- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 3, 2004

BOBBY FISCHER GOES TO WAR: HOW THE SOVIETS LOST THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY CHESS MATCH OF ALL TIME

By David Edmonds and John Eidinow

Harper Collins, $24.95, 342 pages, illus.

REVIEWED BY DOUG BANDOW

Chess may not have the television appeal of football or tennis, but its fans are equally fanatical. They have their favorite players and playing styles; they debate the politics surrounding international chess competition. And there is a lot of politics to discuss: Today the world chess championship is as fractured as the boxing crown.

Yet international chess competition now seems simple compared to 1972. That was when Robert J. Fischer, better known as Bobby Fischer, won the world title, denying that honor to a Soviet for the first time since 1948.

David Edmonds and John Eidinow have penned a delightful book about the politics of that legendary match. It is not really a volume on chess: Books analyzing the games began appearing days after the match concluded. Although a few of the games remain classics, chess theory has moved on.

Instead, “Bobby Fischer Goes to War” covers the larger context of the match. As such it will interest any chess player, irrespective of skill level. Indeed, even a non-player will enjoy reading about the match between an obnoxious boor and a consummate gentleman, won by the former.

Eight years before America’s victory over the Soviets in pursuit of Olympic gold in ice hockey, the United States triumphed over its Cold War antagonist in another celebrated international competition.

The book begins and ends with Bobby Fischer. Apparently the product of his divorced mother’s love affair with a Hungarian physicist, Mr. Fischer was never formally acknowledged by his biological father. Despite an unsettled home life, he picked up chess at age six. By age 14 he had won the U.S. championship.

From there began a march towards the world championship. But as Mr. Edmonds and Mr. Eidinow relate, it was not a steady march.

The only valid prediction about Mr. Fischer was that he would be, irrespective of the setting, obnoxious and unreasonable.

Everything about every tournament had to be his way. He wanted unrealistic payments in a sport that offered little money. He continually felt slighted and walked out of events for the most trifling reason.

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