John Healy is the subject of the documentary Barbaric Genius. Mr. Healy lived either in jail or on the streets as a wino, up to about age 30. In prison he met a man who taught him chess. He decided he wanted to devote himself to chess, and gave up drink. He became a championship chess player, though I don’t think he earned a Grand Master ranking. He then wrote his memoirs, The Grass Arena, which won a prestigious prize for literary autobiography in England in the late 1980’s. He had a falling-out with his publisher and all but 500 copies of the book were destroyed by the petty man who was running the firm. To deal with the stress of chess, John took up yoga. After the viewer has spent 55 minutes learning all these remarkable things about him, one of the most striking images in the film is of the 70 year old Mr. Healy doing the splits in a yoga position.
For a real review of the documentary Barbaric Genius go over to Roger Ebert’s site. There is also an interview with both the director and the subject.
I recommend the film, available to rent from iTunes and coming to Netflix in August.