Bobby Fischer was a child prodigy who was an American chess champion by the time he was only 14. Because he came of age during the Cold War, it was his fate to become part of the ideological symbolism of that struggle. He was well aware of that when he beat Spassky in 1972, ï¿½This is really the big match. Even this little thing with me and Spassky is sort of a microcosm of the whole world political situation.ï¿½ ï¿½When Bobby appeared, nobody can imagine in the Soviet Union that somebody can win the world chess championship except Soviets,ï¿½ that's the son of the former Soviet leader Kruschev, ï¿½Chess was the national game in the Soviet Union, like baseball in the United States. After the Second World War, the world chess champions were all from the Soviet Union. And then it was like lightning. Somebody, some young man from United States just defeated everybody and defeated them not in a long battle, but he was like Napoleon in the battlefield.ï¿½ So Fischer was popular in the Soviet Union even if in a negative sort of way. This woman played competitive chess as a youngster in Moscow. She now directs the Russian Programs at the National Archives in Washington. She says the Soviet media always portrayed Fischer in sharp contrast to their own. Spassky for instance was seen as a superhero with an almost perfect brain, whereas Fischer was seen as strange and emotional and an outsider in his own country, ï¿½Although because of the beginning of sense in the Soviet society, there were a lot of secret admirers of Fischer among the Soviets who were interested in chess and who were following the chess matches.ï¿½ She says chess permeated Soviet society at the time. She herself was a serious enough competitor to beat a tenth grader in a regional championship when she was only in second grade. She remembers chess as exhilarating partly only for reasons she came to understand later, ï¿½That in the Soviet Union, chess was absolutely a little free area in the society which in many cases was tightly, tightly controlled. In chess you knew you'd be judged completely on your merits, whereas in any other areas, even in school, there was a very strong dose of ideology and uncertain understandings, that you had to say or do certain things to be successful. Chess was absolutely unconstrained.ï¿½ She says chess in that period provided a forum for contact during a thaw in relations with the West. As such chess was useful, but that link was always intended more as a showcase for Soviet superiority than anything else, a superiority Bobby Fischer punctured during that epic Cold War match in 1972.
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