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Bobby Fischer

Chess Player

Born: 9 March 1943
Died: 17 January 2008
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
Best known as: The American chess champ who beat Boris Spassky in 1972
The first American ever to become world chess champion, Bobby Fischer was as famous for his personality quirks as for his genius. He grew up in Brooklyn, learned to play chess at age 6 and quickly became a prodigy; he was only 15 when reached International Grandmaster level in August 1958. He fought a memorable and tumultuous battle against the Russian chess champion Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1972, beating Spassky in 21 games to become world champion. But Fischer was already a somewhat eccentric figure, increasingly reclusive and prone to haggling over minor points of lighting and other match conditions. He never defended his crown, refusing a 1975 match against the International Chess Federation challenger, Anatoly Karpov. The ICF awarded the title to Karpov and Fischer dropped from sight for nearly two decades. He resurfaced in 1992 to play Spassky in a multi-million dollar rematch in Belgrade, thereby defying U.S. sanctions against Yugoslavia. He won the match (and $3.5 million), but spent the next decade as a reclusive, cranky and somewhat mysterious figure who was regarded as a fugitive by American authorities. On 16 July 2004, Fischer was arrested at Tokyo's Narita Airport on a charge of trying to leave Japan without a valid passport. He was detained by the Japanese until March of 2005, when he was granted citizenship by Iceland and was deported to his new home country, where he died in 2008.
Extra credit: Fischer's books included Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess (1966) and My 60 Memorable Games (1969)... The 1993 movie Searching for Bobby Fischer was not about Fischer himself, but rather was a drama about a young chess whiz, based on the story of real-life chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin.

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