Bobby Fischer’s final days

by Frederic Friedel
1/17/2018 – Today, ten years ago, one of the greatest chess players of all time, Robert James Fischer, passed away. He had spent three years in Iceland, two in relative comfort and harmony, but struck by horrendous illness at the end of 2007. He had one true friend who tended to him to the end: Gardar Sverrison, who eight years later wrote a remarkable book on the Fischer he knew and who became part of his family. Today, with Gardar's permission, we bring you very moving excerpts from the final section of his book.

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No other World Champion was more infamous both inside and outside the chess world than Bobby Fischer. On this DVD, a team of experts shows you the winning techniques and strategies employed by the 11th World Champion.

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Introduction by Frederic Friedel

Exactly ten years ago, on January 18, 2008, I was driving through Holland, on my way to the tournament in Wijk aan Zee. On the Dutch autobahn my phone rang: it was Nadja Wittman, who runs our Spanish language news page. “Fischer has died,” she said. “The BBC World Service wants to do an interview with you.” I was shocked: the great chess hero of my childhood had passed, on the previous day, around noon. I drove into the next town to get better cell-phone reception, and spoke to the British news service for maybe an hour. “You seem really quite distraught,” the editor in London said after we had finished. I was. In Wijk round six of the Corus Chess Tournament started with a minute's silence in remembrance of Fischer.

A few years before his death Bobby Fischer was planning a return to chess – a “Fischer-Random” match against World Champion Viswanathan Anand. In this matter he decided he wanted to consult me, a co-founder of ChessBase and editor of the company's news page. But before he could do that he needed to send someone to Hamburg, to “check me out”. That was Gardar Sverrison, his best and actually the only friend he had left in Iceland.

Gardar came to Hamburg and spent a number of days in my house. He was a very cultivated, academic person, genuinely interested in us all, and not just because Bobby had sent him. He has a great sense of humour and so many stories to tell. He became a permanent family friend.

In 2015 Gardar wrote a very personal book, "Yfir farinn veg með Bobby Fischer", which translates to “The Final Road with Bobby Fischer” (we described it here). It was a labour of love: initially Gardar had deep compunctions about revealing details of his private interactions with a friend who abhorred public disclosure. Was this not a sorry betrayal of Bobby’s trust? But the sheer volume of false information, the one-sided portrayal of the tormented genius that was being disseminated in the general press, in the end drove Gardar to write his book, to describe a friend who had become part of his family, and who had been in his care during the final years of his life. This extremely poignant work is currently only available in Icelandic, although an excellent English translation has already been made. It is from this translation that the excerpts below are taken.

First, though, some background. In July 2004 Fischer was arrested by Japanese immigration authorities at Narita International Airport and held for months in Japanese custody. A "Committee to Free Bobby Fischer" was founded, and Boris Spassky appealed in a letter to George W. Bush for "mercy and charity", offering to stay in the same cell with Bobby Fischer if they were given a chess set. During the time Fischer married Miyoko Watai, the President of the Japanese Chess Association, with whom he had been living since 2000, and requested asylum. But Japan's Justice Minister rejected Fischer's request and ordered his deportation. In late March 2005 Fischer applied for and was granted full Icelandic citizenship for humanitarian reasons, in recognition of his 1972 match against Boris Spassky, which had "put Iceland on the map". In Wikipedia we read:

“After arriving in Reykjavík, Fischer lived a reclusive life in Iceland, avoiding entrepreneurs and others who approached him with various proposals. He moved into an apartment in the same building as his close friend and spokesman, Garðar Sverrisson. Garðar's wife, Kristín Þórarinsdóttir, was a nurse and later looked after Fischer as a terminally ill patient. Garðar's two children, especially his son, were very close to Fischer. Fischer also developed a friendship with Magnús Skúlason, a psychiatrist and chess player who later recalled long discussions with him on a wide variety of subjects… On January 17, 2008, Fischer died at age 64 from renal failure at the Landspítali Hospital (National University Hospital of Iceland) in Reykjavík. He originally had a urinary tract blockage but refused surgery or medication. On January 21, Fischer was buried in the small Christian cemetery of Laugardælir church, outside the town of Selfoss, 60 kilometres (37 mi) southeast of Reykjavík, after a Catholic funeral presided over by Fr. Jakob Rolland of the diocese of Reykjavík. In accordance with Fischer's wishes, only Miyoko Watai, Garðar Sverrisson, and Garðar's family were present.”

