If you were alive in the late 60s & early 1970s, you didn’t even have to be interested in chess to know this guy’s name. In the midst of the Cold War, Fischer won the first world chess championship in over a century for the United States, became a media darling for a short period of time, and then mysteriously poofed out of existence for a number of years.
He was a great example of a chess savant, with a rare and incredible intellect for the game that ultimately proved to be one of his only redeeming features. He almost single-handedly made the game of chess cool again for many young Americans, but his hero status didn’t last very long. The bizarre behavior that was initially so intriguing soon degenerated into a stunning mix of anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism and career-destructive tantrums. By the time it had become clear that he’d disappeared from public life, many weren’t all that sorry that he’d gone.
On that board, though, there was no one like him, and it’ll be a long time before we see the likes of him again. He lived one year for each square on the chessboard, and a small handful of those years were unforgettable.
Watch a playthrough of the “game of the century,” Fischer vs Byrne, played when Fischer was only 13 years old.