Review of Endgame by Frank Brady a Biography of Bobby Fischer

“I’m such a loser in the game of life.” -Bobby Fischer 

“Endgame” by Frank Brady will likely attain status as the definitive biography of Bobby Fischer. The author, a personal friend of Fischer for many years, should be commended for his objectivity, clear writing style, and extraordinarily well-documented research. This IS a true biography, not a chess book per se, so the reader will not find scores of Fischer’s games. Nevertheless, to follow the story, some understanding of chess terminology is helpful. Brady provides explanations of such chess conventions as they are needed so that the general readership can readily understand the book. 

Surprisingly, Brady does not dwell disproportionately on the two Fischer-Spassky matches: the first famous, the second infamous (at least to some). Most of the material presented about these matches is readily available elsewhere. The importance of this tome lies in the myriad of details presented about Fischer’s childhood, “wilderness years” (the 20 year interval between the two matches versus Spassky), and, of course, the “endgame” (Fischer’s later life). Many details and photos of Fischer’s life are presented that this reviewer at least has not previously run across. 

Brady sticks largely to the facts and seldom speculates on reasons for Fischer’s brilliant, bizarre, and often repulsive behavior. However, it is pretty clear to anyone with a modicum of psychological knowledge, that Fischer exhibited signs of paranoia and narcissism. Fischer was clearly not psychotic, but most probably suffered from what we call today a “personality disorder,” albeit a severe one.[i] His profanity-laced rants regarding Jews and the United States on Asian and European radio stations went viral as they happened to coincide with the explosion of the Internet as a world-wide medium of mass communication. 

Despite presenting many details of Fischer’s involvement with religion, Brady is unable to adequately explain why Bobby Fischer, raised by a Jewish mother and surrounded by many Jewish friends and associates in Brooklyn and elsewhere, became so hostile to Judaism. However, to be fair, Fischer himself was often inconsistent on this subject, liking some Jewish people and despising others. 

Intriguing are aspects of Fischer’s relationships with significant others in his life. According to Brady, the relationship of Fischer and his mother, Regina, was far closer than many sources lead one to believe. Her poverty and frequent absences due to work, college, or political activism, no doubt had a big effect in shaping Fischer’s personality. Several male chess-players took turns as surrogates for the father Fischer never knew. Indeed, the book casts doubt on Fischer’s paternity as Regina Fischer may have had liaisons with a couple of men. Fischer’s relationship with his older sister, Joan, was generally good, until she had her own family and was unwilling to expose her children to his invective. Perhaps most enlightening was Fischer’s desire to start his own family. Several failed attempts to find a mate eventually resulted in his marriage to a Japanese woman, who ironically was too old to bear children.[ii]

The story of Bobby Fischer, perhaps the greatest chess genius of all time, is both exhilarating and sad. “Endgame” presents this complex man in a way enjoyable by both chess-players and non-chess-players alike.

[i] It turns out US government officials WERE following and monitoring Regina Fischer and later her son.

[ii] Following Fischer’s death and burial, a legal battle ensued over inheritance. It had been suspected that a young Filipina girl was his natural daughter. An Icelandic court ordered Fischer’s body exhumed and subjected to DNA testing. It turned out that the girl was not his offspring.