Bobby Fischer, The Grandmaster, towering over a chessboard lying on the floor. Click here for high quality version suitable for a poster!


Some Fischer facts

  • Born: March 9, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois
  • Died: January 17, 2008 in Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Learned the rules of chess at age 6!: 1949
  • First recorded tournament game: July 1955
  • International Grandmaster title: 1958
  • U.S. Champion eight times in eight attempts!: 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966
  • Winner of: every tournament and match in which he participated from December, 1962 through World Championship match 1972 with the exceptions of Capablanca Memorial, 1965, (2nd place - ½ point behind Smyslov), and Piatigorsky Cup, 1966, (2nd place - ½ point behind Spassky).
  • Bobby Fischer's tournament and match results: 415 wins, 248 draws and 85 losses out of 748 games played from 1955 through 1992 for a performance average of .721 or 72.1%
  • Fischer's highest achieved rating: 2785 ELO.


-- Robert J. Fischer, USA, World Chess Champion 1972-75

Chess Master Bobby Fischer Dead at 64

January 17, 2008 - REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) -- "Chess," Bobby Fischer once said, "is life." It was the chess master's tragedy that the messy, tawdry details of his life often overshadowed the sublime genius of his game. Fischer, who has died at the age of 64, was a child prodigy, a teenage grandmaster and -- before age 30 -- a world champion who triumphed in a Cold War showdown with Soviet champion Boris Spassky.

But the last three decades of his life were spent in seclusion, broken periodically by erratic and often anti-Semitic comments and by an absurd legal battle with his homeland, the United States.

"He was the pride and sorrow of chess," said Raymond Keene, a British grandmaster and chess correspondent for The Times of London. "It's tragic that such a great man descended into madness and anti-Semitism."

Fischer died Thursday of kidney failure in Reykjavik after a long illness, friend and spokesman Gardar Sverrisson said Friday.

"A giant of the chess world is gone," said Fridrik Olafsson, an Icelandic grandmaster and former president of the World Chess Federation.

Noted French chess expert Olivier Tridon: "Bobby Fischer has died at age 64. Like the 64 squares of a chess board."

In another bit of symmetry, his death occurred in the city where he had his greatest triumph -- the historic encounter with Spassky.

Chicago-born and Brooklyn-bred, Fischer moved to Iceland in 2005 in a bid to avoid extradition to the U.S., where he was wanted for playing a 1992 match in Yugoslavia in defiance of international sanctions.

At his peak, Fischer was a figure of mystery and glamour who drew millions of new fans to chess.

Russian former world chess champion Garry Kasparov said Fischer's ascent of the chess world in the 1960s was "a revolutionary breakthrough" for the game.

"The tragedy is that he left this world too early, and his extravagant life and scandalous statements did not contribute to the popularity of chess," Kasparov told The Associated Press.

Rival and friend Spassky, reached at his home in France, said in a brief telephone interview that he was "very sorry" to hear of Fischer's death.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the World Chess Federation, called Fischer "a phenomenon and an epoch in chess history, and an intellectual giant I would rank next to Newton and Einstein."

An American chess champion at 14 and a grand master at 15, Fischer vanquished Spassky in 1972 in a series of games in Reykjavik to become the first officially recognized world champion born in the United States.

The Fischer-Spassky match, at the height of the Cold War, took on mythic dimensions as a clash between the world's two superpowers.

It was a myth Fischer was happy to fuel. "It's really the free world against the lying, cheating, hypocritical Russians," he said.

But Fischer's reputation as a chess genius was eclipsed, in the eyes of many, by his volatility and often bizarre behavior.

He lost his world title in 1975 after refusing to defend it against Anatoly Karpov. He dropped out of competitive chess and largely out of view, spending time in Hungary and the Philippines and emerging occasionally to make outspoken and often outrageous comments.

He praised the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying, "I want to see the U.S. wiped out," and described Jews as "thieving, lying bastards." Fischer's mother was Jewish.

In 2004, Fischer was arrested at Japan's Narita airport for traveling on a revoked U.S. passport. He was threatened with extradition to the United States to face charges of violating sanctions imposed to punish Slobodan Milosevic, then leader of Yugoslavia, by playing a 1992 rematch against Spassky in the country.

Fischer renounced his U.S. citizenship and spent nine months in custody before the dispute was resolved when Iceland -- a chess-mad nation of 300,000 -- granted him citizenship.

"They talk about the 'axis of evil,'" Fischer said when he arrived in Iceland. "What about the allies of evil ... the United States, England, Japan, Australia? These are the evildoers."

