The Persecution of Chess Champion Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer Against the World

Directed by Liz Garbus (2011)

Film Review

I first saw this intriguing documentary, produced in the Netherlands, on Maori TV. What stands out most clearly for me is that Fischer and his mother both suffered from obvious Asperger’s syndrome. The disorder, described as a type of high functioning autism, was first identified by Austrian pediatrician Hans Aspgerger (1906-1980). It wasn’t identified in English speaking countries until 1981, nine years after Fischer’s famous battle with Russian Boris Spassky for the World Chess Championship.

Had Fischer’s condition been recognized at the time, I’m sure his supporters would tried harder to protect him from the callous exploitation the Nixon administration and global media subjected him to.

The documentary traces Fischer’s early life as a chess prodigy (he was the US chess champion at 15), his alternating bizarre/provocative behavior and brilliance during the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match in Iceland, and his descent into social isolation and paranoia immediately afterwards.

Prior to seeing this film, I had no idea Fischer was exiled from the US in 1992 after he was charged (and threatened with prison and a $1 million fine) with violating President George H W Bush’s executive order imposing economic sanctions on Yugoslavia.  The incident leading to the grand jury indictment was a revenge match with Boris Spassky in Sveti Stefan and Belgrade Yugoslavia.

In 2004, at the behest of the US State Department, he was arrested by Japanese immigration authorities. He appealed to a supporter in Iceland, and their government granted him asylum.

He died in 2008 at age 64 after refusing treatment for benign prostatic hypertrophy.


*The US covert war on Yugoslavia, which became overt military aggression under Bill Clinton, was the first American exercise in regime change after the fall of the Soviet Union. See The War Crimes of Bill Clinton

10 thoughts on “The Persecution of Chess Champion Bobby Fischer

  1. It is obvious to anyone who paid attention that there was something not quite right about Bobby Fischer. Today it is recognized as Aspergers, a condition on the autism spectrum. Unfortunately no one in power in the US wanted to recognize that there was anything wrong with him particularly in light of his anti-Semitic rants. Playing in Yugoslavia during the breakup of the country put him right in the middle of the geo-political bulls eye. He was one of the greatest, if not the greatest chess player who ever lived.

    Regards from Florida.


    • Toritto I had a lot of Aspergers patients right before I retired and found it especially painful to watch some parts of the film, especially his terror of reporters when they mobbed him. In exploring his family background, the film reveals that both (not just his mother) were Jewish. At the end I found it quite humorous that he perfectly resembled a little old Jewish man from Brooklyn.


  2. He claimed in a late interview in Iceland that militant Jews literally plotted against him to destroy him financially and physically. I believe it, and most people know nothing of the ties of groups like the JDL and the late Meir Kahane having close links with the Colombo crime family. Joe Colombo once bailed 11 JDL members out of prison. That made the mainstream news, but not the fact that JDL were knee-capping people while doing collections for the mob. The fact that Fischer’s mother was a Communist party member under 24/7 FBI surveillance did not bode well for Fischer, either physically or psychologically, from the time he was out of the womb. Born into a circle of interest to the the U.S. intelligence community, Fischer was fed conspiracy theories and controlled as a CIA asset using, inter alia, a Jesuit priest as a handler. Fischer was a convenient Cold War poster boy.


      • I believe that any anti-communist activities jdl aided the FBI, police intelligence units on, et. al., was in the role of useful idiot. There was a cop who wrote a deep cover with the jdl book, and, they were easily manipulated pawns. Kahane was a useful intelligence asset, and I do not think that he ever got the bigger picture. The jdl may have changed its name, but militant zionism is alive and well. The adl was more sophisticated, and worked with several large police departments. According to John Loftus, a former federal prosecutor and army intelligence officer, the Jews are the second most spied upon ethnic group, after blacks, in America. Yes, the FBI has a racial intelligence division, Division 5, out of WDC. A good read is The Ugly Truth About the ADL.


  3. Bobby Fischer made chess a spectator sport back in the 70s – and we tried to ignore the obvious fact that he was being used as a pawn in America’s Cold War games. You don’t get to that level of genius in anything without having radically different psychology from the herd.


    • You do not get to be a business genius and billionaire without having a radically different psychology from the herd, but, that hardly leaves you immune from the international intelligence game (read the bio of Howard Hughes carefully). As with Hughes, the CIA will systematically utilize and appropriate assets from the Bill Gates, Zuckerbergs, etc., of the world. Not because they have an inherent interest in them, but rather, because they are useful and they can be infiltrated and fleeced as was Hughes.


  4. Fascinating story. Though I was young, I remember the match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavik. I remember his odd behavior and problems with rudely aggressive reporters, but didn’t know anything about the Bush Sr administration giving him problems about the rematch with Spassky. Very interesting.


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