Bobby Fischer Against The World

Compelling look at the talented, flawed chess genius.

Released in 2011, certified UK-12A. Reviewed on 16 Aug 2011 by Scott Morris
Bobby Fischer Against The World image

Noted documentarian Liz Garbus turns towards the life of noted chess playing man and nutjob Bobby Fischer. Chess might not, on first glance, seem like the sort of thrill-a-minute subject that will sustain interest over ninety or so minutes for those with no prior interest in the game. This may indeed hold true for the game, but the player in this case is a completely different matter.

This film covers some of his unique upbringing, giving some small insight into why he delved quite so deeply into the study of chess that brought him to a fame he wasn't really socially equipped to handle. While the less-than-idyllic home life of his childhood hardly excuses his foibles, it does go a long way to helping understand them.

Of course, the movie looks in some depth at the iconic cold war matchups between Fisher and Boris Spassky, followed by his descent into anonymity and his return to the public consciousness in a way that makes most on lookers wish he'd stayed off the radar.It's an interesting film, purely because Bobby Fischer is such an interesting character. It follows the usual documentarian subject rules by having the flaws be almost as important as the strengths, and is in no way putting Fischer on a pedestal, like, say the recent Senna did, creating a one-sided and unbalanced-feeling work.

As a result it's a far more interesting experience that may perhaps be expected for those with little or no prior knowledge of Fischer, and it's helped along by production values that are higher than might be expected for this kind of thing - the talking head shots are, for example, far more appealingly framed and shot than the basic transmittal of information would require.

There's also a welcome step-up in the "talking heads" consulted for colour-commentary, with knowledgeable and engaging experts that do a great job in explaining and relating exactly what was so exciting about Fischer's game. For anyone who's grown used to the usual Channel 4 and Channel 5 "100 Greatest Whatevers" type of shallow list show with rentaquote comedians and "broadcasters", it will be a complete revelation. Talking to people who know what they're talking about? How remarkable!

Overall, Bobby Fischer Against The World is a likable and interesting document of Fischer's spectacular rise and equally spectacular fall, and is well worth a look for everyone, not just chess aficionados.

Liz Garbus
Cast list:
Bobby Fischer
Anthony Saidy
Larry Evans
Sam Sloan
Susan Polgar
Garry Kasparov (themselves)