Fascinating Bobby Fischer video!

Some years ago, I stumbled onto a Google document featuring a video of Bobby Fischer shortly after he was released (March 24, 2005) from his nine-month imprisonment. I had not seen it on any chess-related website and had been meaning to do a brief on it after some reservations. Fischer had immediately shaven his scraggly beard grown over his nine months in prison, but had a noticeable knot on his head. It’s not clear if this was from an injury during numerous scuffles with Japanese prison guards.

Fischer after being released from Japanese detention. Fischer two days after being released from detention.

On the left, Bobby Fischer photo taken after nine months of Japanese detention. Media sources have spitefully presented this ghastly image as the last impression of Fischer. He shaved the beard down shortly after arriving in Iceland. On the right, Bobby Fischer two weeks after his release in Iceland. Photos from ChessBase.com.

This clip began with Fischer in a relaxed mood at the Hotel Loftleideir Reykjavik discussing a wide range of issues from the music of the Temptations to religion to the state of chess. While many erroneously state that Fischer didn’t have any interests outside of chess, it is clear that he was a sports enthusiast, loved “soul music,” swimming, bowling and was a voracious reader of literature.

Bobby Fischer heading to his first press conference on Friday March 25th 2005, one day after arriving in Iceland. Photo by Associated Press.

The video appeared to be shot by his friend Saemundur “Saemi” Palsson, who was instrumental in settling into his adopted country. I would imagine that this video was used for the documentary Me and Bobby Fischer detailing his last years. The video is broken into different clips, but gives a very interesting view of Fischer in his last years in Iceland. He passed away in Iceland in 2008 at age 64 and is buried outside of Reykjavik. The last time #BobbyFischer was trending was during the premier of the movie, Pawn Sacrifice, an interesting but unflattering account of his life.

The segment with neurologist Dr. Kári Stefánsson, co-founder of deCODE Genetics, was particularly interesting because they discussed Fischer’s legal issues. As the were eating lunch, it was apparent that this was a central focus of Fischer’s bitterness… the book Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess and the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer were violations mentioned. Of course Fischer was very direct in his view that he had been exploited.

Bobby Fischer having lunch with wife Miyoko Watai and Dr. Kári Stefánsson.

Bobby Fischer having lunch with wife Miyoko Watai (left) and Dr. Kári Stefánsson while discussing his legal issues.

Stefánsson seemed to be operating from the notion that Fischer was speaking irrationally (or resorting to “coprolalia”) about certain issues, but of course he raised very good points about the legal case. The tension in the conversation was sometimes broken by laughter. “He hasn’t lost his sense of humour,” said Stefánsson. Also on the video were some interesting conversations with Fischer Random during this lunch meeting and even mention of possible match.

The video seemed to be situated out of order because in the middle of the video, they showed the clip of Fischer on the airplane from Japan to Iceland (via Denmark) with the scraggly beard. He discussed his account of imprisonment in the Japanese jail. In other parts he discussed old classic songs, Michael Jackson, his legal situation with the U.S. government, his Icelandic citizenship, prearrangement in chess and the question of God. Fischer was even seen singing Dean Martin’s, “That’s Amore.” It’s an interesting video account by Saemundur Palsson. Enjoy!

Video footage of Bobby Fischer in Iceland
Hotel Loftleidir Reykjavik 2005
(Saemundur Palsson)


  1. Fischer’s Playlist of Songs…

    The Temptations, “Runaway Child Running Wild”

    Sammy Davis Jr. “I Gotta Be Me”

    Dean Martin, “That’s Amore”

    Marian Anderson, “He Got the Whole World in His Hands”

    Chuck Jackson, “I Don’t Want to Cry”

    Chuck Jackson, “Tell Him I’m Not Home”

    Tom Jones, “Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings”

    Tom Jones, “Green Green Grass of Home”

    Harry Belafonte, “Matilda”

    USA for Africa, “We Are the World”

  2. Dr. Kári Stefánsson is very naive about Fischer’s legal issues being an “easy challenge” (in the American court system) and his tone is very demeaning and condescending. Not a good discussion over a meal. It was clear that Fischer was not easy to deal with, but it was also clear that he was no fool.

    It’s ironic that Stefánsson admonishes Fischer not to make anti-Semitic comments with the concern that it would affect the distribution of their project. His contention was that Jews have immense power in that realm. Of course this is something Fischer knew and had himself asserted. Unfortunately, the Fischer Random project was never completed.

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