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Bobby Fischer
William Nack
July 29, 1985
While conducting a search that turned into an obsession, the author discovers a great deal about the chess genius who drifted into seclusion after winning the world title
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July 29, 1985

Bobby Fischer

While conducting a search that turned into an obsession, the author discovers a great deal about the chess genius who drifted into seclusion after winning the world title

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"I'll gum it if I have to," Fischer said. "I'll gum it."

Their relationship ended that summer, after Gross gave an interview to the chess writer for The Register of Orange County, an innocuous but informative piece about the fishing trip. There was no mention of the teeth, and nothing about the anti-Semitic tirades that for years had laced Fischer's conversations. Though his mother, Regina Pustan, a Palo Alto physician, is a Jew, Fischer had long ago rejected Judaism. In restaurants, says Gross, it was embarrassing how Fischer sometimes ranted on loudly about "kikes" and "Jew bastards." Nor was there anything in The Register about how tiresome it had become for Gross to hear Fischer lecture about how everything was controlled by "the hidden hand, the satanical secret world government," to listen to him lecture on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic work, and to hear his version of the Holocaust and the "myth" of six million dead: "maybe 100,000 troublemakers and criminals."

When Fischer heard about The Register's story, he called up Gross, furious, though he admitted not having read the piece. "But I don't have to," he told Gross. "I know what it's about."

"How can you feel that way?" Gross asked. "I didn't say anything bad about you."

"It doesn't matter," said Bobby. "You're not supposed to talk to these guys. Do you realize I don't let my friends talk to the press?" Gross tried to mollify him, but it was no use. That was their last conversation.

Lina Grumette, for years a Los Angeles chess organizer and promoter, had been Fischer's West Coast "chess mother," beginning in the early 1960s. When Fischer, who was raised in Brooklyn, went to California, he lived at her home, at times for weeks on end. She recalls Fischer sitting down at the bridge table after dinner and analyzing chess games. His hand would snap pieces rapidly off the board, and he would shake his head.

"This move is no good," he would say to Grumette. "He should have done this. What do you think?"

"What are you asking me for?" she would say.

"Well, everybody's opinion helps," he would answer.

That is how she remembers him best, sitting at the board and having fun playing games. "Whatever people say about him, he has a very kind heart," Grumette says. "He always impressed me as a normal, kind, decent human being. He visited my husband in the hospital when he was dying of cancer, and walked my dog every night. Bobby was part of the family."

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