hopeless.
He was extremely depressed.
We would get into these long discussions about the Bible.
Why are we here? What are we doing here? What is life?
That's when he started to go haywire.
He felt that he was being influenced by these Russians.
And he also was scared of the Mossad, Israeli secret police.
He felt that he could be easily spied upon through radioactivity
and other through means - fillings.
-He the Russians could send signals here.
Tinfoil...over the windows.
This is paranoia.
We tried, as church members,
to bring him in to a little more normal life.
I think he turned against the Worldwide Church of God
when one of its prophecies patently did not come to pass.
One - that in the last days of these times in which we're living, perilous times shall come.
Fischer felt betrayed.
He wrote a pamphlet attacking the church and Armstrong, its leader,
saying that nobody should ever control your mind.
I was never a member of the Church of God. Absolutely not true. It's a lie!
As he denied God, he began to get worse.
He started to go astray.
He started reading the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which he mentioned to me.
I said that book is a forgery and a hoax. It's anti-Semitic propaganda that even Hitler used.
'Protocol number one - what has restrained the wild beast we call men?'
He got into all these doctrines.
The Illuminati, all these different people that were going to take over the world.
'Protocol number nine - merciless revenge and bitter hatred.
'From us emanates, an all-embracing terror.'
We began to see less of Bobby.
We didn't want to expose our children to the famous uncle
who had become a fomenting anti-Semite.
Hitler said in Mein Kampf that the Jews are not the victims but they're the victimisers.
We could be having dinner and he would suddenly start, the Jews did this and the Jews did that.
And in our house it was just unacceptable.
They're actually making things happen in terms of killing people all over the world.
His mother was Jewish. His real father was Jewish.
It's complete madness.
The question is, how could a Jewish kid become an anti-Semite?
He had false fixed ideas of a very widening conspiracy against him.
It was as if he were at war with himself.
He became a recluse.
Fischer watchers refer to it as the "wilderness years".
-Where's Bobby these days?
-Oh, Bobby's at home.
-Where, in New York?
I don't think I want to get on to the subject of Bobby. You know how Bobby feels about it.
The last conversation we had enraged him.
If you don't play chess...
..there will soon come a time when no-one will ask you to play chess.
He thought that was unacceptable.
And that was the end of our relationship.
If you look throughout history
there have been a disproportionate number of extremely talented chess players
who've also had serious psychological issues.
You are putting yourself in a world that is infinite.
It's abstract. You are, in essence, reshaping your mind.
If you understand that, in the first move of a chess game,
each player has 20 possible moves.
If you multiply 20 by 20, that means there are 400 different possible chess positions
after the first move.
The tree becomes a lot of branches, you know?
You start with one move and on that there are several options. All of a sudden it is a jungle.
The number of all positions that can occur in the game of chess
is something like ten with 45 zeros.
It's like the number of atoms in the solar system.
You're trying to anticipate what your opponent might do and you don't know what he might do,
so you're thinking of all the different possibilities.
A good chess player is paranoid, on the board.
But then if you take that paranoia to real life, it doesn't play so well.
You end up seeing your real world according to the confines of chess.
The cancer had set in.
We like to think that chess didn't cause that, but maybe it did.
An individual with an unbalanced tendency,
by becoming a chess monomaniac,
will throw himself over the brink.
Yeah, we have some examples where people of exceptional abilities
were infected by this mental illness.
Viktor Korchnoi claimed to have played a match with a dead man. He even provided the moves.
Rubinstein jumped out the window cos the player was after him.
Steinitz was in an institution.
Steinitz in late life thought he was playing chess by wireless
with God Almighty AND had the better of God Almighty.
Carlos Torre took all his clothes off on a bus.
And the probably greatest name, the greatest impact on the game of chess in the 19th century,
belonged to an American player, Paul Morphy.
Unfortunately, there was some resemblance with Fischer.
Paul Morphy was an American player who stunned the world with his chess play.
And then, at age 26, he wandered the streets, aimlessly.
He muttered to himself.
He became a paranoid schizophrenic.
His tour in Europe in 1858, 1859, was one of the most unforgettable events in the history of chess.
And then Morphy stopped playing chess.
There are many similarities between Morphy and Fischer.
People are always going to equate their names together.
Both gave up the game at the height of their powers.
And disappeared into a world of neurosis and psychosis.
-Where DID Bobby Fischer go?
-What happened to Bobby Fischer?
We spent countless hours prowling the streets
looking for him at chess clubs where he's been known to play.
Ultimately, the Now investigation was successful.
We found Bobby Fischer. The quest paid off.
In 1990, he shows up in Pasadena.
A little on the heavy side.
He handed me this letter.
