BC-BOBBYFISCHER:TB – national, world, itop (1080 words)

Chess master Bobby Fischer detained in Japan

Knight Ridder Newspapers

CHICAGO – In a life marked by moves every bit as bold and bizarre as those he made in matches, chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer, 61, seems finally about to be checkmated.

In exile, on the run and subject to U.S. arrest for the past 12 years, Fischer was taken into custody before boarding a flight to the Philippines from Narita airport outside Tokyo earlier this week. Though Japanese immigration officials made the arrest, it came at the urging of U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement.

Fischer now is fighting extradition to the United States to face a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

His offense is violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and Executive Order 12810. The charge stems from his 1992 chess rematch against his archrival, the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky.

The act and order prohibited U.S. residents from taking part in commercial activities relating to Yugoslavia, the site of the rematch. Yugoslavia was under economic sanction for its involvement in the forced seizure of territory in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Fischer ignored a letter from the Treasury Department stating that the match would constitute “exportation of services” to Yugoslavia. He went anyway and held a news conference there. He held up the letter from Treasury ordering him not to play.

“This is my reply,” he said, clearing his throat and spitting violently on the letter.

The news conference was, by Fischer’s order, held with written questions that had been submitted for approval. It was not the only demand he would make during his stay in Yugoslavia.

At the rematch, Fischer asked for everything from a match-area toilet seat to be raised by an inch to a dozen handmade shirts that were exact copies of the one he wore 20 years earlier when he beat the Russian in Iceland and become both the only American world champion and a Cold War symbol of an American triumph.

At the rematch with Spassky in Yugoslavia, after donning what he called a “riverboat gambler” visor that he said energized him and gave the advantage that “your opponent can’t see what you’re looking at,” Fischer won, collected $3.35 million – and the U.S. government indicted him.

He has been on the lam ever since. For all that time, the United States has been engaged in a chess game of sorts with the grandmaster as he moved among Japan, Hungary, the Philippines and other nations.

All the while, the chess world crackled with speculation about where Fischer was and what he was doing. Occasionally he would pop up, often under odd circumstances.


In 2001, British grandmaster Nigel Short said he was sure “that I have been playing against the chess legend” on the Internet. An unknown host had invited Short to a chess Web site, where he was instructed to sign in as a guest and contend against an unidentified opponent.

Short said he was first hammered in eight quick rounds and went on to play other matches. He guessed his opponent’s identity because of the latter’s “blitzkrieg play and talk of 1960s chess trivia.” He also noted American spelling in their on-line conversations. Other chess experts, however, concluded that the dazzling speed of play on the part of the mystery combatant pointed only to a computer.

That same year, in an extensive Atlantic Monthly article, writer Rene Chun found Fischer working as a disk jockey broadcasting from DZSR Sports Radio, an AM station in Manila.

Fischer spun classic R&B records and spewed venom at his enemies including:

The U.S. government, a “brutal, evil dictatorship,” that falsely accused him of a crime, thus forcing his exile.

World Jewry, people, he said, bent on such evils as the mass murder of Christian children (“their blood is used for black-magic ceremonies”) and junk food (Dunkin’ Donuts founder William Rosenberg was singled out.)

The plot by the Rothchilds (Jews), Bill Clinton (secretly a Jew) and executives at the Bekins moving and storage company (CIA operatives taking orders from the Jews.) This last has to do with memorabilia Fischer stored at Bekins in Pasadena that he contends has been stolen.

Fischer friends and followers have either downplayed his outrageous statements or said they show he is deranged and needs to be treated, not persecuted.


After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Fischer was interviewed on Bombo Radyo in Baguio City in the Philippines. His comments on that occasion couldn’t be swept away and were not ignored.

“This is all wonderful news,” he said, “I applaud the act. The U.S. and Israel have been slaughtering the Palestinians, just slaughtering them for years. Robbing and slaughtering them. Nobody gave a s-. Now it’s coming back to the U.S.”

With that, the United States Chess Federation, which had always overlooked outbursts from arguably the greatest chess player the world has known, denounced him.

Robert James Fischer was born in Chicago’s Michael Reese hospital March 9, 1943. His father, Gerhardth Fischer (though the paternity is sometimes questioned) was from Berlin. He was a biophysicist. His mother was Regina Wender. She was Jewish, thus her son – despite some recent disputations on his part – is Jewish. The parents divorced when Bobby was 2, and Regina, Bobby and his sister Joan moved to Brooklyn.

There, at age 6, Fischer was given a chess set and became entranced. According to the chess Web site chess-poster.com, Fischer’s mother said, “Bobby isn’t interested in anybody unless they play chess, and there just aren’t many children who like it.”

For companionship, she signed him up at the Brooklyn Chess Club, which met Friday nights. Bobby almost never missed a night. At age 12, he beat a grandmaster – who played blindfolded. Just a year later, though, he beat international master Donald Byrne. At 14, he won the U.S. Junior Championship. Later that year, he took the Senior Championship. At 15, he was the youngest grandmaster in the history of chess. At 16, he dropped out of school to make his living at the game.

Now, the man for whom chess was everything and once said, “Chess is life,” is a pawn in an international match.

For once, the next move isn’t Bobby Fischer’s.

(c) 2004, Chicago Tribune.

Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at http://www.chicagotribune.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-07-16-04 1957EDT

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