Friday, September 16, 2011

#200: Bobby Fisher Against The World

One glance at Yahoo's list of best sports documentaries of all time listed here will make you realize how the core of most of those wonderful movies lies in a spectator sport. As a result of which, boxing, F1 and other ball sports dominate the list. It is also only fair to assume that a spectator sport will lend itself more easily for a movie than a non-spectator sport like chess. Bobby Fisher Against The World based on the American chess legend's life, in that respect is a quite deviation from convention. And yet it enthralls and intrigues you with its content.

Director Liz Garbus' in partnership with HBO Films takes you through the life and times of Bobby Fisher, the man who at one point was regarded as the best chess player in the world. The film traces his journey from his childhood, his family, the unveiling of the prodigious Fisher coming into his own in his early teens, his ascent to the peak of the world rankings and his life thereafter. Fisher who led nothing but an extremely enigmatic life is presented to us as a person with his fair share of shortcomings when it came to life beyond the chess board. His world title match with Spassky becomes an extension of the Cold War of the 1970s and garners much attention worldwide and Garbus rightfully spends considerable time educating us about the political environment of those years.

Fisher's dynamic rise in the sport is the part that fuels our interest most while watching the documentary that has a wonderful spread of interviews from people as personally close to Fisher as his personal photographer and trainer, to people like Susan Polgar and Garry Kasparov who only judge Fisher as a professional chess player. Interspersed between these interviews are abundant reels of footage from the 70s that do a wonderful job in telling the story of those yesteryears about which we had only read. The sections of the movie where we see Fisher objecting to cameras being present while his World Championship title match is in progress with Boris Spassky is rare vintage stuff. The only bone I had to pick with the movie was the limited information it provided about his wilderness years. It would've been fascinating to know what Fisher did and where he spent his time before resurfacing years later. In a documentary that chronicles his life, some more substance to that part would've been a fresh insight.

Bobby Fisher Against The World will stoke your memory and take you down an era of which if you would have only heard of. It is a fascinating journey that makes you wonder if there could've a better topic to make a documentary around the game of chess. The Karpov-Kasparov rivalry perhaps ? Or maybe not.

Rating: 7.1/10

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