Required Watching: “Bobby Fischer Against The World” (2011)
The world is a goddamn weird place. And, if it’s one job we all have, together, it’s to stay on top of the weirdness. We should study weird shit and/or ask it questions before the weirdness consumes us all, because whatever that will be, or form it shall choose, we know for certain that it’ll be weird. So, “Required Watching” is here to recommend to you a documentary of goddamn weirdness to better brace you for the world. Plus, who doesn’t love weird shit?
The Movie: Bobby Fischer: Against The World
The World Chess Championship of 1972, between four-time Russian champion Boris Spassky and American prodigy Bobby Fischer. To elaborate much more would be ruining most of the story. And, if you don’t know anything about him, all you need to watch is him play multiple games chess as a child and taking all of them to school.
Accurate vs. Artistic:
It’s told by experts and archival footage, specifically with interviews of Fischer himself, a guy clearly loving his fame and success. While it does seem to over-hype the political stakes of international chess, little else needs to be embellished or elaborated on. The only real omission might be more details about Fischer’s personal life and background. But, the movie’s goal is to tell the story of the match itself, using the past and future on both ends to feed into the beginning and show us aftermath.
Take a shot whenever Bobby Fischer threatens to, or flat out refuses, to play.
Why You Should Watch It:
We have a very specific vision of anyone when we hear people referred to as a “genius,” and that tends to be some version of the Manipulative Bastard. This is the archetype of the naturally gifted omni-observant wonder who scans a crime scene for clues to fight evil, and because of it, be a huge dick to everyone. This is Batman, Doctor Who, Doctor House, Rick Sanchez, Walter White, Columbo, Quincy, Mitchell, Sherlock Holmes, the other Sherlock Holmes, and pretty much the entire CBS prime time lineup including a third and highly unnecessary version of Sherlock Holmes. We love this jerkass character for all it’s perfect-answering wish fulfillment, snappy comebacks, and the assumed amount of social credit it takes to be a douche. And, because they seem so smart, they make us feel smart. They tell it like it is. Chances are you’ve even learned something from them. But, what’s easy to forget is that just because you agree with someone doesn’t mean you’re as smart as them. I know about calculus, but that doesn’t mean I can solve a calculus problem (it has to do with measurements, right?). And, specifically, in the case of Bobby Fischer, he’s clearly not very good at much else outside of chess, much less socializing. Remember: the fictional geniuses are always in their element, or get very lucky. So, until you have, by chance, solved a string of murders, saved the entire universe more than once, died for our sins after a miracle or two, made any amount of money that can be called wealth, or become a world-champion chess player, then you don’t really get to tell it like it is.
To get to be any kind of genius takes work. According to everyone from Einstein to Paul McCartney, what makes the genius part work is the 10,000 hours you obsess over your skill until you spark that new, genius idea. And, most importantly, it might not pan out. Bobby Fischer is a success story, which are the ones you hear about. His mother knew how to market him. He knew how to be comfortable in front of a camera. Otherwise, no one would have known about this genius. However naturally talented, Bobby Fischer was successful because he had time and support, and that let him practice. Following your passion doesn’t mean you always like what you do, it means you still love it even after being made to do it over and over again.