Bobby Fischer Comes Home: The Final Years in Iceland, a Saga of Friendship and Lost Illusions by Heigi Olafsson
A memoir of Bobby Fischer, a chess prodigy, and his later years which he spent in living in Iceland. The author is an Icelandic grandmaster who served as a sort of ambassador for Fischer during his time in Iceland. Bobby Fischer was famous for his match against Boris Spassky during the Cold War: it was the most viewed chess match of all time and was played in Iceland. After the match, Fischer retired from chess, playing only a handful of serious chess games for the rest of his life. Bobby Fischer is a controversial celebrity due to his personality: although he is undoubtedly a chess genius, he is difficult to work with and always has a long list of demands for his chess matches. He has anti-Semitic views and beliefs in conspiracy theories, not hesitating to express them to the media at every opportunity. Nevertheless, the author forgives Fischer’s difficult personality and develops a close friendship with him.
Fischer got in trouble with the American government after his anti-Semitic comments after the 911 attacks. He was in Japan at the time and on a routine trip out of the country, he was detained at the airport. It turned out that we Americans revoked his passport and wanted to arrest him; after several months in a Japanese prison, the author’s team intervened to pull some strings and get the Icelandic government to grant citizenship to Fischer. The government agreed because Fisher was a celebrity after putting Iceland on the map during the match against Spassky. Fischer moved to Iceland in 2005, where he lived until his death in 2008.
The rest of the book describes Fischer’s life as he lives in Iceland. Although he did not play much competitive chess, he contributed by inventing a new time control (adding three seconds to every move) and the Chess 960 format where the starting position is randomized to give the game more spontaneity. Bobby never leaves Iceland for the rest of his life, but meets several celebrities when they visit Iceland, and he enjoys some fishing trips with his wife and the author. After failing to negotiate a chess match with top chess players Kasparov and Anand, Fischer has argument with the author and they stop seeing each other. Fischer dies in 2008 of kidney failure.
Even the author admits that Fischer is difficult to work with, but sees him mostly as a misunderstood chess genius, and manages to sidestep his rants about Jews and CIA conspiracy theories. Most others are less forgiving, and he ended up being shunned by society. Fischer is intelligent but extremely stubborn, and he likely suffered from some sort of psychological trauma after his detention in Japanese prison, although he was never formally diagnosed with a mental illness.