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

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  982 ratings  ·  73 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,578)
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Mark Russell
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 4 of 5 stars
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
Cwn_annwn_13
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
Rose
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
Karmen
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.

Highly
...more
Jake Epstein
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
...more
Chad Sayban
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
...more
D
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
...more
Mario Gámez
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
...more
Dexter Deadwood
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
...more
Alex Allain
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
...more
Roger
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
David
Oct 07, 2012 David rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Franc
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
Sara
Nov 19, 2007 Sara rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
...more
David
May 09, 2007 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
MacK
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
...more
Jason
Aug 23, 2007 Jason rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
...more
Gabriel Schoenfeld
The authors have certainly done their homework; this is a well-researched book that brings to light many hitherto unknown facts, including quite a few drawn from F.B.I. files on the surveillance of Fischer's Communist-leaning mother. Soviet archives have also been combed, and they yield considerable insight into the highly politicized nature of chess in Communist society.

But there are glaring weaknesses, too. Reading a book about a chess match that discusses the games at length without providing
...more
Jenaro
Nov 02, 2007 Jenaro rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: chess maniacs
Shelves: chess
I really wanted to learn more about Bobby and what he was like back before I was born. All I knew was that he was a young,brilliant genius with the board. Now that I've read a little more, this book teases with little tid-bits of his life, character, and persona. He wasn't all there socially but he was all about the board. Before I read this book I told Scott that "if I could be anyone in history I would be Bobby Fischer." Now that I've read this and found out a little more...." I wish that I co ...more
Chris

A fascinating look at the "Match of the Century"
The authors do an excellent job of capturing the atmosphere of the match: the imagined Cold War implications, how each country
struggled to embrace less than ideal representatives and how the organizers desperately worked to keep Fischer from self destructing and bringing down the match along with his career.


Never before or since has chess captivated the imagination of the world. The Spassky-Fischer match was front page news the world over, while e

...more
Andrew
I was turning a score around in my head while I was finishing this book. I had really low expectations for it. I pretty much nabbed it on a whim. I used to play a fair amount of chess but it's not an interest of mine. However, judging from the fact that I'm now following famous matches online and asking my family if there are any "unused sets" lying around their place--I think it's fair to say this book had an impact on me.

I could recommend this to anyone even if you don't know a pawn from a que
...more
Gregory K.
I went into this book hoping to learn about some epic chess battles and some interesting chess personalities. Instead this book was a study in human flaws. The further along I went the more this book felt to me to be a list of tantrums and ego trips, a dry and frustrating read for someone looking for a chess adventure. If you read this book prepare to become very intimate with all the flaws and blemishes of the players. You will quickly learn the double meaning of the title. As for me I will be ...more
JoeM
At the time of my reading, I was involved with playing a lot of chess and studying the game and past players. Fischer was one of those I was researching. I read this book in Iceland - the site where he became World Chess Champ. I even dragged The Mrs. halfway across Reykjavík to see the hall where the actual match happened. All that remains is a plaque on an extremely outdated arena.

The book shows in detail how the big match was abused by the powers that be as a Cold War of the chessboard. Which
...more
Sheridan
I had a hard time with this one. The subject matter definitely intrigues me, so why couldn't I finish it fast enough and be done with it?! Honestly, I think it's because I read it on the tail end of a sports/game book that I feel was just plain better written (Outcasts United by Warren St. John). And I couldn't help but compare the two. This one definitely fell short. The writting felt disjointed and left me with a lot of unanswered questions. There was a lot of focus on the the Russian player, ...more
Kid
News flash - Bobby Fischer was a rank asshole but he was seriously good at chess. He had no class either.

So how do you feel about the fact that he's the last American world chess champion? A bit conflicted?

Yeah.

This book is kind of about why he's a douche. Every other page is littered with another outrageous stunt he pulled to beat Spassky in Iceland. It's dispiriting.

Perhaps though the British writers wanted to take him down a notch. That's definitely on their agenda. But whatever - so I ha
...more
Christopher Rex
Bobby Fischer turned out to be an anti-semetic, ranting lunatic in recent years which is unfortunate, yet telling, at the same time. But, there was a time when he was considered an American Hero for beating the Soviets and becoming Chess' World Champion. The book does a good job of setting the scene and how this became another one of thos great Cold War stories. This story should be (and in some circles, IS) up there w/ the US-USSR Olympic Basketball tale (1972) and the US-USSR Olympic Hockey ta ...more
Sara
The positive: Bobby Fischer was such an odd guy, and this book tells a lot of entertaining stories about him and his oddness and general jerky attitude. Spassky comes off as a paragon of awesome, and I found myself rooting for history to change and for Spassky to kick the tail of the annoying young American.

The negative: It's about chess, so it has a tendency to go very dry for a smallish section every once in a while.

The summary: Dry in sections, but interesting and stuffed with fun facts abou
...more
Peter Owens
Absolutely could not put this book down. Fascinating storytelling with the added benefit of being completely true.
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