Bobby Fischer's life for sale – on eBay

12/13/2005 – When he dropped out of public view in the seventies, World Champion Bobby Fischer placed all of his most valuable belongings into a Pasadena storage unit. Some years ago the contents were sold off by the landlord, apparently in response to nonpayment of rent. Now the Fischer memorabilia have appeared on eBay. Reactions...

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The eBay offer (item number: 8736084948) is entitled "Bobby Fischer's chess book collection and other items Purchased at a CA Flea Market, BF's storage locker" and is described as follows:

"Purchased at a Southern California Flea market about 6 years ago, here are some of Bobby Fischer's personal items presumably from the infamous storage locker, which was said to have been sold for lack of rent payment. It is a unique opportunity for someone in the International Chess community to preserve the legacy of whom many feel is the most talented chess player of all time. I have tried many times in the last few years to reach Mr. Fischer about these items, but have had no response. Briefly summarized, what is being offered is:

1. The original manuscript and galley prints of Bobby's best selling book, "My 60 most memorable games" (originally titled, My life in Chess) This covers an entire table top and contains numerous notes and corrections which shoud make fasinating study for years to come. (Note, this is said to have been written on a typewriter which he won at one of his early tournaments).

2. A ceramic plaque given to Bobby, Bahia Blanca, 3/11/71

3. About 20 meticulously crafted "crib" notes for tournament preparation: [long list of subjects given]. Note, each book contains at least 50 games all written by hand and categorized by opening moves.

4. Informates #2 to 38

5. About 300 foreign chess books (Bobby has been heard to say that he felt he had one of the best collections anywhere) these are roughly divided between modern as well as many older issues. Some are signed "Bobby Fischer"

6. About 200 English language Chess books, many inscribed :to Bobby with a personal message. One is signed by his mother on his Birthday.

7. About 35 mint copies of Bobby's Book about being incarcerated in the Pasadena Jail overnight.

8. An original manuscript of a Chess story "End Game" by Walsashek

9. Legal papers about Bobby's attempt to copywrite a Chess move

10. 2 boxes of non chess reading material containing a wide variety of spiritual, political, religous, and other material of an extremely personal nature.

11, For an example of the chess books, one box contains the following: [long list of books and magazines given].

The entire collection is boxed in 17 cardboard boxes, with a total weight of approximately ~500 lbs.

The bidding was opened on December 09, 2005, at 23:13:49 PST and ends December 19, 2005, at 23:13:49 PST. The starting bid is US $15,000.00. So far there have been no offers.

The ownership rights of the items is murky, and it is unclear whether the sale is at all legal. Maybe chess fans or a US chess institution could investigate. There is also the possibility that some kind soul will purchase these valuable memorabilia and restore them to the original owner, who is now a resident of Iceland.


Feedback

Bart Karstens, Utrecht, Netherlands
I read the news item on the Fischer auction. I think this is a disgrace and that all personal belongings should be returned to Mr. Fischer, who is now easy to find in Iceland. Perhaps more chess players think alike and perhaps you could set up some supporting act.

F. Fritschy, The Netherlands
You should either see the Fischer memorabilia auction as a news fact, and publish it, or be a samaritan, and not publish it. You cannot do both. Thanks to your free publicity the 'good soul' you're looking for will have to pay a lot more.

Simon, George, NJ, USA
Mr. Fischer stated repeatedly that he doesn't want his fans to buy back his stuff for him. He calls it "stolen property" and insists that the payment for the storage was duly sent to his agent in CA. In any case, the seller's claim that the lot was bought at a flea market is an obvious and extremely brazen lie, which only adds credit to Mr. Fischer's side of the story. If Mr. Fischer is pardoned by the US government one day, he is guaranteed to bring a lawsuit against anybody involved in selling his old property. He does seem to have a very good legal claim to the stuff, so think good before you bid...

John Henderson, The Scotsman, Seattle
This is the second time this guy has put all this on eBay – the last time he had the auction up it was mysteriously removed after just a couple of days. Incidentally the handwritten crib notes were not done by Fischer; they were done by Bob Wade. In the days B.C. (that's Before ChessBase) Bob was the unofficial database for opening research for the top players in the West. He did these crib notes for a number of players – Lubosh Kavalek can show you an identical set he has that was done by Bob.

