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Bobby Fischer dies in Iceland

1/18/2008 – One of the world's greatest chess geniuses, Bobby Fischer, has died at the age of 64. A spokesman for Fischer said the former world chess champion passed away in a Reykjavik hospital yesterday. The US-born former world chess champion, who became famous around the world for beating the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky in 1972, had been seriously ill for some time. Rest in Peace, Bobby.
 

Bobby Fischer, 1943–2008

Robert James Fischer, the reclusive eleventh World Chess Champion, has died at the age of 64 in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he had been living for the last three years. Fischer moved to Iceland after spending nine months in Japanese detention while the US sought his extradition for tax evasion. He was released when Iceland, where in 1972 he had defeated the tenth World Champion Boris Spassky, granted him citizenship and afforded him refuge in the Nordic state. Fischer settled in Reykjavik in April 2005, disappearing once again from the limelight that his arrest and release in Japan had cast on him. He had just two or three trusted friends whom he occasionally visited, a few shops and the library, where he could occasionally be seen, and some restaurants where he ate. Fischer generally refused to talk to journalists or entrepreneurs who approached him in droves with projects and business proposals.

After a few relatively peaceful years Fischer, who was born on March 9, 1943, took ill a few months ago and was admitted to hospital. His friend Einar S. Einarsson informed the international media that in Iceland sickness is catagorized as private matter, and being sick is not a subject of media reports. The Icelandic press honored this ground rule and many news services – including ours – followed suit. We knew that he was suffering from kidney failure and that there was little hope for long-term survival. Still news of his death, which caught us during our car journey from Hamburg to Wijk aan Zee, came as a shock.

Round six of the Corus Chess Tournament in Wijk started with a minute's silence in remembrance of Fischer. After the games had started attention was concentrated on the Honorary Group, which is due to start playing their tournament on Saturday. After a short opening ceremony, all four grandmasters gave first reactions to the news of Fischer's passing:

  • Viktor Kortchnoi: "A chess genius has died; a loss for humanity."

  • Lajos Portisch: "A big shock; the best chess player in history has passed away."

  • Ljubomir Ljubojevic: "A man without frontiers. He didn't divide the East and the West, he brought them together in their admiration for him."

  • Jan Timman: "A great player and a great example for many. His book My 60 Memorable Games had a big impact on me. It is a shame he didn't continue to enrich the world of chess with his unparalleled understanding after 1972."

News reports on Fischer's death


Remembering Bobby Fischer

The wire services and chess blogs are racing to summarize Fischer's life and importance, and in the next days and weeks we will see comprehensive coverage of all aspects of his career. Instead of adding another eulogy to this flood we have chosen to remember the final phase of Bobby's life, when he settled down in Iceland after being released from Japanese detention. We do this with a picture gallery from April 2005.


Bobby Fischer, after nine months in Japanese detention, and after two weeks in Iceland


Fischer with his old buddy Saemi Palsson after his 24-hour journey from Japan


Feeling better, a few days later after a much-needed trimming of hair and beard


A dinner reception arranged for the new Icelandic citizen


With candlelight, friends and helpers


In animated discussion with friends


Bobby with Icelandic psychologist M. Skulason


With his fiancée Miyoko Watai, who returned to Japan some days ago


At a welcome dinner with Miyoko and Einar Einarsson


A blissfully happy Miyoko with tireless Einar of the RJF Committee


Saemi 'n Bob – virtually inseparably


Fischer officially gets his brief of Icelandic citizenship


ChessBase articles on Fischer's detention and release

Bobby Fischer: latest news and pictures
04.04.2005 It's more than a week since Bobby Fischer arrived in Reykjavik, and news of his new life in the Nordic country has been steadily reaching us. For instance that Iceland will never deport him. Or of a 60 Minutes program that is in preparation. We bring you a collection of new Fischer photos, articles, declarations, even editorial cartoons.

Easter editorializing on Fischer's escape
29.03.2005 Thursday night Bobby Fischer arrived in Iceland, looking haggard after a detention of almost nine months in Japan. Over the Easter weekend journalists all over the world have sat down to write down their own personal views on the case. From the hundreds of articles that have appeared in the world press, here are a few of the more striking ones.
Tumultuous welcome for Fischer in Iceland
25.03.2005 They are scenes like we have never seen before, certainly not in the chess world. Bobby Fischer arrived in Iceland to a hero's welcome from a midnight crowd at Reykjavik Airport. Looking harrowed and gaunt after almost nine months in Japanese detention he took time to speak to TV journalists. We have dramatic live footage from Icelandic TV.
11:30 GMT: Fischer arrives in Iceland
3/24/2005 Bobby Fischer is on a plane en route to Iceland, where he is due to arrive later tonight. During his departure from Narita Airport in Tokyo he was mobbed by press and TV. At 11:05 p.m. Fischer's plane, a private jet sent to pick him up by an Icelandic TV station, landed at Reykjavik Airport (not Keflavik International, which is a NATO base) at 21:30 GMT. Latest news...
Fischer released in Japan
23.03.2005 Bobby Fischer is due to be released from the Japanese detention center at midnight GMT. "The passed Fischer pawn has been shepherded home to the eighth rank," wrote the RJF Committee. "It can now be promoted into a piece, with complete freedom of movement." Update: we have just learnt that Bobby Fischer has been released!

