Friday, 25 May 2018

Bobby Fischer; a Personal Pilgrimage - Part 5, Postscript

The story of my pilgrimage has basically already concluded, but never one to report in four articles what can be strung out to five, there are still a couple of loose ends for me to wrap up:-

1 Suggestions for Further Reading

Only a day or so ago I discovered the existence of a book called "Bobby Fischer Comes Home", written by Icelandic GM (and leading player in the establishment of the Bobby Fischer Center in Selfoss) Helgi Olafsson.   Before I went to Iceland, I really should not only have known about this, but also read it. Still, it's never too late, so the book is hopefully winging its way to me even as I write. I am expecting both a rattling good read and a few tears before bedtime. How could this ultimately be anything other than very sad?

But there is an even sadder book out there. Bobby's greatest friend and supporter in his final years in Iceland was Gardar Sverrison. In 2015 he published a book entitled, "Bobby Fischer's Final Years." Or more accurately, "Yfir farinn veg meĆ° Bobby Fischer", because the book is not available in English - even though there is a full translation in existence. This translation needs to be published - and soon!  A flavour of the book - and its a quite disturbing and distressing flavour in truth - can be found in a long extract that was published on the Chessbase site on January 17th, 2018 - exactly ten years after Fischer's death. It's harrowing stuff, but compulsory reading and can be found here.

2 Some More Photos

There is one specific image of Bobby which carries - possibly unintentionally - enormous symbolic power. You can see it in the Chessbase article referenced above, and it also adorns the cover of Helgi Olafsson's book. I reproduce it here, duly acknowledged as far as possible, and hopefully not exposing myself to copyright issues, but it is so integral to my own interpretation of Bobby's story that I can't resist.

Main photographer unknown. The inset portrait is by Einar S Einarsson.

The location of this shot is the Thingvellir National Park, about 45 minutes drive outside Reykjavik, and a must see tourist stop on the Golden Circle itinerary undertaken by virtually every visitor to Iceland. As well as being the original site (in around 930) of (one of?) the world's oldest parliament, the Althing, this area is of enormous geological significance. (Bad news for me as I failed my Geology O Level!) It is here that Iceland is split by the Mid Atlantic Rift, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are gradually moving apart - fortunately at only 2.5 cms a year. As Bobby walked down the gorge, the rock face on his left was formed by the edge of the North American tectonic plate. Reykjavik lies firmly to the west of the Rift, so that for the last few years of his life, Bobby was actually back in North America, although only in a geological sense. The image is full of symbolism - a man caught between two continents/worlds; a man geologically home in North America , but politically forever stranded in Iceland; and a man turning his back once and for all on the rest of the world.

I wouldn't be the pathetic wannabe you know me to be, if I hadn't stood in almost exactly the same place as Bobby, albeit looking the other way!

Does Donald know you can walk up a path from Eurasia into North America. Build a wall, quick!!

But the final image of this account shouldn't be of me. And it shouldn't be of the altogether reclusive and diminished Bobby of his later years. Let's remember him in his prime.

Bobby as we need to remember him - a Chess God
(This autographed photo hangs on the wall of the Bobby Fischer Center, Selfoss)

3 Another Game

And so the journey really does end here, but I can't go without one more game. This must surely be one of the greatest fighting games of chess ever played.* It is truly epic, particularly in the late middlegame/endgame phases where both men play out of their skin, Fischer trying to win, and Spassky trying to save the game. While a modern engine is remorseless in its identification of some mistakes, this hardly diminishes the drama or lessens one's respect and admiration for the two players. In the end, Fischer's incessant pressure, fuelled by an incredible will to win, forces Spassky into a tragic blunder when he was within touching distance of a draw. This was indeed a game that Fischer deserved to win, but Spassky surely deserved to draw.  

1 comment:

  1. * Helgi Olafsson's 2012 book has now arrived and been read. In it he writes as follows about this game, at which he was present in the Press Room (as a 15 year old!):- "I think I have a fairly good view when it comes to games from World Championship matches, and not a single game equals the complications in that one."