Bobby Fischer Against the World

2011 Documentary

Director Liz Garbus presents this intimate look at the life of volatile chess player Bobby Fischer, who stunned the world in 1958 by becoming the U.S. champion, and later shot to infamy for his increasingly erratic behavior. Frequently left alone as a child by his single, Jewish mother, Brooklyn native Fischer was proficient on the chess board by the age of six. A self-taught player, he continued mastering his game though his early teens, when he defeated such star players as Arthur Bisguier, Samuel Reshevsky, and William Lombardy to snag the top slot at the 1957-58 U.S. Championship. Later, in 1972, the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War were bumped from the headlines to make room for stories about Fischer winning the world title from defending champion Soviet Boris Spassy in Reykjavik, Iceland, though it was this game that appeared to mark a turning point in the American media darling's illustrious career. Retiring from the game and disappearing from the spotlight, Fischer was essentially all but forgotten until he reemerged in the early 1990s for the "Revenge Match of the 20th Century" against his old opponent Spassy. Unfortunately for Fischer, the game was in Yugoslavia, which at the time had been hit with strict U.S. sanctions. As a result, an arrest warrant was issued for Fischer, and he became a fugitive from the law for over a decade. On the rare occasion that he did make a public appearance, he appeared disheveled, and his comments were peppered with vicious attacks on both Jews and Americans. In January of 2008, Fischer succumbed to the effects of renal failure at a Reykjavik hospital. In this documentary vintage footage of Fischer, and conversations with the friends and family who knew him best combine to provide a compelling portrait of a tortured genius whose brilliant mind became his greatest foe. more..

Director: Liz Garbus


  • The result is a gripping film about a subject almost too good to be true.

    Shawn Levy - Portland Oregonian

    11 May 2013

  • Liz Garbus' documentary tells the compelling and powerful story of the late chess prodigy.

    James Greenberg - The Hollywood Reporter

    11 May 2013

  • A compelling look at the tragic and bizarre life of an enigmatic champion.

    - Empire

    11 May 2013

  • If this profile is marred slightly by thematic tidiness and a willingness to overglorify the champion's rise (Fischer didn't even write his best-seller, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess), it still supplies a cracked, conflicted genius trapped in his ceaseless endgame.

    Joshua Rothkopf - Time Out New York

    11 May 2013

  • Bobby Fischer Against the World does not traffic in easy explanations or medical diagnoses, but it leaves the strong impression of a continuity between the oddness Fischer displayed in early interviews and the mania so jarringly evident toward the end.

    A.O. Scott - The New York Times

    11 May 2013


  • Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Television - Non-Fiction, Variety or Music - Series or Specials

    Cinema Audio Society (2012)

  • Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking

    Newport Beach Film Festival (2011)

  • Outstanding Nonfiction Special

    Primetime Emmy Awards (2012)