The Paradox that is Bobby Fischer

There is a popular adage that there exists only a very thin line between genius and insanity. This appears to be true in the case of Bobby Fischer, probably the greatest chess master of all time. He was undeniably a genius in chess, but he seemed to have crossed the line to insanity in all other aspects of his life.

Born in Chicago in 1943, Robert James Fischer, or Bobby, was the illegitimate offspring of Jewish parents. Bobby's father was German while his mother was Polish, a staunch communist and supporter of the Soviet Union.

Bobby spent his childhood in Brooklyn and got hooked on chess at the tender age of six. By 14, he had already claimed the American chess champion title, and capped it with the grandmaster title by the next year. At the age of 29 in 1972, he cemented his dominance in world chess by winning over Boris Spassky and claiming the world title. This victory in the Iceland tournament was particularly noteworthy as it ended the primacy of Russians in world chess for the previous 24 years. Given this impressive showing, no one would argue about Bobby's genius in chess.

His personal life, on the other hand, seemed to be marked by idiocy. He refused to play chess on Saturdays because of his membership in a weird cult, the Worldwide Church of God. In fact, he donated a significant amount, $61,000, of his cash prize in defeating Spassky to the congregation. This advocacy did not last too long, though, as the church was soon rocked by the womanizing scandal of the founder's son. Bobby was also accused of physically attacking a lady church official. These led him to leave the church.

Instead, he became a steadfast proponent of Nitler and the Nazis. He hated the Jews with a passion and bemoaned that America had fallen into their clutches. He denied that the Holocaust ever happened. He celebrated the 9/11 attacks, seeing them as a marvelous event. Despite an order not to engage in a return match with Spassky in Yugoslavia, he proceeded to do so and thus got in conflict with the American government. Finally, he renounced his American citizenship and relocated to Iceland.

In 2008, Bobby Fischer died in Iceland of kidney failure. Allegedly, he had deteriorated in his final years, looking like a bum with rotten teeth, unkempt hair and filthy clothes. He had a lonely funeral, markedly different from the glory of his younger years.