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Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall: From America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness


Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall: From America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness Cover

ISBN13: 9780307463913
ISBN10: 0307463915
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Publisher Comments:

Endgame is acclaimed biographer Frank Brady’s decades-in-the-making tracing of the meteoric ascent—and confounding descent—of enigmatic genius Bobby Fischer.  Only Brady, who met Fischer when the prodigy was only 10 and shared with him some of his most dramatic triumphs, could have written this book, which has much to say about the nature of American celebrity and the distorting effects of fame.  Drawing from Fischer family archives, recently released FBI files, and Bobby’s own emails, this account is unique in that it limns Fischer’s entire life—an odyssey that took the Brooklyn-raised chess champion from an impoverished childhood to the covers of Time, Life and Newsweek to recognition as “the most famous man in the world” to notorious recluse.


At first all one noticed was how gifted Fischer was.  Possessing a 181 I.Q. and remarkable powers of concentration, Bobby memorized hundreds of chess books in several languages, and he was only 13 when he became the youngest chess master in U.S. history.   But his strange behavior started early.  In 1972, at the historic Cold War showdown in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he faced Soviet champion Boris Spassky, Fischer made headlines with hundreds of petty demands that nearly ended the competition.


It was merely a prelude to what was to come.


Arriving back in the United States to a hero’s welcome, Bobby was mobbed wherever he went—a figure as exotic and improbable as any American pop culture had yet produced.  No player of a mere “board game” had ever ascended to such heights.  Commercial sponsorship offers poured in, ultimately topping $10 million—but Bobby demurred.  Instead, he began tithing his limited money to an apocalyptic religion and devouring anti-Semitic literature. 


After years of poverty and a stint living on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, Bobby remerged in 1992 to play Spassky in a multi-million dollar rematch—but the experience only deepened a paranoia that had formed years earlier when he came to believe that the Soviets wanted him dead for taking away “their” title.  When the dust settled, Bobby was a wanted man—transformed into an international fugitive because of his decision to play in Montenegro despite U.S. sanctions.  Fearing for his life, traveling with bodyguards, and wearing a long leather coat to ward off knife attacks, Bobby lived the life of a celebrity fugitive – one drawn increasingly to the bizarre.  Mafiosi, Nazis, odd attempts to breed an heir who could perpetuate his chess-genius DNA—all are woven into his late-life tapestry.


And yet, as Brady shows, the most notable irony of Bobby Fischer’s strange descent – which had reached full plummet by 2005 when he turned down yet another multi-million dollar payday—is that despite his incomprehensible behavior, there were many who remained fiercely loyal to him.  Why that was so is at least partly the subject of this book—one that at last answers the question: “Who was Bobby Fischer?”

About the Author

FRANK BRADY is internationally recognized as the person most knowledgeable about the life and career of Bobby Fischer.  Brady is the author of numerous critically acclaimed biographies, including Citizen Welles; Onassis: An Extravagant Life; and Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy (the first edition of which appeared in the mid-1960’s and focuses on the young Bobby).  Until recently, Brady was the Chairman of the Communications Department at St. John’s University, and he remains a full professor there.   He is also the President of the Marshall Chess Club and was the founding editor of Chess Life.

From the Hardcover edition.

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chorne, January 20, 2012 (view all comments by chorne)
Endgame is a fascinating look at one of the most enigmatic figures in recent American history, world chess champion Bobby Fischer. I remember the excitement that many in America felt when Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky and became the world chess champion in 1972 in Iceland. The match was even televised on "ABC's Wide World of Sports" like a sporting event! Overnight, millions of Americans wanted to learn how to play chess, it became kind of a cool thing to do, no longer relegated to the chess geeks.

Fast-forward a few years, and Fischer is a no-show at his defense of the world championships. And then he just disappeared from public....until, he made some really hateful remarks about America after the events of September 11, 2001. Although he had technically been a "wanted fugitive" since 1992 for breaking economic sanctions against Yugoslavia (he played in a rematch with Spassky and won), the U.S. government didn't really have the heart to track him down as a criminal for just moving a few chess pieces across a board (although Fischer never did return to the U.S. after the match in Yugoslavia). After Fischer's anti-American rantings however, the gloves were off and somebody at the State Department decided to get revenge. So, he was jailed in Japan for close to a year and was threatened with extradition back to the U.S. Fortunately for Fischer, Iceland decided to give him sanctuary for the remainder of his life.

So much for the basic facts of his life, but what of his bizarre meltdown after 1972? Fischer apparently suffered from major paranoia, with plenty of obsessive-compulsive behaviors thrown in. Incredibly, the author of the book defends Fischer's state of mind, saying "he was not schizophrenic" or "mentally ill". The author is simply wrong - Fischer had major mental illnesses, and just because he may not have been clinically schizophrenic, does not mean that he did not suffer from delusional paranoia. Sadly, Fischer was reduced to near-homelessness, supported only by his mother's social security check each month, and this from a man who could have made millions of dollars with a few simple endorsements or appearances at chess tournaments.

Although Fischer lived a sad life most of the time, the story of his early triumphs is engaging, and his life story is utterly fascinating. Highly recommended reading on a true American genius that nobody really knew.
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Product Details

Brady, Frank
Broadway Books
Biography - General
GAMES / Chess
Biography-Rich and Famous
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
7.97 x 5.15 x 0.9 in 0.72 lb

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Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall: From America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness New Trade Paper
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Product details 432 pages Broadway Books - English 9780307463913 Reviews:
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