I am not asking about the 1975 "resignation" to Karpov, but for which reasons did Bobby Fischer gradually lose interest in competitive chess after becoming World Champion? Jews or not Jews, he did not play a single tournament or match game until the 1992 so-called "re-match".

6 Answers 6


There is no real definite answer for this question. Many people have floated different theories, most of which borrow bits and pieces from each other. It is quite possible that his mental struggles just got the best of him or that he lost interest after attaining the summit of the game. Psychologically, it must have been hard to cope when you get the thing you've been working for most of your life. In My Great Predecessors, Volume IV, Garry Kasparov offers a few reasons, arguing that Fischer probably would have lost to Karpov and probably knew it (that point is debatable).

Regardless, Fischer forfeiting the title was not without precedent in his career. He dropped out or quit major competitions or chess itself on more than one occasion. In fact, despite his spell of dominance in the candidate's and title match, his career had almost always been erratic. The reasons for this are debatable as well--I've seen people argue that it was mental illness, strategy, or just intimidation--but the answer is probably a mix of reasons.

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    Did anyone also consider that after the match he found himself with a relatively big amount of money, at least for those times, after struggling all his youth to live a decent life as a chess professional? I think that this factor is rarely mentioned nowadays. It might be more important that it seems, I think Dec 24, 2016 at 14:01
  • That definitely seems like it could be a contributing factor although a) he might have been doing ok for a while with sponsorship, b) the elements that lead to his break were already in place.
    – rougon
    Dec 24, 2016 at 17:13
  • why no mention of fischer random/fischerandom/fischerrandom/chess960/chess959?
    – BCLC
    Apr 10, 2021 at 17:41
  • @BCLC I am not aware of him actually competing in chess960 tournaments or matches, so while he did release some rules, he wasn't actively playing chess after the match. Also, the question was really about the time period between the two Spassky matches.
    – rougon
    Apr 10, 2021 at 17:46
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    @BCLC It didn't think it was particularly relevant to the question, which is about his interest in competitive chess.
    – rougon
    Apr 10, 2021 at 18:28

He had mental problems. But he is still one of the greatest chess players of all time.

Joseph Ponterotto has even written a book about Fischer's mental problems - A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer

Ponterotto believes the evidence is strongest for paranoid personality disorder, a psychiatric condition characterized by unrelenting paranoia and suspicion of others, but is not schizophrenia.

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    Not quite sure why somebody gave you a down vote because you are absolutely right. Fischer had serious mental problems. Even after smashing up some of the other candidates 6-0 he only played the world championship match because the British businessman Jim Slater gave $50,000 to make up the prize money to an acceptable level for Fischer. After Fischer's disgusting behaviour the Soviets would have been well within their rights to claim the match by default but they (and Spassky) very much wanted the match to go ahead and made concessions.
    – Brian Towers
    Feb 5, 2016 at 19:56
  • Some elaboration on what kind of mental problems (and maybe some references) would greatly improve this answer.
    – 11684
    Feb 6, 2016 at 0:06
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    same as morphy... mental illness paranoia . wikipedia mental state. Also dr .Joseph Ponterotto had a very good article about bobby legacy.fordham.edu/campus_resources/enewsroom/inside_fordham/… Feb 6, 2016 at 1:59
  • Asperger's syndrome is frequently mentioned in regard to Fischer nowadays. Of course these are, and will remain, speculations. Feb 6, 2016 at 7:40
  • why no mention of fischer random/fischerandom/fischerrandom/chess960/chess959?
    – BCLC
    Apr 10, 2021 at 17:41

Fischer declared in several media channels that his goal, all of his life, had been to become World Chess Champion. Once he had accomplished that, he concluded that playing chess competitively was no longer a challenge, and that if he did not have something significant to gain, there was no longer any reason for him to play.


I think he also may have just lost interest in chess. He did invent fisherRandom chess later after his resignation to karpov, saying that normal chess had become really bland for him. This and his mental issues combined led to him quitting. I think it's a shame.

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    I don't know if he lost interest in chess but it's a fact that he did not play any rated game after the match. Fischer Random is a product of the 1990s, I am talking about the mid-1970s Fischer. Feb 6, 2016 at 7:43
  • good answer of trailrunnersquared and also good response from @A.N.Other i have a response of my own: see this interview: Interviewer : Did you gradually started to hate chess or it becomes suddenly Bobby : Did I gradually ?? I think it came gradually but then at certain point I was hating it but I didn't know it because I was still trying to make it work. chess.com and...
    – BCLC
    Apr 10, 2021 at 17:45
  • ... Old RJF on chess. Why Fischer hated chess. Who's the best ever - not sure if here specifically but in the complete interview on this flight, fischer says the gradual thing. even if chess960/959 was born in the 90s, it was conceived latest 70s
    – BCLC
    Apr 10, 2021 at 17:47

You have to understand the time. There was a cold war going on and chess was very important to the Soviets who saw chess as proof that their far-left system of government was better. The Soviets would spare no expense to win at chess and used innumerable armies of analysts to analyze every single move Fischer made from the time he was 15.

Fischer was smart enough to realize this and realized he was facing a Kobayashi Maru of sorts. (ie an unwinnable game). There is no way one man can out-analyze an entire country full of thousands of players analyzing his games.

So, Fischer realized the only solution was to take a break so he could analyze his own lines without other's doing the same. That's what he did and he came back the strongest player in history.

So, after beating Spassky Fischer was faced with a choice. He could play Karpov, who he was undoubtedly better than, and eventually lose the title when the soviet analysts caught up with him.

Or, he could retain the title and ensure that that the Soviets never won the "real" title by beating the proven best player in the world.

The part B of that was that Soviet champions would often dictate unfavorable conditions to challengers. By Fischer standing firm to his conditions, he created an environment where he demonstrated their hypocrisy which paved the way for future non-soviets.

Bottom line, Fischer was playing two chess games. One at the board and the other metaphorical geopolitical chess game. By not playing, he won both. Few people may realize the subtlety of his genius and that is what makes him the GOAT.


Fischer was immature and had mental problems as well as difficulty relating to people in normal ways.

He was extremely arrogant and thought he could dictate what he thought was proper for WC prizes and terms of match conditions. When they refused to meet his terms and conditions he just quit.

In some ways he was brilliant but in others his EQ was very very low.

  • why no mention of fischer random/fischerandom/fischerrandom/chess960/chess959?
    – BCLC
    Apr 10, 2021 at 17:42

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