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BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (director: Liz Garbus; cinematographer: Robert Chappell; editors: Karen Schmeer/Michael Levine; music: Philip Sheppard; Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Liz Garbus/Stanley F. Buchthal/Rory Kennedy/Matthew Justus; Music Box Films; 2011)

“Absorbing documentary biopic on the former world chess champion Bobby Fischer.”

Reviewed by Dennis SchwartzDocumentarian Liz Garbus’ (“Coma”/”Girlhood”/”The Nazi Officer’s Wife”) absorbing documentary biopic on the former world chess champion Bobby Fischer, who may have been the greatest chess player ever but was certainly the craziest, tells of the eccentric loner Bobby raised in a humble Brooklyn apartment building with a sister by a political activist single mom and becoming obsessed with chess since 6. The child prodigy was US champion at age 15 and world champion at 29. In 1972, at age 29, in Iceland, the moody Bobby, coming late to the matches and being difficult to please, won the title from the Russian World Champion Boris Spassky. But in 1975 he forfeited the title and became a recluse with deep-seated psychological problems. The Jewish youngster who rejected his birth religion became an anti-Semite, a hater of the USA, and the unstable and unlikable Bobby became severely paranoid but refused treatment. In 1992 Bobby comes out of hiding and plays Spassky a rematch in war-torn Yugoslavia, during the Balkan war, despite threatened with the loss of his citizenship and ten years imprisonment by the US government. Bobby wins the match, but goes on the run as an expatriate without a country. In 2004 Bobby was arrested in Tokyo for his travel ban infraction, but Iceland came to the rescue to grant him citizenship and allow him to live there. By this time the arrogant and rude behaving Bobby, a bitter man, alienated almost everyone and died a lonely man at age 64.

There’s rare archival footage of Bobby, his mom and sister. Added to that are interviews with friends, chess playing colleagues and rivals, who talk about his ongoing turmoil, his repulsive behavior and how he was impossible to be around–even growing worse when aging.

Whatever opinion one has about Bobby and how he wasted his talent and became such a detestable bigot, one can’t ignore how he walked the fine line between genius and madness until it became all madness. In Bobby’s case his genius was linked to madness and with no one around to protect him and no professional help to deal with his inner demons, he became a Shakespearean tragedy figure and someone to be pitied.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”