Bobby Fischer – his final weeks

by ChessBase
1/25/2008 – 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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Bobby Fischer – his final weeks

Bobby Fischer was suffering from degenerative renal (kidney) failure. This had been a problem for some years, but became acute in October, when Fischer was admitted to hospital for stationary treatment. He stayed there for about seven weeks, being released in a somewhat improved condition in the middle of November 2007. In the middle of January his condition deteriorated and he was returned to hospital, where elevated levels of serum creatinine in his blood stream caused his death on January 17 2008.

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

Fischer was a patient who did not believe in prolonging life at any cost – like using excessive and mind-numbing pain killers or permanent dependence on a dialysis machine. When he was released from hospital Fischer's doctors gave him a few months to live. His wife Miyoko Watai flew in from Japan to spend the Christmas season with him. She flew back home on January 10th, just before Fischer passed. Miyoko practically had to take the next flight back to Iceland to attend his funeral.

Fischer stayed in an appartment in the same building as his closest friend and spokesman, Garðar (Gardar) Sverrisson, whose wife Krisín happens to be a nurse and looked after the terminally ill patient. Gardar's two children, especially his son, were very close to Bobby. They were his only close friends and contacts during the last two years of his life.

Fischer's grave in the Laugardælur churchyard outside Selfoss

Fischer had instructed Gardar that he wished to be buried in the small cemetery at Laugardalur church, outside the town of Selfoss, 60 km south of Reykjavik. It was a place Bobby visited a number of times with Gardar and his wife Krisín, whose parents live here. He said that the Laugardælur countryside would be perfect as his final resting place, should he die in Iceland. He did not wish anyone to be present at the funeral, except Miyoko Watai and the Sverrisson family, who would arrange the funeral. For this reason the burial took place in secret last Monday.

Miyoko Watai, Bobby Fischer's wife and president of the Japan Chess Association,
lived with Fischer in Tokyo's Ota Wardfor more than four years.

There has been some controversy regarding the "secret" burial of Bobby Fischer. The members of the the RFJ Committee, who were instrumental in obtaining Fischer's release from Japanese detention, and being granted refuge in Iceland, were not informed about the burial until it had been completed on Monday morning. Only five people attended the funeral, in accordance with Fischer's wishes. Some of his friends are now claiming that the burial was unlawful. They are calling into question the marital status of Miyoko Watai, who they say could not be Fischer's wife since he did not have a passport at the time of their alleged marriage in Japan. If Miss Watai was not his wife, they argue, then she and Sverrisson had no right to carry out the burial without seeking the permission of his estate's legal representatives. There is the additional matter of money: Fischer's Swiss bank account is thought to have held about £1.5 million, and there may be more in gold deposits. All of this is reported today in the Telegraph, UK, which speaks of a 'guerrilla' burial.

It seems that controversy will not abandon Robert James Fischer, even after death. We know that Fischer was very close to Gardar Sverrisson and trusted him like no other; and that Sverrisson is a rigorously loyal and honest person who will have carried out Fischer's wishes to the letter, with no personal intentions. Let us hope that the matter will be settled quickly and without the media glare that Bobby abhorred.

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

Gardar Sverrisson is an author, a former manager of a parliamentarian group, a former chairman of The National Association of Disabled in Iceland, and a member of the Board of the Icelandic Human Rights Center. He is a political scientist with an MFA from the University of Arizona.

Helgi Ólafsson is a chess grandmaster and columnist, headmaster of the Chess School of Iceland.

Gudmundur G. Thorarinsson (RJF vice charman) is a civil engineer and former member of Althingi, the Icelandic parliament. He has served on several government committees and has been a member of The European Council. Thorarinsson is the former President of the ICF and was the chief organizer of the Match of the Century between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972.

Magnús Skúlason is a psychiatrist, head doctor at Sogn Mental Asylum for prisoners.

Saemundur Palsson is a retired policeman, carpenter and famous rock dancer. He was Bobby Fischer’s close personal friend ever since he served as Mr. Fischer's bodyguard at the 1972 World Chess Championship Match in Reykjavik.

Einar S. Einarsson (RJF chairman) is the retired President and CEO of Visa Iceland, a former President of the Icelandic Chess Federation and FIDE delegate. He is an honorary member of FIDE and ICF. Einarsson has been active as a chess organizer and is an International Chess Arbiter.

Bobby at a meeting of the RJF Group in 2005 at the home of Einar. From left Gardar Sverrisson, Helgi Ólafsson, Magnús Skúlason, Ingvar Ásmundsson (deceased), Bobby, Gudmundur Thorarinsson.

