Pastor in Iceland: Fischer not 'exhumed'

by ChessBase
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, 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

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