Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Fischer’
June 13, 2011 | by Yascha Mounk
Early on in Stefan Zweig’s Schachnovelle (A Chess Novella) the narrator, a casual chess player, expresses his worry that a serious devotion to chess might bring on madness:
How impossible to imagine [...] a man of intelligence who, without going mad, again and again, over ten, twenty, thirty, forty years, applies the whole elastic power of his thinking to the ridiculous goal of backing a wooden king into the corner of a wooden board!
On Monday, I settled down to watch Bobby Fischer Against the World, an entertaining new HBO documentary, directed by Liz Garbus. Besides chronicling the career of one of the greatest chess players of all time, it is also a rumination on the cold war, on political extremism, on youth prodigies and the dangers of sudden fame, and on loneliness. Finally, perhaps most hauntingly, it is about the relationship between chess, genius, and madness.
Bobby Fischer grew up on Lincoln Place, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, the son of a single mother who spent much of her time agitating for communism. A lonely, awkward, uncommunicative boy, he immediately became obsessed with chess when, at age six, he learned how to play from the instructions of a cheap set bought at a candy store below his apartment. Soon, Bobby was staring at his chessboard for hours on end, playing both white and black, engrossed in the absurd attempt of beating himself, and of not letting himself be beaten by himself.
When he was no older than thirteen, this obsession, which at first had worried his mother, seemed to pay off. At the 1956 Rosenwald Memorial Tournament in New York, Bobby’s first appearance at a major chess event, he played a game of such daring and brilliance that he instantly became a sensation in chess circles. Within a year, he had won the prestigious U.S. Open; within another year, he won the U.S. Championship; and within a year after that, he was well on his way toward a lucrative career as an internationally renowned master.
February 18, 2011 | by The Paris Review
The other evening at East Village Books I picked up a used copy of Dawn Powell’s 1936 novel, Turn, Magic Wheel, stopped at Second Avenue and Seventh, and settled in to the opening scene ... only to realize that I’d been walking in the footsteps of the writer-hero, Dennis Orphen—and that he, too, had just come to a halt at Second and Seventh. I half expected him to walk in the door. Powell has a way of collapsing the decades between one literary New York and another. Orphen’s sin, to have used a friend as material, is as old as his profession and feels as fresh as Thursday night. —Lorin Stein
I’ve been playing a lost Nintendo video game that was supposedly found at a yard sale and purchased for fifty cents. (In fact, it was recently created by San Francisco-based developer Charlie Hoey.) Why the mention? It’s modeled after The Great Gatsby. Says the Web site: “You’re not in the middle west anymore, son. Welcome to the Wild West Egg.” The Atlantic writes, “At least now we know why Gatsby couldn’t make it to the blinking green light: Sand Crabs.” —Sam Dolph
It seemed like a good idea at the time: the full publication archive of Spy magazine is now available via Google Books. —David Wallace-Wells
I’ve been thumbing through the pages of Lauren Redniss’s Radioactive, an illustrated biography about Marie and Pierre Curie. There’s a show of the book currently at the New York Public Library (where Redniss did much of her research as a Cullman fellow). Not long ago, Dwight Garner praised the book in the Times, saying, “Her people have elongated faces and pale forms; they’re etiolated Modiglianis. They populate a Paris that’s become a dream city.” Spooky and beautiful—Redniss’s work is worth taking a look. —Thessaly La Force