STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Here's what a chess grandmaster said about Bobby Fischer.
Mr. GARRY KASPAROV (Chess Player): He's probably single-handedly revitalized the game of chess in the late '60s and early '70s, the game which was under strict control of Soviet officials because Soviet chess players have dominating the game for quite a long time.
INSKEEP: That's chess champion Garry Kasparov in a 2004 interview. He was talking about his fellow champion, Bobby Fischer, the American, who died yesterday in Iceland.
Among those remembering him today is David Edmonds. He is a BBC journalist and co-author of a book about Bobby Fischer. And we should mention that Kasparov there was talking about the period in which Bobby Fischer became the world chess champion in 1972.
What was the significance of that win?
Mr. DAVID EDMONDS (Journalist, BBC): Well, Bobby Fischer presented it as a microcosm of the Cold War. This was a lone American without much government backing, taking on the might of the Soviet chess machine. There were millions, literally millions of registered players in the Soviet Union, and one man defeated that Soviet chess machine.
INSKEEP: Because Soviets have been chess champions going back decades?
Mr. EDMONDS: Going back decades, ever since World War II, they dominated world chess. Of course, they excelled at a couple of other cultural things. They excelled in the circus. They excelled at ballet. But chess was what proved to them that communism was superior to the capitalist system.
INSKEEP: Is there a way to explain to a layman what was so brilliant about the way this man moved his pieces across that chess board?
Mr. EDMONDS: It's rather difficult for non-chess players. It's a bit like trying to explain I don't know what makes Mozart such a wonderful musician. He had a very harmonious, clean chess style. There were no pyrotechnics(ph). I mean, he could play tactical games, but what he really did was ruthlessly dispatch his opponents. And he did what nobody had done until then. He destroyed the opposition. On the way of challenging Boris Spassky, he beat the challengers, 6-nil, 6-nil. This had never been seen in the history of chess.
INSKEEP: Was there a way in which this man who, obviously, had a brilliant mind found out that his mind was his enemy?
Mr. EDMONDS: I don't know if he ever realized that. Other people realized that for him. He had an IQ that was estimated to be over 180. He was a high genius. But chess really saved him. Had it not been for chess, God knows what would have happened to Bobby Fischer. Chess was his life. And for his entire life, he did virtually nothing but play chess.
INSKEEP: And whenever he was away from the chess board, he was often saying bizarre things, anti-Semitic remarks and other things.
Mr. EDMONDS: He became increasingly anti-Semitic. He became increasingly anti-American. He'd played a match - a rematch against Boris Spassky in 1992 and broken U.S. sanctions. And ever since then there was an arrest warrant out for him. And it was after that that he became very anti-American. On 9/11 he said words to the effect that America had got what it deserved.
One of the ironies, of course, is that as we discovered in our book, not only was his mother Jewish, but his father was Jewish as well as it turned out. And it puts his rabid anti-Semitic statements in a sort of ironic light.
INSKEEP: Do you remember him well?
Mr. EDMONDS: I remember the famous game in 1972 well because I was an 8-year-old chess player. And the world of chess was suddenly abuzz. Chess was suddenly, from the back pages, put on the front pages, not just in America, not just in Britain but all around the world. A reporter went around the bars of New York during the match against Boris Spassky and went to 21 bars, and saw that 18 of them had their televisions tuned not to the Mets baseball game but to the chess game against Boris Spassky.
INSKEEP: Mm-hmm. David Edmonds is co-author of the book, "Bobby Fischer Goes to War." Bobby Fischer died yesterday in Iceland at the age of 64.
Mr. Edmonds, thanks very much.
Mr. EDMONDS: Thanks very much indeed.
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