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Bobby Fischer

Harry Benson's photos – taken at the height of Fischer's powers – break down more of his barriers than anything written about him to date.

Bobby Fischer, by Harry Benson, powerHouse Books, 144 pp.

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By Leonard Cassuto, for The Barnes & Noble Review

As a public figure, the notorious anti-Semite Bobby Fischer has a lot in common with Sandy Koufax, one of the most famous Jews ever to play professional sports. Both Fischer and Koufax walked away from their games at the peak of their powers and left millions of onlookers aglow with memories of their skill and artistry. Koufax retired as a Cy Young Award-winner and strikeout king. Fischer won the World Chess Championship in 1972 and then forfeited his title rather than defend it.

Fischer, of course, had a repulsive second act in which he returned to tarnish these memories. His public hatreds of Jews and the United States of America brought him occasional notice in the years leading up to his death in 2008 – and also after it, when he was briefly exhumed for a posthumous DNA test.

Now photographer Harry Benson has published Bobby Fischer, a collection of pictures taken of Fischer during the earlier, happier time of his ascent. They remind us of how Fischer’s charisma made him America’s first and only chess celebrity.

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