In 2007 Fischer moved permanently into an apartment in the same building in which Gardar Sverrison, his wife Kristín and daughter Togga lived. In the above picture, taken in 2017, Fischer’s apartment is on the top, in the middle.

In 2007 it became clear that something was seriously amiss with Bobby’s health. But he insisted that this be kept entirely secret and would not agree to visit a doctor. He started spending a lot more time in Gardar and Kristín’s apartment, two stories below, often sleeping on the sofa in their living room. As his condition worsened he finally agreed to spend a few days in a medical facility – after making sure he could not be forced to take drugs, even pain killers, provide blood samples or subject himself to an X-ray.

Bobby considered humans to be an integral part of nature and subject to its laws the same way that other living beings were. Nature had to be left in peace to run its course and seek balance, which it was far better equipped to do than humans. He considered Western medical science unnatural and extreme, with no limits imposed on interference and intervention, harmful medication and unnecessary surgery, suspect experiments and ever-increasing tinkering with creation itself. Bobby took interest in the opinions of a certain Kevin Trudeau and his controversial book Natural Cures They Don’t Want You To Know About. On the back cover of the book was a question: “Did you know that the medical profession, in partnership with the pharmaceutical industry, has a huge interest in keeping you sick rather than healing you?”

Bobby did agree to an ultrasound examination, and that revealed that he was suffering from acute kidney failure. He started self-medication, consuming large amounts of carrot juice and berries, and his condition somehow improved. But the secret of his stay in the clinic leaked out, and when a photographer set up shop in the ward’s sitting room, Bobby couldn’t think of staying in the hospital any longer. More than his illness he feared that his departure from the hospital would be captured in a photograph, and so in November 2007 Gardar smuggled him out through a back door and drove him home.

The old entrance of the Landsspitalinn in Reykjavik, where Fischer spent his final days

The main entrance, which Fischer had to avoid at all cost [both images 2017]

We continue with excerpts taken verbatim from Gardar’s book.

Fischers last days

By Gardar Sverrison

Bobby could not hide his joy at being back home in his own bed and his own apartment, which he’d had outfitted with a double locking mechanism. No lesser was his glee at having outwitted the media. Few victories were more important to him than escaping unharassed from reporters and photographers. He laughed a chirping laugh and wanted me to join in his merriment by remembering how successful we had been, how close a shave we had survived, and what the most important lessons of our hair’s-breadth escape had been.

While I rejoiced with him in the fact that no photographic evidence of his hospitalization and illness seemed to have been captured, it was agonizing for me to witness again and again the emotional turmoil that photographers and cameramen could arouse in him. But now he was safe and sound in his own apartment, two floors above mine, where no-one was allowed to know he might be found. Though he was weak and tired, it was as if the return to Espigerði had unleashed some joie de vivre in him that was more sincere and youthful than before. He was not only grateful to be free from the suffering of the past few weeks, but now seemed glad to simply be alive.

Advent arrived. Darkness reigned and the winter cold had started making its presence felt. One day Bobby went alone to the bank. He had caught a taxi and had it wait. This had been such a successful venture that now he wanted by all means to go to the movies. Sverrir offered to go with him, and together they saw American Gangster, a film set partly in New York that sparked all kinds of reminiscences for Bobby, in addition to tales of the city’s lively underworld through the ages.

