Regina had taken her daughter, Joan, and escaped Europe shortly before the start of World War 2. Even though she had been born in Switzerland, Regina was from a Polish background and of Jewish descent; she knew that the Nazis would come looking for her and her daughter, so they fled to the United States. There, in 1943, she had a son, Robert. Now, we don’t know for sure who Robert’s dad was, but Regina had been married to Joan’s father. Some speculate that Robert’s dad was a noted Hungarian mathematician and physicist.
Regina was incredibly gifted. She spoke several languages and could do pretty much any profession she tried–and she tried several. Changing jobs as often as she did, she and her little family moved quite often. She sometimes found herself between houses and had to crash with the kids on the floors of friends and acquaintances. By 1949, Regina had moved the family to Brooklyn, New York, and she started work on a masters degree in nursing. It was a career she would pursue for most of the rest of her life. She eventually became a phyician.
She also spent a great amount of time going to the meetings of communist sympathizers. That wasn’t a great time to be pro-Soviet in the United States. The (possibly justified) paranoia that swept the nation during the early years of the Cold War led government agencies like the FBI to investigate people like Regina for her communist tendencies. She worried about the effect such investigations would have on Joan and Robert and shared her concerns for their welfare with them. Don’t talk to strangers, she said. Be aware that people might be watching you at school or at play, she told them.
To take their minds off their mother’s drama(s), Joan brought board games home for Robert to play with her. Joan seemed to lose interest in the games after a time, but Robert, being shy and somewhat nerdy even as a young child, kept playing the games even by himself. Soon, and we aren’t sure how much of this had to do with the worry caused by his mother, Robert rarely left the Brooklyn apartment at all.
The two kids had been in and out of so many schools over the years that their education proved to be terribly uneven despite the fact that they were both bright young people–smart like their mother. Meanwhile, Robert began teaching himself foreign languages so he could read more about board games from the periodicals printed overseas. He began to participate in board game tournaments, winning almost every time he entered them. He dropped out of school and withdrew into the games he loved so much.
Regina, satisfied that her children were old enough to take care of themselves, simply…left. She had become obsessed with nursing in the same way her son had become obsessed with games, and she decided to leave home to pursue her passion. Joan had already left home, so that meant Robert lived in the Brooklyn apartment by himself beginning at age 16. About her children, Regina was reported to have said that they were probably happier that she was not in their lives.
Joan became a famous teacher, an early proponent of computer literacy and worked with Stanford University in California. She also pioneered a peer tutoring and mentoring program that allowed current upper level students to train the incoming classes. This technique proved to be one of the most successful in California history in helping younger students reach proficiency in their research fields faster and better than ever.
And what happened to her little brother, this 16 year old game player, abandoned by an obsessive, driven mother?
Well, you know exactly what happened to Bobby Fischer.