Published March 11, 2005
“Nobody has single-handedly done more for the US than me. When I won the world championship, in 1972, the United States had an image of, you know, a football country, a baseball country, but nobody thought of it as an intellectual country. I turned all that around,” said Chess player Robert James Fischer in a radio interview on September 11th, 1972. Thanks to him, we now view the United States as an intellectual country. Having won the World Championship against Spassky in Reykjavik in 1972, Bobby Fischer never defended the title, and defaulted against Anatoly Karpov in 1975. Instead, he joined the Worldwide Church of God and went on the first dates of his life with attractive female members, before falling out with the church in 1977. The church having disposed of most of his money, the previously sharply dressed Fischer now lived in seedy hotels and dressed like a bum, constantly worried that the Soviets would poison him.
Ferdinand Marcos and the Shah of Iran
In 1981, he was arrested on suspicion of being a bank robber. Not willing to tell the police who he was, he was held for 48 hours before let go. Out of money, he still turned down million dollar offers from Philippine Dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the Shah of Iran and Las Vegas to play chess, claiming that the figures were too low.
Instead, he sold phone conversations with himself for 2.500 dollars an hour. Bob Dylan’s manager gave his client one for his birthday.
Still, his chess skills remained undiminished, and in 1981 he beat grandmaster Peter Biyiasas in 17 consecutive games of speed chess.
Still broke, Fischer agreed to play Spasski again in Yugoslavia in 1992 for 5 million dollars worth of prize money, despite UN sanctions. Ironically, the real reason he may have decided to play was because of love. He had been conducting a pen pal relationship with Zita Rajcsanyi, an 18-year-old Hungarian chess prodigy, and it was she who inspired him back to the board. Once in Yugoslavia. Spassky felt that Fischer “looked marvellously normal” at the time. This image was soon dispelled, however, when he demanded the toilet in his room rise higher in the air than anyone elses.
Fischer beat Spasski again and remained in Yugoslavia, defying the elder Bush, but Zita left him and wrote a book about their relationship. Inevitably, Fischer accused her of being a spy hired by the Jews. He was now invited to move to Hungary and stay with the Polgar sisters, two young Hungarian chess players, who happened to be Jewish. It was at this time that he developed his own Fischer Random Chess, and played with the sisters. The elder, Judith Polgar, became the best female chess player in the world, and a match was planned between them. However, Fischer cancelled it on grounds the opposition was Jewish. He then moved to Japan, some say because he liked the culture, others because there were fewer Jews there, where he remains to this day, even if he’s doing his best to leave. He now has a Japanese girlfriend, despite having fathered a child with the Filipino Justine in 2000. He still pays taxes on a house he owns in Florida, perhaps indication that he would like to return home one day. Home being the United States.