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Case Number 23079: Small Claims Court

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Bobby Fischer Against The World

Docurama // 2011 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // January 7th, 2012

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum is a master of checkers, so king him.

The Charge

The greatest match was in his mind.

The Case

Bobby Fischer was a guy who did the impossible by making chess sexy. He was one of those rare prodigy types who captured the world's imagination, and he proved that the U.S. could produce a champion in a game that seemed to go to Russians. Chess was a Cold War sport in the '70s, and Bobby Fischer was a major figure in that time when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were locked in mortal combat for supremacy of just about everything. In 1972 Fischer became the world chess champion, and it was a major victory for America. But then Bobby seemed to fall apart, and Bobby Fischer lost his marbles. It's the perfect thing to base a documentary on, and so Bobby Fischer Against the World mines the topic for all it is worth.

Critics say that what this film does is to look at the emotions and fantastic elements, and that it ignores the real chess theory that Bobby Fischer pioneered. It shows more of his theatrics, and then concentrates on the downfall of a great man. That is true, but it is still a fascinating topic. Bobby Fischer Against the World does a great job of giving us an idea of the character and the myths of one of the great chess masters. It focuses the most on the dramatic matches of 1972 between Fischer and Russian master Boris Spassky. That becomes the centerpiece, and it's a natural emphasis. The last half hour is a disturbing mix of Fischer's downfall and rants against the United States. It's a film that holds your attention well, and does what it sets out to do well.

Docurama provides a pretty good transfer for a feature film that is made up of really old archival footage mostly from the '70s. We have the traditional talking heads that look much better than the bits between them, and overall everything looks as good as it can. The stereo sound treatment is just fine for the narration, and does great with the other dialogue. Extras amount to eight minutes of additional featurettes. First up is a short follow-up looking at the fight over Bobby Fischer's estate. It is a natural extension of the main feature, and adds a nice coda. Next up is a history of Chess that takes up about two minutes. It is a nice summation of the origins of the game.

Bobby Fischer's life is fascinating, and so Bobby Fischer Against the World benefits from having a lot to talk about and cover. Chess would seem to make a terrible spectator sport, but somehow this man ratcheted all of it up to new heights. Chess fans will find it short on details on what made his game unique, but most will find this a great portrait of a man who was so brilliant that it made him intensely unhappy. He couldn't handle his own genius, and in the end that was what destroyed him. He wasn't a man against the world, but rather a man against himself. That was the one opponent he could never best.

The Verdict

Guilty of making a chess game fascinating.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 89

Perp Profile

Studio: Docurama
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurettes


• IMDb

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