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SJU prof remembers chess genius Fischer

Frank Brady, whose book "Profile of a Prodigy" was published while Fischer was still a rising star in the American chess world but not yet the international champion he would become, last spoke about Fischer just a month ago, calling him "the pride and the sorrow of chess."In life, Brooklyn native Fischer inspired with his phenomenal chess talent and was equally off-putting with his arrogance and rudeness, said Brady, chairman of the Communications Department at St. John's."In terms of chess, if you sat in his presence when he was at a board, it was almost like watching Mozart compose a score, just such a joy to behold," Brady said. The two knew each other from the chess world, meeting for the first time when Fischer was 10 at a tournament on Manhattan's Upper West Side and frequently crossing paths, thanks to Brady's position as editor of Chess Life magazine and executive director of the United States Chess Federation."He could be a charming, certainly acceptable companion. He knew kings and rulers - when he went to Cuba he met with Fidel Castro, in Monaco he met Prince Rainier. He knew about politics and events and could talk about them," Brady said. "But he could be rude, arrogant, domineering, like a bull in a china shop, bowling over people."Fischer was outspokenly anti-Semitic and anti-American, traits Brady said dated back to his early days in chess. "Some people, if they're hurt, they jump to conclusions," Brady said. "He had some bad experiences with Jewish chess players, and even though he was Jewish, he grew to hate Jews. The U.S. sanctions on him playing in Montenegro [in 1992] made him hate America."Fischer was very reserved about his personal life, and media coverage early in his career wounded him. A 1960 Harper's magazine article "made him look like baboon in terms of his appearance, his habits, and it almost made him swear off the media," Brady said. Even in death, Fischer was controversial, he said. In Iceland, some wanted Fischer to be buried in a prestigious cemetery, others opposed it. There were some in Brooklyn who sought to have Fischer buried in his native borough, but he had already been laid to rest near Reykjavik, Brady said.Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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