Fischer sat in at serveral meetings of the group, working on a release of a young icelandic boy who had been imprisoned for ten years in Texas for sexual harassment of a playmate, allegedly perpetrated when he was thirteen.

Fischer sightseeing at the Nesjavalla Geothermal Power plant Green Energy

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

The last movie Fischer watched (in December 2007)

Fischer in the countryside, after a refreshing jacuzzi visit

All pictures provided by Einar S. Einarsson ©

Messages from our readers

Tom Welsh, Basingstoke, UK
I would like to pay tribute to the memory of Bobby Fischer. Putting aside the controversy and, I suppose, personal unhappiness that dogged the later part of his life, I think we should all be grateful for his magnificent contribution to chess, both as a sport and as an art. While players like Kasparov and Kramnik may have been objectively stronger, I feel Fischer was in a class with Morphy – and maybe no one else. I would also like to express my admiration and gratitude to the Icelandic authorities for giving this great chess player a calm sanctuary in which to spend his last days in dignity.

Steven DuCharme, West Bend, WI USA
May he rest in peace. Thank you, Mr. Fischer, for your contribution to the annals of chess.

Susan Grumer, Pennsylvania, PA
Bobby Fischer was my chess idol, as he was for millions of others. In time we may forget the man, but we will always remember his beautiful chess. He was lucky to have a friend in Fridrik Olafsson during his last years. Bobby is in God's care now.

Paul Dimaano, Las Vegas, NV 89144
He is the best. He even covered all 64 squares in his death. May Bobby Fischer rest in eternal peace.

Rowell, Denton, Texas, USA
A supreme chess genius and a very disturbed individual. Shining glory and the tragedy of fame. Pride and sadness. Awe and bewilderment. These are some of the things that fly through my mind as I remember Bobby Fischer. I wouldn't follow chess at all today if not for him. For that I am grateful to him. May he finally find some kind of peace.

Scott Young, Crawfordville, FL
A super sad day for me and thousands of other fans of this great man. I loved what he did for us during the Cold War. I feel like I did when my brother died. I never understood his views on the USA or Jews. But I loved the guy! He will always be considered the greatest player in history. I pray Lasker and Capa are there to meet him at the Pearly Gates! RIP Bobby Fisher!

Brian Wall, Thornton, Colorado, USA
Bobby Fischer was 12 years older than me, so his exploits were always on my mind. When he died I suddenly wanted to quit chess. I think it's because I always wanted to have some kind of conversation with Bobby. The closest I came is a chess master who traveled to Iceland and talked to Bobby, and the chess master said that Bobby knew about me. I saw Bobby play two Candidate matches against Larsen in Denver as a teen. When Bobby beat Spassky I was a busboy/dishwasher/waiter at Villae Inn, and it made the front page of the Rocky Mountain news. I heard Bobby's deep New York accent when he postmortemed with Bent.

Wardens don't care much about prisoner health, just prisoner control. People half my age like to talk about his decline but people my age remember the profound, electric, personal effect Bobby had on an entire chess world. It's safe to say millions played chess because of him. There was essentially nothing more exciting in Chess than Bobby. Bobby had that incurable honesty that you find in Kasparov or Nakamura. It seems if you spend so much time arriving at the truth in chess, there is a carryover in life. You have to analyze and report your findings, regardless of the circumstances. To do less would be to insult the position. When Bobby was younger and his mind was sounder, his outrageous statements were hilarious, almost like Diogenes or Nietzsche or Jesus had come down from the mountain and proclaimed the obvious folly of mankind. It was like the world was a fake dinner party and Bobby was the toddler making everyone howl with laughter.

I also wondered if the time in jail weakened Bobby's body. Dying at 64 somehow cements the legend. There were hints Bobby refused medical treament that might have saved him. He hated the chess position being out of his control, so I imagine he hated his body being out of his control too.

Kevin Aschacker, Calgary
For me this is a sad occasion. I grew up loving the game, like so many of us. The world championship match in 1972 was so symbolic of the age in many ways, the cold war being merely the most obvious. Bobby Fisher's creative genius and raw chess brilliance were unlike any other. His impact on the game in the West specifically, and of course worldwide, was enormous. No less fascinating was his back-story, and the details of his rise to the top of the chess world. That magnificent photo of him as a fifteen-year-old in bluejeans and tennis shoes at the Marshall, with besuited middle-aged men around the chess board was iconic. The romance surrounding the man was gigantic, and in my opinon, is not eclipsed by his psychotic ramblings in later years, which do nothing to erase the magnificent works put forth into the world in a state of original brilliance.

