• Bobby Fischer Goes to War

  • How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match
  • By: David Edmonds, John Eidinow
  • Narrated by: Sam Tsoutsouvas
  • Length: 11 hrs and 55 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (217 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In the summer of 1972, with a presidential crisis stirring in the United States and the cold war at a pivotal point, two men, the Soviet world chess champion Boris Spassky and his American challenger Bobby Fischer, met in the most notorious chess match of all time. Their showdown in Reykjavik, Iceland, held the world spellbound for two months with reports of psychological warfare, ultimatums, political intrigue, cliffhangers, and farce to rival a Marx Brothers film.  

Thirty years later, David Edmonds and John Eidinow, authors of the national best seller Wittgenstein's Poker, have set out to re-examine the story we recollect as the quintessential cold war clash between a lone American star and the Soviet chess machine, a machine that had delivered the world title to the Kremlin for decades. Drawing upon unpublished Soviet and US records, the authors reconstruct the full and incredible saga, one far more poignant and layered than hitherto believed.

Against the backdrop of superpower politics, the authors recount the careers and personalities of Boris Spassky, the product of Stalin's imperium, and Bobby Fischer, a child of post-World War II America, an era of economic boom at home and communist containment abroad. The two men had nothing in common but their gift for chess, and the disparity of their outlook and values conditioned the struggle over the board.

Then there was the match itself, which produced both creative masterpieces and some of the most improbable gaffes in chess history. And finally, there was the dramatic and protracted off-the-board battle, in corridors and foyers, in back rooms and hotel suites, in Moscow offices and in the White House.

A mesmerizing narrative of brilliance and triumph, hubris and despair, Bobby Fischer Goes to War is a biting deconstruction of the Bobby Fischer myth, a nuanced study on the art of brinkmanship, and a revelatory cold war tragicomedy. 

©2004 David Edmonds and John Eidinow (P)2004 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Tsoutsouvas turns in a steady, suitably understated performance of this eminently engrossing account of the 1972 world championship chess match." (Publishers Weekly)

"Tsoutsouvas...manages to keep it light and play the humor while laying back the more sensational passages. His handsome, barrel-chested voice is a delight to listen to." (AudioFile

What listeners say about Bobby Fischer Goes to War

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Engrossing

This is the enjoyable background story behind the immortal Fischer-Spassky chess match of 1972, the one that held the world spellbound and caused chess to become fashionable. No chess knowledge is necessary to appreciate this book. It not only sheds light on the chess world but on the relationship between the USSR and the US, a relationship that is no doubt being forgotten by the post-USSR generation. The most revealing moments in the book are the descriptions of the behind-the-scene struggles of the Soviets as it became clear that Spassky was losing the match. Much of the story is familiar to chess afficionados, but this retelling adds a bit of depth. It not only discusses Fischer's life and demise, but that of Spassky and many others in the chess world, from Steinitz to Paul Morphy to Tal, Petrosian, Smyslov, and even current #1 Garry Kasparov. This is a must-listen for chessplayers. Recommended further reading: "The Pathetic Endgame of Bobby Fischer", which I think is still available on the Atlantic Monthly web site. The only drawbacks of the book are its popular and somewhat superficial approach and the indications that its narrator and/or author are not particularly outstanding chess players. Fischer's incredible 6-0 victories over Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen are also discussed, along with various paranoid theories about how he achieved his victories, when it is clear that he was always a formidable talent and thus didn't need skullduggery to shake the chess world.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

I'm listening to it again!

I was somewhat reluctant to commit myself to listening to a book about chess for 12 hours. As soon as the book was finished I immediately started over. A great story about really strange people and an even more strange event.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Not a chess book, but a book about chess

If you are looking for a move-by-move analysis, this is not the book. If you are interested in the phenomenon of chess events, oddball players, and how Fischer became world champ, listen up. The only real minus is that the authors delve so deeply into the Soviet politics of chess that the book sometimes sounds like the minutes of a Polit Bureau meeting. Also, there are a lot of long Russian names to get through.

But, the study of Fischer and Spasky--their foibles, flaws, and accomplishments--is fascinating. And, the story of how the event came off is, at times, funny as any Marx Brothers (not Karl) movie.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A fascinating event, a peculiar man

What a truly peculiar individual Bobby Fischer is/was! I found myself, as an American, ashamed of Fischer's behavior throughout the match. It comes under the category of truth being stranger than fiction.

The cold war aspects are truly interesting and integrated well into the narrative.

I admit that I have a new interest and appreciation for chess and the people who play it with great skill. The story is read well (especially all those challenging Russian names).

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

If you like chess

I listened to this book after listening to the "Immortal Game" (excellent. and I very much enjoyed it. Very interesting inside look at Soviet era chess and the length they would go to for victory and the devastation sown after a loss. I knew Fischer to be a bit eccentric but not this over the top. Recommended.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Four stars despite...

the fact that this book could have been better than it was. The reportorial style forever keeps the reader at a distance, and there is scant little actual detail from the match itself, swamped in endless analysis of the characters, the political climate, reactions to the outcome, etc. However, this last is interesting enough to make this a good book--if you want a page turner that will have you sitting right there with the combatants throughout the entire match, this isn't it--but it is a very interesting analogy of the entire scenerio surrounding the contest. Another upside is that we see deeply into Spassky--a naive, though overconfident gentleman who gave way too often and also refused to listen to good advice--and Fischer too--a collossal manipulative jerk who barely earns the applause for his obvious genius, a crybaby/psychotic who seemed to lack feeling for anyone outside of himself.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Not really about chess

You don't have to love chess to enjoy a very good story about the times and these interesting people.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great but too critical

Bobby Fischer Goes to War is about the most epic chess match in the history of mankind... Fischer vs Spassky in Iceland... That being said, the writers go out of their way to portray Fischer in a negative light. I do think a lot of what they say about him is accurate, but clearly Bobby Fischer had his issues and I don’t think he needs to be roasted for that. Besides that, this book is a great walk down memory lane for chess fans or really anyone who is interested in Bobby Fischer. Enjoy!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A Well-Done Blend of Chess, History & Biography

This is a very interesting & well-executed book about Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, the 1972 World Chess Championship & a good deal more. There is just the right amount of chess detail for the average reader, although devotees would doubtless enjoy more. There is also enough history -- of chess, the Cold War, the '70s -- to both educate and contextualize. And there is fascinating biography of Fischer and Spassky as very different individuals and as representatives of their respective chess and governmental systems. The pacing is good, although stories of Fischer's serial unreasonable demands do bog down the narrative a bit, and the reading is excellent. Enjoyed it, learned from it, and was glad I listened to it.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great info, a little dry for first half

A great reading, the beginning is dry as we talk about the background that helped to build up the match. I have done a lot of personal research on this match and felt like all of the information was accurate but some items were glossed over, id imagine to focus on the match itself, the analog about Regina Fisher is probably one of the best insights to Bobbys early life and may have been my favorite part, despite it being at the very end, it's a great 40 min. Enjoy!