Spassky to Bush: Arrest me!

8/10/2004 – 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...

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Appeal to President Bush from Boris Spassky

Mr. President,

In 1972 Bobby Fischer became national hero. He smashed me in the match in Reykjavik. The Soviet chess hegemony collapsed. One man won against a whole army. Soon after that Fischer stopped playing. He repeated the sad story of Paul Morphy. At the age of 21, legendary Paul had beaten all leading European masters and became unofficial champion. He stopped playing and finished his tragic life at the age of 47 in New Orleans in 1884.

In 1992, twenty years after Reykjavik, there was a miracle. Bobby resuscitated and we played a match in Yugoslavia. But at that time there were sanctions against Yugoslavia forbidding American citizens any sort of activity on the territory of Yugoslavia. Bobby violated the instructions of the State Department. He became the subject of a warrant for arrest issued on December 15, 1992 by the US District Court. As for me, as a French citizen since 1978, I did not get any sanctions from the French government.


Spassky vs Fischer during the match of the century in Reykjavik in 1972

Since July 13, 2004, Bobby has been detained at Narita airport on immigration violations. Further events have been described by media.

It is clear that the law is the law. But Fischer’s case is not usual. I am an old friend of Bobby since 1960 when we played in Mar-del-Plata and shared 1-2 places. Bobby is a tragic personality. I realized this at that time. He is an honest and good natured man. Absolutely not social. He is not adaptable to everybody’s standards of life. He has a very high sense of justice and is unwilling to compromise as well as with his own conscience as with surrounding people. He is a person who is doing almost everything against himself.

I would not like to defend or justify Bobby Fischer. He is what he is. I am asking only for one thing. For mercy, charity.

If for some reason it is impossible, I would like to ask you the following: Please correct the mistake of President François Mitterand in 1992. Bobby and myself committed the same crime. Put sanctions against me also. Arrest me. And put me in the same cell with Bobby Fischer. And give us a chess set.

Boris Spassky
10-th Chess World Champion
08.07.2004

Free Fischer in Mainz

The organisers of the Chess Classic in Mainz started a Free Fischer action, with the main organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt writing to the The Minister of the Interior (and honorary Chess Grandmaster) Otto Schily: "We regard what Mr. Fischer has done for chess and his brilliant ideas on how to develop chess further as much more important than his mistakes and his unacceptable remarks in relation to the events of September 11," Schmitt writes. "We dissociate ourselves from these mistakes and focus on the chess genius Bobby Fischer.

Bobby Fischer’s biological roots can indeed be connected to Germany. We would therefore like to ask you to see if there is anything that you can do for Bobby Fischer using diplomatic channels. If asylum in Germany can be granted to Bobby Fischer, it would not be a problem for us to provide permanent housing and subsistence to him in the Rhein-Main area."

Mainz petition page to free Bobby Fischer with the full text of Schmitt's letter


Former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov wearing the special Chess Classic "Free Fischer" T-Shirt, with Hans-Walter Schmitt, chief organiser in Mainz [Photo: Dagobert Kohlmeyer]

The Fischer Saga: Farewell to America

Meanwhile the news is that the greatest hero of American chess no longer wants to be an American. Having finally hired a lawyer, Fischer released through her a statement saying, "I no longer wish to be an American citizen. Enough is enough. I hereby authorize my attorney Masako Suzuki to contact the U.S. embassy in Tokyo, Japan, immediately so I can officially renounce my U.S. citizenship at once."

Photo, l to r: Miyako Watai, president of the Japan Chess Association, Masako Suzuki, Fischer's lawyer, and John Bosnitch, a Japan-based Canadian who is helping Fischer.

Fischer's attempt to renounce his US citizenship will not enable him to escape the charges he is wanted for in the United States. It may, however, affect his status with the Japanese government. (Slate Magazine has a handy explanation of how exactly an American can renounce citizenship.)

Fischer is still in detention in the Narita Airport and is waiting for the result of his appeal of Japan's rejection to stay his deportation and to seek asylum in Japan. Technically this could take up to 60 days, but it is very unlikely to take that long. Another twist is that Fischer has been offered asylum in Serbia and Montenegro (the artist formerly known as Yugoslavia).

The case is hitting the editorial pages. The NY Daily News tabloid took a few shots, calling Fischer a "chess master and famous foaming maniac" and adds " Swell! So long, Bob! Sayonara!" to the news that Fischer doesn't want to return to the USA.

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