Bobby Fischer died yesterday. He was 64.
Bobby Fischer was a chessplayer, but to leave it at that would be like saying Abraham Lincoln was a politician, or that Patton was a soldier. He was and is revered and reviled by American chessplayers - many of whom were inspired to play because of the shocking victory Bobby had over Boris Spassky in 1972, beating the Russians in the game they dominate and winning the title of world champion.
I remember reading stories of interviews with Bobby that showed his unique nature. Bobby was raised by his mother, who was Jewish, which makes his anti-semitic statements late in his life even more bizarre. He once said in an interview that he hoped to build a house in California shaped like a Rook. He played in the Game of the Century, where he beat Donald Byrne by sacrificing his queen and both rooks (this is one of the games that really put him on the chessplaying map). When he beat Spassky, he was pursued for various endorsement deals. He turned down a deal to endorse a car after he test drove it to see if he did, indeed, like it.
Part of Bobby's problem, I think, was that chess was what Bobby knew. He was raised to be a chessplayer; it's where he was comfortable. It was his goal - to become the world champion. And when he did so, he was unable to create any new goals. He accomplished all that he'd set out for, and couldn't adapt to his new position. In a way, it's unfortunate that he accomplished his goal so early, because that left decades in which he could tarnish his legacy. He was a great chessplayer, and will be remembered as one of America's greatest (if not THE greatest). And chess in America still owes him gratitude and respect.