A biographical movie about Bobby Fischer?
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. (Fischer died in 2008.)
The movie isÂ Bobby Fischer Live 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 United States Chess Federation 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 feelsÂ and how authenticÂ 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 IÂ 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. As noted in this posting, 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, chessÂ — these people devote an incredible amount of time to learning.Â 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 Me & Bobby Fischer, a documentary directed by Fridrik Gudmundsson. The film is about Fischer’s match with Boris Spassky in 1972, as told through the eyes of his bodyguard during the match, Saemi PÃ¡lsson.
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.
Here’s a clip of an interview Fischer gave to a Canadian interviewer in 1963. (Now available only to non-US viewers.) Fischer was 20 at the time. This was in his period of theÂ amazing yearsÂ 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)Â in the Candidates Tournament in CuraÃ§ao — after which he accused the Russians of cheating.
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.