The chess prodigy who came to symbolize Cold War tensions, then devolved into obscurity and paranoia is shown here in his golden era. Harry Benson, a British expat, accomplished a feat worthy of Fischer himself: gaining access to the notoriously barbed and private grandmaster. From Buenos Aires to Reykjavik, Iceland (site of the history-making 1972 World Chess Championship), Fischer is depicted as brooding but childlike, prone to solitary rituals that reinforced his singular focus on chess and, simultaneously, lent a photogenic mystique to his elusive public image. Swathed in towels after swimming, rubbing noses with wild horses, sprawled on park benches, Fischer bares all for history's aggressive data scrubbing, in which his myopic genius is merely the Petri dish that harbors the cells of his virulent mania. Fuck chess: The world loathes a loner. Here, though, the Fischer photos keep company with a greatest-hits assortment of Benson's celebrity portraiture, as the artist slipped Zelig-like into the front row for every major U.S. event in the latter half of the twentieth century. From the Beatles to Martin Luther King Jr. to Michael Jackson and Bill Clinton, a strange tableau emerges. Every icon, every iconic moment, requires a tag-along shutterbug. In that sense Fischer fits in here just fine: Like a chessboard awaiting White's first move, his face could tell as many stories as we care to project. Through August 12 at the World Chess Hall of Fame, 4652 Maryland Avenue; 314-367-9243 or www.worldchesshof.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed. and Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thu.-Fri. and noon-5 p.m. Sun.
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