The Age of Bobby Fischer

CAMBRIDGE – The brilliant new Hollywood movie “Pawn Sacrifice” portrays the life of tormented chess genius Robert James “Bobby” Fischer from his early days as a prodigy to his historic 1972 match, at age 29, with Russian world champion Boris Spassky. Actor Toby Maguire portrays Fischer with remarkable authenticity – indeed, pitch-perfect for those of us who met Fischer in his prime.

The film depicts a match that became a signature event in the Cold War between Russia and the United States. It also makes one wonder whether a creative genius like Fischer, deeply troubled yet supremely functional at the chessboard, would be able to exist in today’s unforgiving online world.

Fischer certainly got attention back then, but information was filtered very differently than it is today. Journalists used to lead the way, rather than slavishly following the flow of superficial Internet traffic. The story of an erratic kid from Brooklyn taking on the Soviet empire in its national sport made good copy for journalists, who understood the significance of the event. The match garnered front-page headlines in major newspapers around the world on a daily basis for two months, with commentators providing live move-by-move analysis for up to five hours each day.

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© Project Syndicate

© Project Syndicate

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