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Bobby Fischer Against the World (2011)

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'Bobby Fischer Against the World' is a documentary feature exploring the tragic and bizarre life of the late chess master Bobby Fischer. The drama of Bobby Fischer's career was undeniable, ... See full summary »

Director:

Liz Garbus
Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Bobby Fischer ... Himself (archive footage)
David Edmonds David Edmonds ... Himself - Author
Anthony Saidy Anthony Saidy ... Himself (as Dr. Anthony Saidy)
Susan Polgar Susan Polgar ... Herself
Henry Kissinger ... Himself
David Shenk David Shenk ... Himself - Author
Gudmundur Thorarinsson Gudmundur Thorarinsson ... Himself - Match Organizer
Boris Spassky Boris Spassky ... Himself
Mikhail Tal Mikhail Tal ... Himself (archive footage)
Garry Kasparov Garry Kasparov ... Himself
Mikhail Botvinnik Mikhail Botvinnik ... Himself (archive footage)
Tigran Petrosian Tigran Petrosian ... Himself (archive footage)
Russell Targ Russell Targ ... Himself
Larry Evans Larry Evans ... Himself - Former Champion
Shelby Lyman Shelby Lyman ... Himself
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Storyline

'Bobby Fischer Against the World' is a documentary feature exploring the tragic and bizarre life of the late chess master Bobby Fischer. The drama of Bobby Fischer's career was undeniable, from his troubled childhood, to his rock star status as World Champion and Cold War icon, to his life as a fugitive on the run. This film explores one of the most infamous and mysterious characters of the 20th century. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Tracing the life of the troubled chess genius from brilliant beginning to troubled endgame. See more »


Certificate:

TV-14 | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »

Country:

USA | UK

Language:

English | Russian

Release Date:

6 June 2011 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bobby Fischer mot världen See more »

Filming Locations:

Reykjavík, Iceland

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

As a 14 year-old on the cusp of his 15th birthday, Bobby Fischer won the U.S. Chess Championship in 1958, giving him the title of International Master. Later that same year, he broke future opponent Boris Spassky's record to become the youngest World Chess Federation Grand Master; Bobby was 15, and Boris was 18 when he set the distinction. The two names would become linked forever in chess history. When the two first played each other in 1960, Fischer lost during an Argentine tournament, though the two tied and were co-winners of the tourney. He would not beat Spassky until their famous world title match in Iceland in 1972. See more »

Quotes

Larry Evans - Former Champion: Reportedly, Fischer's last words were: "Nothing is so healing as the human touch".
See more »

Connections

Featured in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #1.20 (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

The Ballad of Bobby Fischer
Written, Recorded and Performed by Micah Ellison
From the CD Party on Top of the Word by Tik Tok 2009
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The first serious attempt on portraying Fischer's life in a visual medium!
14 September 2011 | by GatherfieldSee all my reviews

Making a documentary film is always a challenge for the creator, especially when the topic has been barely touched. Director Liz Garbus, in making the documentary "Bobby Fischer Against the World", had to overcome three critical obstacles.

First she had to portray Fischer's complex character. Since filming started after his death, Garbus had to dig up footage—scattered around the world—and weave together the various strands of Fischer's life. Not only that, she had to gather together all those who played important role in his life.

The second critical obstacle for Grabus was that she had to depict the period where the tension of the Cold War was emerging (because of the Vietnam War), and the whole world was going through major changes, with the entire planet becoming a mortal battlefield. Although chess had started to become popular, the hostility of that time was somehow deeply reflected on the chessboard, and this was soon exploited even more, when the world of politics penetrated into the world of chess.

Garbus' third critical obstacle was that Fischer's life can be divided into three parts: i) his life (and chess career) before 1972, ii) his battle for the title in 1972, and iii) his life after 1972. This means that Fischer's life is often summarized within the boundaries of a single event, stripping away all the aspects that formed his character up to that point. How was Garbus then, going to tell the story of a man who spent half his life playing chess and then disappeared? To overcome these obstacles, Garbus chooses a nonlinear storytelling. Going back—to Fischer's childhood and early years, and then later—forward to his life after the championship games, Garbus uses the 1972 events as the spine of the story.

Visiting Fischer's childhood and adolescence, Garbus shows us his love for (and dedication to) chess, his mother's strong personality, his father's abandonment and absence, and how the precipitate publicity affected his privacy. But what no one mentions in the interviews is that Fischer, at a young age, struggled to gain the respect of others. He was a boy among men, playing (and trying to understand) their game. That struggle was slowly draining away Fischer's childhood (and transforming the first 29 years of his life to a prolonged chess game), the result of which Garbus masterfully displays—at what could be the climax of the film—when she shows Fischer, soon after he won the title, in an amusement park sitting inside a little airplane—flying towards his lost childhood.

The tense climate between the U.S. and the Soviet Union—and its echo in the chess world, is brilliantly shown by Garbus through the rare and previously unseen footage she managed to dig up. Unfortunately, Spassky is the great absentee from this documentary. Although the title of the film is Bobby Fischer Against the World (meaning that Fischer fights against everyone and no one at the same time, indicating that Fischer's whole world is nothing but chess—and Fischer himself is nothing but chess—therefore Fischer's only opponent is… Fischer), Garbus mistakenly diminishes Spassky's unique and independent personality by putting him in the same basket with all the others. After all, Spassky was the final external obstacle in Fischer's road to the crown—the one guy he did not yet win. And to paraphrase Thorarinsson, "I think we can agree on the point that Mr. Spassky exists".

However, Garbus does a great job regarding the events of 1972. She leaves out, though, the drama of the two players not having similar chairs (with Fischer's chair being superior to Spassky's), but generally, she covers the events accurately enough: from Fischer's training program, his antics of not showing up, his lists of demands, his growing hatred towards the Soviets, the defending of his principles, the antipathy to cameras and photographers, to his so long-awaited win, Garbus quietly and unpretentiously illustrates the events of the 1972 summer in Iceland.

There is another level in this documentary, a hidden level that Garbus unconsciously created. All the interviewees in the film are trying to label Fischer to a degree that fits their world of understanding. They believe that Fischer should have a particular role in their world, and serve that role in a specific manner.

We are in a society where everyone needs something to have a form in order to understand it. That's why we put labels on everything, and don't let things just be. In that sense, for me, Fischer died in 1972 and reborn after that, as a man with no home and no childhood, trying to play chess on a higher level, the one we all play and eventually lose…


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