Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

Bobby Fischer is dead

Posted by alifinmath on January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer died yesterday in Reykjavik (Iceland) at the age of 64. He was a remarkable chess player in his prime and arguably did more to transform the game — in terms of ideas, in terms of preparation, and in terms of public perception — than any other player before or since.

The US government had it in for him, initially because he publicly spat on a State department letter instructing him not to play in Yugoslavia in 1992 (which can be seen on this YouTube video), and then with even more vigor after his post 9/11 comments (which can be seen on this YouTube video). Japan was in the process of extraditing him to the US (where he would surely have spent a long spell in prison), when Iceland offered him citizenship. He spent the last few years of his life in Reykjavik.

He was a mercurial personality whose chess-playing career at the summit was all too brief — unlike those of Karpov and Kasparov. His book — My 60 Memorable Games — still repays careful study, although it was initially published about forty years ago.

For an accurate depiction of the tensions of top-level chess, do take a look at this YouTube video.

Like finance, chess has been totally transformed by computers. No master arrives at a tournament without his notebook, loaded with ChessBase (which has 2,000,000+ master games), and a couple of chess-playing programs such as Rybka and Shredder. Analysis by these chess engines has transformed our understanding of endgames, of opening lines, and of master games played in the past. Virtually every strong player today uses a chess-playing engine (at some stage) to conduct a post-mortem on a game.

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