Robert J. Fischer, 1943-2008
Chess legend Fischer, who was born in Chicago in 1943 and raised in Brooklyn, became famous for beating Soviet rival Boris Spassky in a Cold War world championship match in 1972, died of an unspecified illness, his spokesman said, though it was common knowledge he was admitted to hospital several months back to be treated for kidney failure and severe mental health issues.
From child prodigy he went on to become the unlikely all-American hero who shattered the belief of the leaders of Soviet chess that a world champion had to be cultured, well-rounded personality, made in the USSR. But it all turned sour when he became persona non grata in the U.S. following the breaking of UN sanctions in playing a 1992 ‘return match’ with Spassky in civil war-torn Yugoslavia, a move that ultimately led to him being imprisoned for almost a year in Japan on extradition charges back to the U.S.
It was Fischer who put Iceland on the map for the first time since the Vikings with his 1972 showdown with Spassky. Fittingly, it was Iceland who returned the favor by making him an Icelandic citizen that avoided him being dragged back to America and what would have been an embarrassing court case.
Despite all his imperfections, paranoia, anti-Semitic diatribes and expressing support for the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York, Fischer should be best remembered for his glittering career en route to his historic 1972 victory in Reykjavik over Spassky, rather than the sad and prolonged end-game of his personal life.
Many obituaries have been written by major news outlets on Fischer's death, a selection of which you'll find below. ICC will be airing a special Chess Talk with IM John Watson, who will be reflecting on Fischer's controversial career and brilliant moments over the board with his special guest, GM Andy Soltis, author of the hit book Bobby Fischer Rediscovered.