Bobby Fischer is an incredible chess player, he has been one of the most legendary figures of this game and will always be that way in everyone’s heart. That will not change no matter what.
However there is a thing that is not talked about a lot, which is his qualities as a person ignoring his ability in playing chess? Is he even a likable personality and is a good role model for future chess players?
As someone who knows a lot about Bobby Fischer, here is what I know:
Bobby Fischer is incredible when it comes to playing chess, his personality however is not that desirable. He has displayed qualities of someone that is narcissistic, prideful, arrogant, or even psychopathic. His older version is likable actually, his younger version is different though.
Don’t get me wrong he will always be one of the best chess players of all time, however, his personality is not really the best once you get to know his story.
There are other incredible chess players like Magnus Carlsen who have an outstanding personality and are very good at chess, Bobby Fischer wouldn’t even come close. This article is to inform you of what I think.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Bobby Fischer is a narcissist
Bobby Fischer has a clear case of narcissism in his younger years, taking to the fact that he crushes opponents and makes the games feel more personal. He clearly has a huge belief that he is just better than anyone else.
Don’t get me wrong this is a good trait when it comes to excelling with chess, the ability to believe that you can do anything despite who you are facing can make you achieve incredible things.
However with some areas of life there is such a thing as too much, the way that he panders on his abilities clearly indicates a trace of narcissism among all else. I believe he is also an elitist due to this reason.
In his legendary match against Mark Taimanov he was brutal, the comments that he made during the games really try to not only beat Taimanov but crush his soul as well.
Imagine someone like Magnus Carlsen doing the same for beating Fabiano Caruana for example, it is disgraceful behavior.
He later reconciles with Taimanov after the match but doesn’t really take away the fact that he was brutal during their match (outside of chess). It is also a noticeable trait of a narcissist, they can lure you in using friendly words.
Bobby Fischer, Narcissism, and Fischer vs. Spassky match
In the match against Spassky, their championship wouldn’t have happened and Fischer would have withdrawn if his ridiculous conditions had not been met. It is fortunate that Spassky is such a gentleman and agreed to it.
Check out the history of chess in this other article I wrote.
I have my utmost respect for Boris Spassky for basically just accepting Fischer’s conditions even though it would compromise his own title, not a lot of people will do that. But this just goes to show the amount of pride Bobby has.
He is willing to forfeit probably the biggest match of his life just because not everything will absolutely go his way, it is ridiculous.
Imagine someone like Magnus Carlsen throwing a similar tantrum against Vishwanathan Anand in their first world championship match, I bet the whole Indian population will be pissed.
But we give Bobby a pass for his actions since he is so good at chess and we have to respect the history, but if it was Magnus who had done it a lot of people would criticize him even if he is a genius in chess.
In fact, this is the exact reason why the Fischer vs. Karpov match didn’t happen. It is because Bobby can’t get his way with Fide against a “non-gentleman opponent”
And that is rightfully so, imagine making so much of a mess just because everything will not absolutely go your way, it is entitlement.
Bobby Fischer is egoistic
Bobby Fischer has some sort of an inflated ego and will not follow orders even if they are reasonable. In his supposed world championship match against Anatoly Karpov, he withdrew because his personal conditions have not been met.
We have to remember that Anatoly Karpov earned his right to challenge Bobby Fischer and should have the power to demand what fide stated should be the conditions in his supposed world chess championship match.
This is the same condition when Bobby Fischer is the challenger himself, however, he acted even more egoistically ever since he became the world champion.
Not everyone is a gentleman like Boris Spassky, and frankly, not everyone should be like Boris. Some people just need to understand that they have to compromise at some point in order to make things happen.
In the end Bobby Fischer never compromised and his match against Anatoly Karpov never happened.
He would rather devoid himself and the world of such an incredible match rather than see it to the end just because not everyone is willing to bow every time like Spassky, I think this is bad behavior.
Bobby Fischer is too arrogant
Bobby Fischer is extremely arrogant and prideful that he comes out as just overly rude in most cases.
He has little sense of sportsmanship that a world champion should have, something that Magnus Carlsen is known for as an example. He has little respect for most of his colleagues.
Of course you can argue that he has shown to be respectful when talking about his colleague, but that necessarily means that it is the way he actually treats them. Action speaks louder than words.
When facing an opponent, Bobby Fischer likes to not only defeat his adversary but also to crush them so that it affects their personal life. This is a pretty destructive behavior when dealing with others.
Magnus Carlsen for example hates losing, but wouldn’t really crush their opponent’s morale so that they would not perform well in future games. The incident with Mark Taimanov shows this.
The Soviet Union was terrible at the time and yes, Bobby Fischer’s legendary run is something that is directed towards the Soviets. However Mark Taimanov as a chess player is respectable on his own, he doesn’t deserve any slander.
“I like the moment I crush a man’s ego” -Bobby Fischer
This is a reflection of Bobby Fischer’s arrogance, it may look good in the history books, but if you meet someone like this in real life they can give you a hard time on a deeper level.
