Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bobby Fischer from Chess Genius to Legend by Eduard Gufeld

This is a copy of the review of this book I did on my Blog about a year ago.  In response to that review the other day a reader relied, “Excuse me but I think you have not understand the aim of the book. A pity.”  I’m not sure what point I missed but he apparently enjoyed the book.  I am probably the only person who does not recommend this book.

The Review:

I recently came across a copy of this in a used book store so of course snatched it up. The book is a collection of stories by people who knew Fischer: Eduard Gufeld, Carlos Almarza-Mato, Mike Morris, Wolfgang Unzicker, Gudmendur Thorarinsson, Bragi Kristjansson, and Bob Long, the book’s editor.

Fischer turned into a pathetic, repugnant character in later years…actually he was always a rather repugnant person but much of his behavior was excused because of his talent. When he quit playing chess there was nothing left BUT his loathsome character. In his latter days he called chess mental masturbation and made a lot of crazy and even downright ugly accusations against a lot of players and other people. Fischer was paranoid, racist, anti-Semitic and known for coarse vulgarity. I lost all respect for him as a person during his match with Reshevsky in 1961. OK, so Mrs. Piatagorsky acted like a real bitch, but that still did not justify Fischer’s language which was fit for the gutter.

Back to this book… the first 100 pages or so are by Gufeld who adds nothing we didn’t already know. It’s just a bunch material regurgitated from other sources. The writing was apparently left exactly as Gufeld wrote it which is “weird” and evidently was not proofread and corrected. For example: “Fischer correctly evaluated the game, having taken the game to an few pieces ending.”

In one place Gufeld said the first game of the 1971 Larsen-Fischer match was the most creative and that it would be worthwhile studying it. He then gave the unannotated game for the reader to play over. If the game was so worthy of study why didn’t the GM add some notes?! Some of his historical “facts” are also suspect.

As for the other contributors, much of what is contained in the book is hogwash. What does “May Caissa illuminate all of us in our chess initiatic paths so as we will be able to understand, discern, and learn” mean?! Also included in the book is trash written by authors, obviously hostile to the US, blaming the US government and anybody else you can think of for Fischer’s mental condition. I don’t agree that the US government was the fault of Fischer’s mental problems, but it’s OK to include it in the book because, after all, this is a democracy and everybody has the right, including Fischer and anti-US authors, to voice their opinions.

Overall I’d say if you see this book in the library it’s OK to check it out because it’s free and you can read it while you’re sitting on the toilet. If it didn’t belong to the library, it could be safely flushed after reading. If you have to PAY for it, save your money!


  1. So many people have tried to just profit from his name. A couple of books I have which I think are sincere efforts are The Chess of Bobby Fischer by Burger and the Bobby Fischer book by Elie Agur. I have Soltis book and hope to read it soon.

  2. Gufeld seems to have been an almost universally despised figure in the chess world, at least that's the impression I've gotten. But I have no idea why. Does anyone know why so many people seem to have disliked him?

  3. I know he was one (of many) who was despised by Korchnoi. In the book “The KGB Plays Chess, The Soviet Secret Police and the Fight for the World Chess Crown” it is claimed that Gufeld was one of several Soviet players recruited by the KGB. Others included Karpov, Petrosian, Polugayevsky and Vaganian.