The best documentaries can make any subject compelling. In the case of Bobby Fischer against The World, its chess. Chess can be a compelling game anyway, and to be fair it is a secondary part of the story compared to what this film is really about which is the tortured genius of Bobby Fischer.
If it wasn’t for the chess, Fischer would be a fascinating person anyway. An outsider, doesn’t really fit but finds solace and success with chess. In an age where people are becoming famous for Tik-Tok and YouTube videos, it seems bizarre to consider that Fischer became world famous for chess. He was never a man who seemed comfortable with fame and the movie demonstrates this through footage and talking heads that tell a compelling story and build the character of the man very well.
The best moments are when the competitor is playing chess and the way the documentary presents the sports is a compelling one. Boxing is usually the best sport to watch on film but chess is presented with as much gravitas and the way that Fischer can play mind games with his Russian opponent Boris Spasskey, is a wonder to behold. It is tense and you can’t believe that this much enjoyment can come from watching two men play a very slow and methodical game of skill.
Fischer works as a documentary subject because alongside becoming a chess rock-star, this is a life which touches upon The Cold War, international disputes, extradition, arrest and reclusive disappearance. The story is always very interesting but gets a little weird at times and you can’t quite believe this could happen to one individual.
Which is also why the ending leaves you quite unsatisfied. The film lacks a conclusion worthy of the life and like so many subjects, it doesn’t have that great crescendo of a finale which a life as exciting and as influential as Fischer’s feels like it should.
Overall, Bobby Fischer against the World documents a fascinating life, often weird and unbelievable but never dull. It manages to make chess feel like a heavyweight boxing bout and keeps you on the edge of your seat. It lacks a suitable ending but that is often the case with lives as thrilling as Fischer’s.
Rating – 4
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