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Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer, first U.S. world chess champion, has died

Let's get the obvious out of the way: yes, he was a very troubled person. His wild rants against the Jews alone hinted more of serious mental instability than sincere bigotry.

But in spite of it all, Bobby Fischer was - and to many people still is - considered to be the greatest chess player in history.

No man is perfect. And instead of harping on his erratic behavior and bizarre beliefs, it's a much better thing to mark his passing by toasting his talent. Indeed, his 1972 victory over Boris Spassky has been deemed an important moment in Cold War relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

For what it's worth, without passing judgment on his beliefs, I've always thought that the U.S. government went way over the line in harassing him after he met Spassky for a rematch in Yugoslavia in 1992. I mean, threatening a man with ten years in prison... for playing a game of chess?!? He never came back to America after that.

In the end, after a glorious youth that turned into years of reclusion and ridicule, Bobby Fischer has passed away in Iceland at the age of 64.