I have just finished David Edmonds and John Eidinow's history of the 1972 world chess championship match in Reykjavik between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, appropriately entitled "Bobby Fischer Goes To War".
It is hard not to feel slightly disturbed by Fischer, and that is being generous. Spassky emerges as a gentleman who acquiesces to most of the challenger's demands to simply allow the game to proceed, and who should really have walked out when, 2-0 down in the match, Fischer demanded to play the vital third game in a closed room. At times it is tempting to imagine that the Soviet report which concluded Fischer was a psychopath may even have had a grain of truth.
In between the obsession with Jews, Communists and religious mania, what was in Fischer's mind? Living in Germany in the 1980s he spent time with the German grandmaster Michael Bezold, who states:
"He was obsessed with a game in the 1960s, and the question was whether or not to move the pawn to h6. This was the only question. And he said he'd been analysing this game for more than thirty years, and he couldn't figure out whether its better to play h6 or not. It was fantastic."
Anyone who has ever been fanatical about anything will either recognise themselves in that quote, or be blown away by its intensity.
Edmonds and Eidinow were able to find to assemble a remarkable series of interviews for their study, from Cold War warriors such as Henry Kissinger to Spassky himself. Perhaps not surprisingly they did not obtain one with Fischer himself, who died this year, an exile from the United States. The first in what may be a series of new biographies, by Frank Brady, is scheduled to appear early next year. Whether this work will build on Edmonds and Eidinow's research into Fischer's family background (which interestingly was both Jewish and Communist!) remains to be seen.