In his final years, Fischer railed against the chess establishment, claiming that the outcomes of many top-level chess matches were decided in advance.

Instead, he championed his concept of "Fischerandom," or random chess, in which pieces are shuffled at the beginning of each match in a bid to reinvigorate the game.

"I don't play the old chess," he told reporters when he arrived in Iceland in 2005. "But obviously if I did, I would be the best."

Born in Chicago on March 9, 1943, Robert James Fischer was a child prodigy, playing competitively from age 8.

At 13, he became the youngest player to win the United States Junior Championship. At 14, he won the United States Open Championship for the first of eight times.

At 15, he became an international grand master, the youngest person to hold the title.

Tall and striking-looking, he was a chess star -- but already gaining a reputation for erratic behavior.

He turned up late for tournaments, walked out of matches, refused to play unless the lighting suited him and was intolerant of photographers and cartoonists. He was convinced of his own superiority and called the Soviets "commie cheats."

"Chess is war on a board," he once said. "The object is to crush the other man's mind."

His behavior often unsettled opponents -- to Fischer's advantage.

This was seen most famously in the championship match with Spassky in Reykjavik between July and September 1972. Having agreed to play Spassky in Yugoslavia, Fischer raised one objection after another to the arrangements and they wound up playing in Iceland.

Fischer then demanded more money and, urged by no less than Henry Kissinger, he went to Iceland after a British financier, Jim Slater, enriched the prize pot.

"Fischer is known to be graceless, rude, possibly insane. I really don't worry about that, because I didn't do it for that reason," Slater has said.

"I did it because he was going to challenge the Russian supremacy, and it was good for chess," he added.

When play got under way, days late, Fischer lost the first game with an elementary blunder after discovering that the TV cameras he had reluctantly accepted were not unseen and unheard, but right behind the players' chairs.

He boycotted the second game and the referee awarded the point to Spassky, putting the Russian ahead 2-0.

But then Spassky agreed to Fischer's demand that the games be played in a back room away from cameras. Fischer went on to beat Spassky, 12.5 points to 8.5 points in 21 games.

In the recent book "White King and Red Queen," British author Daniel Johnson said the match was "an abstract antagonism on an abstract battleground using abstract weapons ... yet their struggle embraced all human life."

"In Spassky's submission to his fate and Fischer's fierce exultant triumph, the Cold War's denouement was already foreshadowed."

Funeral details were not immediately available. Fischer moved to Iceland with his longtime companion, Japanese chess player Miyoko Watai. She survives him.

Associated Press Writers Jill Lawless in London and Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow contributed to this report.

 

On a happy side-note, Bobby lived 64 years: the number of squares on the chessboard which gave him life.

  • January 17, 2008
    • Updated the site to add the sad news of Bobby's death.

Updates removed to compact this list: 1995-2007

This site was created October 6, 1995

Disclaimer:

  • This web site is a Fischer fan site.
  • Mr. Fischer had no contact with this author.
  • Surprisingly, Bobby denounced this website on his own personal site as being an impersonation of him.
  • I never once claimed to be Mr. Fischer and feel a little saddened that he looked down at the dedication this site attributed to his life.

Mr. Fischer moved around a lot after he failed to appear to defend his title in 1975. Bobby has lived in Hungary, Brazil, Philippines, England, Japan and finally, Iceland where he lived out his final days.

He was incarcerated in Japan for an invalid passport which was revoked and as he had no legal citizenship, Japan held him there for 8 months. He applied for Icelandic citizenship and was granted it in March of 2005.

Fischer has long been regarded as an eccentric genius. One of the world's greatest chess players, with a reported I.Q. of 180, he wrested the world chess championship away from the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky in a 1972 match. But he lost the title when he refused to show up to defend his title three years later.

Mr Fischer, who has been a Grandmaster since the 1950s, became the first - and so far only - American world champion in 1972. He disappeared for the best part of 20 years before surfacing in 1992 to play against his old opponent Spassky for $5 million. The match broke sanctions imposed by the United Nations and in a controversial move he was indicted in the United States. President George H.W. Bush gave his personal approval for the legal action.

Since then, he's been a recluse. Fischer's 1992 non-title rematch against Spassky, which Fisher won despite having been away from professional chess competitions for two decades. At that time, he said he had not paid U.S. income taxes for 15 years and asked why economic sanctions were not being imposed against Israel.

