According to the very smart people who are in some position to judge such things, Bobby Fischer was the greatest chess player the world has ever seen. But according to Liz Garbus’s latest documentary, Bobby Fischer Against the World, the qualities that made him virtually unbeatable in competition all but doomed him to total failure as a human being.
Garbus structures the action around Fischer’s 1972 championship match against Boris Spassky—a competition that was widely (and correctly) seen as a proxy contest between the Soviet Union and the United States. (Henry Kissinger is one of the talking heads you’ll see here, and the interviews are uniformly excellent.) But Garbus also delves into Fischer’s childhood—she’s got a lot of footage we’d never seen before—and follows him through many long, dark years of serious mental instability. How did a Jewish kid from Brooklyn become one of the world’s most notorious anti-Semites? That’s just one of the many impossible questions that Garbus goes some way toward answering. Her film, which premieres on HBO Monday at 9 p.m., is riveting.
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