24 December 2012

The Anonymous Genius

In 1972 the greatest chess player the world had ever seen went missing. Bobby Fischer had come on the field like news from another world: Thirteen years old and he took the U.S. junior championship, fourteen and the professional title was his, and on he went, like some mischievous sprite sprung from mythic fable, until he sat across the table and stared down the board at the Russian world champion, Boris Spassky during the height of the cold war.

After that match, one chess master called Fischer’s victory, “the story of a lonely hero who overcomes an entire empire.” The unthinkable had occurred: a twenty-something youth from the city of Chicago had slain the Great Bear and won the world title.

And then, with as little warning as when he first appeared, Bobby Fischer vanished. Every once in a while he would materialize: once in 1977 to defeat MIT’s chess computer, and once again some fifteen years later in a rematch against the former Russian champion. 

There were rumors of him living in Budapest, reports of his appearance in the Philippines, Japan, and Iceland, but for all intents and purposes, the greatest chessman the world had ever seen had folded his hands over his chest––and POOF!––disappeared, like a magician from a stage.

Then one day, on some online chess site, an anonymous player showed up whom no one had seen before. And once again, as if in repeat of Fischer’s first rise so many years before, that anonymous player began dispatching his opponents one after the other, grandmasters themselves, including Nigel Short, who was then considered one of the world’s greatest practitioners of speed chess.

“I am 99 percent sure that I have been playing against the chess legend,” said Short to reporters. “It’s tremendously exciting.”

At first, this anonymous player might have been dismissed as a novice or nut, because he was opening his matches with these reckless moves that seemed to go against centuries of received chess wisdom. The only problem... was that he was winning. 


Because to each and every game, Bobby Fischer carried a secret weapon: a deeper understanding of chess than the conventional wisdom was based on.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been following the career of a very different hero through the Gospel of Luke. But like Bobby Fischer, Jesus came on the scene of his day, literally like news from another world––an anonymous young man come to overthrow an entire empire by acting according to a deeper understanding than the conventional wisdom was based on.


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