Steven Knight, the film’s screenwriter, said: “Here is a man who, in my opinion, chose chess over sanity.” Tobey Maguire, who played the role of Peter Parker in Spider-Man, admitted he was “webbed” to the eccentric persona of Fischer for years. It led to Maguire deciding to produce Pawn Sacrifice and act as Fischer in the movie.
In real life, Fischer was seen as the great American hero who turned villain when he defied UN sanctions against Yugoslavia and played some chess matches for money in the war-torn country in 1992.
It led to Fischer being hunted by the United States, the toughest sheriff on earth. Fischer, the fugitive, was arrested in Japan in 2004 and detained for nine months for using an invalid US passport.
Subsequently, Iceland turned out to be the white knight that charged to Fischer’s rescue by offering him citizenship before he could be extradited to the US.
Icelanders warmly welcomed Fischer because he had made their country famous after playing the “Match of the Century” in Reykjavik in 1972 against the then reigning world champion Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union.
Against the backdrop of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, the world watched the proxies of these two superpowers battle it out on a chessboard.
It was great minds at war, as Fischer and Spassky rained mental blows on each other, much in the fashion of the Fight of the Century between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Fischer was Ali, so to speak, controversial and colourful.
Bobby Fischer in the 1970s. ‘Pawn Sacrifice’ details Fischer’s legendary match-up against Russian Boris Spassky at the height of the Cold War.
Chess is brutal on the mind. That’s how Albert Einstein, whose name is synonymous with “genius”, looked at it.
“Chess holds its master in its own bonds, shackling the mind and brain so that the inner freedom of the very strongest must suffer,” said Einstein.
Fischer’s mind suffered its own demons. After living in seclusion for decades, he ranted against the governments of Japan and the US for making him feel like a cornered king on the chessboard.
He called the then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi “mentally ill” and a “stooge” of former US President George H.W. Bush.
“They (Koizumi and Bush) are war criminals and should be hanged,” raged Fischer.
Though Fischer had a Jewish mother, this did not stop him from his anti-Semitic tirades and he even praised the Sept 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, saying America should be “wiped out”.
Fischer died of kidney failure in 2008 at the age of 64 — significantly one year on earth for each square on a chessboard. Once the hero of millions of people, his funeral was attended by only five persons.
The title of the Bobby Fischer movie is based on a move where a player sacrifices a pawn for the greater good, which usually leads to better positional play.
This same philosophy will put us in a better financial position if we “sacrifice” some of life’s pleasures, like eating out less at high-end restaurants or spending less on indulgent things.
Meanwhile, another man, whose cerebral power is said to be as strong as Fischer’s, will grace the mental landscape of Malaysia.
The foundation, headed by the flamboyant chess wizard Garry Kasparov who was world champion from 1985 to 1993, will co-sponsor the Lim Chong Memorial Championship on Sept 24 at Cititel Mid Valley hotel.
Lim Chong, who was a pioneer chess columnist in the early 1980s for the New Straits Times Group, had contributed much to the game in Malaysia.
The 56-year-old succumbed to a heart attack in 2010 while on a flight back to Malaysia from London where he had been on assignment.
The Lim Chong Memorial Championship, which is in its fifth year, has been elevated to national-rated status this time following its recognition by the Kasparov Chess Foundation.
Chess is classless. Everybody can play it... scientists, poets, coffee-fuelled Bohemians, blue-collar workers, average Joes, et al. It’s okay even if you don’t have money as it’s not the kind of sport where you have to buy pricey golf clubs, racquets or boots.
And it is also okay if you are a bit crazy. Egos and eccentricities, at times, do come into play over the chessboard. So, if you are interested to put your mind to the challenge, do come and take part in the Lim Chong Memorial Championship.