"Mr Fischer, you are the Mozart of the chess world.
"I want you to get back into chess."
Her name was Zita. "I wonder what she looks like, Harry!"
All of a sudden he's romantically entwined.
She got him off all of his rationalisations why he couldn't play chess any more,
and she set up the tournament.
After many false alarms, it was a 19-year-old Hungarian chess player,
Zita Raycsanyi, who brought Fischer back to chess.
-Do you think he's still as handsome now?
-What do you think?
As a result of their meeting, Zita arranged Bobby's comeback.
The chess world was shaken today with news that an old legend lives,
apparently, ready to risk himself in public again.
Headlines around the world announced he'd signed a contract to play a rematch
to play his old Russian rival from Iceland, Boris Spassky.
Everybody's waiting for him to play for 20 years.
Month after month, year after year, there were these stories.
He's negotiating this. He wouldn't play! Finally, he plays!
He was playing in Yugoslavia against Spassky.
It was trumpeted as a return World Championship match.
This is a typical question
from Mr Roger Cohen of the New York Times.
"If you beat Spassky, will you go on to challenge Kasparov for the World Championship?"
Can you read what it says behind here?
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
The match took place in Yugoslavia
during the middle of the Yugoslav war.
And, by participating, Fischer broke a UN-backed embargo.
The US government sent him a letter and said, "Don't play. If you do, you're going to to jail."
This is my reply to their order not to defend my title here.
That's my answer.
The match in '92, in my view, had no chess relevance.
They played very decent chess, but it was chess of 1972.
It's like watching two old boxers
come back into the ring for one last payday.
A slightly sad affair, where both players are clearly passed their best.
Both Fischer and Spassky are shadows of their former selves.
He won and won several million dollars,
but was declared a criminal for having taken part in the match.
Today, Federal Grand Jury here in Washington
charged Robert James Bobby Fischer
with a criminal violation of the US-imposed sanctions on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Fischer faces up to ten years in prison
and the millions of dollars of proceeds of the chess match
are forfeitable to the United States.
Bobby Fischer, like anyone else,
should be held accountable for his actions.
The cost was very high. He lost his country.
He couldn't come back. He was indicted.
A lot of people questioned the validity of this indictment, but Fischer broke the law.
He couldn't come back in the country. They were out to arrest him.
So he became an ex-patriot.
So, I mean, Yugoslavia...
It was pointless.
You know, he was gone. It was no longer a story.
I knew Zita. I knew her personally.
She was a nice girl. But who knows what he did there.
Joan had gone to Hungary
in 1995 to visit Bobby,
when he was staying in Budapest.
That's the last of our family who'd seen him.
Regina died in '96.
And my wife, Joan, died in 1998
from a cerebral haemorrhage.
No forewarning at all.
Died within half a day.
That was a tragedy. His mother dies, his sister dies.
Bobby was stripped of any family support that he could hope for.
And when he was a man without a country, he got worse and worse.
This is all wonderful news!
It's time for the fucking US to get their heads kicked in.
Finish off the US once and for all.
This just shows you that what goes around, comes around, even for the United States.
He felt that he was above politics and could say whatever he wanted to say.
And George Bush says, "No. I can grab you wherever you are!"
United States' citizen Robert Booby Fischer
has been detained by Japanese authorities
on alleged immigration law violations.
I get a collect phone call from Japan.
"From who?" I said. He said, "Bobby Fischer."
22 years I haven't heard from him.
Not anything. But he must have kept me in the drawer or something.
So I was not completely forgotten when he needed me.
And I went to Japan to get this man out of jail.
When I saw him there, it was on his birthday.
He asked me if I could help him out, you know.
I said, "I'll see what I can do."
Iceland has stood up and offered him residency.
Iceland has stood up and given him a passport.
We, a small nation of 300,000 people intervened
and went against the United States and Japan,
the two strongest economies in the world, and got him to Iceland.
HE SPEAKS ICELANDIC
CROWD: Bobby Fischer! Bobby Fischer!
Welcome to Iceland, Mr Fischer. How does it feel to be home?
-You're getting quite a hero's welcome. Did you expect this?
-No, I didn't.
This is your first time in Iceland in quite a few years.
-You weren't that thrilled the first time around. Think it will be better this time?
-That is not true!
-Do you mean, I didn't want to play here originally?
I explained all that. That was all a CIA setup. I'll explain that some day.
We look forward to that, Bobby Fischer. Welcome to Iceland.
Have a good night.
Sorry for keeping you waiting.
-How does it feel to be a free person?
-Oh, it feels great.
You've got a wonderful country. Wonderful fresh air. Very fine people.
-Plenty of room.
-What's next, Bobby?
