Bobby Fischer and his horse

Sunday, 24 February 2002

Bobby Fischer is probably not as well known to young Americans as the movie which used his name, “Searching for Bobby Fischer.” The movie was released in 1993, the year after he was driven from the US for violating economic sanctions by playing chess in Yugoslavia. He can’t come back for tax problems.

He’s little more than a movie title today because when Fischer emerged as the world’s, and perhaps history’s, best chess player many of us were more focused on keeping up with Sesame Street’s 4th season than international chess.

Chess is more complicated than is obvious at first blush. This is the reason it’s taken nearly a century of computing science to build a machine or system that can play chess better than a chess master. If you figure the number of moves possible in a chess game, you come up with more moves than there are atoms in the universe.

To play this game well requires a special focus and intelligence. To be the world master at this game requires, perhaps, a singular intellect. The ability to foresee millions of moves, to classify and categorize groups and strategies so that those nearly infinite possible paths can be contained by the finite neurons in a human skull.

Bobby Fischer has, debateably, the greatest raw intellect a human has turned up with so far. So far to the edge that none of us could hope to match him, not with training and practice to the end of our lives, not with it from birth. You couldn’t beat him. Never.

Fischer gave an interview to a Philippine radio station on September 11th. Text of the interview appears in the March 2002 issue of “Harper’s.” The excerpts below are his response to the World Trade Center falling and another 180+ Americans dying in the Pentagon.

I was happy… …Yes, I applaud the act… …Fuck the US. I wanna see the US wiped out.

Hmmm… Interesting opening move.

When I won the World Championship in 1972, the US had an image of, you know, a football country, a baseball country, but nobody thought of it as an intellectual country. I turned all that around single-handedly, right?

Right. Electricity, the telephone, the phonograph, moving pictures, electric light, democracy, a real free market, the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, the perfection of the automobile and thousands of other inventions…

The splitting of the atom, satellite communications, astronomy, the identification of the double helix (shared with our European cousin), hundreds of medical advances…

I know you were busy playing chess at the time and might have missed it but the first interplanetary space craft was sent past Venus 10 years before your world championship and it was American.

We also visited the moon without your help, Bobby. The only persons in the world who didn’t see the US as the intellectual power of the world after the 1950s were you and the French.

Coincidentally, 1972 marked the public debut of the ARPAnet, Bobby. The proto-Internet, hecho en Estados Unidos de América.

…our whole foreign policy has been wrong for the last several hundred years…

No mean feat. We’ve only had a nation for two hundred.

American Indians who lived there for who knows how many tens of thousands of years. They kept the land crystal clean. It was a beautiful country when the white man came.

Who knows how many tens of thousands of years…? Anthropologists and archaeologists and anyone else who is able to read, I suppose. In case you can’t read, Bobby, maybe someone will read this aloud to you: the answer is, “1 or 2,” One or two “tens of thousands of years.”

Crystal clean? Anyone who knows Chaco Canyon or the Anasazi or the history of large mammals in North America knows that this is not true. Native Americans, being human beings, were exactly as destructive as their level of technology permitted. They managed to drive camels, horses, giant sloths and dozens of other large mammals to extinction quite well without gunpowder.

Incidentally, I know you haven’t seen it in 10 years but it’s still a beautiful country.

I’m hoping for a [scenario] where the [US] will be taken over by the military, to close down all the synagogues, arrest all the Jews, execute hundreds of thousands of Jewish ringleaders, and you know, apologize to the Arabs by killing off all the Jews over there in that bandit state, you know, Israel.

Whoah! Bobby, bubala! This is all so familiar....

You shun science. You love nationalist generalizations. You want to see a military regime replace a democratic republic. Your history contains exponential errors. You have no knowledge of anything ever published which is contrary to your opinion. You attach international significance to your performance in a game. And you have a paranoid fear of Jews, perhaps related to the likelihood you have Yiddish roots in your family.

Now I’ve got it! You’re white trash. How someone with your IQ crawled out of such a creepy-ass-bilge-puddle of the gene pool is beyond me.

How you ended up the way you are is no mystery. Intelligence and value as a human being have never had a direct relationship. Humans gravitate the lowest level their natural gifts allow. The exceptions prove the rule. Beautiful women tend to end up stupid for the same reason intelligent men end up assholes. You can get away with it.

Bobby, fuck you and the horse you opened with.

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