America’s Forgotten Cold War Hero: Bobby Fischer

Dateline: Reykjavik, Iceland

On The Eighth Anniversary of His Death, Remember How Fischer Destroyed the Soviet Chess Empire and His Single Handed Victory Over Soviet Culture

By Ed Murray


His Reward From the American Government:  Jailed, Choked, Kept Naked in Cell, Persecuted By  President George H.W. Bush, Indicted By Grand Jury for Playing Chess, All His Possessions Stolen and Auctioned Off, U.S. Visa Pulled, Jailed in Japan, Vilified By The Obnoxious Media and Became A Man Without A Country Pursued by American Authorities Around the World.  One of the Most Disgraceful Stories of American History Ever Perpetrated on one of its Own True Heroes.


His Single-Handed Victory Against the Soviet Chess Colossus Was a Staggering Loss to the Soviets.

The Cold War, 1972.  The Americans and the Soviets were pretty much at a standstill. Neither side could risk a major military adventure that could escalate into mutual atomic destruction. Vietnam was winding down, ending in a loss for the Americans.  Things were looking bleak, with a cultural revolution in the United States.  In fact, cultural warfare was the only battleground left to fight in.  Capitalism vs Socialism was a deadlock.  The Soviets had launched an athletic offensive.  They also ruled the cultural intellect with their mighty chess empire.  Then along came a lone American, a young man who grew up in poverty, was socially inept for the most part, and had no real support from the institutions in his own country.  He, alone, clawed his way to the top and challenged the Soviets in mid 1972 for the title of World Chess Champion in Reykjavik, Iceland.  The lone kid from Brooklyn beat the Russian Boris Spassky and the entire Soviet apparatus.  He cracked their psyche, and basically humiliated them, accomplishing something that no one had thought possible.  The Soviet cultural colossus was shown to be vulnerable, and to be defeated after the decades of effort that they had put into it meant a staggering psychological loss.  Bobby Fischer had become America’s hero, and the Cold War took a turn against the Soviets.

To get some idea of the tremendous task that faced Fischer, here’s a few quotes from the time of his victory:

Burt Hochberg, writing in one of the leading chess magazines put it this way: ” By fulfilling his lifelong ambition, Bobby Fischer has made History.  His struggle to reach his goal was strewn with obstacles.  He had to overcome the apathy of his countrymen while talented Soviet players have been conscientiously trained, financially aided, and hero -worshipped by the citizenry.  The political power wielded by the Soviets in various chess bodies seemed aimed to frustrate Bobby at every turn.  In the match itself, Bobby’s solitary preparation was pitted against a massive, concerted effort by the high-powered Soviet chess hierarchy.

Yet he won.  And this is only the beginning!”

Chess master Kasparov remarked, “Fischer fits ideologically into the context of the Cold War era: a lone American genius challenges the Soviet chess machine and defeats it”.

Dutch grandmaster Jan Timmen calls Fischer’s victory “the story of a lonely hero who overcomes an entire empire”.

Fischer’s sister observed, “Bobby did all this in a country almost totally without a chess culture. It was as if an Eskimo had cleared a tennis court in the snow and gone on to win the world championship”.

David Friedman, in Best Ever Sports Talk: “The top Soviet players were provided with
state stipends and worked together in an organized fashion in order to maximize the chance that one of their number would always retain the world title; the Soviet Union could not compete with the West
economically, scientifically or in many other ways but chess and Olympic sports were two areas that the Soviets sought to dominate in order to “prove” the superiority of communism over capitalism. It is
no exaggeration to say that one lone American genius, by virtue of his talent, willpower and tenacity, overcame the collective efforts of the Soviets and wrested the World Championship from them after they controlled it for a quarter century.”

His win had also led to a chess boom in the United States.  The U.S. Chess Federation had about 5,000 members.  At the end of 1972, after Fischer beat Soviet Boris Spassky, membership had swelled to over 70,000.  Suddenly, intellectual pursuits were back in style.  America’s normal promotion of militarism and athletics took a back-seat when it’s youth took up chess.

Fischer a Member of Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God in Pasadena, California

About the time of his ascendancy to the top of the chess world, Fischer was noted to having joined a Pasadena religious group called the Worldwide Church of God.  Their somewhat controversial leader was Herbert W. Armstrong, who generally preached a version of British Israelism,, that the British people and some other Europeans were the true Israelites, not the Jews, and therefore they were the ones chosen and blessed by God.  Among other things, Armstrong started Ambassador College and built the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, both great achievements.

Herbert Armstrong

Bobby Fischer was a high-profile member of the Church.  He also was a big donor, giving over $100,000 to the Church at that time (1970s) according to an interview with Church leader Stanley Rader published in the Wordwide News in 1979.  Because of his celebrity, Fischer was given an apartment on Church property and was often cared for by Church officials. He didn’t drive, so the Church often provided him with a car and a driver. The “chauffeur” told me that he was designated to take Bobby around, mainly on shopping trips.  “Bobby was pretty eccentric, and because he grew up alone without much supervision from his mother, and with no father around, he was short on social mores and interactions with others.  He didn’t mean anything about it, that’s just the way he was.”

Taking Bobby on a shopping trip for some new threads in Beverly Hills, the chauffeur shook his head, “He kind of rampaged in and out of these exclusive men’s shops, trying on things, making a big mess, and then on to the next store.  He kept me busy, as I had to follow after him and apologize to the annoyed shopkeepers.”

