fb-pixel Skip to main content

Chess notes

In 1972, chess was cool. The Fischer-Spassky match was front page news. Bobby Fischer was on the cover of about every magazine. Nightly news shows carried regular updates on the match. The United States Chess Federation’s membership exploded. Cold War politics added a wonderful veneer to whole proceedings: “It was Bobby’s patriotic duty to play and beat Spassky!” It was exciting, chaotic, and, for chess players, glorious.

There’ve been many books and a few documentaries about the period. The best book is probably Brad Darrach’s “Bobby Fischer vs. the Rest of the World.” There is also the more recent book, “Bobby Fischer Goes to War,” by BBC journalists David Edmonds and John Eidinow. Liz Garbus’s documentary “Bobby Fischer Against the World” is very good.


Now into this mix comes a new movie, “Pawn Sacrifice,” which covers Fischer from his youth in Brooklyn to his winning the World Championship in ’72. It stars Tobey Maguire as Fischer, Liev Schreiber as Boris Spassky, and Peter Sarsgaard as Bill Lombardy. The movie opened Friday at the Kendall Square Cinema.

The Academy Award-winning director of the film, Ed Zwick (“Glory,” “Legends of the Fall,” “Defiance”), said in an interview that he remembered being in college and being very aware of the Cold War implications of the match and of the Bobby Fischer phenomenon.

Despite a comparatively low budget of $19 million, the crew was able to film for 2½ days in Reykjavik and a couple of days in Los Angeles. Zwick said that despite the big name actors involved, no one worked on the film for the money, it was for love of the material. Zwick said Dotty, the widow of Paul Marshall, Fischer’s lawyer for the match, was a help with the film. Zwick also said he talked with Henry Kissinger’s son in researching the film.


The complete interview can be found at www.boylston-chess-club.blogspot.com/ and at the Boston Globe Chess Notes Facebook page.

Note: A previous column omitted an e-mail for Alex Cherniack, author of the “Chess Workbook for Adult Beginners.” It is alexx32@hotmail.com.