Bobby Fischer is an iconic figure of the chess world admired by many through the composition of his beautiful games. Everyone wants to be like him, so it is such a shame that he has disappeared before we see his entire potential.
And that is the question that I’m going to provide an answer today, why did Bobby Fischer quit chess? A lot of his supporters are wondering about this and only having a vague answer, so I have done the research.
Bobby Fischer quitted chess due to the excessive memorization involved in modern games and the incessant interference of Fide to World Championship matches. Another potential reason is to maintain his legacy and avoid tainting it by losing to challenger Karpov.
He is truly an amazing player that deserves a reason for quitting his life’s mastery, let’s start answering.
Did Bobby Fischer quit chess because of a mental illness?
Bobby Fischer has been claimed by some to have schizophrenia, but more likely to be of paranoid personality disorder that may have caused him enough mental stress to quit chess.
A lot of people have labeled Fisher as having some sort of mental illness due to his erratic behavior. If you do some searches online a lot of people accuse him of having schizophrenia, which is understandable since the sign is there.
However Ponterotto (counseling psychology professor) believes the evidence is strongest for paranoid personality disorder, a psychiatric condition characterized by unrelenting paranoia and suspicion of others, but is not schizophrenia.
This can be seen by the excessive attention to details that Bobby expresses to his opponents.
But what does this have to do with quitting chess? everything, the game after all is played in a really stressful environment where the tension is high. If Bobby really has a case of paranoia, then it will be understandable for him to get away from the game.
He will need to exert a lot of effort from his matches, which could potentially lead his mental disorder out of control.
He got away with this in his first run of the world chess championship match which led to a myriad of demands and drama for months to follow.
It is possible that he is aware of this condition and would expect to face the same scenario against Anatoly Karpov (his next world title opponent). And instead of having blot in his story just quitted as being potentially one of the best in history.
We as the audience are not aware if there are any actual mental disorder Bobby suffers from, but he has shown a lot of not so good signs. He can display signs of paranoia occasionally which may have led him to believe that everyone is ganging upon him.
He on multiple occasions accuses Russians of fixing their matches which is sometimes understandable, but on some occasions not.
There was even a time where he stated that the camera is interfering with his focus in the world chess championship match, which causes him to lose.
It is likely that he would have kept the same attitude in his future matches, making playing a task. It would be understandable then to just leave the game and focus more on other pursuits especially with paranoia.
But again, this is just speculation with no real to conclusive evidence that we can draw to absolutely say that this is the case. It is not far from reality that he quitted due to a mental illness, but the reasons below might even be more convincing.
Does the egoistic nature of Bobby lead him to quit chess?
Bobby Fischer has a degree of narcissism especially seen during world championship negotiations that he may just have quitted chess because Fide (international body) has not done enough to satisfy his demands.
Whether he suffered from an actual psychological disorder that would make him incapable of playing chess is unconfirmed, there is one thing though that is not.
One thing that is sure is Bobby has is at least some level of narcissism, that he would not play if his conditions are not met.
For example just as stated above, he refused to play when the camera ticks him and even try forfeiting a match in his world chess championship.
He even goes as much as demanding to play backstage without a crowd since it allegedly caused him distractions.
This proves to us that he is willing to go to such lengths (not participating) if the things he demanded are not put in place.
And being the world champion does not help with this either, it just boosted his self-esteem enough to let him dictate how tournaments are played.
He has questioned the authority of Fide (international body) a lot, and after being a champion the organization is not willing to put up with it.
Fisher made a lot of demands especially on his upcoming world chess championship match against Anatoly Karpov, which Fide didn’t listen to this time.
As stupid as this may sound, he may just have pulled the trigger to prove a point that he will never play unless his demand is fulfilled. Unless the environment he would play to is just right then the battle will not go to anybody’s plan, especially if he’s involved in it.
I know this sounds harsh, but he may have denied future tournaments after that due to the humility of not facing Karpov.
That it would stain his legacy to do so (running away from battle) and would undervalue his efforts during the 1972 world chess championship.
Another evidence of this is in the 1972 chess championship in itself, a match that he wouldn’t have participated in if there isn’t a lot of prize money.
I understand he needs money, but he is even willing to throw away his candidate efforts just to put on a show that might backfire.
If it isn’t for British businessman Jim Slater getting annoyed donating 50,000 he wouldn’t have played in the world championship.
So this is another possibility why he had quitted chess, because he does not want to be involved in management that does not meet his concerns.
Did Bobby Fischer quit chess due to the memorization involved in the game?
Bobby states the reason for his disappearance was due to the increasing reliance on memorization and theory involved in modern chess. He repeatedly claimed chess as not being creative and beautiful anymore.
I’ve seen a lot of interviews of Bobby with him saying that memorization has made professional chess boring for him, hence why he created Fischer random (a modified form of chess).
In Fischer random there is no predetermined position of every piece at the start of the game, making theoretical openings useless. This is a good solution to eliminate the lackluster creativity that has proliferated even in modern games.
Bobby Fischer himself said that during his own world chess championship match, it is a battle of grit not preparation. Chess has turned into a boring game for him that pursuit is not as interesting as it once was and he’ll stop going for it.
Here’s a clip from one of Bobby’s interviews which gives us a clue of why he might disappeared:
I can attest that he is absolutely correct, the game has turned into who has prepared more for the match then who is actually better (for the most part).
Such does not spark the emotions of competition within Fischer, which may be one of the reasons he has disappeared.
