Bobby Fischer Against the World
Directed by Liz Garbus (2011)
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