Robert James Fischer (1943-2008), popularly known as Bobby Fischer, was the only American to become the official world chess champion  when he defeated Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky in a 1972 match in Iceland. He forfeited his title to Soviet Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov in 1975 when he refused to defend his title, unable to agree on any proposed conditions for a match with Karpov. He did not publicly play chess again until 1992, when he played a return match in Yugoslavia in violation of American sanctions on Yugoslavia. Fischer became known for making anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks in the media over the next ten years, most notoriously his praise of the September 11, 2001 attacks, when he stated "well, this is all wonderful news. It's time for the [expletive] US to get their heads kicked in. It's time to finish off the US once and for all." This cost him his membership in the United States Chess Federation (USCF), which has since been restored. This was generally viewed as symbolic, since Fischer not only did not play chess anymore, but was also not welcome in the United States. In 2004, Fischer was arrested in Japan, and afterward took asylum in Iceland. He died of kidney failure in January 2008.
Fischer has claimed that "chess is dead" and never played traditional chess again. Before his death, he was promoting a form of "shuffle chess" called Fischerandom (or Chess960), in which the opening position is randomized.
Grandmaster Lev Alburt, a three time American champion, said of Fischer: "Fischer was a great natural talent, but no greater talent than other of the game's best players. The difference was he gave 98% of his life to chess. Others, perhaps, gave 30%. So Fisher surpassed them. When, after '72, he became afraid that some accident may cost him his title, he stopped playing. He had nothing else in his mind and no education to guide him. As Garry Kasparov pointed out, since nature abhors a vacuum, Fischer quickly filled up with the worst ideas.
Even though Fischer himself was Jewish, he often signed his name as “Robert James”, eliminating the racially ambiguous “Fischer”, and had demanded to be excised from a Jewish encyclopedia. According to Grandmaster Larry Evans, Fischer had once told him that he admired Hitler because "he imposed his will on the world". At a 1992 press conference, Bobby Fischer called communism, rightly enough, “a mask for Bolshevism,” but he then stunned his audience by calling Bolshevism “a mask for Judaism.” In January 14, 1999, during an interview on Filipino radio, Bobby Fischer said, “You know they [Jews] invented the Holocaust story. There’s no such. There was no Holocaust of the Jews in World War II.” Bobby Fischer also admitted to belief in a “giant conspiracy of the Jewish world government.” Yet, despite, Bobby Fischer's openly anti-Semitic remarks, he had several close Jewish friends. According to the American Jewish master Ron Gross: "Bobby says we’re all victims of the conspiracy".
Notes and references
- Paul Morphy of Louisiana was widely regarded as the #1 player in the world in the 1850s, but this was in an era before an official world champion was determined.
- Bobby Fischer on September 11, 2001 Transcript everything2org. Accessed 18 January 2008. The interview can also be heard on YouTube, but does contain the uncensored expletives.
- Chess Life, March 2008, page 24
- Is Bobby Fischer Anti-Semitic?, Larry Parr, May 8, 2001