Bobby Fischer: ich bin ein Icelander!
21.03.2005 At 5:06 p.m. today the Icelandic Althingi, has granted former world chess champion Bobby Fischer full Icelandic citizenship. Despite stern U.S. diplomatic warnings, the world's oldest existing democratic parliament voted 40 in favour and two abstentions to make Fischer a full citizen. The readings took just 12 minutes.

Fischer to receive Icelandic citizenship
19.03.2005 "Iceland has just got its tenth grandmaster – Robert James Fischer," rejoiced the RJF Committee. The country's parliament decided unanimously a few hours ago to grant Fischer Icelandic citizenship. Japanese authorities have confirmed that in such a case they would release the detained former world champion. Long read.

Playing the Al Capone Gambit against Fischer
15.03.2005 It's a strategy that worked well on leading mob figures: if you can't get them, let the IRS do the job. Former world champions Fischer was initially detained in Japan because of invalid travel document, then we were told it was for breaking sanctions in 1992. Now it looks like the US government will use tax evasion and money laundering to bring him down. Reports and video.

Bobby Fischer: five days in solitary confinement
08.03.2005 We had just reported about Fischer's new passport, which an Icelandic delegation had carried to Japan. A minor mystery was why it had not been handed over to him last Wednesday, as planned. Now we learn that Japanese authorities had put the former world champion into solitary confinement. For five days. Over a hard-boiled egg. We are not joking.

Fischer's passport – to freedom?
08.03.2005 March 9th is Bobby Fischer's 62nd birthday. By chance a very special gift has arrived in Japan for the former world champion: an Icelandic passport with which he may be able to travel to freedom after more than six months in a Japanese detention facility. We have exclusive pictures of the new passport.

Fischer receives an Icelandic passport
2/23/2005 Immigration authorities in Iceland have decided to issue full travel documents for former world champion Bobby Fischer, who is being held in Japanese detention for not possessing a valid passport. Fischer's new passport will be sent to Japan by diplomatic mail, and a delegation is traveling there to escort him to Iceland.
Fischer's lawyer Masako Suzuki speaks out
02.02.2005 Is Japan buckling under pressure by the US? Bobby Fischer, 61, former World Champion of Chess who has been jailed in Japan for six months now, is applying for Icelandic citizenship. But Tokyo seems to be balking at a constructive solution entailing his release to Iceland. Fischer's lawyer Masako Suzuki has given us an exclusive interview.

Bobby Fischer applies for Icelandic Citizenship
25.01.2005 After the Japanese authorities last week refused Fischer's request to be extradited to Iceland the chess legend, who is being held in a Japanese detention facility, has today written to the President of the Icelandic Althingi (picture), applying for Icelandic citizenship. A special law would have to be passed to grant Fischer's request.

Bobby Fischer – immigration plans on ice
22.01.2005 His supporters filed a petition that Fischer might be released from detention in a Tokyo jail and allowed to travel to Iceland, where he has been granted refuge. But Japanese Justice Ministry lawyers said they were not prepared to change Fischer's deportation destination to Iceland, and that he would have to remain in detention. A harsh blow for the chess legend.

Bobby Fischer – six months in jail
1/17/2005 On July 13, 2004 he was arrested at Narita Airport in Tokyo, for attempting to leave the country on an invalidated. Since then the greatest hero of Western chess has been languishing in a Japanese detention facility, now physically exhausted and suffering from dizzy spells. His Icelandic friends, who are offering him refuge, have launched another appeal to the authorities.

US threatens Iceland, Fischer Committee appeals
22.12.2004 Iceland is under US pressure to drop plans to offer a home to fugitive former chess champion Bobby Fischer, the Reuters news agency tells us. But the Icelandic government has stated that its offer "will not be withdrawn despite pressure from the United States." How do we know that? Among other things we read it in Aljazeera, would you believe? Here's the latest on this international confrontation.

