Magazine article The Spectator

Paradoxymoron

Magazine article The Spectator

Paradoxymoron

Article excerpt

I am referring to Bobby F ischer, the 'pride and sorrow of chess', whose entire career turned out to be one long contradiction.

He was the western hero of the Cold War when he seized the world chess crown from the Soviet champion Boris Spassky in 1972.

Later he avoided playing matches or tournaments to demonstrate his hard-won superiority; he also rejected endless commercial offers to capitalise on his global fame. Some ascribed this to idealism, others to an obstinate refusal to behave as expected.

A new book called Paradoxymoron by the chess-playing artist Patrick Hughes, famous for his reverse perspectives, made me think of F ischer. The book is a compendium of contrariness and reveals a kind of topsy-turvy logic throughout its pages, for instance: ' A h - to be immortal for a day' and ' A nyone who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined!'

Fischer might have relished this book had he lived long enough to read it.

Fischer's swansong came when he emerged from retirement to play Spassky again in 1992, in Serbia, in defiance of UN sanctions. He thus deftly reversed his position from C old W ar icon to criminal on the run from the US State Department:

one might call it an American fatwa issued against one of its former favourite sons.

Fischer-Spassky: St Stefan/Belgrade (Game 25) 1992; Sicilian Defence 1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Nge2 d6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 e6 6 Be3 Nf6 7 Qd2 Be7 8 f3 a6 9 0-0-0 0-0 10 g4 Nxd4 11 Bxd4 b5 12 g5 Nd7 13 h4 b4 I n view of F ischer's powerful reply which allows White to block the queenside, this seems dubious. …

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