 

Shortly after the homecoming, we received the news that a new book was circulating, called My 61 Memorable Games and attributed to Bobby. The book purportedly contained the 60 games that he had selected and annotated in his book My 60 Memorable Games, and in addition there was one game from his match against Spassky in 1992. He was deeply saddened when I told him the news of the falsified edition, which later turned out to have been decorated with the Icelandic flag and photographs that had been taken for personal use by Icelanders he had stopped interacting with.

For much of early December, Bobby would spend entire days in our living room, usually in his thick, white cotton bathrobe. To accommodate him, we had placed Togga’s old bed there, which we had otherwise planned to throw away. Bobby, who had again started to feel pain in his back, was glad to be able to switch between that bed and the green leather sofa he had taken so many naps on.

In between discussions of his illness and prognosis, which we both felt must be good, he now felt an increased need to direct our conversations to matters chess-related. Unlike what he wanted people to think, “the old chess” was always on his mind. Every time chess was to be seen, for instance in a movie, he would nudge me or draw my attention to it in some other way. He had often told me stories of chess players from before his time, masters who each in their own way had something remarkable to contribute. But now the Russians were on his mind again, the old foes I had been led to believe he thought little of. Now it was as if they were only old friends and playmates whom he missed now they were gone.

“Why don’t you bring me that book of Romanovsky’s that I recommended to you,” he said once when I’d been testing an idea of mine related to the Colle System against him. The Colle System was an opening that Bobby found so devoid of ambition that he frowned as if to ward off a stench when we spoke of it, although I once managed to get out of it into a middlegame he admitted would be a little bit better for White, but no more than that. In place of this depressing Colle System he now wanted to show me a position in the Queen’s Indian Defense that had come up in a game Smyslov had played in the 1947 Soviet Championships. That game was to be found in Romanovsky’s magnificent textbook. On Smyslov’s behalf he wanted to try to find an improvement that he was sure must be there to be found.

When I thought we had spent more than enough time on experiments in our hunt for a better answer for Smyslov, Bobby was far from ready to quit. I opined that at this point, we were unlikely to find the good counter-move that Bobby was so certain was hiding somewhere in the position. But he kept on scrutinizing the board and turning Smyslov’s options over in his mind.

“I don’t think there’s anything there, Bobby.”

“Wait, wait,” he said, unwilling to quit.

“But we’ve exhausted all the options.”

“Don’t be too sure, Garðar. Don’t be too sure.”

While I waited for him to finish this long-winded inspection, I suddenly realized that in this field perhaps it wasn’t up to me to tell him when he’d exhausted his options. Though Bobby knew the limits of my chess abilities better than anyone, he was sometimes so pleased that I should wish to improve my skills that he seemed to completely forget what a gulf separated my understanding of the subject from his own.

Miyoko [Fischer’s Japanese wife] came in December and stayed for nearly two weeks. During this time she did her best to make life easier for Bobby, did his grocery shopping and cooked him all kinds of Japanese dishes. Eiríkur the urologist called me periodically to ask after Bobby’s health. Initially I looked on this as simple thoughtfulness, as the time has long since passed when Icelandic doctors called of their own volition to ask how a patient was feeling.

Three days before Christmas, Miyoko left. While she had been here, Bobby’s health had deteriorated. His pain had increased and he had developed a nasty bedsore that Kristín tried to clean and manage with appropriate salves. Despite these complaints and general physical weakness, Bobby wanted to go with her to do some Christmas shopping. Though Kristín offered to go for him, he could not be persuaded out of participating in the shopping expedition himself.

In the store, Bobby proved unequal to the task of walking around and collecting items in the shopping cart he was leaning on. After a few minutes, he had to sit down on a bench outside the store, and had nearly passed out by the time Kristín arrived. An old man who did not appear to recognize the sick man had been attending to Bobby for some time until Kristín came and supported him out to the car.

