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Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,195 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
In the summer of 1972, with a presidential crisis stirring in the United States and the cold war at a pivotal point, two men - the Soviet world chess champion Boris Spassky and his American challenger Bobby Fischer - met in the most notorious chess match of all time. Their showdown in Reykjavik, Iceland, held the world spellbound for two months with reports of psychologica ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 29th 2004 by Ecco Press (2004) (first published 2003)
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Birth of the Chess Queen by Marilyn YalomBobby Fischer Goes to War by David EdmondsLisa by Jesse KraaiTal-Botvinnik 1960 by Mikhail TalChess Story by Stefan Zweig
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,033)
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Feb 05, 2016 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
Audiobook: A fascinating analysis of both the players and the chess culture and its history in both the United States and Soviet Union leading up to the famous duel between Fischer and Spassky in 1972 when chess, for a short period of time, captured the attention of the world.

Bobby Fischer had never grown up and was uniquely focused on chess. Outside of the game he could be obnoxious, eccentric, bratty, rude, and incomprehensible. At the chess table he was unfailingly polite, obsessed with the
Mark Russell
Jan 18, 2009 Mark Russell rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An extraordinary examination, not only of the man and his simultaneous ascent to greatness and descent into madness, but also of one of the more interesting sideshows in the forty-five year standoff between the US and the Soviet Union known as the Cold War. In many ways, the 1972 World Chess Championship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky was a microcosm of the Cold War itself: it encompassed the paranoia of espionage (including accusations of drugging, kidnapping attempts and even mind con ...more
Jordan Catapano
Jan 02, 2009 Jordan Catapano rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Chess fans
I had no idea Bobby Fischer was such a jerk. As an amateur chess player, I had always held Fischer aloft as an American hero, but now after actually reading about his skills and exploits, I can hold a much more accurate picture of him. The book does a meticulously thorough job elucidating the political, cultural, and social aspects surrounding the great World Championship of 1972. The details are rooted in anecdotes, character descriptions, loads of primary sources, and a comprehensible approach ...more
Jan 18, 2010 Cwn_annwn_13 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating look into the Fischer-Spassky chess match in Iceland in 1972. One thing I really liked about it is it showed what a narcistic kook Fischer was but used his real life antics as an example as opposed to the usual "he was crazy because he said mean things about Jews" nonsense. To be honest the fact that he was willing to say non pc things was about all there was to like about Bobby Fischer. Its virtually unbelievable the hoops that were jumped through to accomodate Fischer in ...more
Mar 21, 2016 Nooilforpacifists rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports, math-science
Excellent book on the match -- the chess and the antics -- though the authors get a bit over their heads trying to relate it to contemporary Cold War politics. Fischer is a one-of-kind loony, beyond any game theory the Rand Corporation could invent.
Vedran Karlić
Mar 17, 2016 Vedran Karlić rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Čitajući razne žanrove i bez predrasuda naći ćete ponekada na nebrušeni dijamant kojeg vam nitko nije preporučio, uz kojeg ćete se zabaviti i osjećati se kako ste naučili nešto novo. Bit ćete zadovoljni što ste pročitali takvu knjigu i tjednima ćete je, s potpunim neuspjehom, preporučati prijateljima.

Ovo je takva knjiga. Ovo je knjiga o šahu. Ali ovo je knjiga koja je puno više o toga, ovo je knjiga o događaju kojeg je pratio cijeli svijet, koji je promijenio stanje tog sporta i postao dio povij
Sep 08, 2010 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, audio
When the tapes begin, the narrator is a neutral reader carefully pronouncing all the difficult names of Soviet chess champions. He continues to gamely read the now almost obligatory setting-the-scene information that sounds like it was taken from newspaper headlines - front page world news to the sports pages. (yawn) He traces the Cold War and chess in the Soviet Union. Boris Spassky is presented as a decent man, a good guy who plays brillant chess. But when Fischer comes on scene with his frust ...more
Mar 11, 2009 Karmen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
A friend (who plays chess) lent me this book to read. I was a little skeptical as to how much I would be able to comprehend and I put it off for 2 weeks.

What a mistake! The book is fantastically written and delves not into the plays themselves but all the characters surrounding and leading up to 1972 championship games Fischer v. Spasski. As well as basic psychological profiles of the two chess grandmasters, the writers full develop the supporting cast and ideologies in play on all sides.

