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I-Reporters remember passionate, controversial Bobby Fischer

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(CNN) -- On Friday, January 18, 2008, chess master Bobby Fischer died at age 64, the same number, reader Susan Polgar points out, as the number of squares on a chessboard.


Susan Polgar played chess and developed a friendship with Bobby Fisher from 1992 to 1994 in Hungary.

No cause of death was given for Fischer, the eccentric genius who was renowned for his Cold War defeat of Russian chess champ Boris Spassky in 1972; his two-decade retreat from chess; and his trip to Yugoslavia in 1992, in defiance of U.S. sanctions, for a rematch with Spassky. After Fischer beat Spassky again, winning $3.5 million, he vanished from the scene once more. He spent his later life denouncing the U.S. and moved to Iceland, where he died. asked readers to share their memories of Fischer and his sometimes triumphant, often turbulent life. Below are a collection of their responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.

Frank Taylor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Bobby Fischer was simply the best! His aura was the main reason I took up chess, and the more I understood about chess, the more I came to appreciate his sheer genius. Like many others, I did have a problem with his anti-America, anti-Semitic outbursts and views, but his chess playing was pure magic. I'd always hoped and dreamed he would make a final appearance and play Garry Kasparov. What a match that would have been. What a loss of talent.

Gregory Campbell of Lewisville, Texas
When I returned home from Vietnam, the game between Bobby Fischer and Spassky had just started. I did not play the game that well, but watching Bobby play was a welcome home for me. He inspired me to learn more about the game, and in so doing, I was able to recover from the war. I will always remember that game and what Bobby has done for me through the game of chess.

Susan Polgar of Lubbock, Texas
In spite of his obvious flaws, he will be remembered as "The King of Chess," a genius on the board and the man who broke through the Iron Curtain. I mostly admired him as a chess player and what he did for chess. He put chess on the map in the U.S. and changed the economic opportunities for chess players. If it weren't for him, demanding reparation and prizes in the '60s and '70s, players wouldn't be making the money they are today.

He was fanatic about chess; he was working on chess most of his life, even years and years after he retired. His dedication, passion and love for the game, it was his life. It was his profession. It was how he expressed himself. It's symbolic that he died at age 64, for the 64 squares of the chessboard.

Tom Brabant Jr. of Lexington, Kentucky
Bobby Fischer was a childhood hero of mine. His match with Spassky resounds in my memory like the Apollo moon missions, and he inspired me to learn chess. His book on the subject [Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess] was a focused treatment of winning chess games (using back-rank mates). It was also a wonderful example of "programmed instruction." While I mourn his death, I teach college and would like to believe that a little bit of Bobby lives on in my classroom.

Daryl Bertrand of Ottawa, Ontario
As a chess player, I've always been astounded by the mysterious power of Bobby Fischer's play. As a chess teacher, I've always tried to instill his courage and determination in my students. Surely this is the darkest day in the history of chess.

Philip Skipper of Lake Charles, Louisiana
When I was a young boy, Bobby Fischer was no less than a hero for me. I am now 51 years old, and I still have the yellowed newspaper clippings of his famous match with Boris Spassky in my desk.

Unfortunately, Bobby obviously suffered from mental illness that progressed as the years passed by and eventually destroyed him. His remarks (ravings) of support for the 9/11 attackers upon the United States will certainly be as much of a legacy as being the American Cold War hero, and first American world chess champion three decades earlier. Bobby Fischer was a genius, a hero, a villain and a very sick man. It's a shame that no one could reach him many years ago and save him from himself.

Judy Winters of Port Charlotte, Florida
Bobby Fischer was my first boyfriend. Starting about 1955, I would go to the Manhattan chess club with my father. My father would play, and I would drink soda. I saw Bobby a few times there, and we would talk a little. (We were both the same age and very shy.) I fell in love with him at a tournament at Asbury Park, in New Jersey. We went to the boardwalk together, went on rides and played games of chance. His mother was real mad at him when we got back because he was almost late for his game.

I think it was Memorial Day or Labor Day, Maybe 1955 or 1958. The Asbury Park newspaper had a picture of me watching one of his games. I wish I could get a copy of that picture. We wrote back and forth for a while, and then I got too cool for chess and he got famous. One time, a Jewish friend of mine said I couldn't marry him because he was Jewish and I wasn't. I wish I could have seen her when he converted.

I love remembering him in such an innocent time. He was just a person, like you and me, with a wonderful gift (and he was very cute). If anyone can get that picture from the Asbury Park newspaper, please let me know. I think it was on the front page, because we were only about 13 or 15, and he won.

Gerry Christmas of Carrboro, North Carolina
What happened to Robert J. "Bobby" Fischer was tragic, Shakespearean in scope. Raised in a New York apartment by a single mother, he rose to take on and vanquish single-handedly the Russian chess behemoth. At age 13, Fischer defeated Donald Byrne in a game now dubbed "The Game of the Century." Fischer deserved honor, respect and glory for his great chess achievements, not ridicule, exile and shame.

Carlos Calderon of New York, New York
That has to be the greatest loss for all chess players. ... I learned to play the game when he played B. Spassky, and I've been playing the game since then. I've been playing chess all this time, and it's all about fun, and Fischer has been my inspiration. Just a week ago, as I was trying to inspire some kids from a school to learn to play chess, I mentioned to them that Fischer was the greatest American chess player. They were fascinated with the story, and it will be really hard to tell them that Fischer has died. It's a sad day. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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