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From Frank Brady, who wrote one of the best-selling books on Bobby Fischer of all time and who was himself a friend of Fischer’s, comes an impressively researched biography that for the first time completely captures the remarkable arc of Bobby Fischer’s life. When Bobby Fischer passed away in January 2008, he left behind a confounding legacy. Everyone knew the basics of his life—he began as a brilliant youngster, then became the pride of American chess, then took a sharp turn, struggling with paranoia and mental illness. But nobody truly understood him.
What motivated Fischer from such a young age, and what was the source of his remarkable intellect? How could a man so ambivalent about money and fame be so driven to succeed? What drew this man of Jewish descent to fulminate against Jews, and how was it that a mind so famously disciplined could unravel so completely? From Fischer’s meteoric rise, to an utterly dominant prime unequaled by any American chess player, to his eventual descent into madness, the book draws upon hundreds of newly discovered documents and recordings and numerous firsthand interviews conducted with those who knew Fischer best. It paints, for the very first time, a complete picture of one of America’s most enigmatic icons. This is the definitive account of a fascinating man and an extraordinary life, one that at last reconciles Fischer’s deeply contradictory legacy and answers the question, who was Bobby Fischer?
I thought this book was compelling because of its subject, and it's well written, with logical, linear threads.
But I wanted to read more about Fischer's breakdown, and what led him to withdraw from conventional life. I wanted to see Fisher from the inside. I don't know if that's even possible, or if he ever sought counseling or even knew or cared that his life was in a "move" more baffling than his most challenging chess match.
I'd love to see another writer, or even this one, continue to plunder the depths where "Endgame" leaves off.
21 of 21 people found this review helpful
I was blissfully unaware of the life of Bobby Fischer. From my childhood, I was aware that he was one of the finest chess players in history and the greatest American chess master. I was drawn to this book because Fischer seemed like an interesting character. What I found as the narration unfolded was that Fischer was a man who was torn by his incredible genius and insight. His ability to make meaning on the chessboard was matched only by his ability to use that same insight and genius to craft thoughts and thought-schemas that bordered on the maniacal. Mr. Brady tells Fischer's story in a way that lays all of this out. Mr. Brady is not an apologist for Bobby, nor is he an attacker. He is a faithful biographer. As I arrive at the end of this production, I feel that I have come to know this wonderful and terrible man and Mr. Brady has accomplished this without burying me in chess jargon or algebraic notation.
Ray Porter's narration was first-rate. His speech is easy to follow and lacks idiosyncracy. The best word that I can think of to describe Mr. Porter's style is transparent.
In final reflection on the life of Bobby Fischer, I am reminded of a slim volume written by Owen Lee on Richard Wagner entitled, "Wagner: The Terrible Man and His Truthful Art." Sadly, this same title could apply to the tortured genius that was Robert James Fischer.
I strongly recommend this audiobook to anyone who is seeking to understand this enigmatic man.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
This is a stimulating biography of a tragic figure. If you came of age during the Fisher era, if you are a Chess player, or if you are just interested in getting into an interesting biography, this book is well worth our time. The book traces Fisher’s childhood including the influence of his mother who lived in Russia and was involved in leftist activity. It details how he became interested in Chess and his mothers influence on that career. The final years of Fisher’s life are related in a thoughtful manner. Every page shows a broken, delusional man seeking to find peace. A most interesting section include the final pages that detail the disposition of Fisher’s assets after his death. That is not to be missed. Frank Brady has done us a great service by bringing this man to life and by shedding light on the era in which he lived. The reading of Ray Porter is excellent.
26 of 27 people found this review helpful
Like go, chess is a game I know how to play but not well. I own books and have half-heartedly studied the game off and on, but I will never be a great or even particularly good player. Still, the beauty and logic of the game attracts me, along with all its storied lore.
Most people know that Bobby Fischer was once the greatest American player in the world, possibly the greatest player in the world period. Certainly he was one of the best players ever. This biography tells his life story by a sympathetic but not uncritical friend of his.
But of course, less interesting than his life and early beginnings in chess is the raving crackpot he became later in life. The biography of a famous chess player is unlikely to be all that interesting in itself, and Bobby Fischer's childhood was a fairly unremarkable one, the child of an impoverished single mother in Brooklyn. His mother was somewhat flaky but obviously attentive, and the author, Frank Brady, repeatedly contradicts reports that Fischer and his mother were estranged when he was older. He did suffer a teenager's usual embarrassment when his mother was trying to be too active in his life, but according to Brady, they remained close even when they were living in separate countries and did not see each face to face for years at a time.
