The Shmooze

Bobby Fischer, Back From the Grave

By Ezra Glinter

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Bobby Fischer was once the greatest chess player in the world, before he devolved into a ranting, rabid antisemite, despite the fact that he himself was Jewish. By the end of Fischer’s life the only country that would have him was Iceland, where he died in 2008 of kidney failure, leaving behind some $2 million and no will. Now, AP reports, Iceland’s supreme court hopes that exhuming his corpse will help determine who gets the loot.

Since Fisher’s death, four different parties have been bickering over his fortune, including a nine-year-old Philippines girl named Jinky Young, whose mother, Marilyn, claims Jinky is his daughter. The other claimants are a Japanese chess official named Miyoko Watai, who says she was married to Fischer in 2004; Fischer’s two American nephews, Alexander and Nicholas Targ; and the American government, which claims Fischer’s money in compensation for unpaid taxes.

As the New York Post explains, however, according to Icelandic law Young would get two thirds of the money and Watai one third, if both of their claims are true. Genetic testing based on material from Fischer’s body should presumably determine whether Young is his daughter.

“At this point we are just trying to establish this,” said Young’s lawyer, Thordur Bogason. “And if she is confirmed as the daughter of Bobby Fischer, then by Icelandic law she is his legal heir.”

Fischer was perhaps the greatest chess prodigy of the twentieth century, becoming an American champion at 14 and the youngest Grand Master in history at 15. In 1972 he won the World Championship against the Soviet player Boris Spassky, after which he dropped out of competitive chess for twenty years. Fischer earned the ire of the American government in 1992 when he played a rematch against Spassky in Yugoslavia, which was then under United Nations embargo. Instead of returning home he lived out his final years in Hungary, Germany, the Philippines, Japan and finally Iceland, which granted him citizenship in 2005.


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