Bobby Fischer, chess, Endgame, Frank Brady

Book Review: Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall by Frank Brady (2012)

Bobby Fischer, chess, Endgame, Frank Brady

 

What you think of Endgame depends entirely upon how much you know about and care about chess. This isn’t exactly what I was hoping for going into the book. The author is someone who was an off-and-on friend of Fischer’s (there was no other kind) for decades and had insight into his character first-hand plus his research and observations. Brady writes himself out of the book as much as possible and does admit when he’s in the scene but otherwise tries to keep himself to a fly on the wall approach.

Bobby Fischer‘s remarkable rise as a chess prodigy and a proxy warrior in the Cold War was something I was familiar with from articles and from the very fine book “Bobby Fischer Goes to War” by David Edmonds and Jim Eidinow. I would recommend that book over this for the portion of Fischer’s life having to do with his rise to beating Boris Spassky in 1972 for the World Championship in Iceland. That a chess match ended up being one of the seminal events in the four decades long conflict between the USSR and the US is amazing and the story behind it is equally so. Brady’s problem is that he is in LOVE with chess to what is, to a casual player of the game (or God forbid a novice), a barricade to understanding Fischer’s brilliance.

Brady describes game after game after game in excruciating detail. I’ve read sports books my whole life and there’s a fine line between capturing the drama of the game and delving into a narrative scorecard. Brady spends a lot of time over the line in my opinion. However, if you’re a chess fanatic, if you’re a student of Fischer’s chess techniques, this book should prove invaluable to understanding some of his more pivotal matches during his rise to prominence.

I will admit my draw to the book was Fischer’s descent into madness and the years following his chess dominance when he became a reclusive and repulsive figure. If you want that, the last 100 pages are a good summary as best as an explanation for Fischer’s vitriol and antisemitic bile that we’re likely to get. That he was mentally ill is unquestionable. That only forgives a certain degree of hate speech and Bobby’s comments on 9/11 are so repugnant and his stance on Jews so Hitleresque (all the more puzzling because Fischer was Jewish) that I have no sympathy for his mental ills.

Overall, if you desire to read a book about the most famous board game player in US history and one of the most enigmatic and reclusive figures on a level with Salinger and Garbo, I’d recommend Bobby Fischer Goes to War. If you play chess competitively or consider yourself a student of the game, this book should cater more toward the detailed nuance that make the difference between park player and world champion.

 

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