Everyone still "searching for Bobby Fischer" can rest now. Last Thursday, Fischer died in Iceland at age 64. The child genius who made chess as popular as Pokemon at least for a spell had a competitive spirit that the New York Times compared with Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan. He also had a mercurial nature that took him from the front page of mainstream newspapers to the inside pages of the tabloids for his anti-Semitic, anti-American bizarre bouts of behavior.
It's been said there are only three types of pure genius mathematical, musical and chess. In another universe, Fischer might have become a monumental military leader or an athletic coach for the ages. He was a master of strategy. But by nature, he took his ambition and smarts to the chessboard, where it felt like a million cubic feet of water being forced though a one-inch pipe. The pressure eventually broke him. After defeating Soviet champion Boris Spassky in 1972, Fischer was heralded like Jesse Owens before him for proving that freedom produces a better product than totalitarianism. Three years later he refused to defend his title and began a slow slide into isolation.
Just as Tiger Woods got the nation's young people playing golf, Fischer got them playing chess until, in both cases, people came to realize what uncompromising and unforgiving games they were.
Still, remembering Fischer for his zaniness would be unfair. During the Cold War, he took on the "Russian Bear" single-handedly and tamed the beast. It wasn't the work of a master general, but it was the work of a master just the same. And in this era of mindless entertainment and new technology that does most of the thinking for most Americans, the fact Fischer triggered a desire in the youth of the world to not only think, but push themselves to new levels of competence and achievement, should not be underestimated.
If Bobby Fischer could get American kids to discover the joys of mental discipline and courage, there's a chance someone else will come along who can do the same again.