Bobby Fischer update

I mentioned Bobby Fischer’s flight to Iceland all the way back in March of last year and hadn’t heard anything new about him since then until now. Thankfully, the AP (article via WaPo) has cornered his maybe fiance/maybe wife and gotten a status update from her.

Bobby Fischer is still living the quiet life in Iceland, the home he adopted after being held in Japanese custody for nearly a year.

He still refuses to play chess _ at least the version that everybody else plays. And he’s still a wanted man, as far as the U.S. government is concerned. Beyond that, there are many things the world may never know about the reclusive chess icon _ and Miyoko Watai, Fischer’s longtime companion, says she isn’t going to break the silence.

“I prefer not to talk about private things,” said Watai, who is in Qatar to manage Japan’s chess team at the Asian Games.

Watai got swept up in the Fischer saga after he was detained _ “kidnapped” is the word she and Fischer use _ by Japanese authorities at Tokyo’s Narita airport in July 2004. He ended up staying in a Japanese immigration detention center for nine months fighting extradition to the United States before fleeing with Watai to Iceland.

While he was in Japanese custody, Fischer and Watai, who is also head of the Japan chess association, got engaged. At a news conference before leaving Japan, she denied allegations the engagement was a ploy to confound Japanese immigration officials, saying Fischer was her king and she wanted to be his queen.

8 thoughts on “Bobby Fischer update”

  1. Interesting. So many questions: Why is Iceland keeping him? On the other hand, what does the US stand by pushing this? There are many reasons that Bobby Fischer is a shitheel, but what he did is really not worth hunting him down or even the expense of effort. If he’s stupid enough to land in the US, bust him. If not, let it go. The US stands to look petty here and stands to gain little by trying to nab him (if they do.)

  2. “Why is Iceland keeping him?”
    Supposedly, because there are some very serious chess fans in high places in the Icelandic government.

    “On the other hand, what does the US stand by pushing this?”

    There does not seem to be evidence that the US was looking to track down Fischer for many years, but when he started calling in to radio programs in Europe and the Philippines praising the destruction of the World Trade Center and babbling on about Zionist deathmongers and other nonsense it probably ticked off the people that would have been willing to negotiate with him to dismiss the outstanding warrants in exchange for his cooperation.

    Fischer claims to have been “kidnapped” in Japan at the behest of the US, but in fact he was arrested on immigration violation charges, and then let go when Iceland agreed to take him in, without ever being turned over to US authorities or law enforcement.

    I personally think that the charges against him should be dismissed- it’s absurd to punish him for violating economic sanctions against a country which no longer exists by merely playing a chess game, but I also think he could have gotten them dismissed if he really wanted to, and that at this point he is simply cultivating his victim persona, whether consciously or as a result of mental illness.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Playing the victim keeps him in the public eye, which, despite his famed reclusiveness, he seems to enjoy once in a while.

    The US has revoked his passport, right? What’s his status in Iceland? If he’s claiming asylum or something like that, it could cause a bit of bad blood. Any idea what stance, if any, the Icelandic government has taken on the charges against him?

  4. I’m not sure the US revoked his passport exactly, but he was scared of being arrested, and so never set foot in an embassy to renew his old one when it expired, as they tend to do after a decade. He was arrested in Japan for traveling on an expired passport, a charge that cannot be denied, in factual terms.

    He was given Icelandic citizenship by a special act of parliament, in recognition to his long-standing relation with that country’s chess community. No parliamentarian voted against the bill, but some abstained or where not present. There is more detail on this here. And, if you go to this page here even has photographs of his passport, notification of citizenship, and his being presented with it.

    While the US does have an extradition treaty with Iceland, it is obvious that at this point no request is going to be made.

  5. Bobby Fischer had a current valid US passport in his possession when he was taken into custody attempting to leave Japan at Narita Airport. While “on the run” he had renewed his passport renewed several times, including the US Embassy in Switzerland. So the US authorities had ample opportunity to nab him if they’d really wanted to. The US Embassy in Manila had cancelled his US passport retrospectively, but had failed to take adequate steps to advise him, sending a non-registered letter to a former address. So following arrest while still at Narita, a spook, code name ***** from the US Embassy Tokyo literally cut Bobby’s passport in half in front of him. Putting aside the legality of this act, there are implications for any world traveller. Piss off your government sufficiently and it can rescind your passport retrospectively and render you stateless. I was at the Tokyo Press Club when Icelandic officials showed off Bobby Fischer new Icelandic passport. Earlier, a US lawyer hired by Fischer gave a presentation where he said in all his experience he’s never seen such a travesty of justice.
    However, it appears that Israel has squeezed the last ounce of sympathy out of the Holocaust, and good will for Israel is getting a little thin on the ground. Defending Bobby Fischer over his anti-Semitic views is only slightly easier than defending King Herod. But persecuting him for them amounts to introduction of thought crime. Looks like the US found out the hard way that you trample a person’s human and legal right at your peril. The US certainly shot itself in the foot in the Bobby Fischer case. Presumably, when the Bush administration is no more, Bobby Fischer will be able to crack a deal with the State Department. Can’t imagine he’s in too much of a hurry to enter the US.

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