Friday, May 26, 2017

Bobby Fischer – Genius and Mental Illness Explained

Regina and Hans-Gerhardt Fischer in Russia
By the way, another great night of casual chess at LCCC on 052217. We welcome another new member to LCCC. Great to have you here, Tony.

Bobby Fischer's mental instability was due to both genetic traits and family dynamics.

Bobby Fischer’s Jewish mother, Regina Fischer spoke at least six languages (English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese) fluently and was brilliant……but a paranoid schizophrenic. She had studied medicine in Moscow during the Stalin era, and was very outspoken on political/social issues in the United States. She was always under the watch of the FBI, so some of her paranoia was warranted. The FBI was concerned that she could be a Russian spy.

Her German and Jewish husband, Hans-Gerhardt Fischer, was a devout communist and was denied entry into the US, eventually settled in  Santiago, Chile. That is when her relationship with a Jewish Hungarian scientist, mathematician and suspected communist, Paul F. Nemenyi, began, and that probably did not help her situation either. Nemenyi was Bobby Fischer's real father, and who was not listed on the birth certificate. Hans-Gerhardt Fischer was.

1942 found Regina Fischer in Denver, Colorado which was only just a stopping place for a restless woman who couldn't settle on a permanent home. She was taking classes at the University of Denver and working at a company that made chicken incubators. At 29, Regina had already lived in eight other cities and four other countries. This was her ninth job and her sixth university.  She was the mother of 5-year-old girl Joan and she was alone.

Bobby Fischer (left) and Paul Nemenyi
This is when Paul Nemenyi appeared.  Nemenyi was 47, a Hungarian refugee and a theoretical engineer teaching at a nearby college. He made $165 a month, was an animal-rights supporter and refused to wear wool.  He walked around in winter with his pajamas sticking out from underneath his clothes.

Still, he had a compelling mind. "He was smart, very, very smart," recalls Charlotte Truesdell, who worked at a research laboratory with Nemenyi in the '40s. "He had a strange kind of memory. He remembered things by their shapes."

Regina was the daughter of a Polish dress cutter who had moved to the United States with his family while she was a baby and she returned to Europe as a young adult and studied medicine.  She lived in Berlin in the early '30s when Hitler was coming to power. It was there that she met Fischer, with whom she moved to Moscow, where they lived for several years under Stalin.

In Colorado in 1942, Regina and Nemenyi were drawn together by their political beliefs. Nemenyi had told colleagues he preferred communism to capitalism and the FBI suspected Regina of communist sympathies.  Regina never revealed what happened between them but it seems clear that in the summer of '42 a romance took place because the next year, Bobby was born.

There is an account of the affair in the FBI file.   Their investigation began in 1942 when a baby-sitter found what she believed to be pro-communist letters belonging to Regina and turned them over to the FBI. Nemenyi told one FBI informant, a social worker, that he met Regina at the University of Denver. But whatever follows his account in the FBI file is censored by the FBI.  In the narrative after that point Bobby is in the picture. The file says, "He (Nemenyi) advised he helped support the boy."

By the time of Bobby's birth Regina had moved to Chicago and Nemenyi was teaching in Rhode Island. She gave birth to Bobby in a clinic for poor single mothers. And on the birth certificate she listed Fischer as the father. She briefly considered putting Bobby up for adoption but after talking to a social worker (who later described the conversation to the FBI) she broke down and cried and was unable to go through with it.

She then moved into a Chicago home for fatherless families where she ended up leading a rebellion among the other mothers, encouraging them to question the institution's rules. The home called the police who arrested Regina and charged her with disturbing the peace. She was acquitted. 
Regina divorced Fischer in 1948 and moved to Brooklyn, New York where she worked as an elementary school teacher and nurse at Prospect Heights Hospital in Brooklyn.

Paul Nemenyi took a special interest in Bobby. Many times he visited, paid their rent and sent money to Regina when he could. He even paid for the tuition for Bobby to attend Brooklyn Community College. Paul visited often enough for Bobby to become attached to him.

When Nemenyi died, another son of Nemenyi - Peter, was contacted by Regina to see if any money had been left to Bobby. When the answer was no, she would contact Peter from time to time claiming to have no money to take the sick Bobby to the doctor, or that she had no money for shoes for the boy. She also mentioned that she had not told Bobby about Paul’s death and that the boy was wondering why he was not visiting any longer.

Bobby’s only public statement about his father appeared in Start, a Zagreb newspaper where he said, “My father left my mother when I was two.  I have never seen him.  My mother has only told me that his name is Gerhardt and that he was of German descent.”  However, later Bobby told a friend that he and his sister, Joan, did not have the same father.  Joan Fischer Targ always insisted that her father’s name was Hans-Gerhardt Fischer.  Hans Fischer died on February 25, 1993 in Berlin.

Regina (Wender) Fisher was born on march 31, 1913 in Zurich, Switzerland and died of cancer on July 27, 1997 at the age of 84 in the Stanford University Hospital.

Source: Tartajubow blog and Chess Life, March 2004

1 comment:

  1. Interesting read I'd say. And you have done quite a lot of research in diggin up the information. Nice work you have done.