Fischer in his prime, and during his final years in Reykjavik

By the evening of the Mass of St. Thorlac, December 23rd, Bobby had recovered and taken joy again after the disappointment of the Christmas shopping. From my mother, who always held a dinner on St. Thorlac’s Mass, I had brought him a feast’s worth of delicacies, pickled herring, fried leaf-bread wafers, graflax, and smoked leg of lamb with potatoes and apple salad. Though his appetite was limited, Bobby appreciated this delivery. By this third Christmas of his in Iceland, we had finally realized that his Christmas anxiety was due to his caring far more about the holiday than he wanted to let on.

Bobby had looked forward to having a turkey dinner with us on Christmas Eve and arrived in our decorated living room well in advance. He was in the best of moods, but soon he was feeling so nauseous that he didn’t trust himself to eat. Instead he wanted to try to get some rest and come back later in the evening.

We were finished eating and had started on our coffee and homemade ice cream when Bobby finally came back down to our place, wrapped in his white cotton robe as if he were cold. He perched himself in the armchair nearest to the Christmas tree, but soon gave up on that and asked to lean back on Togga’s bed, which we had for his sake thought unwise to remove from the living room. Bobby said he was not cold at all, unlike what it seemed to us, and completely denied the possibility that he was running a fever. He was just tired. Dead tired. Had overexerted himself.

Exerted himself? Hadn’t he gone to get some rest?

“Yes, I was going to,” he said apologetically. “But then I stupidly went and looked at a few chess games.” He shook his head at his own foolishness and sighed heavily, red-faced and short of breath.

This wasn’t the first time that Bobby had meant to just take a quick peek at a game and then gotten so completely absorbed that he exhausted himself, but he had never been as worn out as today. If he spent more than a few minutes looking at chess, he often wound up concentrating as deeply as if he were competing. But now he had also forgotten that he was sick and mustn’t strain himself this way. And since he couldn’t seem to look at a game of chess without exerting himself like this, wouldn’t it be wiser to stay completely away from it while he was so weak?

“No. It’s not that.”

“What then?”

“I was just at it too long,” he explained. “I should just have stopped sooner.”

As I watched Bobby then, quivering with fatigue, I realized as if for the first time what had really made this friend of mine so peerless at his art – the art he had told me was “simply just mathematics.”

Though Bobby usually had little interest in alcohol and was practically a teetotaller, he now was eager to have a glass of cognac. After that, he felt up to the challenge of a few thin slices of turkey with sweet potatoes and gravy. Thankfully he was able to get them down bit by bit, which he celebrated by accepting a bit more cognac, something that surprised me as I had never seen him have more than a single glass of such strong alcohol.

Bobby gave thanks to the cognac that his back pain was a bit less now than it had been for many days. As the evening wore on, he accepted more of the cognac, without its having any discernible effect except that he was relaxed, in a good mood, and grateful. Deep into this Christmas night we sat in the living room and had it cosy, traded stories and made merry as if all the worries of the world were behind us.

Bobby and Gardar visiting Edda Thráinsdóttir, the widow of Freysteinn Thorbergsson, an old friend of Bobby who during the match in 1972 managed to solve problems behind the scene at the eleventh hour. Visiting Edda was a high priority to Bobby when he got to Iceland in 2005.

Solstice

On Christmas morning, there was a stillness in the city. It had snowed heavily, and in the distance an occasional car could be heard passing by. Though it was late morning by now, darkness still reigned. I had just woken up and was still in bed when I saw on my cell phone that Bobby had tried to reach me. It was unlike him to call at this time, so something must be wrong.

He lay in the dark bedroom and told me in a weak voice that he had barely been able to get any sleep due to pain. It didn’t matter in what position he tried to lie, the pain was always just as bad. “I don’t know why this is happening to me,” he said, anguished.

I switched on the lamp on his nightstand and sat by the edge of the bed. As soon as I sat down, he reached for my hand and gripped it tightly. We didn’t have to waste many words expressing that we seemed to be back in the same position as in late summer. Nor did we have to talk long before I had obtained his permission to call a doctor.

