I read a letter in New in Chess, issue 2004/7. It was about Bobby
Fischer. The author thinks Bobby is a paranoid schizophrenic. He
compares Bobby Fischer with John Nash, the man from the movie "A
Beautiful Mind." I’ve seen other articles claming that
Bobby Fischer is a paranoid schizophrenic.
I don’t buy that assessment of Bobby Fischer. Hangin gives
this issue the LEKO it deserves. I think Kasparov has the right take
on Bobby. He said Bobby’s problems stem from his extreme
the key to understanding Fischer. True, Bobby has the signs of
paranoia, but it's based on solid foundation.
What is Paranoia – A psychotic disorder
characterized by delusions of persecution with or without grandeur,
often strenuously defended with apparent logic and reason. Extreme,
irrational distrust of others. There are mentally ill people walking
around today, who have delusions of persecution by the government.
With true paranoid schizophrenics, you put the cart before the horse.
They have an unfounded sense of persecution. That's what we
thought about Bobby as well. Well, Bobby is being persecuted; he’s
in a Japanese jail right now. Bobby has been in trouble with the law
since 1992. When he played a chess match in Yugoslavia against the US
The Rene Chung article recently disclosed that
Bobby came under FBI surveillance very early in is chess career. So in
Bobby's case the cart is not before the horse. Bobby came under
suspicion because he traveled to the Soviet Union, during the height
of the cold war. This is the start of Bobby's persecution, in his
early teens. Both Bobby and his mother Regina were under FBI
surveillance. Now when you are under this kind of pressure, you can
feel it. It also causes sane people to see conspiracy where none
exists. This type of pressure can lead sane people to have
irrational thoughts. Bobby sees a conspiracy where maybe one does not
exist. So if Bobby is paranoid it is based on solid foundation. His
paranoia is understandable, it's not clinical.
Bobby also has not received a square deal on
his books that he authored. Bobby has demanded payment from the former
Soviet Union for unpaid royalties. So Bobby developed a natural
distrust of Lawyers. Due to these reasons Bobby has a bizarre view of
the world. This could be the reason for his problems with the storage
facilities and his hatred of Jews. His views about Jews are horrible,
baseless, but shared by many sane people.
Bobby’s admiration of Hitler is also horrible but also shared
by many sane people. Bobby told Larry Evans that he admired Hitler
because he forced his will on the world. Bobby wanted to force his
will on the chess world.
Bobby does not want people to profit from
him. The key to understanding Bobby is to know he’s a survivalist.
Just like many of the people in the US, who are anti federal
government. Bobby is a frontiersman. He doesn’t believe he should have
to share his money with the government. I think this attitude was
crested by Bobby becoming self-sufficient at an early age. He was just
in his late teens when he traveled the world and played a mans game.
He proved that he was more man than the men he beat. Bobby was one of
the first early childhood prodigies, who were allowed to pursue a
chess career while still a child. Sammy Reshevsky was also a prodigy,
but he took time off from chess to get an education. Sammy picked his
career up when he was in his early 20’s.
Capablanca also showed early chess talent. However, his father
prevented Capablanca from playing chess, until he was older.
Capablanca career took off when he went to college in New York City.
I think Bobby felt that he did not get the proper respect from
his contemporaries. Bobby as a young boy said, no one helps me; I win
because of my skills. Bobby
showed his independence at an early age.
A Young Bobby got this I’ll show you attitude.
Chess is a game that can give players
paranoia. The object of the game, as Fischer puts it, is to crush your
opponents mind. Your
opponents are plotting and scheming to defeat you. And it was later
proven to be true that the soviets conspired against Bobby at Curacao
in 1963. The soviets took easy draws against each other to conserve
energy and played a tough game against Bobby.
Fischer’s distrust of the press is also natural. Read the
book “Bobby Fischer vs. the rest of the world.”
