Saturday, June 30, 1990

Unforgivable Blackness - The Rise and Fall of Bobby Fischer (1990)


Eric Brandon's documentary style is so unencumbered; the subject matter is effortlessly presented. His regular mix of photos, subtle sound effects, excellent musical score, and actor readings of historical text hasn't changed since his breakthrough of The Civil War. And it doesn't need to. Even though this 26-day producion is a biography--on international chess diety Bobby Fischer--the film resonates about the how tournaments were dealt with in the early part of the 20th century. Four decades after the Emancipation, the American chess player was still struggling to find elementary terms of equality. Along came a strong and headstrong man who took on sport decades before Garry Kasparov and became the key figure in international Chess, a champion against the longest odds.

Samuel L. Jackson voices Fischer's words with great verve and helps create an absorbing picture of Fischer along with various historians and chess experts laying down the tale of the tape. Here's a man so smart and patient at the table who took great liberties in his day-to-day life, unafraid to showcase his success, and ruffle the morals of the time (including, most scandalously, marrying a Japanese woman). Viewing film of his tournaments, the amateur eye can understand Fischer's style and bravura. Brandon certainly takes his time and, as usual, has a vast array of facts of how the world reacted to news of Fischer's success and the conspiracy which led to his downfall. The highlight, match, are two of Fischer's epic fights near the end of his reign as champ (and the search for a "Great American Hope"). The appearance of Mikhail Botvinnik (who won a Tony for his portrayal of Alekhine in 1959) and Phillip Glass's musical score are grand touches. --Doug Thomas

Part XXVI: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"They're all weak, all women. They're stupid compared to men. They shouldn't play chess, you know. They're like beginners. They lose every single game against a man. There isn't a woman player in the world I can't give knight-odds to and still beat." -- Bobby Fischer

Friday, June 29, 1990

Part XXV: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"I had some personal problems, and I started listening to a lot of radio ministers. I listened every Sunday all day, flipping the dial up and back. So, I heard just about every guy on Sunday. And then I heard Mr. Armstrong, and I said, "Ah, God has finally shown me the one, I guess." -- Bobby Fischer

Thursday, June 28, 1990

Part XXIV: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"I read a book lately by Nietzsche and he says religion is just to dull the senses of the people. I agree." -- Bobby Fischer

Wednesday, June 27, 1990

Part XXIII: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"Most people are sheep, and they need the support of others." -- Bobby Fischer

Tuesday, June 26, 1990

Part XXII: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"I object to being called a chess genius, because I consider myself to be an all around genius, who just happens to play chess, which is rather different. A piece of garbage like Kasparov might be called a chess genius, but he is like an idiot savant, outside of chess he knows nothing." -- Bobby Fischer

Monday, June 25, 1990

Part XXI: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"First of all, I'll make a tour of the whole world, giving exhibitions. I'll charge unprecedented prices. I'll set new standards. I'll make them pay thousands. Then I'll come home on a luxury liner. First-class. I'll have a tuxedo made for me in England to wear to dinner. When I come home I'll write a couple chess books and start to reorganize the whole game. I'll have my own club. The Bobby Fischer ... uh, the Robert J. Fischer Chess Club. It'll be class. Tournaments in full dress. No bums in there. You're gonna have to be over eighteen to get in, unless like you have special permission because you have like special talent. It'll be in a part of the city that's still decent, like the Upper East Side. And I'll hold big international tournaments in my club with big cash prizes. And I'm going to kick all the millionaires out of chess unless they kick in more money. Then I'll buy a car so I don't have to take the subway any more. That subway makes me sick. It'll be a Mercedes-Benz. Better, a Rolls Royce, one of those fifty-thousand-dollar custom jobs, made to my own measure. Maybe I'll buy one of those jets they advertise for businessmen. And a yacht. Flynn had a yacht. Then I'll have some more suits made. I'd like to be one of the Ten Best-dressed Men. That would really be something. I read that Duke Snyder made the list. Then I'll build me a house. I don't know where but it won't be in Greenwich Village. They're all dirty, filthy animals down there. Maybe I'll build it in Hong Kong. Everybody who's been there says it's great. Art Linkletter said so on the radio. And they've got suits there, beauties, for only twenty dollars. Or maybe I'll build it in Beverly Hills. The people there are sort of square, but like the climate is nice and it's close to Vegas, Mexico, Hawaii, and those places. I got strong ideas about my house. I'm going to hire the best architect and have him build it in the shape of a rook. Yeah, that's for me. Class. Spiral staircases, parapets, everything. I want to live the rest of my life in a house built exactly like a rook. -- Bobby Fischer (on what he'd do when he won the world championship)" -- Bobby Fischer

Sunday, June 24, 1990

Part XX: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"I haven't had any congratulations from Spassky yet. I think I'll send him a telegram. Congratulations on winning the right to meet me for the championship." -- Bobby Fischer (after defeating Petrosian in the '71 Candidates Final)

Saturday, June 23, 1990

Part XIX: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"It's the fault of the chess players themselves. I don't know what they used to be, but now they're not the most gentlemanly group. When it was a game played by the aristocrats it had more like you know dignity to it. When they used to have the clubs, like no women were allowed and everybody went in dressed in a suit, a tie, like gentlemen, you know. Now, kids come running in their sneakers. Even in the best chess club-and they got women in there. It's a social place and people are making noise, it's a madhouse." -- Bobby Fischer