Maybe it’s a protest, an expression, or a wake-up call that chess is no longer something of interest due to excessive memorization/computers. Bobby Fischer after all loved chess before, he wouldn’t just blow out of thin air without a valid reason.
Plus this is during the time where computers are not really a competition for active players, and he has already this problem.
This demonstrates Bobby Fischer’s affinity to modern chess which is not so great, he would have quitted later down the road so it might be better the way he did it.
Did Bobby Fischer quit chess because of his world championship title?
Bobby’s world championship title in itself might be the reason he quitted chess in order to preserve his legacy or being driven mad by the media, losing interest after becoming champion, and the amount of money he gained that ensures he can live safely without competing.
Bobby Fischer played for westerners (even though he denies it) during the cold war, not allowing Karpov to defeat him might be a part of him quitting. And I know some of his fans would punch me for saying this but it’s also possible that he is just afraid.
Afraid of Karpov, afraid of modern chess that he has not yet experienced, and that he might be out prepared in the process. It would put a shame on his cinderella run in the 1972 world championship and something that will live on forever.
With him quitting the title, the most classic player in history has never been fitting for him even though he only became a champion once. The amount of prestige and importance in the legacy might have prevented him from facing new opponents.
This preserving the legacy thingy is not assured and he has not confirmed it (since it will be awkward of obviously). But we cannot deny that the context of being the only champion that has never been defeated solidifies his reputation for years to come.
The maintenance of legacy mode might have down him from creating more achievements that favor his potential. Ironically, making his title the reason why we never see the extent of how much Bobby would have conquered the world.
Another that the title has given him is the eyes, which along with the potential mental illness could have pressured him enough to prevent further competing.
He may have just broken down from the pressure exerted by the media, which I don’t think happened but is possible.
There is after all a lot of famous sportsmen that have hated the superstar lifestyle where everybody is interfering with their business. And Fischer is exactly like that as a person, he doesn’t want people to invade his personal life.
However again, this is possible but I don’t think is entirely the case since the interviews with him do not point in that direction.
Instead, it may be more believable that the mental illness has to deal with it, that it amplifies the pressure being exerted by the media.
Or it may just be that he just lost interest after reaching the pinnacle of the chess world since there is no longer any higher level. The only reason he is willing to go against the Russians is because of the stigma around it, that it is a subject of conquest.
After reaching the pinnacle it might just be possible that he has found a new mastery he is willing to invest time with. Not much is known to the aftermath of Bobby Fischer, so it is possible that he is just working on other things.
Lastly, all the reasons above are things he would have shrug out of the way if he didn’t have this one thing after that one world championship gave him, which is money.
Money forces us to do difficult things even if it does not favor our own terms and conditions since it is so essential.
If he is stricken poor then he would play no matter what, no matter the condition or if there are lots of memorization involved, he would play.
That urge is something that he lost after winning the world chess championship match, he has earned enough to be financially secured.
He at that point has the freedom to choose which things he should pursue and at what given moment since money is no longer a factor.
To prove this point, he actually reappeared some twenty years later after the forfeited match against Karpov to have a rematch with Spassky.
The reason of course is he runs out of money and has to play, he defeated Spassky which earned him about 5 million at that point.
He was pursued legally though since people of his country at the time is banned in the United States (for a different reason) but he was never caught for this.
This tells that if it were not for the money he wouldn’t have quitted and therefore also partly responsible for his disappearance.
Is the way tournaments are handled the reason Fischer quit chess?
Bobby Fischer explicitly accused Fide of interfering with the outcome of the matches due to their managerial decisions as well as the Russians by allegedly fixing games. This may have led him to quit as there is no point in even trying.
He has a lot of conflict with Fide (international body) regarding the intricacies of the world championship matches as we have stated before. But not only this Fischer complained a lot about how Russians always get favored in any tournament.
And Karpov is a Russian, so it introduced a lot of chess politics into the fray which may have caused Bobby to run from the situation.
Specifically, Bobby Fischer wanted the first world championship set (against Karpov) to get to 10 wins draws not counting, but if it became a 9-9 tie then the match would be drawn but he would retain the title of the champion.
Fide of course ignored this request and demanded Fischer to play by their rules or just quit from the match. And we know exactly how this goes down, if it weren’t for this ultimatum then we would have seen the Fischer-Karpov match.
It may have caused a butterfly effect that would eventually cause Bobby to despise chess altogether. Along with his potential mental illness and experience with the Russians, he might have become too paranoid to even continue.
If he is intending to forfeit the match and disappear from chess immediately then he should have done so in the first place. What happened is it you took an incredibly long time of negotiations for Bobby choosing to not play and beyond.
The managerial aspect of Fide might have something to do with it since he doesn’t have good terms with them even from the 1972 championship.
I really don’t know who is on the correct side on this one Fide or Fisher, but what I do know is that it is partly responsible for his disappearance in chess.
What do you think is the reason Bobby Fischer quitted chess?
There’s a lot of potential possibilities that have made Bobby pull the trigger not just one. In fact, I think a combination of all these issues is the real culprit, not just a singular point.
Bobby Fischer on occasion said several reasons (memorization) but I do not believe is the full picture of why it happened. I think there’s something going on under the table that we are not aware of, that only Bobby Fischer knew.
Nevertheless, I scraped every resource that I’ve found in order to give some sort of explanation. What do you think? why did Bobby Fischer quit chess? what I know is I expressed a lot of interesting perspectives, sleep well and play chess.