Page 3 of 3   <      

Bobby Fischer; World Champion Known as the 'Bad Boy of Chess'

Video
The chess world is mourning the loss of reclusive chess master Bobby Fischer. Fischer died in a hospital in Iceland yesterday at age 64. Video by AP

Moving to South Pasadena, Calif., shortly after the Spassky match, he became increasingly reclusive. For the next 17 years, Fischer sightings were rare and often bizarre. In 1981, he was arrested in Pasadena, by mistake, on suspicion of bank robbery, which prompted him to publish the pamphlet "I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse."

He gave $90,000 of his world championship winnings to the Pasadena-based Worldwide Church of God, a fundamentalist denomination whose founder, Herbert W. Armstrong, had predicted that Jesus would return to Earth in 1975 after a nuclear holocaust. When the year came and went without nuclear incident, Mr. Fischer left the church.

He reportedly had the fillings removed from his teeth to prevent the Soviets from transmitting secret messages.

In 1992, his infatuation with a 19-year-old Hungarian girl and a Yugoslavian financier's monetary blandishments lured him into a rematch in Yugoslavia with Spassky, his 1972 foe. He got $3.5 million in prize money -- and an indictment from the U.S. government for violating a United Nations embargo against the country.

He was no longer the slender, well-groomed young man the world had admired decades earlier. And he was angrier.

Although his mother and perhaps his father were Jewish, his anti-Semitism grew more virulent as he grew older. An admirer of "Mein Kampf," he began broadcasting radio rants, often from the Philippines, about Jews, communists, the criminality of the United States and the perfidy of the international chess establishment. Asked on Sept. 11, 2001, about the attacks on the World Trade Center, he said, "This is all wonderful news." In 2004, Mr. Fischer was arrested at the Tokyo airport, where he was accused of trying to leave Japan on a revoked passport. Japanese authorities considered deporting him to the United States but released him to Iceland after the country offered him citizenship. He lived in Reykjavik until his death.

Survivors include his longtime companion, Japanese grandmaster Miyoko Watai.


<          3

© 2008 The Washington Post Company