Pastor in Iceland: Fischer not 'exhumed'

7/11/2010 – A week ago we broke the news: tissue samples had been taken from chess champion Bobby Fischer's grave, on the order of the Icelandic Supreme Court to settle a paternity dispute. Most news sources reported that the body had been "exhumed", and our version – a hole dug in the ground next to the grave – was disputed. Now the Pastor in charge of the procedure provides clarification.

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IceNews "correction"

In our version of the story on Monday we wrote:

"The exhumation was conducted under a tent by specialists, who, we are told, did not unearth or remove the coffin. They dug a hole to the side of the grave and from there drilled into the coffin to extract a tissue sample. Present were Ólafur Helgi Kjartansson and Rev. Kristinn Ágúst Fridfinnsson, the pastor of Selfoss."

The following appeared a few days later in the Nordic IceNews web portal:

(UPDATED AND CORRECTED) American newspaper The New York Post reported yesterday that Icelandic authorities had drilled through Bobby Fischer’s coffin and into his body in order to take a DNA sample from the exhumed chess grand master’s corpse. But the Selfoss district commissioner says the NYP got it wrong.

The NYP article states that the DNA sample was taken by drilling through Fischer’s coffin and into his body; but Olafur Helgi Kjartansson, Selfoss District Commissioner, said: “I can confirm that that is not right.” He says the exhumation, DNA test and re-burial were carried out with due respect, leaving everything intact. The procedure took place in the presence of a doctor and a priest, Visir.is reported.

(This story originally pointed to the New York Times; when it should have been the New York Post. These are two different newspapers and IceNews apologises to the NYT for any damage done).

The original IceNews report explicitly stated that the body was exhumed in the traditional way and implied that the casket was removed from the grave, opened and a tissue sample taken. After this the casket was closed and reburied. This is the version quoted in hundreds of news stories around the world.

We asked a friend in Iceland, Einar S. Einarsson, to check what exactly the procedure had been. Einar is the Chairman of the Icelandic RJF Committee which was instrumental in getting Fischer Icelandic citizenship and thus enabling his release from Japanese detention in 2005, where he was being held at the request of US tax authorities.


Members of the RJF Committee, from left: Gardar Sverrisson, GM Helgi Ólafsson, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, Magnús Skulason, Sæmundur Palsson, Einar S. Einarsson


Fischer with Einar in the autumn of 2005 on the deck of his country cottage at Skorradalur, drinking Fischer's favourite raspberry juice. The photo was taken using a self-timer.


Last known picture of Fischer taken by Einar Einarsson
at the “3 Frakkar” gourmet fish restaurant, downtown Reykjavik.

Einar investigated the matter regarding the tissue extraction for us. In his words the IceNews correction is "total rubbish, and must be some misinterpretation of Mr. Kjartansson words." He spoke to Rev. Kristinn Ágúst Friðfinnsson, the pastor who supervised the “exhumation”. Friðfinnsson confirmed that it was in fact not a full exhumation. "They only dug down beside the coffin and entered it from the side through a hole for the sample needed," he said. "Everything was performed in a dignified and respectful manner."

The result of the DNA tests should become available in about three weeks. Many friends of Fischer believe that Jinky is not the biological daughter of Bobby, although the American may have had an affair with her mother Marilyn Young and supported her financially. They hope that the legal representatives of Ms Young will not now file a claim for a full exhumation to find out whether it is Bobby who is in that coffin or not.

Einar Einarsson apologised for the delay in his reply to our inquiry. He had been salmon fishing in the vicinity of the Eyjafjallajökull vulcano – which is what Icelanders do in the summer.

During his fishing excursion Einar reports the Eyjafjallajökull vulcano "rumbled, burped and roared like thunder, three times, and big clouds of steam arose from the caldera. You will remember that the volcano disrupted the World Championship match in Sofia.


The rewards of an Icelandic fisherman in the Eyjafjallajökull region


Related ChessBase reports

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18.01.2008 – 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.

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25.01.2008 – One of the greatest chess legends, the eleventh world champion Robert Bobby Fischer, passed on January 17, 2008. The cause of death was renal failure. He was quietly buried by his closest friends at a cemetery in the countryside he loved. Controversy is arising due to the secrecy of the burial, but we are convinced it was conducted according to his personal wishes. Report and tributes.

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22.01.2008 – Chess legend Robert James Fischer, eleventh world champion, was laid to rest in the cemetery of Laugardalur Church outside the town of Selfoss, 60 km south of Reykjavik. Fischer, who died of kidney failure, had requested that only a handful of people be present at the funeral – amongst them Fischer's companion, Miyoko Watai. We bring you the wire reports and a statement by Garry Kasparov.

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17.01.2009 – Exactly one year ago a great chess legend died, at the age of 64. Bobby Fischer was buried without ceremony in a private cemetery in southern Iceland, which now has a simple headstone – a reader sent us a picture. In a commemorative article we remember Bobby with an inspiring story from his childhood – "The Sicilian Vespers" and with links to his Sixty Memorable ChessBase Reports.

Iceland: Fischer's estate, his final resting place
10.11.2009 – The chess legend Bobby Fischer died in Iceland on January 17, 2008. He was buried in the compound of a church in Selfoss, 60 km from the capital Reykjavik. Since then there has been a battle over his estate, which is claimed by his nephews Alexander and Nicholas Targ. Now the Reykjavik District Court has ruled in favour of Fischer's lawfully wedded wife, Miyoko Watai. Pictorial report.

Fischer's daughter Jinky files claim to his estate
11.11.2009 – Yesterday we published a report on an Icelandic court awarding Fischer's estate to his lawfully wedded wife Miyoko Watai. Today we received a message from Marilyn Young, Fischer's "Filipina live-in partner", who is seeking justice for her and Fischer's eight-year-old daughter Jinky. The two are on their way to Iceland to file their claim. Marilyn has sent us some fairly compelling photographic evidence.

Marilyn and Jinky visit Fischer's tomb
05.12.2009 – As we reported some weeks ago, Marilyn young, Bobby Fischer's "Filipina live-in partner", is claiming rights to the late champion's estate for their common daughter Jinky. The claim has been filed with Icelandic courts, and during their visit a blood sample was drawn from Jinky and submitted for DNA ananlysis. Marilyn's lawyer Samuel Estimo sent us the following report from Reykjavik.

Fischer’s remains to be exhumed?
01.04.2010 – After his death on January 17, 2008 an Icelandic court awarded Bobby Fischer's estate to his wife Miyoko Watai. Then Marilyn Young, Fischer's "Filipina live-in partner", filed a claim on behalf of her eight-year-old daughter Jinky, who she says was fathered by the former World Champion. Now it appears the case will be settled by the disinterment of Fischer's remains for DNA testing. Press release.

Icelandic Court: Fischer’s remains can be exhumed
18.06.2010 – On April 1st of this year we reported – and it was not a tasteless April Fool's joke – that the remains of former World Champion Bobby Fischer could be exhumed to settle a paternity dispute. The District Court of Reykjavik did not allow it, but now the Iceland Supreme Court has overturned this ruling after receiving new evidence from the claimant Marilyn Young. The story is in the international news.

Breaking news: Tissue sample obtained from Fischer's grave
05.07.2010 – We have been informed that the remains of former World Champion Bobby Fischer were "exhumed" on Monday in the early hours of the morning. This was done on the order of the Icelandic Supreme Court, to settle a paternity dispute. Everything was done in a professional and dignified manner, with a priest and doctor present. The grave was left in its original state.


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