HP029: Bobby Fischer

HP029: Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer chess genius and paranoid anti-American. This is a request from David Potesta in Chicago, IL.


Further Reading:

Welcome to another edition of historypodcast. Before I get started I would like to apologize for all mispronounciations within this podcast. I am no history expert just someone who enjoys learning about history and decided to share what I learn via podcasting. I hope you all enjoy this episode. It is a request from David Potesta in Chicago, IL.

Robert James “Bobby” Fischer was born March 9, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois to Regina Wender a naturalized American Citizen of Jewish Polish ancestry who was born in Switzerland and raised in St. Louis Missouri. Regina later became a teacher, registered nurse and physician. Fischer’s father, reportedly Regina’s first husband was Hans-Gerhardt Fischer, a German biophysicist. Regina and Hans married in 1993 in Moscow, USSR. Although, Hans is listed as Fischer’s biological father on the birth certificate, evidence from the FBI and an article from The Philadelphia Inquirer state that Fischer’s real father was Paul Felix Nemenyi, a Hungarian Jewish physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project. Paul paid child support for Fischer from his birth into his childhood. Despite his mother being Jewish Fischer denied being of Jewish decent in several public interviews. In 1945 Regina and Hans divorced and Fischer went to live with his mother and older sister Joan. In May 1949 Fischer, then six years old, learned how to play chess from instructions found in a chess set that his sister had bought at the candy store below their family’s Brooklyn, New York apartment.

At age 7, he joined the Brooklyn Chess Club and was taught by club president, Carmine Nigro. When Fischer was 13 his mother asked John W. Collins, who had taught other professional players like Robert Byrne and William Lombardy. They spent a lot of time together. According to high school records Fischer’s IQ was 180. Despite his obvious intelligence he dropped out of Erasmus Hall High School, where teachers described him as “difficult”.

Fischer’s first real triumph was at the US Junior Chess Championship in July 1956. In 1957 at the US Open Chess Championship Fischer won over Arthur Bisguier. By winning that championship he was invited to the US Championship, which many thought Fischer was not ready for. In 1958 he became US champion. At age 14 he holds the record for being the youngest to hold the title. He would also become the youngest Grandmaster at that time, a title that was taken away from him in 1991.

Fischer won all 8 US Championships he competed in. That string of wins includes one were he had an 11-0 record, the only perfect score in the history of the tournament.

In 1962 Fischer began to listen to The World Tomorrow radio program with Herbert W. Armstrong and his son Gardner Ted Armstrong. Fischer stated in an interview that he had two lives the one devoted to religion and the one devoted to chess.

Fischer finally played Boris Spassky, the then world champion, in a game played July through September 1972. The match took place in Reykjavík, Iceland. Fischer lost the first two games then won seven of the next 19. The final score was 12.5 – 8.5. Fischer had won.

Fischer denounced the World of Tomorrow program and its ideas in 1972 after Herbert W. Armstrongs prophices did not come true and Garner Ted Armstrong was involved in several sex scandals.

In America chess suddenly became cool. Everyone knew the name Fischer even those with no knowledge of chess. In a time commonly called the “Fischer Boom” the membership of the United States Chess Federation tripled. There are several books and a movie pertaining to Fischer. They are listed on the website.

In 1975 the time came for Fischer to defend his title. Before he would play he had several demands. All but two of the demands were met. Fichser refused to compermise and would not play in the championship. Fishcer then dissapeared from the chess world and would not surface for 20 years.

In 1981 Fischer was mistaken as a wanted bank robber and arrested. He wrote a pamphlet under the name Robert D. James entitled I was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse! The pamphlet states that he was handled brutally by police officers and falsely accused of damaging prison property, a mattress.

Fischer emerged from his self-imposed isolation in 1992 to play a revenge match against Spassky. It took place in Yougslovia despite a UN embargo which included a sanction on sports events. The US warned Fischer that if he played he would be arrested. Fischer played and won the event. An arrest warent was obtained for Fischer. Fischer has not played a competitive game since this match.

In various intervews Fischer has made his anti-american sentiments clear.

On July 13, 2004 Fischer was arrested for using a revoked US passport to try to board a flight from Japan to the Philippines. Fischer renounced his US citizenship a month later and it was reported that he would be marring the President of the Japanese Chess Association. Japan had an agreement in place with the US to extradite. And they would extradite Fischer, so in January 2005, seeking ways to avoid deporation he wrote a letter to the government of Iceland asking for citizenship. Iceland granted Fischer an alien’s passport, but this failed to satisfy Japanese authorities. In late March the Iceland parliament granted Fischer full citizenship.

While Iceland has a similar extradition treaty with the US it does not include Icelandic citizens.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of historypodcast. Please visit the website to learn more about Bobby Fischer. The site can be found at historypodcast.blogspot.com. And you can email your feedback and show suggestions to historypodcast@gmail.com and don’t forget to visit the forums and participate in the converstations there. I will also post the transcript of this episode there in the members section. Thank you all very much for listening!

Bobby Fischer chess genius and paranoid anti-American. This is a request from David Potesta in Chicago, IL.

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