Bobby Fischer Goes to War

  • by David Edmonds, John Eidinow
  • Narrated by Sam Tsoutsouvas
  • 11 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the summer of 1972, with a presidential crisis stirring in the United States and the cold war at a pivotal point, two men, the Soviet world chess champion Boris Spassky and his American challenger Bobby Fischer, met in the most notorious chess match of all time. Their showdown in Reykjavik, Iceland, held the world spellbound for two months with reports of psychological warfare, ultimatums, political intrigue, cliffhangers, and farce to rival a Marx Brothers film. Thirty years later, David Edmonds and John Eidinow, authors of the national best seller Wittgenstein's Poker, have set out to re-examine the story we recollect as the quintessential cold war clash between a lone American star and the Soviet chess machine, a machine that had delivered the world title to the Kremlin for decades. Drawing upon unpublished Soviet and U.S. records, the authors reconstruct the full and incredible saga, one far more poignant and layered than hitherto believed.
Against the backdrop of superpower politics, the authors recount the careers and personalities of Boris Spassky, the product of Stalin's imperium, and Bobby Fischer, a child of post-World War II America, an era of economic boom at home and communist containment abroad. The two men had nothing in common but their gift for chess, and the disparity of their outlook and values conditioned the struggle over the board.
Then there was the match itself, which produced both creative masterpieces and some of the most improbable gaffes in chess history. And finally, there was the dramatic and protracted off-the-board battle, in corridors and foyers, in back rooms and hotel suites, in Moscow offices and in the White House.
A mesmerizing narrative of brilliance and triumph, hubris and despair, Bobby Fischer Goes to War is a biting deconstruction of the Bobby Fischer myth, a nuanced study on the art of brinkmanship, and a revelatory cold war tragicomedy.

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What the Critics Say

"Tsoutsouvas turns in a steady, suitably understated performance of this eminently engrossing account of the 1972 world championship chess match." (Publishers Weekly
"Tsoutsouvas...manages to keep it light and play the humor while laying back the more sensational passages. His handsome, barrel-chested voice is a delight to listen to." (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Engrossing

This is the enjoyable background story behind the immortal Fischer-Spassky chess match of 1972, the one that held the world spellbound and caused chess to become fashionable. No chess knowledge is necessary to appreciate this book. It not only sheds light on the chess world but on the relationship between the USSR and the US, a relationship that is no doubt being forgotten by the post-USSR generation. The most revealing moments in the book are the descriptions of the behind-the-scene struggles of the Soviets as it became clear that Spassky was losing the match. Much of the story is familiar to chess afficionados, but this retelling adds a bit of depth. It not only discusses Fischer's life and demise, but that of Spassky and many others in the chess world, from Steinitz to Paul Morphy to Tal, Petrosian, Smyslov, and even current #1 Garry Kasparov. This is a must-listen for chessplayers. Recommended further reading: "The Pathetic Endgame of Bobby Fischer", which I think is still available on the Atlantic Monthly web site. The only drawbacks of the book are its popular and somewhat superficial approach and the indications that its narrator and/or author are not particularly outstanding chess players. Fischer's incredible 6-0 victories over Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen are also discussed, along with various paranoid theories about how he achieved his victories, when it is clear that he was always a formidable talent and thus didn't need skullduggery to shake the chess world.
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- Gene

I'm listening to it again!

I was somewhat reluctant to commit myself to listening to a book about chess for 12 hours. As soon as the book was finished I immediately started over. A great story about really strange people and an even more strange event.
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- Nate

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-03-2005
  • Publisher: HarperAudio