Bobby’s problems also stem from the fact that he used
98% of his mental capacity for chess and 2% for other stuff. So Bobby
personality did not develop, as it should have.
Bobby’s independence was established early, when he would
stay out all-night playing chess in Manhattan chess clubs. Bobby's
mother would have to go get him and bring him home. Bobby worked hard
to defeat the soviet chess machine that conspired to defeat him. This
might have caused Bobby not to risk his title again. This might have
driven Bobby from the game. Bobby knew the whole soviet chess machine
was out to get him. Bobby knew chess was a propaganda tool used by the
soviets. Whenever Bobby adjourned a position, he knew the entire
soviet machine was working on the position. That’s a tremendous
amount of pressure. Bobby also wanted to tell the soviet machine, hey,
I am better than you. I showed you. Bobby got his revenge that he was
seeking by winning the title in 1972.
Now I also heard some stories of Fischer’s
bizarre behavior. Like when he removed his fillings, because he was
afraid that the soviets were trying to send him messages.
Hey that was an episode from Gilligan's Island, when Gilligan
got hit on the head and his fillings helped him receive radio signals.
But it has been established that Bobby was under FBI surveillance and
the Soviet Chess machine did conspire against him. This kind of
pressure could make people do bizarre things. Also the press at one
time hounded Fischer, who protects his privacy.
Other players have also exhibited paranoid states and behaviors
during tough competitions. Victor Kortchnoi did so in his matches
against Karpov and Spassky. Kortchnoi thought he was being influenced
by psychokinetic energies coming from DR Zukhar during the 1978 match.
Spassky during the 1977 candidate match against Kortchnoi felt that
Kortchnoi was trying to hypnotize him. Spassky decided to not to sit
at the board. He would analyze the position from a private booth.
Kortchnoi also got paranoid and protested.
I certainly would not consider either of them mental ill.
Tremendous pressure can cause the sane to act irrationally or to have
not sound depressed in that Japanese jail. He’s fighting. He is
talking about baseball. He challenged President Bush and PM Koizumi. I
don’t think Bobby is a paranoid schizophrenic; there is foundation
for his paranoia. Schizophrenics have unfounded beliefs of
persecution, they also exhibit really bizarre behaviors and thoughts.
Many sane people share many of Fischer’s bizarre thoughts. Those who
met Fischer privately, says he acts normally. I think that when the
cameras are turn on him, he transforms himself. Just Like Muhammad Ali
did when the cameras were on him. I attribute a lot of Bobby's ravings
on the Philippine radio station to having the spotlight on him.
Bobby has extreme beliefs. He lashes out at his enemies. He makes
irrational comments about his enemies. As I read in the same New In
Chess Magazine, so did GM Rueben Fine, who became psychiatrist. This
is a common human frailty. It does not indicate psychosis. Bobby’s
distrustful of his fellow chess players is normal as well, they
are his potential opponents. He refers to Spassky as a Frenemy.
That’s a friend and an enemy. I think Bobby is fascinated with
owns his self worth, but didn’t cash in on it because he didn’t
want any one to profit from him. Bobby finally cashed in on his fame
during the 1992 match with Spassky. Bobby has his own survivalist view
of the world. You don’t bother me. I won’t bother you.
If I were to diagnose Bobby I would
suggest that he suffers from Bipolar disorder. He is
manic-depressive. I would say he’s more on the manic side.