Within moments, Eiríkur had arrived. It had clearly not surprised him that we should need his help. The condition he was faced with did not seem to surprise him either. When he had sat with us for some time and it was clear that Bobby would by no means consent to return to the hospital, he arranged for a hospital bed and adhesive patches with strong painkillers to be delivered. The patches came in various doses, and we applied them to Bobby’s chest in accordance with instructions we received and his wishes at any given time. We only had to be careful not to increase the dose too rapidly.

As soon as the painkillers kicked in, a heavy burden seemed to be lifted off Bobby. Though he grew calm, he was pensive about the use of the word “hospice” in relation to the delivery of the painkillers. He now looked at me with a still gaze and asked whether I thought all this meant he was considered terminally ill.

I said we shouldn’t read more into it than necessary. Our healthcare system presupposed that seriously ill people like him stayed in hospitals under the supervision of doctors. Since he didn’t want to be hospitalized, there were few other options than to accept these patches from those who administered hospice care to patients who stayed at home.

“But do I look like I’m dying?”

“No, Bobby. You do not look like you’re dying,” I tried to convince us both. At this time, between Christmas and New Year’s, I neither believed nor wished to believe anything but that Bobby would survive this. So sincere was he in his hope of recovery that I felt it was essential for both of us that I share it with him – the hope that had already carried him this far. Again and again he asked me how I thought he looked and what I thought his prospects were. Again and again I had to tell him that I thought there was too much life in his eyes for him not to make it.

Bobby wanted to tell me about his mother and how painful it had been for him to have not received even a single picture of her when her estate was divided. This was so agonizing to listen to that I contacted his former brother-in-law, Russell Targ, and explained to him what a serious illness Bobby was grappling with. I then told him that regardless of Bobby’s bitterness towards his nephews over inheritance matters, he was now beyond the point of caring for worldly goods and simply sad not to have any photographs of his mother and sister. Targ responded well to my appeal and immediately collected several pictures, which he sent me a few days later.

Happier days: Kristen and Gardar Sverrison with Miyoko on a trip to the Icelandic countryside in the summer of 2005. The photographer: Bobby Fischer!

Winter darkness

At the end of December, Miyoko had come to the country and now bore the brunt of nursing Bobby day and night. Though his condition grew progressively worse, I hoped that this decline would gradually reverse, the same way it had in the hospital three months ago. When Miyoko wondered whether it was safe for her to go back to Japan, I reminded her of how matters had developed in the hospital and said we should try to have faith that things would evolve in a similar manner this time. Bearing this hope in mind, she left the country.

After a largely sleepless night, I had sat with Bobby from morning and late into the evening and now was in serious need of more rest than what I could sometimes eke out on the sofa in his living room. As Kristín was due at work early the following morning, I was feeling helpless and without recourse. That day, Sunday the 13th of January, Bobby had been feeling terrible and couldn’t imagine being left again to the nurse that the hospital could arrange for us. The only option was thus to seek someone out whom Bobby both knew and trusted.

Fischer with Magnús Skúlason, soon after his arrival in Iceland [photo by Einar S. Einarsson]

Doctor Magnús Skúlason immediately responded with kindness and arrived on our doorstep in a short while. Bobby was glad to see him again after the long time that had passed since they last met in the hospital. Magnús had brought some work documents along with him, but soon discovered that there would be no carefree sitting with a sleeping patient. It was this night that Bobby imparted to Magnús what we had so often heard him say, that nothing eased suffering like the human touch. But the suffering went on and built up even further on the following Monday. In truth, his life was hanging by a thread, and it was nearly unheard of that such a gravely ill patient should be staying outside of a hospital.

Because they dulled his mind, Bobby disliked the painkiller patches. On one occasion when he permitted me to apply a stronger patch, it was very nearly too much for him. Thankfully I realized what was happening and was able to rip the patch off in time. Bobby was now battling an internal infection and running a mild fever. But as he considered the use of antibiotics contrary to nature’s intended balance for life – a purpose hidden to us – he declined such an intervention. Out of politeness, he acquiesced to the doctor’s giving me a bottle of antibiotics to keep on hand in case he should change his mind.

