Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Madness of Bobby Fischer

Reading this story, there can be no doubt that Bobby Fischer is very definitely insane, and probably a paranoid schizophreniac. This man needs psychiatric help, not incarceration in a prison cell.

When Bobby Fischer returned to New York after winning the world chess championship in Reykjavik in 1972, he was presented with the keys to the city. Now, after more than 10 years in exile, all the US authorities are offering their wayward son is a prison cell.
And they will hang on to the keys.
The US government's 12-year pursuit of Fischer, considered by many to be the greatest player in chess history, ended this week when he was detained by immigration authorities in Tokyo for trying to leave Japan using an invalid passport.
Fischer, 61, was detained at Narita international airport on Tuesday as he prepared to board a flight to the Philippines, though his detention was made public yesterday. He faces deportation to America.
The US government has been trying to corner the chess legend since 1992, when he took part in a match - a rerun of his 1972 clash with the former Russian world champion Boris Spassky - in Yugoslavia in violation of UN sanctions.
But he had eluded capture by living a peripatetic existence in Hungary, the Philippines and Japan, staying in the homes of friends or in anonymous hotels.


The 1992 match was played at the height of the Yugoslavian civil war on the island of Sveti Stefan off the coast of Montenegro, and was funded by a Serbian business tycoon who built his fortune in pyramid schemes and went bust the following year.
Fischer had not played competitive chess for two decades and his return against his old foe was a media sensation. Chess aficionados, however, were less impressed by the quality of the play.
Money had been the lure for both players, and in beating Spassky easily, as he had back in 1972, Fischer was said to have earned $3.3m (£1.8m). He spent much of the next year holed up in Belgrade and, in his absence, was indicted by a grand jury in Washington for "trading with the enemy".
Just before the start of the 1992 match, Fischer received an official letter from the US authorities warning him that if he played he would be liable to legal action. He spat on it.
Fischer has not visited the US since; he even missed the funerals of his mother and sister.
The alleged willingness to trade with the Serbian enemy paled into insignificance in US eyes, however, in the hours after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC in 2001.
In a live interview on Filipino radio, he celebrated the news of the tumbling of the twin towers.
"This is all wonderful news," he raved. "I applaud the act. The US and Israel have been slaughtering the Palestinians, just slaughtering them, for years. Robbing them and slaughtering them. Nobody gave a shit. Now it's coming back to the US. Fuck the US. I want to see the US wiped out. Death to the US."
Fischer has a penchant for radio rage, and Filipino radio is his medium of choice.
"America is totally under the control of the Jews," he said in a 1999 interview with a radio station in Baguio city. "I mean, look what they're doing now in Yugoslavia."


He is reported to have had all the fillings from his teeth removed because he feared the Russians were transmitting radio signals to his brain.
Spassky reported him to be normal and businesslike at their two-month encounter in 1992, though the list of requirements Fischer filed to the Serbian organisers was the champion lunatic at his battiest: he wanted 15 armed bodyguards, demanded a particular type of chess table and even specified the height of the toilets.
"We spent a day with his lawyer discussing the knight," said one official. "Fischer said the horse's nose was too long."
The strange thing about Bobby Fischer's antisemitic outbursts is that he himself is Jewish, at least by the halakhic definition, as he was born of a Jewish mother; there seems to be a strong element of self-hatred in his disgusting rants. From what lofty heights has the one-time world chess champion fallen.

For aficionados of chess, the saddest thing of all about Fischer's descent into madness is that he was arguably the single strongest chess player ever - even better than Kasparov - before his personal troubles got the better of him and he abandoned the game.