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14 Weird Facts About The Remarkably Strange Life of Chess Champion Bobby Fischer

Updated August 2, 2019 385.6k views14 items

Bobby Fischer epitomized the notion that there is a very thin line between genius and insanity. Because Fischer refused interviews and famously cut off contact with acquaintances who talked about him publicly, many Bobby Fischer stories and Bobby Fischer facts did not emerge until after his death. Some may never have surfaced at all. But even from a very early age, Bobby Fischer's life was fraught with chaos, anger, and instability. Fischer is perceived as possibly the the greatest chess player who ever lived yet his bizarre personality and racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-American outbursts later in life destroyed any semblance of a positive legacy. Ultimately, untreated mental illness also shortened the career of Fischer while he was in his prime. Despite all of his achievements, that Bobby Fischer is still perceived as a tragic example of unrealized potential truly underlines his status as one of history's most unusual human beings.

  • He Evaded US Imprisonment By Becoming A Citizen Of Iceland

    Eventually, Fischer's international warrant would catch up with him. Following the 9/11 attacks and the increase in global scrutiny of international travel documents, the US canceled Fischer's passport after he traveled to Japan. When he attempted to leave, he was detained by Japanese officials at the request of the US government. It would take the Icelandic parliament granting citizenship to Fischer to extricate the former chess champion from a Japanese prison where he remained in legal limbo for over nine months.

    Despite the hostility that Fischer generated with his virulent and hateful comments following 9/11, in Iceland, he was still considered a national hero who put the country on the map. Fischer accepted Iceland's offer of citizenship, left Japan in a private jet, and defiantly landed in Rekyavik in May of 2005.  He died in Iceland of kidney failure in 2008, aged 64.  

  • He Had His Fillings Removed To Prevent His Mouth Being Used As A Radio Transmitter

    One of the craziest and most widespread stories about Bobby Fischer is that he had his fillings removed to prevent the Soviets from using them to transmit manipulative radio signals. One of his biographers admitted that while Fischer did have them removed, it was for (what Fisher deemed) traditional periodontal reasons. However, other acquaintances had a different perspective. Ron Gross, a former chessmaster and friend had this to say about a conversation he had with Bobby while traveling through Mexico:

    “He looked terrible... clothes all baggy, wearing old beat-up shoes... Then I noticed that he was favoring his mouth, and he told me that he’d had some work done on his teeth; he’d had a dentist take all the fillings out of his mouth... I said ‘Bobby, that’s going to ruin your teeth. Did you have him put plastic in the holes?’ And he said, ‘I didn’t have anything put in. I don’t want anything artificial in my head.’ He’d read about a guy wounded in World War II who had a metal plate in his head that was always picking up vibrations, maybe even radio transmissions. He said the same thing could happen from metal in your teeth.”

  • Following His Death, Fischer Became Involved In A Paternity Suit

    When Bobby Fischer died in 2008, a legal fight ensued over his estate that entangled a former live-in girlfriend and her daughter. Marilyn Young claimed that her daughter, Jinky, was fathered by Bobby Fischer during the chess great's residence in the Philippines. If this was true and because Fischer left no will, then, by Icelandic law, the nine year old was entitled to all of Fischer's estate, which was believed to be valued at seven figures. To complicate matters further, a Japanese woman and longtime companion to Fischer, Miyoko Watai, claimed that she and Fischer were actually married in 2004, entitling her to the estate. Two nephews also sued, claiming that the marriage wasn't legal, and they, as closest relatives, were the rightful heirs.

    Eventually, an Icelandic court allowed the exhumation of Bobby Fischer, which determined that Jinky was not his biological daughter. They then declared Fischer's marriage to Watai as legal and dismissed the nephews' legal claim.

  • He Was A High School Dropout

    Despite a genius IQ and and his incredible chess talent, Bobby Fischer was a terrible student who routinely got Ds and was not at all socially adept. Fischer was a loner with few friends at school and was essentially isolated. It is not surprising then that, in 1960, he decided to drop out of Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, NY. He never attended any other academic institutions; although, his status as a fifteen-year-old chess grandmaster made formal schooling superfluous.