Bobby Fischer is psychopathic
Now on this one there is no actual confirmation but is just an inference that I came up with from watching the history of Bobby Fischer. You may disagree but I do have a reason for claiming this.
I say that he is also psychopathic since in his interviews he appeared to be someone that is genuine enough that you would want to invite him in your own house, while if you actually know him you won’t really like that.
I noticed from the stories that I heard of this chess legend that he is so nice you would instantly give your trust to him, however, his actions generally contradict what others say about him.
This is generally how you would identify someone that is psychopathic, all the people around him/her will usually have extreme reactions to their personality (either they are very good or very bad).
There are some exceptions to this of course but is true in most cases, neutral impressions are rare to come from someone that has psychopathic tendencies. I think this also applies to his case.
Bobby Fischer is too prideful
Now having pride is not necessarily a bad thing, when you have a sense of achievement you will surely have an image that you would want to protect since you have worked so hard for it.
However there is such a thing as having too much pride, which is an unhealthy behavior that is naturally undesirable for most people.
Most things do require moderation, having too much of anything can make you appear like a sore loser at times. I think this is also the case with Bobby Fischer.
He hates losing, and though this is an admirable trait, there is such a thing as too much pride.
He even refused to participate in a U.S championship (sometime before the candidates where he became the world champion) for example just because one of the players may beat him out of a fluke.
This is very different from someone like Magnus or Anand for example, they do not mind the probability of being beaten in any small tournament that they participate in.
Bobby’s pride can also be seen in his legendary match against Boris Spassky which he would have forfeited if the prize money was not within his means.
It turned out great for him in the end but still, in the majority of cases he wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to get his title if luck was not on his side.
Bobby Fischer may have been a coward after all
Most chess enthusiasts think of Bobby as a superhero that is so brave he can accomplish anything even in the face of strong opponents. But there are those who don’t think this way.
Some argue that he is even a bit of a coward, shying away from the biggest moments of his career which ultimately culminated in his encounter with Anatoly Karpov which never happened.
There are those who believe that Karpov is too much of a strong opponent against someone like Bobby since Karpov is proven to be a formidable opponent even more than Spassky at the time.
If you know the story of Anatoly Karpov then you would know that there is some foundation to this, Karpov is not a one-time superstar that fades in the span of two years. He is an established personality in the chess world.
Do I think that Fischer is a coward? No, I personally believe that he is just too prideful and wants to make a point if his conditions have not been met.
Fide at the time didn’t want to meet his conditions and he retaliated by not participating in his own world championship title match. I don’t think that Fischer ever feared Karpov, he is probably just hard-headed.
Bobby Fischer thinks too highly of himself
He had a lot of demand for fide that in my opinion is sometimes unwarranted, and he refuses to play if his concerns are not granted. He displays self-destructive behavior that is not good for a person.
He is willing to compromise the opportunity to strike a once-in-a-lifetime match if not everyone bows to everything that he says, I personally think that it is ridiculous.
There are many occasions where you also have to think about the interest of others in order to make something happen, being confident is one thing but being narcissistic is something you definitely don’t want to be.
If he just became a little bit humble he would have proven to the world how he would perform against someone as strong as Anatoly Karpov, we will never see his full potential due to this.
Anatoly is like the bridge to modern chess and the developing one, I am genuinely interested in finding out if Fischer could crush Karpov just like with his previous world chess championship opponents.
Bobby Fischer is quite wholesome as an old man
Now, this is the caveat to this whole article, some might think that I am just a Bobby Fischer heater who always has something negative to say. This is not true, I am just looking at things in an objective way.
Bobby is a legend when it comes to chess, however, the point of this particular article is to talk about his personality.
It is the same as with Garry Kasparov, who I think is one of the best chess players of all time but is not a good role model for future competitors when it comes to the personality department.
In his later years, Bobby Fischer is actually quite wholesome as an old man and has completely changed his personality perhaps due to the wisdom that experience and old age bring.
He has completely matured and is very wise from the interviews that I have watched about him, it feels like he is a completely different person.
The old version of him is actually the version of Bobby Fischer that I want to hang out with, he seems very knowledgeable and is just a fun person to be around.
Bobby Fischer is not really a good role model for the majority of his career, the only light personality that you can see from him is when he was already an old person. But throughout his pinnacle, he is not really like that, far from it.
It was shrouded from the media due to his accolades in playing chess, and the fact that he is an American fighting against the Soviet Union that dominated the chess rankings at the time.
Even when he was being interviewed he kept such a straight face, I personally believe that he has a strong case of narcissism behind him. Whether such a personality helped him become the legend that he is today is an argument though.
But still, Bobby Fischer is Bobby Fischer, you can’t help but to appreciate him as a chess player for his achievements. His personality is questionable but a legend is still a legend, sleep well and play chess.