R.I.P. Bobby Fischer (1943-2008): Smartest Idiot of All Time

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I’m not old enough to remember Good Bobby Fischer. He beat Spassky in Iceland in 1972, when I was 3. I more got Bad Bobby Fischer — you know, the guy who hated Jews (is that why CNN calls him a “world-class eccentric”? That’s one way to put it) and periodically had passport problems.

I guess I should feel bad for him, since he almost certainly had some kind of undiagnosed medium-level mental illness. And he did do a lot to make nerdy people cool, back in the early 1970’s before computers were a big deal. But he did just as much to prove how little being smart has to do with knowing anything that’s actually worth knowing, and to confirm lots of stereotypes about nerds, i.e. that they’re emotionally retarded, etc. Genius has never looked less hot.

Let’s call it a wash. If anybody’s in search of an epitaph, this isn’t a bad one: “Chess is not something that drives people mad. Chess is something that keeps mad people sane.” — Bill Hartston.

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