Reykjavik, Jan 19: Reclusive chess genius Bobby Fischer who became a Cold War hero by dethroning the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky as world champion in 1972, has died aged 64.
US-born Fischer, a fierce critic of his homeland who renounced his citizenship, moved to Iceland in 2005. He died in a hospital in Reykjavik, scene of his greatest triumph, on Thursday .Fischer had lived in exile for years, wanted in the US for playing a 1992 rematch against Spassky in Yugoslavia in defiance of international sanctions. An American chess champion at 14 and a grand master at 15, Fischer defeated the Soviet Union's Spassky in a series of games in Reykjavik to claim America's first world chess championship in more than a century.
The match, at the height of the Cold War, was seen as a clash between the world's two superpowers. But Fischer's reputation as a genius of chess soon was eclipsed, in the eyes of many, by his idiosyncrasies.
He lost his world title in 1975 after refusing to defend it against Anatoly Karpov. He dropped out of competitive chess and largely out of view, emerging occasionally to make erratic and often anti-Semitic comments.
He resurfaced to play the exhibition rematch against Spassky on the Montenegro luxury holiday island of Sveti Stefan. Fischer won, but the game was played in violation of US sanctions imposed to punish Slobodan Milosevic, then president of Yugoslavia.
In July 2004, Fischer was arrested at Japan's Narita airport for travelling on a revoked US passport and was threatened with extradition to the US. He spent nine months in custody before the dispute was resolved when chess-mad Iceland granted him citizenship.
In his final years, Fischer railed against the chess establishment, alleging that the outcomes of many top-level chess matches were decided in advance.
Instead, he championed his concept of random chess, in which pieces are shuffled at the beginning of each match in a bid to reinvigorate the game.