I still want to do a book showing how the 1984/85 Karpov-Kasparov match
was prearranged move by move.
They're all saying, "Oh, Fischer didn't write the book he said he was going to write."
Yeah! But they don't say that they stole my file on it!
They don't say they stole several big moving boxes full of books that took me years to accumulate.
-What is your name?
-Your father was Dick Schaap, you were telling me last night?
I knew him, yeah. He rapped me very hard.
He said I don't have a sane bone in my body. I didn't forget that.
His father, many, many years ago, befriended me.
-Took me out to see... I don't remember what.
-You were 12.
-Acted kind of like a father figure.
And then later, like a typical Jewish snake,
-he had the most vicious things to say about me.
-I have to object.
Did you read the article where he said I don't have a sane bone in my body?
-I'm not sure if I read it, but I know that he said it.
And, honestly, I don't know that you've done much here today really
to disprove anything he said.
I met Bobby after he came to Iceland.
His existence was a very lonely one.
He gradually, in Iceland, like everywhere else, alienated people
with his behaviour.
I had one huge safe...
We just walked around the pond in downtown Reykjavik and we talked.
And we had coffee together.
I met him a few times when I ran into him in restaurants, etc.
The US didn't give a damn what their opinions were any more!
Their role was over. Now the bomb belonged to the government. Do you understand?
-And they were shocked. They didn't believe it.
Listen to me. Either you're going to have a fucking conversation...
This cannot be a monologue.
'He could not tear himself from the topic of the evil nature of the Jews.'
And the evil nature of the United States,
or the evil nature of nuclear power. He talked about this relentlessly.
You really couldn't pull him out of that discussion.
'It was not just that he was talking about it.
'It was the obsessive, compulsive nature of the discussion,
the relentless nature of it.'
You don't see how fucked up the world is. That's a form of insanity.
'The last time I ran into him,
'I turned him away from my table, because I had gotten enough of him.
'Most of us think within a relatively narrow bandwidth.'
But occasionally an individual manages to get outside the box.
Those are the people who make new discoveries. Those are the creative people.
But occasionally it is difficult to get back into the box.
King moves. Takes the Queen.
'His genius and his illness are joined at the hip.
'I don't think that Bobby could have been as creative, as extraordinary...'
without being extraordinary in other aspects and that aspect we call a disease.
So the whole game's collapsing. We resigned.
I don't consider myself to be...
..a genius at chess. I consider myself more to be...
..a genius who just happens to play chess.
Understand? So I could be doing any...
I could have done and I can do any number of other things, you know?
You know, I always wanted to write some songs. I was telling Larry Evans.
This is back in the '60s. I listened to all his songs.
I wish I could write that, but I tried to write some, I tried to think of something,
and I guess nothing comes out.
And he says, "Yeah, because you haven't lived!"
I started thinking about it. He's right!
..Library. All my regular library.
All my personal correspondence. All my chess sets...
'Everything stolen. Everything. All of my chess library.'
He died from a psychiatric illness.
He did not want to accept treatment for benign prostatic hypertrophy.
He refused dialysis, as I understand. Could have prolonged his life if he'd taken it.
I was able to get him a photograph of Regina and Joan to have with him,
which is what he had with him in the hospital when he died.
Reportedly Fischer's last words were, "Nothing is so healing as the human touch."
The former world champion of chess Bobby Fischer has died.
His career reached its height during matches with his nemesis, Boris Spassky, back in 1972.
Just his games, that's his monument.
If you love an art.
Let's say you love painting.
Imagine if Picasso had died after only five years of work.
All the rest of his works had never appeared.
This was a tragedy for the whole chess world.
He did it all by himself.
He penetrated the secrets of chess in this shabby Brooklyn apartment.
He was the best player who ever lived.
Bobby Fischer, sound roll three.
Bobby, you've been playing this game since you were six years old.
And playing it very seriously shortly after the age of six.
Did all this concentration, to the exclusion of other activities, did this bother you?
Do you think this deprived you of anything growing up?
-Maybe, yeah, yeah. To some extent, yeah.
Well, it would have been better, a little more balanced, yeah.
Maybe a little more rounded, but what can you do?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Considered by many to be the world's greatest chess player, Bobby Fischer personified the link between genius and madness. His trajectory propelled him from child prodigy to world chess champion at the age of 29 and then into a nosedive of delusions and paranoia. Fischer was a recluse for decades before resurfacing for a bizarre final chapter as a fugitive.
Veteran filmmaker Liz Garbus's documentary exposes the disturbingly high price Fischer paid to achieve his legendary success and the resulting toll it took on his psyche. Rare archival footage and insightful interviews with those closest to him expand this captivating story of a mastermind's tumultuous rise and precipitous fall.