Roberto Manunta, Milan
I'm happy that Bobby lived long enough to know the Internet. Such a solitary man wouldn't have otherwise known how much he was still admired and loved around the world. Back in 2003 I sent him the following excerpt through his website. It was printed, scanned and published in the fan mail section, and I still have a copy of it.

"I look about me with a feeling of complete dismay. In the confusion that afflicts the world today, I see a disrespect for the values of life. Each second we live in a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that 2 and 2 make 4, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them "Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all of the world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed there has never been another child like you. And look at your body – what a wonder it is. Your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven – you have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel, and when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we all must work, to make this world worthy of its children." (from "Casals, a portrait for radio", 1973).

Peter Henderson, USA
I was very saddened by Bobby Fischer's death. Bobby inspired all the young American players of his day and put American chess on the map. From the beginning, his eccentricities pointed to the existence of serious psychological scars from childhood. Had he not been a famous public figure he might have been lucky enough to find people who would take his erratic behavior as symptomatic of an underlying unhappiness and try to help him, but because he was a celebrity he became a symbol and a fair target for political "enforcers." I have to wonder to what extent his early death was caused by mistreatement at the hands of authorities of various lands, including his native United States. I can understand people being outraged by his political outbursts, but Americans come from a society that prides itself on refusing to jail people for either psychological abnormality or outlandish opinions. To engage in a relentless search for ways to hound him without technically violating our Bill of Rights is cruel and reveals contempt for the Bill of Rights. My impression is that the rival he never faced, Anatoly Karpov, is among the many players who have expressed disapproval at the way Fischer was persecuted at the end of his life. Only the kindness of Icelanders spared this artistic genius from meeting his demise in wretched solitary confinement in an American jail cell.

Jouni Alhanen, Finland
Thank you for publishing an unexpectedly nice article on Bobby Fischer, without insidious or subversive remarks on his alleged "insanity". I commend you on that, it is more than most news services have done. But could you please provide me with an email address that i could send my condolences to Miyoko Waitai, his almost-wife? Or if not an email address, could you deliver her a note? Since there is so much vehemence against Fischer, perhaps she would like to know there are people who share in her sorrow in a small way.

Michael J Fitch, Sandy Valley, Nevada USA
Rest In Peace Robert James Fischer. Back in 1972, I was ten years old, you winning the Chess Championship of the World and unleashed a passion for the game of chess that I still have to this very day. I'm no longer an active player, but my chess pieces and table sit right next to my computer, never out of arms reach, ready to play anyone, or go over games from the many books in my library, which includes you 60 Memorable Games. May God have mercy on your soul, Bobby Fischer!

Alex Shaffer, Texas, USA
I was but a novice when Bobby won the title, but I'll always remember the sheer elation that I felt when his successes in the championship match were transmitted over my transistor radio.

Napoleon Mariño, Ambato, Ecuador
He is my idol for ever. I love chess.


Russian translation by Valery Golubenko

Один из величайших шахматных гениев, 11-й чемпион мира Роберт (Бобби) Фишер покинул нас 17 января 2008 года. Причиной смерти была почечная недостаточность. Он был тихо похоронен своими близкими друзьями на кладбище в пригороде, который он любил. Секретность его похорон вызвала споры, но мы уверены, что всё было проведено в соответствии с его последним желанием.

Бобби Фишер в течение нескольких лет страдал прогрессирующей почечной недостаточностью, обострившейся в октябре, когда Фишер был помещён на лечение в стационар, продолжавшееся около семи недель. В середине ноября его состояние несколько улучшилось, и его выписали. В середине января его состояние ухудшилось, и он вернулся в госпиталь. Однако резко повысившийся уровень креатинина в его крови привёл 17 января к смерти.

Последнее фото Фишера, сделанное Эйнаром
Эйнарссоном в рыбном ресторане в центре Рейкьявика

Фишер относился к тем пациентам, которые не верят в продление жизни любой ценой – путём избыточных и подавляющих сознание обезболивающих или постоянной зависимости от диализного аппарата. Когда его отпустили домой в ноябре, врачи дали ему несколько месяцев. Его жена Миёко Ватаи прилетела из Японии, чтобы провести с ним рождественскую неделю. Она вернулась домой 10 января, накануне его смерти. Буквально на следующем рейсе ей пришлось лететь обратно, чтобы успеть на похороны.

Квартира Фишера была в том же доме, что и его ближайшего друга и представителя Гардара Сверриссона, чья жена Кристин по случаю была медсестрой и наблюдала неизлечимо больного пациента. Двое детей Гардара, особенно сын, были очень близки с Бобби. Они были его единственными близкими друзьями на протяжении последних двух лет его жизни.

