Home Page arrow Press arrow American World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer Dies at age 64.
American World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer Dies at age 64. Print E-mail
By Joan Dubois   
January 18, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             Contact: Joan DuBois
January 18, 2008                                         (931) 787-1234 #123
Press Release #3 of 2008                            [email protected]

(Crossville, TN) U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) President Bill Goichberg, “I was very saddened to hear of the death of Bobby Fischer, the only official American World Chess Champion.  At his peak, he was the best chessplayer who ever lived.  His aggressive, uncompromising style, going all out for a win in every game, is rarely seen in top level chess.  His victory over Boris Spassky in 1972 caused an unprecedented chess boom in our country, and the US Chess Federation still has many members who first joined during that period because of all the publicity he created.  Bobby's brilliant games and fighting spirit will be remembered forever by those worldwide who love our great game.

USCF Executive Director Bill Hall, “On behalf of the United States Chess Federation (USCF), I am saddened by the loss of one of the greatest chess minds of all time. Chess players everywhere are in mourning. Though Bobby Fischer was before my time and I never met him, he still had a profound impact on my life. Because of his success in that magical year of 1972, the popularity of chess exploded in America. My hometown’s chess story has been repeated countless time across the country: The Fischer legacy inspired a group to start a chess club, to later introduce chess programs into local schools, and to thereby open up a whole new world to a group of kids from small-town, middle America. This experience prepared me to move 1,000 miles away from home, graduate from MIT, and later become the USCF’s Executive Director. One of my childhood teammates is now a Lt. Col. With the U.S. Air Force and a Georgia Tech engineering graduate; another has found success in corporate America. This is the untold story of the Fischer legacy. Although he may not have set out to be a popularizer, his success led to many school districts across the country integrating chess into the daily curriculum. Chess opens minds and changes lives. Thank you Robert James Fischer for the impact you had on my life.”

Official Press Release:

“I hate the term ‘chess genius’ because I think of myself as an all-round genius who happens to play chess.” –Bobby Fischer 

Robert James Fischer, professionally known as Bobby Fischer, has died at the age of 64.  Born in Chicago on March 9, 1943, he died in a Reykjavik hospital on Thursday, January 17, 2008.  The cause of death was kidney failure, after a long illness.

Bobby was without a doubt the most idolized chess player the world has ever seen, and perhaps, the most reviled.  In winning the World Championship in 1972, he captured the attention of an entire nation – indeed the world – with a convincing victory over Boris Spassky who represented the Soviet hegemony in world chess.  Upon his return to the U.S., he received the Key to New York City from Mayor John Lindsey, personal congratulations from President Nixon, and earned an appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.

However, none of the fame and accolades had any effect on the highly principled Fischer, who refused to defend his title in 1975, when his match demands were rejected by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), leading the way for Anatoly Karpov to re-establish Soviet domination at the highest level of competition.

Disappearing almost entirely from the public eye, Fischer emerged in 1992 to play a “World Championship” match with Boris Spassky because he had promised Boris a rematch.  Unfortunately, the match was held in Yugoslavia in violation of International sanctions, and that resulted in an arrest warrant being issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.  Although there is some question as to the legality of the arrest warrant, Fischer never again set foot in the United States.

After September 11, 2001, Fischer again made headlines, not for playing chess, but for his comments during a series of 17 radio interviews, denouncing the U.S. and calling the destruction of the World Trade Towers “good news.”  He called for the death of President Bush, and the “arrest of all Jews,” earning the enmity of most of the free world.

He was detained in 2004-2005 in Japan for traveling with an expired or revoked U.S. Passport.  While the U.S. was unsuccessful in its attempt to have Fischer deported for income tax evasion, the Japanese courts did rule that Fischer would have to leave the country.  He was released to travel to Iceland where he was granted political asylum.  In Iceland, Fischer renounced his U.S. citizenship.

At the time he earned the title of U.S. Master, he was the youngest ever to do so, and the same was true when he earned the title of International Master in 1957, and Grandmaster in 1958.  His pivotal year was 1956 when he won the U.S. Junior Championship, and later in the year, played his famous “Game of the Century” against Donald Byrne in the Rosenwald Cup on October 17, 1956.  It was perhaps at this point when Arthur Bisguier realized “From here on out, we all knew we were destined to be no more than names on a wallchart.” 

In 1957-58, Fischer won the first of his eight U.S. Championships.  His domination in the U.S. was no more apparent than in the 1963-64 championship where he achieved a perfect score of 11 wins, no losses and no draws.  After the 1966-67 event, he refused to play in another U.S. Championship, stating that the field should be expanded from 12 to 16 players.  Thus, it came as no surprise in 1975 when Fischer refused to defend his title because his demands for the match were rejected.

Fischer will be remembered for his innovative play and contributions to chess theory as well as for his competitive spirit (“I like to see ‘em squirm.”).  His “Fischer Clock” has changed the face of tournament play at all levels, forever. 

The United States Chess Federation (USCF), founded in 1939, serves as the governing body for chess in the United States and is now headquartered in Crossville, Tennessee. USCF is devoted to extending the role of chess in American society. It promotes the study and knowledge of the game of chess, for its own sake as an art and enjoyment, and as a means for the improvement of society. The USCF is a not-for-profit membership organization with over 80,000 members. For additional information on the USCF see: http://www.uschess.org.