Black and White: The Rise and Fall of Bobby Fischer
From chess wunderkind to national hero to… public enemy number one. The life of Bobby Fischer makes many unexpected “moves.” Born in Brooklyn and raised by a single mother, Bobby was a loner and dropped out of school, but found a calling in chess. At age 13 he played what many consider “the game of the century,” a year later he became the youngest ever U.S. Chess Champion, and at age 15 the game’s youngest grandmaster. There is a long list of his chess achievements, culminating with his 1972 win of the World Chess Championships against Boris Spassky at the height of the Cold War. Never before had chess received such international attention. Fischer, whose sole focus in life was until then chess, reached the Chess Olympus at the age of 29 and then disappeared. Suffering from mental illnesses, the chess genius became increasingly paranoid, lost in antisemitic conspiracy theories (despite the fact that he was Jewish himself), and died as a fugitive in Iceland.
In Black and White: The Rise and Fall of Bobby Fischer, Julian Voloj (along with artist/illustrator Wagner Willian) takes on an American icon: the chess genius and the greatest American chess player in history, Robert Fischer. His 1972 World Championship win against Boris Spassky is arguably the most famous chess game in history, but also the tragic turning point in Fischer’s life.
The graphic novel tells the backstory that led to Fischer’s victory, his unprecedented rise to become an American cultural icon, but also his unexpected and unprecedented fall. The life of Fischer is a fascinating tale about determination and fame, but also about isolation and paranoia. To visually represent this complexity, each chapter is dedicated to one of the pieces in the chess game, challenging the reader to imagine alternative outcomes of the narrative. From genius to madman, this graphic novel does show Bobby Fischer is all his complexities.