Могила Фишера на кладбище при церкви Лаугардалур на окраине города Селфос

Фишер отдал указания Гардару, что он хочет быть похороненным на маленьком кладбище при церкви Лаугардалур, в окрестностях города Селфос, в 60 км от Рейкьявика. Это место Фишер посещал несколько раз вместе с Гардаром и его женой Кристин, чьи родители жили здесь. Он сказал, что окрестности Лаугардалур были бы замечательным последним пристанищем для него, если он умрёт в Исландии. Он не хотел, чтобы кто-то ещё присутствовал на его похоронах, кроме Миёко Ватаи и семьи Сверриссон. По этой причине похороны прошли в полной секретности в минувший понедельник.

Миёко Ватаи, жена Бобби Фишера и президент ЯШФ, жила с Фишером в
токийском районе Ота Вардфор более пяти лет

Из-за тайных похорон возникли определённые споры. Члены комитета RJF (Robert James Fischer), добившиеся освобождения Фишера из японских застенков и обеспечившие ему убежище в Исландии, не знали о похоронах, пока они не состоялись в понедельник утром. Только пять человек были на похоронах в соответствии с последним желанием Фишера. Некоторые из его друзей теперь заявляют, что похороны были незаконными. Они подвергают сомнению супружеский статус Миёко Ватаи, которая, как они говорят, не может быть его женой, так как у ней было паспорта на момент их предполагаемого бракосочетания в Японии. Если мисс Ватаи не была его женой, аргументируют они, то ни она, ни Сверриссон не имели права проводить похоронный обряд без разрешения местных властей. Встаёт также денежный вопрос: на швейцарском счёте Фишера предположительно находится около полутора миллионов фунтов стерлингов, которые могут быть предпочтительно в золотых слитках. Обо всём этом сообщается сегодня в английском издании Телеграф, которое называет похороны «партизанскими».

Похоже, что споры не оставят в покое Роберта Джеймса Фишера даже после его смерти. Мы знаем, что Фишер был очень близок с Гардаром Сверриссоном и доверял ему, как никому другому, и что Сверриссон является исключительно преданным и честным человеком, чтобы выйти за рамки последней воли Фишера с каким-либо личным интересом. Будем надеяться, что вопрос будет урегулирован быстро и без шумихи в прессе, которую Бобби не выносил.

Члены Комитета RJF, слева Гардар Сверриссон гроссмейстер Хельги Олафссон, Гудмундур Тораринссон, Магнус Скуласон, Сэмундур Палссон, Эйнар С. Эйнарссон

Гардар Сверриссон – автор этой статьи, бывший глава парламентской фракции, бывший председатель исландской Национальной ассоциации инвалидов и член правления Исландского центра по правам человека. По образованию – политолог; окончил Аризонский университет.

Хельги Олафссон – гроссмейстер и колумнист, старший мастер Исландской шахматной школы.

Гудмундур Г. Тораринссон (зампред RJF) – гражданский инженер и бывший сенатор. Он работал в нескольких правительственных комитетах и был членом Евросовета. Бывший президент ИШФ и организатор матча столетия между Фишером и Спасским в 1972 году.

Магнус Скуласон – психиатр, главврач психиатрической клиники для заключённых.

Сэмундур Палссон – полицейский в отставке, плотник и известный рок-танцор. Он был близким другом Бобби Фишера ещё со времён матча на первенство мира 1972 года в Рейкьявике, когда он выполнял функции его охранника.

Эйнар С. Эйнарссон (председатель RJF) – бывший президент и исполнительный директор «Виза-Исландия», бывший президент ИШФ и представитель в ФИДЕ. Почётный член ФИДЕ и ИШФ. Активный шахматный организатор и международный арбитр по шахматам.

Бобби на заседании RJF в 2005 году дома у Эйнара. Слева: Гардар Сверриссон, Хельги Олафссон, Магнус Скуласон, покойный Ингвар Асмундссон, Бобби, Гудмундур Тораринссон

Фишер присутствовал на нескольких заседаниях группы RJF, занимавшейся освобождением исландского юноши, осуждённому на 10 лет в Техасе за сексуальные домогательства к своей подруге, совершённые, предположительно, когда ему было 13 лет.

Фишер осматривает геотермальную электростанцию «Зелёная Энергия» в Несьявалла

Фишер с Эйнаром осенью 2005 года на крыше его коттеджа в Скоррадалуре. Пьют малиновый сок. Фото сделано с помощью автоспуска

Последний фильм, который посмотрел Фишер (в декабре 2007 года)

Фишер в деревне с Эйнаром после освежающего джакузи

Все фото предоставлены Эйнаром С. Эйнарссоном ©

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