Words to describe Bobby Fischer after reading this book: Temperamental. Prickly. Unforgiving. Control-Freak. Self-sabotaging. The author veers away from calling him "crazy" or "deranged," even as he became more and more of a screaming bigot later in life.
It's almost painful to read how the man who once had the world at his feet and turned down a ticker-tape parade in New York spent much of his later years in poverty, yet turned down opportunity after opportunity to make big bucks because there was always something just not quite right about the offer. He would not play chess matches unless he got everything he asked for, and whatever he was offered, he asked for more. He was abusive and ungrateful to everyone who ever helped him. And as he got older, he became increasingly anti-Semitic. He hated the Russians, believing they were cheaters who had all conspired against him during his matches against Soviet players. (Ironically, the Soviets were conspiring against him, as Russian grand-masters later admitted, and the Soviets had an entire "lab" devoted to studying Fischer for years, so great a threat was he to their national prestige.)
The 1972 Fischer-Spassky match is a comedy of Cold War politics and temperamental chess egos. Bobby Fischer complained about everything, forfeited several games by refusing to show up until his demands were met, and generally foreshadowed what a monumental pain he would become later in life. Of course, the Soviets responded with increasingly absurd accusations that Fischer was "chemically or electronically interfering" with Spassky, resulting in the ridiculous spectacle of security guards X-raying chairs and dismantling light fixtures. And yet, that 1972 match in Reykjavik, Iceland created a worldwide chess boom.
Then Fischer went into semi-retirement and near-poverty, living off of his mother's Social Security checks for decades, while turning down publication deals, big money tournaments, endorsements, because the money offered wasn't enough, or because someone else would profit off of it too and he didn't think anyone but Bobby Fischer should make money off of Bobby Fischer. Or because they were Jews.
In 1992, Fischer played a rematch against Spassky in Yugoslavia. This finally made him enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his life. It was also his fatal undoing, as Yugoslavia was under a UN embargo at the time because of the Bosnian war, and the US State Department sent him a letter enjoining him against playing the match. Rather than appealing or just ignoring the letter, he literally spat on it, thus earning him the enmity of the U.S. government and sending him into political exile for the rest of his life.
But he was still pretty much ignored until the 9/11 attacks, when he released a series of vitriolic radio interviews from the Philippines, denouncing America, praising the attacks, and calling for a new Holocaust against the Jews. At this point, the U.S. government remembered he existed again, and went after him in earnest. Which led to his being arrested in Japan in 2006 on an expired passport and spending almost a year in a detention facility. Incredibly, Iceland, grateful for the attention he had brought to their country in 1972, went to heroic measures to offer him not just asylum but citizenship, and thus Fischer was deported to his new home in Iceland. Even more incredibly, he soon became disenchanted and began badmouthing his hosts, who had literally saved his life.
I knew before reading this book that Bobby Fischer was a great chess player and a crank. After reading it, I find him a much more interesting, and tragic, and despicable, figure. It's tempting to feel sorry for him, as he obviously spent many years lonely and bitter, but notwithstanding speculations about his mental health, he also brought all of that on himself. He was ungrateful, eventually turning on every one of his friends no matter how much they'd done for him. He was selfish and foolish -- he could have easily spent his life wealthy and famous and in seclusion if he so desired, but he had to always have things his way and no one else could get their way. And worst of all, he was a hateful bigot, turning his rage against Jews and America for reasons that probably made sense only in his own head.
Fischer was a complicated, arrogant, brilliant person, but even with this fairly kind biography, he was not a very sympathetic one. Truly his life was a tragedy, a man who could have been great remembered mostly for turning into a bearded crank and spewer of nonsense.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
There was much I didn't know about Bobby Fischer that Frank Brady brought out in the book. I enjoyed the reading/performance of Ray Porter. Ray sounded like you would think Bobby sounded.
This is a very enjoyable listen. I warn listeners that they are about to get very mad at Bobby for the bigot he became. A genius, yes.
The book makes you think about all that Bobby could have been had he not embarked on such a hateful course.
It appears that he couldn't help himself as he was self loathing.
I would have liked to have heard more about opinions of his "psychosis" from a psychological perspective. After hearing about this man, I am left with the conclusion that he was very lonely and sad.