Bobby had become so weak and emaciated that he could barely stand. “Do you think I’m dying?” he kept asking me. And it always seemed to lift his spirits to hear me say that I did not believe he was dying. If the worst should happen, though, he wanted to remind me of what we had discussed about keeping his funeral absolutely quiet, far from people and cameras. Then he held out his hand and kept asking me whether I thought he was dying. And I kept on telling him that I didn’t think he was dying.

His condition was horrendous when Eiríkur came and wanted to make one more attempt to persuade Bobby to come back to the hospital, as this outpatient care had long since outlasted any good sense. He took his time and did his level best to dispel the concerns that were nominally expressed about the potential hospital stay, though in truth they pertained to something else. By now Bobby’s anguish was due to something greater than the hospital itself.

The atmosphere was sensitive and fragile while they tried to reach a consensus. With a saddened expression, Bobby sat up at long last and asked us to help him find his clothes, the jeans and blue cotton sweater. Meanwhile, Eiríkur went and fetched a wheelchair.

One more time we took our seats in the Passat and drove the same route along Öskjuhlíð that we had so often taken on our way into town. Bobby had not wanted an ambulance. As a result, we could survey the snow-white city in the afternoon sun. I remarked on this beautiful winter weather, which ordinarily would have moved Bobby. He gave a small nod and continued to stare down the road in anguish.

Arrangements had been made for us to drive directly into the hospital basement by the same route as an ambulance. From there we took Bobby by wheelchair up to the third floor, where the urology department was located. There we went straight into a private room that had been reserved for our arrival. While Bobby tried to gain his bearings, doctors and other staff were constantly coming and going. It was hard to make sense of who was who and why each one of them was there. On one occasion, a friendly-looking young doctor or medical student came by.

“Do I look like I’m dying?” Bobby asked and gazed hopefully at him.

Caught up in his theoretical responsibilities, the young Bazarov began his answer. “I’m rather afraid,” he said, “that it wouldn’t be entirely honest of me to assert that this were not the case.”

“But do you think I’m dying?” Bobby went on.

“Well, that’s the same issue,” Bazarov replied. “I wouldn’t be entirely honest with you if I maintained that …”

“That’s enough,” I interrupted in Icelandic and made sure to keep talking long enough to bring a permanent end to the thoughtless approach of science in the room. Though I had tried to pitch my voice in such a way that Bobby wouldn’t necessarily think I was silencing the man, I could sense that he was quite aware that my intervention had removed all talk of death sentences from the menu. And for that he seemed grateful. He gave me his hand and asked me to remember with him what it had been in his eyes that made me think he wasn’t dying. While I held his hand, it gave me myself some consolation to be able to speak once again to him of the vitality that was still there in his brown eyes.

This Wednesday had passed into evening, and Bobby was finally beginning to calm down. A young and quiet man who I understood was a psychology student had been asked to sit with Bobby. As often before, Bobby felt good in the company of open-minded young people, provided he thought they were good and truthful human beings. When I saw that they had begun to connect and Bobby seemed to trust him, I gradually withdrew and began to think of going home, exhausted after a long and emotional day. Finally I could go to sleep knowing that Bobby was in safe hands.

Mercy

Early in the morning on Thursday, January 17th, the first thing I did was to call the hospital to ask after Bobby’s condition. The nurse on call informed me that he had gotten little rest because of pain he had refused to let them treat with painkiller patches. As a result, he had made so much noise during the night that it had created a disturbance. I told this authoritative nurse that I was sorry to hear of this, but emphasized that he could not tolerate the strongest dose of the painkiller patches, something I had informed the staff of the night before. I told her that when he had tried it at home, his breathing had become so constricted that he seemed to be on the verge of dying in my arms. I further informed her that I would be there shortly after lunch.