" Bipolar disorder is a recurring psychiatric illness with often
devastating symptoms of depression and mania. The disorder, which has
been described in highly accomplished individuals such as Theodore
Roosevelt, Robert Schumann, Vincent van Gogh, and Sylvia Plath, is
highly treatable, however. Despite the chronicity of the illness,
effective drugs such as lithium have enabled persons diagnosed with
bipolar illness to lead productive lives. "
a diagnosis of mania, the patient’s mood can be either elated or
irritable. The most common symptoms are grandiosity, racing thoughts,
and pressured speech. The patient is also distractible. These symptoms
lead to inattention, impatience, inflated self-confidence, grand
schemes, excessive spending, impulsive traveling, and reckless
Bobby has shown that he can be easily distracted. He demands
complete silence during play. Bobby became irritated by the humming
noise of the cameras during 1972 world championship match. Bobby has
shown his impatience over the years with organizers. Bobby walked out
on a few tournaments because he became irritated or impatient with
showed his recklessness when he played a match in 1992 in Yugoslavia
in defiance of serious US Law. Bobby, in front of the world press,
spits on a US document demanding he not play the match. Bobby goes on
Philippine radio station and makes reckless anti-American comments. He
even justifies the 9/11 attacks. A fugitive should keep a low profile.
Bobby showed his recklessness early in his career when he pulled out
of the 1967 Sousse Interzonal while dominating the tournament. Bobby
lost out on an earlier attempt at the world championship. Bobby
recklessly declines to play in the US championship in 1970. He was
upset about the format of the tournament. He knows this event allows
him to qualify for the 1972 world championship cycle. Bobby shows his
inattention, by not making sure his storage facilities bills were
paid. Bobby lost all his memorabilia, when the storage facility
confiscated it for non-payment. Bobby showed his inattention by not
properly maintaining his land in Florida. He claims he lost the land
because he did not pay his lawn care bills. Bobby certainly exhibits
an inflated self-confidence.
He has talked about grand schemes, like all
the world championship games have been prearranged since 1978. Bobby
stayed at the Polgar's home in the early 1990’s. I recall Susan
saying that Bobby was normal except when he talked about certain
subjects. Schizophrenics have severe mental problems and they manifest
themselves in severe behavioral problems.
From what I read of various Bobby
Fischer sightings, Bobby does not exhibit bizarre behavioral problems.
I heard some of Bobby’s comments on the Philippine radio station.
They are hard to listen to, because of the hatred he spews. The show
is a platform for Bobby’s grand schemes. I attribute his paranoid
ravings to the fact that the US government is persecuting him. Also in
patients with Mania, the delusions are consistent with their grandiose
ideas and schemes but may also be paranoid. As far a Bobby being
schizophrenic, I don’t think a schizophrenic could sit a at
chessboard and play a 5-7 hour game without someone noticing bizarre
behavior. Case in point Akiba Rubenstein.
Bobby played a 24 game match in 1972 and 30 game
match in 1992. If Bobby had schizophrenia, he would have exhibited
bizarre behavior. No such bizarre behaviors have been written about in
the press accounts of these 2-month long events. Bobby has impeccable
manners at the chessboard. True he complained about cameras and
playing conditions. That is not bizarre behavior.
I think you will know a schizophrenic person, not under
treatment, when you see one.
The writer brings up John Nash, from the movie the
beautiful mind. According to the movie Nash saw hallucinations. He saw
and talks with imaginary people. Nash even had an imaginary job as a
code cracker for the US military. He exhibited bizarre behavior. Bobby
does not claim to hear voices or see imaginary people.
Bobby Fischer is a survivalist, whose single-minded dedication
to his profession stunted his personal development. Bobby also has
showed the symptoms of some one with Bi-polar disorder.
His extreme self-confidence, grand schemes, impatience,
irritability, and distractibility are the key factors in this
diagnosis. Bobby does not exhibit bizarre behavior. I also think that
some of his paranoid ravings can be attributed to the manic side of
his illness. I attribute the rest of his paranoid ravings to be based
on some solid foundation. I think any normal sane persons under
such distress would also see conspiracies where none existed. The US government is after all persecuting him for playing
chess. Many sane people share Bobby’s bizarre beliefs on Jews,
Hitler, and 9/11.
So what are my qualifications to make such a diagnosis? Well I
did take several psychology courses in college, including behavior
modification and abnormal psychology. Moreover, I did stay at a
Holiday Inn recently. Dr
Hangin is also a leading authority in the field of Drawitis.