Check(mate) this ego – “Endgame” by Frank Brady
Well, that’s not 100% true. I know it’s a game with black and white squares and pieces. I know that “checkmate” is the ultimate goal. I also know there’s a musical (called “Chess”) about a chess match during the cold war, which is loosely based off Bobby Fischer.
There – That’s all I know of Chess and Mr. Fischer.
“Endgame,” Frank Brady’s new biography of Bobby Fischer, is a painstakingly researched story of a man who raised eyebrows at every turn, from his youthful mastery of an incredibly hard game to his later Anti-Semitic remarks and fleeing from the United States. Bobby Fischer was a complicated guy who remained an enigma until his death in Iceland in 2008.
Growing up in New York with his single mother, Bobby had only one interest – the game of Chess. His obsession with the game led to his triumph, but a serious lack of social skills, a seriously inflated ego, and a hot temper nearly (and eventually) cost him everything. He turned his back on fame, became a recluse spouting conspiracy theories and hate-speech, and eventually found himself an ex-patriot of the U.S.A., finally having to seek asylum in Iceland, where he died out of the sight of a world still fascinated by him.
Brady takes it all step-by-step as he charts the rise of this wunderkind, and fortunately doesn’t go deep into the technical aspects of chess. We, as readers, are given enough to know what was a mistake and what was a good move as far as Bobby’s countless games go, and it’s more than enough. (There are a few parts of the book that get a little heavy anyway, due to the sheer number of chess matches detailed, but they’re easy to skim.) Fischer is an anti-hero the reader won’t necessarily root for, but he’s mesmerizing nonetheless.
It’s an interesting read about an intriguing person. Who can ask for more from a biography?
(Interesting note: One of Fischer’s classmates was a young girl named Barbra Streisand, who admits to having had a crush on the mysterious Fischer. Who knew?)
“Endgame” will be in stores February 1, 2011.