At the breakfast table, Togga spoke of having dreamed of Bobby, smiling and healthy out in nature. I would hardly have remembered this detail except for the fact that I had not only seen Bobby in my dreams, but had in fact dreamed of him in exactly the same way – healthy and happy out in God’s green nature. We both found it quite special that this image of him out in nature, happy and healthy, should be the only thing either of us remembered from our dreams.

Until noon I had to attend to the media over a dispute in which the Organization of the Disabled had asked me to serve as a spokesperson for them. I was still in their office when I saw on my phone that Eiríkur was trying to reach me. I decided to pick up the phone and stepped aside.

A saddened Eiríkur told me that Bobby had passed away. The staff were now dressing him and packing up the room as was conventional when people passed on. This process would be completed by the time we reached the hospital.

In the hospital, Kristín, Togga, and I were informed that Bobby had been put in a hot bath that morning, which we knew was one of the best things that could be done for him. After that he had been supported back to bed, where he was administered a sedative and the strongest dose of the painkiller patches. After that he had gradually lost consciousness and died.

I said nothing. There was no point in saying anything. Despite what I had told them about the painkiller patches, it hurt me the most to have not been there with Bobby when he passed away. But then again, my presence might just have been a distraction and would perhaps only have caused his terrible suffering to be prolonged. Yet I now felt like I had betrayed him by bringing him to the hospital, where he hadn’t wanted to go. But now there was no point in thinking about that.

There was tranquillity in Bobby’s face where he lay with his eyes closed on his deathbed. On his nightstand was a white cloth, a candle, and the New Testament. The priest of the Catholic community, Father Jacob Rolland, had joined us and led us in a moment of prayer, after which we made the sign of the cross over him.

The hospital staff draped Bobby in a white sheet and laid him in a steel-gray transport coffin. Kristín, Togga, and I followed them down the hall and down in the elevator. In the basement we waited while they placed the coffin in the car that awaited them. It was a chilling sight to see the car drive away from the hospital. That image will be slow to fade from my mind.

A final portrait of Bobby Fischer (click to enlarge), provided by Einar S. Einarsson

The book "Yfir farinn veg með Bobby Fischer" contains far more material on his final days than the passages quoted above – far more harrowing details of Bobby’s suffering. But the main volume of the work is devoted to the few good years Fischer spent in Iceland, his interests, thoughts and his interactions with the people who surrounded him, not always with his best interests at heart. The English translation by María Helga Guðmundsdóttir is entitled "Bobby Fischer’s Final Years, A Memoir by Garðar Sverrisson." It is copy ready but still seeks a publisher – interested parties should contact Gardar through us.

ChessBase reports:



Editor-in-Chief of the ChessBase News Page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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GuySmiley GuySmiley 2/19/2018 07:08
Sure, Fischer was one of the best chess players, maybe even THE best chess player ever.

He was also an awful, spiteful and hateful person. Read the cruel things he said about people - whole groups of people.

He seems to often get a pass due to some combination of his mental illness and beautiful contributions to chess.

Good riddance.
mag00 mag00 1/18/2018 10:23
I am saddened by ...
... the similarity of V. van Gogh ... (looks like?!)

creativity on the one hand while ...
... the complementary part seals ... the whole
NJD NJD 1/18/2018 06:24
A perfectly curable illness, but his mental health (paranoia) did not allow him to accept treatment...
afiedito afiedito 1/18/2018 06:04
This article helps me to reflect upon friendship and compassion from others, as more important than fame and money..Great article about a great hero from my childhood..
MJFitch MJFitch 1/18/2018 03:44
R.I.P. Robert James "Bobby" Fischer!!!
tom_70 tom_70 1/18/2018 11:55
The sadness of his paranoia and isolation overshadowed any chess ability he ever had.
Resistance Resistance 1/18/2018 06:53
Thanks for the article, Frederic.
Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 1/18/2018 04:27
I always get choked up reading about Bobby's final days and how he died. What tragedy it will always be that such a magnificent mind at an art (chess in his case) could succumb to a condition that was so easily reversible. If he would've simply allowed that urologist to take him to surgery to relieve his blocked kidneys....who knows, Bobby certainly could've continued to wow the chess community with his brilliance even into his elderly days.
pdvossen pdvossen 1/18/2018 04:25
Was truly touched by this article. Reading again of Boris Spassky's kindnesses to him, and Bobby's tough last days were very heart rending.
Setne007 Setne007 1/18/2018 02:29
Thank you for such a thoughtful article!
Woodford Woodford 1/18/2018 01:17
From “Soviet Middlegame Technique”,the Quality Chess compendium of Romanovsky’s work, it would seem Bobby was looking at the game Klaman- Smyslov from the 1947 Soviet Championships. Not technically a QID as white never played C4, but it is the only game which fits.

