At the unexpectedly early age of 64, chess great Bobby Fischer has died. Fischer had been based in Iceland since 2005, before which he had spent years on the run and endured a brief spell in prison, as a result of his contravening the UN embargo on sporting interactions with Yugoslavia, where in 1992 he played (and won) a bizarre “revenge match of the century” against Boris Spassky.
It was a strange end to a strange life which took in paranoia and Holocaust denial in its later years, having begun with quite astonishing promise as the youngest US chess champion and grandmaster in history. It is, of course, for his 1972 world chess championship match against Spassky that Fischer will be most remembered; and aficionados can replay every move at leisure here (check out the Ruy Lopez, Closed, Breyer in the 10th). Back in 2004, Erik Tarloff reviewed David Edmonds and John Eidinow’s influential account of the match for Prospect; just last month, Tarloff returned to Fischer for us with an assessment of Daniel Johnson’s White king and red queen.
At the other end of the gaming spectrum, Richard Knerr, one of the inventors of the hula hoop, also died today at age of 82. Games fans may be interested to know that, technically, Knerr was really a “re-inventor” rather than an originator, in that hoops have been being pushed around for entertainment for over 3,000 years, and were being swung around the body in England as early as the 14th century. Chess, which appeared in its current form in the second half of the 15th century, is a mere stripling in comparison.