Bobby Fischer: Some Reflections

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RonPrice
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Location: George Town Tasmania Australia
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Bobby Fischer: Some Reflections

Post by RonPrice » Wed Sep 16, 2015 12:13 pm

BOBBY FISCHER AND ME

Part 1:

Bobby Fischer(1943-2008) was an American chess prodigy, grandmaster, and the eleventh World Chess Champion. He came into the world 16 months before I did. As I was thinking of the early 1970s when I first heard of Fischer, I also began to think just where I was in life. Forty years later, I write this reflection.

Many consider him the greatest chess player of all time. Fischer was without doubt a truly great chess player, I put him with Kasparov as the two Greatest players. We each have our pick from the greats of chess history.

Starting at age 14, Fischer played in eight United States Championships. At age 15, Fischer became both the youngest grandmaster up to that time and the youngest candidate for the World Championship. When I was 14 and 15, I had been the most valuable player in the Burlington Midget League, and the leading home-run hitter. I was also in my first two years of high school and had just joined the Baha’i Faith.

Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games, published in 1969, remains a revered work in chess literature. That year I was a systems analyst with a commercial firm in Toronto, and I began my teaching career in Ontario. In 1970 and 1971, Fischer "dominated his contemporaries to an extent never seen before or since.”1 In July 1971, he became the first official World Chess Federation (FIDE) number-one-ranked player, and remained in that position for 54 months. I had just arrived in Australia from Canada on 12 July 1971. In 1972, he captured the World Chess Championship from Boris Spassky of the USSR in a match, held in Reykjavík, Iceland, publicized as a Cold War confrontation which attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before or since. In 1972 I started my career as a high school teacher in Australia.

Part 2:

Although Fischer's mother was Jewish, Fischer disavowed having Jewish roots. In an interview in the January 1962 issue of Harper's, Fischer was quoted as saying, "I read a book lately by Nietzsche and he says religion is just to dull the senses of the people. I agree". My parents were Baha’is and, although I had read much of Nietzsche by the end of the 1970s, I only held to some of his views. In August 1962, I began my travelling-and-pioneering for the Canadian Baha’i community, a community I remained part of all my life.
Fischer joined the Worldwide Church of God in the mid-1960s. During the mid-1970s Fischer contributed significant amounts of money to the Worldwide Church of God.

In 1972 one journalist stated that "Fischer is almost as serious about religion as he is about chess", and the champion credited his faith with greatly improving his chess. Prophecies by Herbert Armstrong went unfulfilled, and the church was rocked by revelations of a series of sex scandals involving Garner Ted Armstrong. Fischer eventually left the church in 1977, "accusing it of being 'Satanic,' and vigorously attacking its methods and leadership". I joined the Baha’i Faith in 1959 at the age of 15 and, as I say above, I remained a Baha’i all my life.

Part 3:

By 2010, and after his death, researchers have come to understand that Bobby Fischer was psychologically troubled from early childhood. Careful examination of his life and family shows that he in all likelihood suffered with mental illness that may never have been properly diagnosed or treated. Any psychological evaluation of a person who is not alive must, of course, include a great deal of qualification.

But the psychological history of America's greatest chess champion clearly raises two profound questions, one specific to Fischer and chess and the other more general: “What would Bobby Fischer's life and career have looked like had he received appropriate mental health services throughout his life? And is there a way for society to help troubled, often defiant prodigies become less troubled, without diminishing their genius and eventual contribution to society?”

To understand Bobby Fischer's psychological makeup, it is important to understand his personal history, which began on March 9, 1943. He was born in Chicago to Regina Wender, a Swiss native of Polish-Jewish heritage, and Paul Nemenyi, a Hungarian-born and trained mechanical engineer. They met in 1942, about the time my parents first met. His father was also Jewish, a German-born biophysicist whom Regina had married in Moscow in 1933.

Some analysts are now under the impression that Fischer suffered from Aspergers and possibly a mild case of paranoid schizophrenia. The man exhibited many symptoms of both, from a genius at chess, highly ethical standards with an inexhaustible amount of demands on tournaments, to thinking the Russians were manipulating his mind through gold fillings. Taken individually these things might not seem all that severe but, together, they paint a picture which, added to his reclusive, bitter, unhappy nature, defiant- impossible-to-work-with life, indicates a life of intense inner struggle and mental illness.

Part 4:

Someone who studies and practices a lot in any field and is considered in the top 10 in the world may be labelled as having an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. There is no way, though, to achieve this level of accomplishment without being strictly disciplined day in and day out without exception. I, too, have had to deal with OCD.2 I, too, suffered from mental illness but, beginning in 1968 at the age of 23, I was given all the advantages my modern psychiatry.

Now, nearly 50 years later, I am still the beneficiary of the wonder-drugs of psycho-pharmacology, and the field’s great advances in the specific treatment of bipolar I disorder.-Ron Price with thanks to: 1Wikipedia, and Joseph G. Ponterotto, A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer: Understanding the Genius, Mystery, and Psychological Decline of a World Chess Champion, Charles C. Thomas Publisher Ltd., 2012.

The author of this book, J. G. Ponterotto, is professor of counselling psychology in the Graduate School of Education (GSE), and the coordinator of GSE’s Mental Health Counselling program at Fordham University in New York. He is himself an avid chess player; he launched a psychological autopsy, a posthumous psychological evaluation, of Fischer and, in the process, interviewed surviving family members, friends, chess masters, journalists, and biographers who knew Fischer. “Both Fischer’s parents had prodigious intellectual gifts; both also suffered a variety of psychological troubles,” says Ponterotto.

Part 5:

They were hot days back in ’71-‘72
when I arrived in South Australia, &
helped form the first elected assembly
of Baha’is outside a major Australian
city in western, northern, and s-central
Downunder. I was far too busy to take
in the details of Bobby Fischer’s world.

When mental health problems beset he
and I in our adolescence, he got no help
while I had my suffering alleviated from
1968 to, now, 2015. You had a tough road
to hoe, Bobby; I trust you are now in that
of light where our peace is, at last, attained.

Ron Price
13/9/’15.
married for 48 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 16, and retired now for the last 16.

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reflectionofpower
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Location: USA

Re: Bobby Fischer: Some Reflections

Post by reflectionofpower » Wed Sep 23, 2015 11:08 am

RonPrice wrote:BOBBY FISCHER AND ME

Now, nearly 50 years later, I am still the beneficiary of the wonder-drugs of psycho-pharmacology, and the field’s great advances in the specific treatment of bipolar I disorder.-Ron Price with thanks to: 1Wikipedia, and Joseph G. Ponterotto, A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer: Understanding the Genius, Mystery, and Psychological Decline of a World Chess Champion, Charles C. Thomas Publisher Ltd., 2012.

Ron Price
13/9/’15.
That psychobiography on Fischer looks fascinating.
"hodie mihi, cras tibi"

Lonnie

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