Bobby Fischer Against the World

A Jewish boy grows up to be a virulent anti-Semite and one of the most famous men on the planet. Sound like the tagline of a Hollywood movie? It’s the real-life saga of chess legend Bobby Fischer. This outstanding documentary by Liz Garbus (Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech, SFJFF 2009) follows Fischer’s journey from child prodigy to world chess master (at 29) to paranoid hatemonger. Centering on the famous 1972 World Championship match between American Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky, the film plays out like a taut Cold War drama. Exquisitely composed interviews meanwhile combine with rare archival footage to lay bare an exceptional but lonely life. Fischer, whose single mother was more devoted to anti-war protests (meriting a 900-page FBI file) than to her son, grew up isolated and neglected. He was the center of media attention from a young age but never equipped for a life in the spotlight. When Fischer stops playing chess and forfeits his title, he goes into what his fans refer to as his “wilderness period.” More than a curriculum vitae of the man considered by many to be the greatest chess player ever, Bobby Fischer Against the World is a complex, fascinating study of genius and madness joined at the hip.
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