Bobby Fischer, anti-US chess legend, now hates Japan too

Posted: 3/4/2005
TOKYO : Bobby Fischer, the US chess legend turned vociferous critic of his country, is so fed up with detention in Japan that he has started to hate the Japanese nation and people, his Japanese fiancee said.

Fischer, 61, was detained in July when trying to fly out of Japan to the Philippines. The maverick genius faces 10 years in prison in the United States for playing chess in Yugoslavia in 1992 in violation of sanctions imposed over the Balkan wars.

He has been offered residency in Iceland, where he played his greatest match in 1972. But Icelandic supporters were refused access when they tried to see him this week at his immigration lock-up in central Japan.

"He has only 45 minutes to come out and to get sunshine from Monday through Friday. That's all. He starts to hate Japan and the Japanese very much," said Miyoko Watai, who became engaged to Fischer in detention and heads the Japan Chess Association.

"That's why I am so upset. But I understand why he started to hate Japanese," she told a news conference in English.

"I used to receive telephone calls five times, six times, every day. Now, I have no telephone (calls) at all. I start to worry about him," Watai said.

Watai said she met with Fischer on Tuesday but has been denied meetings since Wednesday when she went to the detention facility with her fiance's supporters from Iceland.

A spokesman for the Ushiku detention center declined to comment on the reasons for denying the meeting, other than saying it was a "security matter."

On the issue of telephone access, the spokesman said detainees' access to pay phones depended on which area of the facility they happened to be held.

Supporters say the United States is pressuring Japan and Iceland to turn over Fischer because of his political views. On September 11, 2001, the chess player once hailed as an American hero went on Filipino radio to hail the attacks on his country and launch an anti-Jewish tirade.

"Japanese authorities are doing whatever they can to obstruct this process. We have been given no grounds for this denial of access to Bobby Fischer, except 'a security consideration' or 'safety consideration'," said John Bosnitch, who has led efforts to free Fischer.

The chess giant's lawyer, Masako Suzuki, said Fischer was still waiting for the justice ministry to make its decision on letting him go to Iceland.

"I believe all necessary conditions for him to go to Iceland are satisfied," she said.

Fischer's friend and former bodyguard Saemundur Palsson said the former chess master's health was weakening.

"He has been complaining about headaches and dizziness. His health is sure not getting better," Palsson said.

But Fischer's fiancee said the detention has had one side benefit: trimming his belt-busting waistline.

"Before he was fat. Now he lost his weight, about 10 kilograms (22 pounds)," Watai said.

Fischer was turned down by Japan when he asked for political asylum. His appeal is before the courts, but he has agreed to drop the legal proceedings if Japan allows him to leave or deports him to Iceland.

Gudmundur Thorarinsson, chief organizer of the 1972 match who flew from Iceland in an unsuccessful bid to meet Fischer, said the maverick chess king was "a human tragedy in the making."