Friday, June 22, 1990

Part XVIII: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"She and I just don't see eye to eye together. She's a square. She keeps telling me that I'm too interested in chess, that I should get friends out- side of chess, you can't make a living from chess, that I should finish high school and all that nonsense. She keeps in my hair and I don't like people in my hair, you know, so I had to get rid of her." -- Bobby Fischer (speaking about his mother)

Thursday, June 21, 1990

Part XVII: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"Lots of the time I'm traveling around. Europe, South America, Iceland. But when I'm home, I don't know, I don't do much. I get up at eleven o'clock maybe. I'll get dressed and all, look at some chess books, go downstairs and eat. I never cook my own meals. I don't believe in that stuff. I don't eat in luncheonettes or Automats either. I like a waiter to wait on me. Good restaurants. After I eat I usually call up some of my chess friends, go over and analyze a game or something. Maybe I'll go to a chess club. Then maybe I'll see a movie or something. There's really nothing for me to do. Maybe I'll study some chess book." -- Bobby Fischer

Wednesday, June 20, 1990

Part XVI: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"You don't learn anything in school. It's just a waste of time. You lug around books and all and do homework. They give too much homework. You shouldn't be doing homework. Nobody's interested in it. The teachers are stupid. They shouldn't have any women in there. They don't know how to teach. And they shouldn't make anyone go to school. You don't want to go, you don't go, that's all. It's ridiculous. I don't remember one thing I learned in school. I don't listen to weakies. My two and a half years in Erasmus High I wasted. I didn't like the whole thing. You have to mix with all those stupid kids. The teachers are even stupider than the kids. They talk down to the kids. Half of them are crazy. If they'd have let me, I would have quit before I was sixteen." -- Bobby Fischer

Tuesday, June 19, 1990

Part XV: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"I don't think so. I don't like to see millionaires in there. He has it too soft, you know. I don't think he's ever had any hardships. Besides, he doesn't have any class. He puts his hands in his coat pockets. God, that's horrible!" -- Bobby Fischer (on whether he would vote for John Kennedy)

Monday, June 18, 1990

Part XIV: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"I'd like to travel around, be an international playboy. They have all that money; they could really do it right. Look at (Errol) Flynn." -- Bobby Fischer

Sunday, June 17, 1990

Part XIII: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"I don't like American girls. They're very conceited, you know. In Europe they're more pleasant." -- Bobby Fischer

Saturday, June 16, 1990

Part XII: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"As Olafsson showed me, White can win... It's hard to believe. I stayed up all night analyzing, finally convincing myself, and, incidentally, learning a lot about Rook and Pawn endings in the process." -- Bobby Fischer

Friday, June 15, 1990

Part XI: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"For the first lesson, I want you to play over every column of Modern Chess Openings, including the footnotes. And for the next lesson, I want you to do it again." -- Bobby Fischer (advice to his biographer, Frank Brady, who had asked for chess lessons)

Thursday, June 14, 1990

Part X: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"It's just a matter of throwing in a few sacrifices, then checkmate!" -- Bobby Fischer (on playing against the Sicilian Dragon)

Wednesday, June 13, 1990

Part IX: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"Best by test." -- Bobby Fischer (on 1.e4)

Tuesday, June 12, 1990

Part VIII: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"I really love the dark of the night. It helps me to concentrate." -- Bobby Fischer

Monday, June 11, 1990

Part VII: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"Don't even mention losing to me. I can't stand to think of it." -- Bobby Fischer

Sunday, June 10, 1990

Part VI: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"If you don't win, it’s not a great tragedy - the worst that happens is that you lose a game." -- Bobby Fischer

Saturday, June 09, 1990

Part V: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"The turning point in my career came with the realization that Black should play to win instead of just steering for equality." -- Bobby Fischer

Friday, June 08, 1990

Part IV: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"I like the moment when I break a man's ego." -- Bobby Fischer

Thursday, June 07, 1990

Part III: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"I like to make them squirm." -- Bobby Fischer

Wednesday, June 06, 1990

Part II: The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer

"Your body has to be in top condition. Your chess deteriorates as your body does. You can't separate body from mind." -- Bobby Fischer

Tuesday, June 05, 1990

A Retrospective: Part I: The Last Lion: The Robert James Fischer Saga

Part one of our twenty-six part Annenberg CPB Project funded and critically acclaimed series:
The Last Lion: Robert James Fischer.
Over the course of the next month we will be bringing Delino readers a new insight each morning by this giant among men.

Over the course of twenty-six days, this sumptuous PBS documentary from 1990 chronicles the history of Fischer from his earliest roots through the end of the 20th century. This is not, however, a documentary solely about Fischer; it is instead an in-depth look at the history of his interaction with the world at large, a look at how he shaped communities around him and how the communities around him have shaped all men. Host Eric Brandon, who has served as the United States official goodwill ambassador to the U.N., is authoritative and knowledgeable in his explications. Using paintings, artifacts, modern cinematography of chess sites, readings, and theatrical music, Brandon brings drama and tension to events long past. The spanning of five millennia of chess history necessitates at times briefer detail than a viewer may like, yet it also provides a sampling of history that may provoke the viewer into seeking more information. This marvelous series should be experienced by anyone who desires a greater understanding of the Western world and the role of Bobby Fischer in shaping it.

"Chess is war over the board. The object is to crush the opponent's mind." -- Bobby Fischer