Opinion: The Bobby Fischer Dilemma
Robert James Fischer (right) playing Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Championship Chess match.

Robert James Fischer (right) playing Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Championship Chess match.

It is now widely known that American chess legend Bobby Fischer has recently been taken into custody by Japanese authorities. Media outlets around the world have carried this bizarre story, but the reasons for his arrest are unclear. He has been traveling freely in Asia for the past 12 years and must have renewed his passport at least once. There are many persons in and outside of the chess world making comments about the Fischer case including his vituperative anti-American and anti-Jewish comments. What has been debated is the state of Fischer's mental stability, but the fact that he rants and raves about unpopular political positions does not prove that he is crazy.

However, Fischer is a very, very bitter man who was conveniently used a political pawn by the U.S. government, bilked of his riches by religious groups and betrayed by some of his associates. Much of his mistreatment probably has not come to light because of his strong political views have dominated. What may be debated is whether the U.S. government would actually arrest the chess legend if he were to be deported to the U.S. Fischer  violated sanctions against  travel to Yugoslavia to play a famous "Fischer-Spassky" rematch in 1992. This match occurred while the U.S. and the NATO alliance were fighting a war there.  However, extraditing Fischer would put the U.S. government is a serious predicament.

If one appraised the situation, they may agree that it would be a tremendous tactical blunder to harshly punish Fischer, one of the most widely-known sports celebrities in the world. It would mar the U.S. claim of defeating communism on different fronts (Fischer was a powerful icon in that fight). Furthermore,  Fischer would gain thousands of sympathizers from around the world which could make him more emboldened. Add this to the Iraq debacle, along with the new abuse videotapes (of U.S. soldiers sodomizing of young Iraqi boys) at Abu Ghraib and it would be another public relations nightmare.

Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

Posted by The Chess Drum: 17 July 2004