Arjun Balaji
Apr 15, 2015 Arjun Balaji rated it really liked it
This is one of the best, most detailed accounts of the Match of the Century and the historical context around it. Growing up with a house full of chess books and a fanatical dad, I always found Fischer fascinating and probably played through half the matches at some point (we had an old 70s-era edition of the NYT correspondence/commentary). His run up to the '72 match is one of the most gripping of all time, as the world saw him rack 20 consecutive wins (including two 6-0 sweeps at the Candidate ...more
Karen Wyle
Jan 14, 2016 Karen Wyle rated it liked it
I knew a certain amount about Bobby Fischer before reading this book, but little about Boris Spassky, the World Champion Fischer defeated. As the subtitle suggests, this book is particularly informative on the subject of the Soviet chess program of that era, and how that program did and didn't cope with the personalities of both players. It also chronicles a number of Fischer's demands, escapades, and eccentricities. I would have liked the authors to address more directly (as the title promises) ...more
Petruccio Hambasket IV
Feb 17, 2016 Petruccio Hambasket IV rated it liked it
Shelves: chess-books
"I fell in love with the white queen. I dreamed about caressing her in my pocket, but I did not dare to steal her. Chess is pure for me" - Boris Spassky

This is a quick informative read on the 1972 World Chess Championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, it is much more suited to those that have no interest in the actual game play and have up to now had minimal knowledge about the proceedings and buzz generated by this international event.

To be fair to David Edmonds I cannot speak
Jake Epstein
Oct 16, 2014 Jake Epstein rated it it was amazing
I don't even like chess and nevertheless found this book fascinating. "Bobby Fischer Goes to War" was well researched, engagingly narrated, and intriguing from start to finish.

I particularly enjoyed how the authors provided detailed biographies of not only the main competitors (Fischer and Spassky), but also for some of the lesser known characters who were entwined in the event (Palsson and Fox, for example). I also appreciated the level of detail they provided about the geopolitical climate in
Chad Sayban
Nov 27, 2013 Chad Sayban rated it liked it
Shelves: good, public-library
Eight years before the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid, there was a miracle on the island of Iceland, played out on a wooden board with sixty-four squares and thirty-two pieces. It was the chess world championships – which had been dominated throughout the 20th Century by the Soviet Union. And they were beaten by a young man from New York.

However, the Spassky vs. Fischer world championship had even more drama behind the scenes that there was on the board. Intertwined with the Cold War and Fischer
Feb 11, 2010 D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In cultural history, certain events are churned up, when the world tunes into them and it appears that that a majority of heads are fixated on what is going on here.

In July, Reykjavík Iceland had the World's focus on it because two men were shuffling wooden pieces over 64 squares. The game was Chess, it was the World Championship and a wildly peculiar genius was about to end the quarter century Soviet domination of the event.

This game became known as the Match of the Century and in this book the
May 22, 2011 Mario rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Todo aquel que se considere ajedrecista debe haber oído acerca de Bobby Fischer. Dedíquese a otra profesión/diversión quien niegue lo pasado.

Una de las mentes más brillantes del siglo pasado, pero también una de las más trastornadas a nuestra forma de ver. Este libro es una joya que nos remonta al llamado Match del Siglo, disputado entre el campeón Boris Spasski y el retador Bobby Fischer.

De lectura agradable, divertida, fácil e interesante, éste libro merece un lugar en la estantería de los aj
Sep 19, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing
I always loved the flawed Fischer and knew little about Spassky. I was a small child and this match kick started i life long love affair with chess along with so many others.

The media always painted this as an extension of the Cold War, they still do but it is not strictly true. The match took place during a period of detente between East and West.

Fischer was and is undoubtedly the greatest chess player ever, but a profoundly troubled man. Spassky was a gentleman and a rebel in his own way. This
Cormac Zoso
Mar 24, 2015 Cormac Zoso rated it it was amazing
The best book written on the "Match of the Century", which is saying something considering this match I am nearly certain has generated more books than anything other single subject in chess, certainly any other championship match.

The authors do an amazing job of sorting out all of the fact from fiction first off and then presenting analysis of the match both in front of the public and behind closed doors. We get everything we want or could ask for concerning this world championship.

Combine thi
Apr 26, 2016 Philk81 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-listen
Great stuff - takes you back in time to the post Cold War era when so much was being speculated
about. Mind games and psychological warfare indeed!
What a clash of characters and really well done with many interesting details- especially enjoyed this in audio version with fine narration.
Fischer never really regained the peak of his chess playing acumen and of course, had several
issues that brought his once stellar character into question. You'll learn much about the tournament protocols and lead
Mar 17, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chess
The book that got me playing chess again after a 25 year break.
Nick Davies
I find 20th Century history interesting, and I'm a keen chess player, but I felt this book fell between several stools and didn't quite meet my expectations. Partly I acknowledge this is because Bobby Fischer was a 'tortured genius' (='irritatingly opinionated obnoxious fruit-loop') and hence I was already a bit irked by the author championing him against the evil of the Soviet machine. It was all a touch partizan and polarised, a little too biographical and though I found it very interesting to ...more
Oct 24, 2015 Sambasivan rated it it was amazing
Prodigiously researched both from primary and secondary sources. This gives a day by day account of the match of the century. Multiple layers are brought out - clash of ideologies (capitalism v communism), differing styles of play (one who plays so aggressively as to crush the opponent and the other a quintessential allround talent), differing motivation ( gentleman who wants to play for the triumph of chess and the other a ruthless cold machinelike player who wants to play for money), differing ...more
Alex Allain
Jan 07, 2010 Alex Allain rated it it was amazing
Before reading this book, I'd always thought Boris Spassky was just part of the Russian establishment, and that Fischer was fighting a noble fight. This book pretty much tears apart Fischer. While acknowledging Fischer's chess genius, Edmonds points out the ways in which Fischer won psychological battles without really trying to make them psychological (opponents wilting in the face of Fischer's relentless will to win).