I would highly recommend the book.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
For somebody who only plays chess once in a blue moon I found this book very intriguing. Bobby really comes across as seriously tormented from a young age until his death. There is not too much technical language, but the author does jump time quite a bit which can make it difficult to follow.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
As much as Frank Brady has done a first rate job of writing this book the real star is Ray Porter, the narrator. The brilliant attention to detail, given so many Eastern European names peppered throughout this book, is a hallmark of Porter's vocal delivery. Brady's detail is extraordinary and by the end I was left with a real sense of loss.
As much as Fisher achieved in the world of chess, which remains unsurpassed, there was so much more available to him had he been able to curb his self-destructive traits. It's unlikely Brady's account of Fischer's life will be seen as anything other than THE definitive biography of the chess legend.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
in spite of not being a chess player I chose to listen to this biography, and found it well worth my while.
The life and times of Bobby Fisher are brought to life in such a way that his complexities are
contained and explored in a very well researched and compassionate story.
Bobby's life after winning the 1972 match against Spassky became in itself a little like a game of chess
as he sought refuge in other countries, in response to his problems with the US authorities.
He was never able to outrun his own paranoia against certain races and organizations, and lived with
this until the end of his life. And it is no secret that he wasn't a great diplomatist. (a great pity because
he could have achieved much)
Somehow I felt that the real heroes in this story were the Icelandic
people who allowed him to live in their country until the end of his life, who accepted him, tolerated
his eccentricities and looked after him at his most frail. They have my admiration.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Before I say my piece, I’ll state that the book was very well written and the reader was excellent (he had many different accents to perform, even Russian, German, Yiddish and a few others and did well with all of them, to my ear). This book is, of course, really a downer, but when you realize that Bobby Fisher’s entire life, except for a few chess highlights like winning the national championship at age 13 and the World Championship in 1972, was indeed a real downer.
I for one, being an eager chess player but a real potzer in terms of skill, learned a lot from this book – just to list a few: the fact that he was married, the fact that he was incarcerated in Japan for several months and lived for several years in Iceland when a was a fugitive, for tax evasion and some other alleged violation of sanctions against a foreign country The author made it interesting without a lot of specific move notation and no diagrams at all (at least none in the audio edition ) and I think this makes the book understandable to a much wider audience. The almost meteoric rise of Fisher to the stratosphere of the chess world was in such stark contrast to the end of his life that the book couldn’t help having not only a sad ending, but a continually depressing entire second half. I guess I always wondered what really happened to Bobby Fisher, and now I know, I’m wondering if I can ever forget it.
I certainly hope so.
I’m going to try “Searching for Bobby Fisher” next and am hoping it can be an upper.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I grew up in the Bobby Fischer chess craze era and was really enamored by the persona of Bobby Fischer. But his descent into madness was completely unknown to me. This was an excellent biography of a truly unique individual. The first half of the book was stronger than the second half. The presentation of a waste of a great mind is always bittersweet.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
it was very interesting to learn more about the greatest chess player of all time.
Very informative, well read, certainly enjoyed my time with this book, lot of new and in depth information covering all aspects of his life
Brilliantly written. Superb flow and structure. Loved it. Genius stroke lunatic stroke child like till death.
I really enjoyed listening to this book. Alot of research and insight into the life of Bobby Fischer is contained here that you can't find elsewhere. Fischer's time in Eastern Europe and Japan and his short time with the Polgar family is here.
I am not a chess fan, I don't follow chess, I don't even play chess however I love biographies on interesting people and Bobby Fischer is a really interesting person, troubled but brilliant, this book covers his rise to fame and is actually really interesting.. if you like interesting people download it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book (the audio version). For me it is simply one of the very best written and researched biographical works I have ever "read." The author, Frank Brady, does an exceptional job describing and dissecting the deeply complex and troubled, chess genius that was Bobby Fischer. He meticulously explores and analyses almost every important aspect of his life; from his humble origins in Brooklyn, New York in the 1940s, his rise to the “greatest chess player of all time” and his death in Iceland in 2008.
Frank Brady’s descriptions of the key events in Bobby Fischer’s life left me feeling as if I was there experiencing them as they happened. The audio version is excellently narrated by Ray Porter.
Ironically Bobby Fischer died age 64, the same number of squares on a chess board.
This is a fantastic book for chess and non-chess players alike (also see Frank Brady's original book, Profile of a Prodigy, although Fischer had not "gone off the rails" by that stage, he was merely obsessive and eccentric!).
The only question mark in my mind is sourcing. I may be wrong but I think Frank Brady, like so many people in Fischer's life, "fell out" with him so how accurate is all of this bearing in mind Fischer was so secretive?
Nonetheless I thoroughly recommend it.