The controversial former world chess champion, Bobby Fischer, has died in Iceland at the age of 64.
The US-born player, who became famous for beating Cold War Soviet rival Boris Spassky in 1972, died of an unspecified illness, his spokesman said.
Bobby Fischer, one of my heroes, passed away today at the age of 64. He was one of the greatest chess players in the world, beating his opponents with unprecedented numbers during the world championship in 1972. The road to his world championship match was paved with zeros for his opponents, even in the candidates' matches; something that never happened before throughout the game's history and has since never happened again. His victory over Boris Spassky made him an American hero, one who beat the Soviets at a game they had dominated for a quarter century at that time.
After his famous victory, he refused to defend his title against Anatoly Karpov in 1975, and lost his title by default. It turns out that move 40...h5 during his last game versus Spassky had been the last official move he'd ever make. He had beaten every single opponent before him, and was able to do it again, but there just wasn't anything in it for him anymore. He had beaten the world before. The world had become uninteresting.
He vanished from the public eye for 20 years. In 1992, he resurfaced briefly to play a match against his old rival Spassky in Yugoslavia, despite a UN embargo that included sanctions on sporting events. He was actually warned by the US Department of Treasury that it would be illegal for him to play this match due to the embargo; in front of the international press, Fischer was filmed spitting on the order that forbid him to play. He won the match and over 3 million USD, and as a result had an arrest warrant obtained for him by the Department of Treasury.
Nine years later, right after the September 11 attacks, he was interviewed on a Philippine radio station and proclaimed "the White House and Pentagon have been attacked. This is all wonderful news." He called for the death of George W. Bush and insisted that the US government then "execute hundreds of thousands of American Jewish leaders", "arrest all the Jews", and "close all synagogues". Fischer had been a strong anti-semite for a long time, and had claimed often times that the source of his misfortunes was a Jewish conspiracy. His mother was Jewish.
In 2004, he was arrested at a Japanese airport near Tokyo for trying to take a flight to the Philippines with an invalid passport. Still wanted by the United States, Fischer was now suddenly in a position where he could be extradited to his home country, despite not having actually violated Japanese law. After a lot of political discussion that's too boring to describe, he managed to get Iceland to offer him an alien's passport. This proved to be insufficient for the Japanese authorities, and thus Icelandic officials decided to provide him full citizenship for humanitarian reasons, stating their belief that the United States had singled him out for his political statements.
And so he became a naturalized Icelander. Iceland is crazy about chess, and Fischer's arrival was welcomed by a crowd.
Unfortunately, he had been suffering from kidney problems the past couple of months. The details were private and thus difficult to verify. Einar Einarsson, the chairman of a Fischer support group in Iceland, stated "he was not a man who wanted to seek medical attention. He didn't believe in Western medicine."
As I said, Fischer was one of my heroes. He had a very imaginative play style, and had shown himself to be capable of defeating some of the top players with humiliating numbers. He first beat Mark Taimanov with a ridiculous 6-0. The defeat was so stunning that poor Taimanov was sanctioned by the Soviet government due to their thinking he had deliberately lost the match so badly due to an underlying political motive. However, they changed their minds after Fischer defeated three-time world champion candidate Bent Larsen with the same incredible 6-0 score. Obviously, Fischer was simply too good for anyone to compete with. This kind of difference in quality had never been seen before, and would never be seen again. Fischer was a phenomenon, one who immortalized himself and solidified the status of chess as a game for professionals during that world championship tournament.
I'm really saddened by this. It actually gave me a brief feeling of mortality. There are more people who I consider to be heroes, and they too are of age by now. It's kind of strange when a person like that dies. You just don't consider of the fact that they too are only human.
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EDIT: and PLEASE don't reply with "checkmate". That is seriously lame. And we know that there are 64 squares on a chess board, so there's no need to inform anybody.