Home Box Office has had some terrific sports documentaries in the past, usually falling under their own HBO Sports division. This particular one isn’t an HBO production, but maintains the quality that I’ve come to associate the channel with in this area.
I have always been fascinated by chess genius Bobby Fischer (who isn’t). The fact that he came onto the chess scene as such a young age and seemed to have such a promising future that ended up turning into a pattern of bizarre behavior, disappearing from public view and reemerging twenty years later in a clearly unstable condition is a seemingly perfect Shakespearean story of the fall of a potentially great man.
Bobby Fischer Against The World recounts Bobby’s tumultuous childhood and his growing obsession with the game of chess. His 1971 chess match against the Russian champion Boris Spasky would thrust this loner into the limelight and make him one of the most popular figures during the period.
The film is very well put together and does an excellent job of setting the tone of the period and presenting the fragile conditions of Fischer’s psyche that would eventually snap from the public exposure, mental illness and possibly from the game he so loved to play. It’s a very fair portrait with plenty of insightful interviews from colleagues, friends and archived interviews from Fischer himself.
In the end your left with a sadness from the thoughts of how Fischer’s story could have gone and what kind of influence he could have made on the game of chess in the second half of his life. Had he had half the impact on the world as his first fifteen years playing the game who knows what he might have accomplished, but you leave with an understanding of why he’s considered by many as the greatest chess player ever.