If “Mr Free-del” is reading it might be worth putting up.
Boisgilbert Boisgilbert 1/18/2018 12:56
What a shame Bobby, so brilliant in the field of chess, was gullible in religious matters [Worldwide Church of God] and in trusting the convicted criminal Kevin Trudeau for his opinions on medicine. Examine Mr. Trudeau's Wikipedia entry for details. His racist views are also tragic, especially in view of his parentage. He is one of many who were the pride and sorrow of chess. I am glad that I was able to witness his playing one game, that against Pal Benko in the USA Championship 1966-1967. RIP, Bobby.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 1/17/2018 10:06
What a sad end. He would probably have made a complete recovery if he accepted medical treatment. Kevin Trudeau is a known con artist who spent time in jail, it's unfortunate that he was able to convince people of his medical conspiracy theories. But there are quite a few people who believe those things and suffer the consequences. I wonder if there were any strong chess-players/doctors in his circle at the end if they would have accepted their advice.

Can't say that I agree with feeding into Fischer's obvious false belief that he was not dying, although maybe it is still doubtful that he would have accepted treatment.
michaelriber michaelriber 1/17/2018 08:48
This made me well up. Bobby was and always will be the greatest mind this game has ever seen. So beautiful to get this glimpse into the last part of his troubled life by the person closest to him during that period.

I can understand why Garðar would feel some apprehension about exposing his friend in this way, but the book does so in a very respectful and loving manner throughout. Luckily I was able to read the Icelandic original and can only recommend it to everyone with an interest in Bobby Fischer, chess, or just the human condition in general.
ytcontributions2018 ytcontributions2018 1/17/2018 08:28
Nice I made a tribute:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w8np8gSvOU
mehmet17 mehmet17 1/17/2018 08:07
Thank you Mr Friedel and thank you Mr Sverrisson.Very important knowledge about Fischer from the first hand.Hope the book comes out in English.
RSpielmann RSpielmann 1/17/2018 07:43
cloning Bobby Fischer !
Olga 2005 Olga 2005 1/17/2018 07:28
Many thanks for these very sad excerpts. We really need this book. R.J Fisher was and still is the best.
virginmind virginmind 1/17/2018 06:56
Thank you, Gardar Sverrisson. Thank you, Frederic Friedel.
Rest in Peace, Bobby Fischer...
Jarman Jarman 1/17/2018 06:01
I remember the day his death was announced quite well. I also saved a copy of Chessbase's news page.
The main TV news outlets hardly ever report anything about chess here in Italy, but they all gave the announcement. Historical footage was also broadcast.
As to the book, Kindle looks like the way to go at this point. Well, after waiting for more than two years I'm almost willing to get a copy in Iceland - even if handwritten!
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 1/17/2018 04:40
is he walking towards elysium or valhalla????
ILAN RUBIN ILAN RUBIN 1/17/2018 04:09
I agree with Woodford. Self-publish via CreateSpace.com and maybe Kindle and keep the profits.
Woodford Woodford 1/17/2018 02:50
If Gardar is reading this I would like to thank him and his family for caring for Bobby.
He should self-publish the book, perhaps via kindle in the first instance. He could choose his pricing point, and cut out the middle man. I am sure most of the buyer base is reading the chessbase page.
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