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Bobby Fischer checkmated at 64

Eccentric grandmaster dies in Reykjavik

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Former US citizen and chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer died yesterday in a Reykjavik hospital aged 64, the Evening Standard reports. The cause of his death is not known, but he'd been ill for some time.

Fischer will be best remembered for his 1972 clash with Russian Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, which resulted in the US's first world chess champion for more than a century.

This proved to be the zenith of a brilliant chess career which saw Fischer crowned American chess champion at 14 and a grandmaster at 15. Following the Spassky match, however, he forfeited his world title in 1975 to Anatoly Karpov, after refusing to defend it.

Fischer then effectively disappeared for 20 years, reappearing in 1992 for a rematch with Spassky in Sveti Stefan and Belgrade, Yugoslavia. This was a bad choice of venue, since at the time there was a United Nations embargo against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, including a ban on participating in sporting events in the Balkan country.

He never returned to the US following the match, and was eventually arrested in 2004 in Japan and held for nine months under threat of extradition to his native land on charges of breaking sanctions against Yugoslavia. The chess-loving Icelanders eventually came to his rescue, and granted him citizenship.

In later years, Fischer occupied himself with attacking the chess establishment, including throwing around accusations of match rigging. He eschewed conventional chess for a "random" version of the game, in which "pieces are shuffled at the beginning of each match in a bid to reinvigorate the game".

On arriving in Iceland in 2005, he declared: "I don't play the old chess. But obviously if I did, I would be the best." ®

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