Nigel Short, Athens, Greece
Those crib notes appear to be in Bob Wade's handwriting – not Fischer's. I know that Bob did some work for RJF in the run up to the 1972 match. Obviously he valued his spadework. BTW it is interesting to note that I have about four times as many chess books as the great one. If only I could play four times better...

Jeff Querner, USA
I think Bobby should have his belongings returned to him. I can't believe that Fischer would not pay for storage because it contains some of his most memorable game, personal belongs and a outstanding collection of books. Although I don't agree with his views on a variety of things, but two wrongs don't make a right either. So, send Bobby his goods as you would want them if you were in his shoes. I also don't think the sale would be legal.

Molly S, Chess Correspondent & Investigator, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
As the official Spokesman for the Kxe6s VEREIN (TM) Chess Society, I do believe that the materials in question should be returned to Mr Fischer forthwith. All Mr Fischer has to do would be to pay for the storage fees, and any reasonable expenses incurred by the EBay seller – any other exorbitant, tacked-on expenses should not be condoned by the Worldwide Chessplaying Community! To this end, a Fund could and should be set-up to assist his to secure these items. Chessically speaking, just a remunerating thought...

Marlon Munian, New York, USA
Fischer being pardoned and having a claim to this property. Ha! Not in this lifetime. You've got a better chance waiting for the troops to come home. Happy bidding! Capitalism at its best. I may just bid on it myself. BTW, do the legal terms abandoned property or adverse possession mean anything to you, counselor??

Charles Milton Ling, Vienna, Austria
Mr. Fischer has repeatedly told us how rich he is and how incredibly valuable his memorabilia are. Now he has the opportunity to recover what was stolen from him (at least according to his version, and I need hardly say by whom) at a very low price.

Andrew Plunkett, Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada
I suspect the original seizure of Bobby's property was done according to the letter of the law. Bobby made the mistake of trusting an agent that failed to make the payments for the storage locker, not to mention missappropriate funds for his own personal gain. However, though Bobby would in all likelihood have a claim against his agent if the statute of limitations hasn't passed for a civil claim. His property was not stolen, it was taken legally by the landlord of the storage locker, which was his right for non-payment of the storage fees and a significant period of abandonment. It is actually lucky these items are still together or even in existence now. Bobby may have sent funds to his agent, but he made a mistake in choosing an agent that failed to meet his fiduciary duty, if Mr. Fischers claims are true. But like Nigel Short said, he has four times the books and isn't as good as RJF. I have not as many books but I suppose if I managed to actually read and assimilate the information I could drastically improve my game. I hope Mr. Fishcer the best, but I suspect he no longer has any rights to the information for sale on EBAY.

Tommy, Boston, Mass, USA
Well it is good that the items are located intact. Now we need to make sure Bobby knows about this. Bobby should contact eBay and try to recover his items. I would hope that eBay would assist in this effort. The person who has possession is now known. eBay will know who the person is that is advertising the items. I really hope Bobby gets his things returned. Justice demands it.

John Hamer, Nottingham
I think Fischer's chess collection should be returned to him, not sold off. Who could afford $30,000 dollars? The person who is selling it shoud be ashamed of himself John Hamer.

William Shea, Honolulu, Hawaii
Somewhere it was claimed that Fischer fans had returned most of his items to him, and his complaints at this point about the subject were unfounded. Obviously, he was 100% accurate that most of his items still haven't been returned. What a shame. I hope he gets his items back, regardless of the circumstances by which he lost them. If this is stuff that RJF had willfully parted with, I would estimate it would be worth 10-100 times more than the asking price. However, nobody would want to pay a cent to purchase this stuff because it is clear that they should be in Fischer's possession, regardless. I am not talking about legal ownership. I am sure the current owner has rights to them legally, but still, this stuff belongs to RJF. I hope you are right, ChessBase – I hope there is a good samaritan that can help make it happen.

Femi Adebajo, Milton Keynes, UK
Why couldn't Mr Fischer make satisfactory arrangements to reclaim his stuff? He surely can afford to do so. Or perhaps get one of his old flunkies (Edmondson, Cramer, etc.) to do him the favour. Perhaps he's fallen out with them too – like Evans, Lombardy, Wade etc. The chess world must eschew morbid hero-worship, shake the dust of uncritical adulation off it's eyes and drive home the message that the rules of normal social conduct apply to all of us, including chess geniuses. Transgressions will incur censure and disadvantage.


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