Robert James “Bobby” Fischer (March 9, 1943 – January 17, 2008) was an American chess Grandmaster and the 11th World Chess Champion. He is widely considered one of the greatest chess players of all time. Fischer was also a best-selling chess author. After ending his competitive career, he proposed a new variant of chess and a modified chess timing system: His idea of adding a time increment after each move is now standard, and his variant Chess960 is gaining in popularity. Widely considered a “chess legend”, at age 13 Fischer won a “brilliancy” that became known as The Game of the Century. Starting at age 14, he played in eight United States Championships, winning each by at least a point. At 15½, he became both the youngest grandmaster and the youngest candidate for the World Championship up until that time. He won the 1963–64 U.S. Championship 11–0, the only perfect score in the history of the tournament. In the early 1970s he became the most dominant player in modern history—winning the 1970 Interzonal by a record 3½-point margin and winning 20 consecutive games, including two unprecedented 6–0 sweeps in the Candidates Matches.
According to research by Jeff Sonas, in 1971 Fischer had separated himself from the rest of the world by a larger margin of playing skill than any player since the 1870s. He became the first official World Chess Federation (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) (FIDE) number-one rated chess player in July 1971, and his 54 total months at number one is the third longest of all time.
In 1972, he captured the World Championship from Boris Spassky of the USSR in a match held in Reykjavík, Iceland, that was widely publicized as a Cold War confrontation. The match attracted more worldwide interest than any chess match before or since. In 1975, Fischer declined to defend his title when he could not come to agreement with FIDE over the conditions for the match. He became more reclusive and did not play competitive chess again until 1992, when he won an unofficial rematch against Spassky. The competition was held in Yugoslavia, which was then under a United Nations embargo. This led to a conflict with the U.S. government, which was also seeking income tax from Fischer on his match winnings, and Fischer never returned to his native country.
In his later years, Fischer lived in Hungary, Germany, the Philippines, Japan, and Iceland. During this time he made increasingly anti-American and antisemitic statements, despite his Jewish ancestry. He publicly expressed criticism of the U.S., stating his belief that, “Nobody has single-handedly done more for the U.S. than me. But now I’m not useful anymore, you see. The Cold War is over and now they want to wipe me out, get everything I have, put me into prison.” After his U.S. passport was revoked over the Yugoslavia sanctions issue, he was detained by Japanese authorities for nine months in 2004 and 2005 under threat of deportation. In February 2005, Iceland granted him right of residence as a “stateless” alien and issued him a passport. When Japan refused to release him on that basis, Iceland’s parliament voted in March 2005 to give him full citizenship. The Japanese authorities then released him to Iceland, where he lived until his death in 2008.
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