Spassky is presented as being a well-rounded person who doesn't really like t
Roger Perales
Oct 25, 2009 Roger Perales rated it liked it
Shelves: history, 2009
This was a very journalistic look at the Fischer-Spassky match in 1972. Obviously, the subject matter is very specific so I wouldn't recommend this to anyone unless you really like reading about chess, but I enjoyed it. There were a lot of details so a few parts of the book were very slow. I learned some interesting things...Fischer was highly eccentric, maybe even in the early stages of insanity, but he still commanded the attention of the entire world for a couple of months. I think there's a ...more
Oct 07, 2012 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Recommended to those who enjoy chess, Cold War politics, gamesmanship and irrational negotiating.
This book not only has a remarkable look of one of the greatest chess matches of all time and its two protagonists but also the cold war in 1972.

For those who only know Fischer as one of the greatest chess players of all time this book soon shows his flawed character and an understanding of why at the time the Washington Post reported that, “Fischer has alienated millions of chess enthusiasts around the world” and one of the Post’s readers to write, “Fischer is the only American who can make eve
May 15, 2011 Franc rated it it was amazing
I was a big chess player at age 12 or so when this epic match took place and was enthralled, following it with the sports-like enthusiasm of the World Series. Fischer was my hero (chess-wise at least) as I had learned to play from his book, and Boris Spassky was the Cold War enemy with an Evil Bond Villain name. Fischer's great play and wacky psyche-out tactics (at least that's what that seemed to me to be) overcame Spassky for the biggest sporting defeat of the USSR until the 1980 Miracle on Ic ...more
Nov 19, 2007 Sara rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in American/Soviet tensions during the warmest period of the Cold War
Shelves: nonfiction, history
I was amazed how quickly this book had me, a red-blooded American, sympathizing with the Soviet world champion chess player. When it comes to chess, of course Americans would the underdogs against the Russians. But when it came to the 1970s match of Soviet ideological outcast Boris Spassky vs. America's darling Bobby Fischer, I suddenly became torn.

We Americans are supposed to love Fischer! All most of us really know about him is that he is a one-of-a-kind chess player and that we are rooting fo
May 09, 2007 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chess fans
It only took me three days to finish this book. Most of the time I was reading it at the Board of Education when I had nothing to do.

This book gave terrific insight into the match by giving detailed descriptions on what was going outside making it a unified whole.

It especially gave a clear insight into Fischer's mind which repulsed me because it is the exact kind of behaviour one of the Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) exhibits. Outbursts, temper tantrums, verbal abuse (to me signs of megaloma
Few countries offer a better host of bad guys than Russia. If given a choice between running into gang members in a dark alley or President Vladmir Putin in a well lit area...I'm really not sure which seems safer. And when it comes to the cerebral battlefield of the space race, the art race and the chess race, America languished behind for a long time.

Then into the fray leapt chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, a kid from New York whose skill was outmatched only by his fierce competitiveness. At the ti
Aug 23, 2007 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who enjoy chess, politics, and history
A fascinating social history of the 1972 Boby Fischer-Boris Spassky World Chess Championship and its Cold War implications on both the U.S. and Soviet Union. Also a good social study of the personalities of Fischer and Spassky. I actually dropped a star today after finishing this, mainly because it made a mistake that drives me nuts in non-fiction writing. It dedicates whole chapters to barely related topics for the sake of fattening the text (an example is the chapter dealing with using chess a ...more
Mark Dunn
Sep 03, 2012 Mark Dunn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book detailing the background, lead-up to, and staging of the 1972 world chess championship match between Bobby Fischer (USA) and the incumbent, Boris Spassky (USSR). Fischer is obviously a genius in the chess arena, whilst a child in almost every other area, including relationships, thoughtfulness, and his views towards other cultures/points of view.

Fischer eventually won the match, however, this was not before nearly forfeiting (several times), and taking the tournament participants an
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“When you play Bobby, it is not a question of whether you win or lose. It is a question of whether you survive. —BORIS SPASSKY” 3 likes
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