At a press conference on June 19, 1996 in the Argentine capital, Fischer was received by hundreds of journalists and chess fans, many of whom had come from all over the world. The object of the conference was to publicize the launch of Fischer's new game, Fischer Random Chess. Fischer pointed out, that with his new improved chess variant chess creativity and talent would be more important than memorization and analysis. He stated, that many games are prearranged before the players begin the game, and that even the so-called world championship between Russian players Kasparov and Karpov had been prearranged, this would be impossible in Fischer Random Chess. He also pointed out, that due to such long hours in front of the computer screen, many top players today, such as Anand and Kramnik, wear thick glasses. He also mentioned, that all of the study necessary to play conventional chess made it hard work, and that he had gotten into chess in order to avoid work! Fischer stated, that without access to databases of the millions of opening variations in traditional chess, computers do not really play chess all that well.

On January 13, 1999, Bobby Fischer conducted his first live radio interview in Hungary. He has given a total of 35 live radio interviews from Hungary, Philippines, Columbia, Russia and Iceland. They are available in .mp3 format.

It appears that Mr. Fischer's personal website has been removed from the internet.

FISCHER VS. FIDE

Many readers still wonder why Bobby Fischer wouldn't defend his title against Anatoly Karpov in 1975 despite a $5 million purse offered in the Philippines. Some fans blame Fischer's refusal to compromise; others accuse a Soviet-dominated FIDE of coddling its Russian challenger at all costs. Whatever the truth, here is an excerpt from Fischer's letter to the world chess body in 1974 giving his side of the story.

FISCHER'S OWN WORDS

The first player to win ten games, draws not counting, with unlimited number of games wins the match. If the score is nine wins to nine wins, draws not counting, the champion retains title and the match is declared drawn with the money split equally. Versus the old system of the best of 24 games wins the match (12½ points) and if 12-12 the match is drawn with the champion retaining the title and prize fund is split equally. Draws do count in this system.

The unlimited match favors the better player. This is the most important point -- because in the limited game system the match outcome can turn on a very low number of wins, giving the weaker player a chance to "luck out." Also, in the limited game system the player who takes a game or two lead has an advantage out of all proportion. This creates an added element of chance. The player who wins the match should be the player who plays best over the long run -- not the player who jumps off to an early lead. The player that is behind must give his opponent "draw odds" every game until he catches up (if he is the champion) or takes the lead if he is the challenger. Giving "draw odds" to a Grandmaster is a great handicap and the player who must do so must eventually (because time is "running out") take serious risks, possibly causing further defeats and getting "deeper in the hole" from which there will probably be no escape. On the other hand, should the player who falls behind manage to "pull out of it" and take the lead or tie the score, his opponent may be put at the same unfair disadvantage. How do you explain Smyslov's 1957 victory over Botvinnik in seemingly convincing style with his disastrous defeat in the following year? Could it be just the situation explained -- because in the 1958 match Smyslov lost the first three games! And he never caught up.

As explained, losing a game is a very serious event in the limited game match and this explains the string of draws in the Karpov-Korchnoi match, the Petrosian-Korchnoi match in 1971, and the Petrosian-Huebner match in 1971. The percentage of draws in this type match is increasing -- sometimes dramatically. In the 24-game title match, you must realize, it was always to the advantage of one of the two players to play for a draw! Is it therefore any wonder there are many draws? Spectators hate draws -- spectators bring in the money -- no money. In the unlimited system there will be draws but there must also be many wins (at least ten in total); draws benefit neither player -- it is reasonable to expect a lower percentage of draws in the unlimited match, and overall this has proven to be the case.

Comparing the first player to win ten games system with the limited 24-game system. Question: Which system gives the champion a greater statistical advantage? Answer: The old 24-game system gives the champion a greater advantage....It was grossly unfair to the challenger.

"The match could drag on forever." Theoretically true -- practically untrue. For example, a chess game itself could theoretically drag on forever; every 50 moves or so one player moves a pawn or exchanges something -- the game could drag on for thousands of moves!....But practically this is ridiculous -- in the same way an endless match is ridiculous -- and if one player has "had enough" he can always resign the match. There is precedent for this in the Capablanca-Lasker match [1921]. But if the match takes a long time, so what? It takes place only once in three years and the point is to determine who is the best player. But past experience has shown that the unlimited match does not drag on endlessly.

"Giving in will destroy FIDE." The question should be decided on its merits. If FIDE feels the match system proposed by Fischer is the best system, they should accept it. If not, they should reject it -- period. "What people think or say" should not enter into it.

A player should not be allowed to "back into" retaining or winning the title by drawing the last game, the way he could in the old odious limited 24-game system. In the unlimited system, the champion must keep or take the title like a man by winning the last game.


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