RJF Committee mobilizes pro-Fischer forces
18.12.2004 While Bobby Fischer remains incarcerated in a Japanese prison a special committee in Iceland is moving to get him free and find him a home on the North-Atlantic island country. Iceland's foreign minister and a prominent political scientist have spoken out. Here's a report on Fischer's Iceland Connection...
Fischer to get refuge in Iceland?
12/16/2004 The news today on Bobby Fischer, who is currently being held in a Japanese detention facilities pending extradition to the US, is that the Icelandic government has offered to grant him a residence permit. In a telephone interview Fischer speaks about his plight in Japan and reacts to statements by Garry Kasparov on Fischer Random Chess. Full details...
Returning to the 'scene of the crime'
30.11.2004 Twelve years ago Boris Spassky played a match against Bobby Fischer in Yugoslavia. That got Fischer into a lot of trouble, while for Spassky, a French citizen, there were no repercussions. Now the tenth world champion returned to Belgrade to open the Belgrade Chess Trophy. Quick interview...
Fischer to Bush and Koizumi: 'You are going to pay for this!'
18.10.2004 Bobby Fischer, still in detention in Japan, has spoken out again in an interview, this time threatening the Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi and US President Bush: "You are going to pay for this, and you are going to pay for your crimes in Iraq too." His new lawyer, Richard J. Vattuone, plans to release documents to prove US government involvement in a plot against Fischer.
'We want to live together forever'
01.09.2004 She collected pictures of her chess hero after his match with Boris Spassky in 1972. One year later they met in Tokyo – the start of a romance spanning decades. Since four years the two have lived together in downtown Kamata in Tokyo's Ota Ward. In an exclusive interview for ChessBase Miyoko Watai tells us the story of her life with Bobby Fischer.
Listen to Bobby Fischer
26.08.2004 In emotional phone calls from his detention cell in Tokyo ex world champion Bobby Fischer gave a Philippine radio station two lengthy interviews. Fischer is facing deportation and incarceration in the US, and voices his nightmare fears: "I will be tried, convicted, sentenced, imprisoned, tortured and murdered." We have summary transcripts and audio files.
Dramatic moments around Fischer's deportation
25.08.2004 First the Japanese Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa issued a deportation order against former world champion Bobby Fischer's, then Fischer's lawyers filed a lightning appeal on the grounds that physical deportation would be a flagrant violation of Fischer's right to full legal recourse and protection under Japanese law. Here's the full story by Fischer's legal coordinator.
'Bobby Fischer and I have decided to marry'
17.08.2004 Bobby Fischer, the former world chess champion, plans to marry the president of the Japan Chess Association (and four-time Japanese women's champion) Miyoko Watai. This was reported in newspapers and wire services last night. Now Watai-san has sent us a statement explaining the background of her personal relationship with Fischer.
Fischer renounces US citizenship
15.08.2004 Bobby Fischer has been moved to a new detention facility in Tokyo, pending a decision on his deportation to the US, where he faces a 10-year jail sentence. A lot of new material has surfaced, including Fischer's handwritten renouncement of his US citizenship and a blow-by-blow description and picture of his arrest at Narita Airport. Harrowing stuff...
Spassky to Bush: Arrest me!
10.08.2004 Boris Spassky, who played the contentious return match against Bobby Fischer in Yugoslavia 1992, for which the latter is currently facing deportation and incarceration in the US, has appealed to President Bush to show mercy and charity for his tormented successor. If for some reason that should be impossible, Spassky suggests a very imaginative alternative...
Fischer's appeal rejected
28.07.2004 Bobby Fischer's appeal against his deportation was rejected today by Japanese authorities. Meanwhile the Icelandic Chess Federation has appealed to US president Bush to pardon Fischer and set up a petition web site to collect signatures. In Tokyo a "Free Fischer Press Conference" is scheduled for Thursday. More...
Fischer a sacrificial pawn?
25.07.2004 Bobby Fischer is still in detention at Narita Airport in Tokyo, traumatised but stubborn, "behaving like a Samurai". At the same time news outlets all over the world are covering the story, with Fischer's brother-in-law Russell Targ assailing the Bush administration for playing election year politics with the former chess champion's freedom. There's a lot to be read...
Game of Life: Kasparov on Fischer – in full
20.07.2004 The news of Fischer's arrest in Japan came as a shock to Garry Kasparov, who was in a holiday camp working intensely on the games of his greatest American predecessor. In today's issue of The Wall Street Journal Kasparov assesses Fischer's chess career – for a public that was being exposed to his current situation. We now bring you Kasparov's full article.
Will Fischer be extradited?
19.07.2004 Chess legend Bobby Fischer, the hero of millions, languishes in the detention facilities of Narita Airport in Tokyo, waiting for a decision by Japanese Immigration authorities on his deportation to the US. We have collected all the documents and reconstructed a timeline to his arrest. Fischer, who has no legal counsel, is appealing for international assistance.
Bobby Fischer detained in Japan (updated)
16.07.2004 It's the latest twist in the sad tale of American former world champion Bobby Fischer. He has been detained in Japan and faces possible deportation to the US to face charges for playing in Yugoslavia in 1992. Fischer's website says he was "very nearly killed" in Japan. The story has been picked up by news services all over the world.
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