Bobby Fischer Comes Home

The Final Years in Iceland, a Saga of Friendship and Lost Illusions

Helgi Olafsson

Reviewer: John Donaldson
143 pages

Since the death of Bobby Fischer in 2008 there have been several excellent books on his life with Frank Brady’s masterful Endgame and Joseph Ponterotto’s insightful A Psychobiography Of Bobby Fischer topping the list. Now a third must read for fans of the late World Champion has appeared.

Icelandic Grandmaster Helgi Olafsson’s Bobby Fischer Comes Home is more narrowly focused than the two previously mentioned works but it sheds important new light on the last years of Fischer’s life with a portrait that is both sympathetic and honest.

Like many others who started to play chess in the early 1970s, Olafsson was strongly influenced by the 1972 match between Fischer and Spassky in Reykjavik. Bobby Fischer Comes Home begins with Olafsson recounting the start of his chess career and how it coincided with Bobby’s rise to World Champion. Here the Icelandic GM recounts the first of many interesting stories, mentioning how Fischer’s first trip to Icelandic in 1972 was not for the match but earlier, in February, when the location for the World Championship match had not yet been decided. During his visit the 5th Reykjavik international chess tournament was in progress and Bobby came one day to check out the action only to be disappointed when Raymond Keene, then an IM, agreed to a draw against the great Leonid Stein in a position Fischer thought winning for the Englishmen.

Soon after Fischer wins the World Championship the story quickly moves from 1972 to 2005 when Fischer is rescued from jail in Japan by the country he helped put on the map. The last 80 pages offer a glimpse of Fischer seldom seen before. Olafsson, who became one of Fischer’s inner circle, presents his subject warts and all but in a respectful manner, not a kiss and tell story.

Bobby could be difficult, some times very difficult for even his closest friends and the author is not immune from Fischer flying off the handle in his presence. Olafsson includes an e-mail he received from Boris Spassky in which the latter writes, ” …It was funny for me to see how you deal with Bobby. He can torture everybody.” Everybody included Bobby who was often his own worst enemy.

While there are sad moments in Bobby Fischer Comes Home, there are happy ones as well and Olafsson recounts many episodes of Bobby that are sure to please anyone that wished Fischer well. These include domestic scenes with his long-time companion Miyoko Watai, going on a weekend fishing trip in the wilds of Iceland, spending time with Viswanathan Anand and even meeting up with the Godmother of Punk Patti Smith who shared with Bobby a love of early rock and roll.

Bobby Fischer Comes Home is a book to be read with pleasure by all fans of Fischer.

Highly Recommended