A documentary on the life of chess genius Bobby Fischer ‘Bobby Fischer Against the World’ opens in cinemas this week. Its director Liz Garbus explains the challenges of telling the story of a child prodigy who turned controversial recluse.
Garbus’s documentary is a portrait of the American chess player which focuses on his famous 1972 tournament in Iceland against the Russian Boris Spassky. The matches were as much about the Cold War as they were about chess. Fischer v Spassky dominated headlines around the world.
During the documentary Fischer is described as “the Mozart of chess”. In 1958, at the age of 15, he became the youngest chess Grand Master in history. Raised by his mother in Brooklyn, he had taught himself to play chess aged six. As archive footage shows, he appeared regularly on TV throughout the 1960s.
But his increasingly erratic behaviour at the Spassky tournament in 1972 was an indicator of how his life would spiral out of control.
In her documentary, Garbus explores the wider issues of whether Fischer was ever equipped to deal with the pressures of fame. The film also highlights the thin line between genius and madness.