Confrontations during the cold war (5): the end of a perilous battle

Bobby Fischer Against the World, by Oliver Schopf

It was 1992, 20 years since Fischer won the world champion title and disappeared from the chess world. The United States still maintained its strength and remained as the only superpower in the world, while the Soviet Union could not stand the internal turmoil and external pressure and collapsed. Just like toppling dominoes, the fall of the Soviet Union induced the crisis and disintegration of many other communist states, such as Yugoslavia. Slovenia and Croatia, former states of Yugoslavia, protested against Serbian hegemony and declared for independence. Bosnia and Herzegovina also declared for independence shortly afterward. But the Serbs within these newly independent states were unhappy, because they had become the ethnic minority. Serbian uprisings began, and wars broke out in Yugoslavia.

Yugoslav Wars

While bullets and gunfire crashed on the battlefield, blades and swords slashed on the chessboard. A rematch between Fischer and Spassky was held in Sveti Stefan Island and Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1992. It was a sponsored, unofficial match for a World Champion between Fischer and Spassky, an exhibition rematch of the world championship match in 1972. Perhaps by promising such rematch to Spassky, Fischer hoped to apologize for his horrible behavior in the world championship match against Spassky, though he had never acknowledged his apology in public.

1992 Rematch

However, the trip to Yugoslavia was not easy for Fischer. The United Nations sanctioned against the Bosnian War by imposing an embargo in Yugoslavia, banning all international trade, travel, and sport activities in Yugoslavia. In response to the United Nations embargo, the United States President George Bush issued Executive Order 12810, forbidding United States citizens to travel to Yugoslavia. The United States had warned Fischer before the match that travelling to Yugoslavia was illegal, and he would face the punishment of heavy financial penalties or being imprisoned for ten years. In response, Fischer spat on the US order, and said, “This is my reply.” Perhaps the real reason Fischer insisted on participating in the match was that he coveted the huge amount of prize fund, up to 5 million dollars in total, and 3.65 million for winner; perhaps Fischer also treasured his friendship with Spassky so much, that he would keep his promise and participate in the rematch without taking account of his own perilous situation.

Fischer spat on the US order

Fischer won the rematch with 10 wins, 5 losses and 15 draws. He still believed that he was the true world champion, although Garry Kasparov was the recognized world champion, because Fischer thought that the outcomes of the world championship matches involving Karpov, Korchnoi and Kasparov were prearranged. After the rematch, the United States initiated a warrant for his arrest and threatened to put him into jail. It was such a sharp contrast that the hero in the old days descended into a prisoner. Thus Fischer never returned to the United States, and as a fugitive, he settled in Budapest, Hungary, and made friendships with many prominent chess players in Hungary, such as the Polgar sisters.

During the time Fischer wandered in the foreign lands, he descended into an anti-American paranoia. He commented that he was happy to see 9/11 happened. He supported the terrorists, claiming that the terrorist attacks were the best punishment of the United States’ horrible behaviors in the Middle East. The United States had become mad with Fischer. But Fischer did not fear the United States. He still remained a hero for the Icelanders because of his victory in Reykjavik, and he had acquired the citizenship of Iceland. The United States dared not approach Fischer. Just as Spassky said, “The entire country threatened to go into jails if Fischer, an Icelandic citizen, was arrested.” Iceland was Fischer’s second country, and people in Iceland admired him so much, that he was buried in Reykjavik after he died.

Fisher’s resting place

Was Fischer a wise man, who, not to mention his glorious achievements in chess, had seen through the despicable tricks of the Soviet Union and the malicious intentions of the United States, or a fool, who often spoke acrimoniously and placed himself in danger and loneliness? I would say both. Anyways, the legend of Fischer adds dramatic color to the Cold War, and remains epic in the history of chess.


-Seirawan, Yasser; Stefanovic, George(1992). No Regrets: Fischer-Spassky 1992.

-Mark Weeks (1997–2008). “1992 Fischer – Spassky Rematch Highlights”

-Brady, Frank (2011). Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall – from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness (1st ed.).

-Roger Cohen (September 2, 1992). “Bobby Fischer Ends Silence With Rancor”





Young and active tournament player with excellent results including a 1st place at the BSSZ Aranytiz International Master, 1st place at the Chinese Youth Chess Championship G16, and part of the top 10 contenders in two World Chess Championships for girls G16 and G18.

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