Archive for May, 2009

Bobby Fischer Chess Movie

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

A biographical movie about

Perhaps not as surprising today as it would have been 25 years ago, before Fischer’s long-running battle with the US government, and in the end, with the American people. It was a battle that consumed Fischer’s emotional life in his last years, just like chess consumed his life in his first years. ()

The movie is  and is written, produced, and directed by Damian Robert Chapa. He also plays Fischer.

Is Chapa a tournament chess player? Evidently not, because a quick search of the rating list does not turn up an entry for him.

Can a non-serious chess player understand someone who devotes his life to chess? Even if he does excellent research and consults with experts?

That’s a question that probably doesn’t have to be answered by a movie to be successful. But what does have to be answered is how accurate the story feels and how authentic Bobby’s characterization appears.

As you can tell from the trailer, much emphasis is put on Bobby’s relationship with his mother, which was rocky.

What I expect to be the weak point of the movie is a failure to portray the intellectual challenge, voyage of discovery, and mental pleasure that is the essence of chess. to become a chess grandmaster requires an average of 25,000 hours of effort. If you think that effort is driven by a person’s relationship to his mother, then go ahead.

Our world has a layer of people who devote themselves to becoming, for want of a better term, “learned.” Whether it is mathematics, science, history, literature, art, music, chess — these people devote an incredible amount of time to learning. Why? If you understand that, you understand the primary motivation for becoming a chess grandmaster.

Not necessarily the motivation for getting interested in chess, but the motivation for becoming a grandmaster.


Bobby Fischer Live is not the only movie about Fischer. An Icelandic company has produced a documentary directed by Fridrik Gudmundsson. The film is about Fischer’s match with in 1972, as told through the eyes of his bodyguard during the match, Saemi Pálsson.

An irony of the clip is that Fischer was unwilling to put his money in a bank in Iceland because he was afraid it could be bombed into oblivion. A few years later the entire banking system collapsed, but not from any violent attack — from massive financial mismanagement.

Before he died, Fischer returned to Iceland, after living in Japan for quite a few years where he was eventually arrested and jailed for deportation to the United States — also covered in the film.


Fischer was 20 at the time. This was in his period of the amazing years 1960-1962, when he had incredible successes in international events, culminating in his winning the 1962 Stockholm Interzonal by 2.5 points, but then failing hugely (in his eyes) in the Candidates Tournament in Curaçao — after which he accused the Russians of cheating.

Fischer visits Tal in hospital at Curaçao, 1962

Isn’t it a nice touch that the interviewer asks a snarky little question using a word he is certain that Fischer does not know? It’s a time-capsule capture of the roots of what is today unquestioned canon, that some opinions make you morally inferior, and other opinions make you morally superior.

The Usual Blunders

Friday, May 29th, 2009

As noted in this post, has produced a movie about Bobby Fischer. Given the importance of chess to a movie about the greatest chess player who ever lived, you’d think that the producer would make absolutely certain he did NOT make the usual stupid mistake that almost every chess film makes.


Find the blunders?

Here’s the first:

The board is set up incorrectly, the most basic rule of chess. The board must be set up so that the queen is on the square of her color. As you can see in the image, the white queen is on a black square and black queen on a white square. That is wrong.

The next blunder is less obvious, but just as bad. The trailer has Fischer playing a stupid opening, one he never played.

From the image you can see the game has gone (assuming that the pawn in front of the queen is the queen’s pawn):

1. d3 nc6
2. f3

Having the queen on the wrong square makes it hard to visualize, but white (Fischer) opens by moving the queen pawn one square, black responds by moving out the queen knight, and then white plays the king’s bishop pawn out one square.

This is about as stupid an opening as you can play. I thank we can say having Fischer play such an open is a bad blunder.

It’s possible that the producer/director did not create the trailer. Even if so, he should have made certain that it did not include stupid chess blunders.