“One time I was driving Bobby back to Pasadena from some event.  It was night-time and I was going up the 110 freeway.  Bobby was asleep in the back seat.  Suddenly, I looked down at the gas gauge and saw that it was on empty, so I pulled off at the next off ramp, and as I sailed down the ramp I ran out of gas.  I could see a gas station at the bottom and was able to make the light and barely pull in.  Bobby woke up just at that moment and wanted to know what was wrong.  ‘Just stopping for gas’ I said.  I was really sweating, if I had run out of gas on the freeway with Bobby in the back seat I would have been fired as well as humiliated by everyone.”

Contrary to rumors, Bobby was fond of his mother, Regina.  She didn’t drive either, so when Bobby was in Pasadena, he would send for her and being somewhat thrifty buy her a ticket on a Greyhound Bus. A long trip for mom, coming from the East Coast.  The chauffeur would pick her up at the bus depot..

Bobby Fischer Tortured by Pasadena Police

The late 1970s and early 1980s were not kind to the Wordwide Church of God or to Bobby Fischer.  On January 3, 1979 the California Attorney General sent armed deputies to seize the Pasadena H.Q. of the Church.  This came about from a split in the Church, between Herbert W. Armstrong and his son Garner Ted Armstrong, and others, who reported financial mis-deeds to the Attorney General.  At the time, the Church had assets of 100 million dollars.  Stanley Rader, a Church leader and close to Herbert, led the fight against the Attorney General, and eventually beat him back in Court, but a lot of PR damage had been done, and the Church never fully recovered.  Herbert Armstrong died in 1986 at the ripe old age of 93.  Stanley Radar retired in 1981.

Meanwhile, in May of 1981 Bobby Fischer was arrested walking down the street in broad daylight in Pasadena.  The charge was bank robbery, an absurd charge as Fischer was very wealthy at the time. It was and still is common for cops to stop people who didn’t “look right” to them, using any phony excuse they could think up.  Were the cops in Pasadena just stupid or were orders sent from the top to hassle the Worldwide Church of God’s number one celebrity?  Bobby published a pamphlet about this event in 1982, called “I Was Tortured in The Pasadena Jailhouse!”  This is now a somewhat rare booklet, selling on the internet at times for over $300. The good news is that has been posted on a web site for all to read.  It is a horrifying story, but not an unusual event, even after nearly 30 years of so-called advancement of our civilization, we see nation-wide on-going crimes and murders of civilians by cops.  It seems that every day there is some new video footage of a citizen being unlawfully killed.  So going back to 1981, before video cameras and cell phones, a lot of police misconduct was unreported.  The fact that Fischer had the money to print a booklet on the event and distribute it, is something that most citizens would not be able to do.

Fischer charges in his booklet, that he was abused, choked, thrown into a cell naked, denied food and water, denied a phone call, and more.  You can read if for yourself, click here. It is a very sad commentary on the Pasadena Police Department.  Fischer’s story is totally believable.  Pasadena is a very wealthy community, sometimes called Beverly Hills North.  The main job of the Police is to protect the elites and wealthy people and businesses.  Homeless people are not treated well.  There is no parking anywhere on any street in Pasadena after 10pm at night.  So was Fischer just mistaken for a homeless guy?  It seems unlikely, and the attitude and statements of the cops would make one think that orders came down from someone high up in the City Government.

But what a thing to do!  This was America’s hero, the World Chess Champion.  The guy who single-handedly turned the Cold War in our favor.  Unfortunately, this was not all that Fischer was to suffer from an ungrateful and at times criminal government.

Persecuted For Playing A Chess Game in Yugoslavia

In 1992 Fischer went to Yugoslavia to play in the World Chess Champion Tournament, billed as the Revenge Match of the Century  where he again beat Soviet champion Boris Spassky.  Bobby won this, despite a long time away from the tournament circuit, once again an unbelievable feat.  Unfortunately, this was a time that the United States and its neo-con government, along with NATO was starting to break up the country of Yugoslavia, using a process of “regime change”  that continues to this day, especially in the middle east.  U.S. President George H.W. Bush retaliated against Fischer by putting out an “Executive Order” No. 12810 on June 5, 1992, prohibiting transactions with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  This led to a Grand Jury Indictment against Bobby, and for over the next decade he was a man without a country.  He was threatened with imprisonment if he returned to America, and U.S. authorities attempted to seize his passport and confiscate his money.  This was his “thank you” for his part in winning the Cold War against the Soviets, beating them not once, but twice.

Robbed of His Lifetime Collection of Memorabilia

On January 14, 1999 Bobby Fisher called a radio station in the Philippine Islands where he vented his anger on a number of things, primarily that he had lost all of his memorabilia that was stored in a Bekins Storage Company facility in Pasadena, California.  He claimed he had paid thousands of dollars to keep his personal items safe, but his agent, Bob Ellsworth, who he called a “secret Jew” had failed to pay the storage rent and his stuff was auctioned off.  His collection comprised of rare books, magazines, and even records of his winning chess games, as well as personal books signed to Fischer by former President Richard Nixon.

bobby 4Fischer, angry that all his personal effects had been sold off by Bekins Storage in Pasadena, because of an oversight in payment by Fischer’s agent Bob Ellsworth, to whom he had been giving $5,000 per year to take of those matters, blamed Jews, not only for the loss of his stuff, but for various business deals that he felt ended up swindling him.  Unable to come to the U.S. to get his belongings, or confront the alleged theft of monies owed to him, his only outlet was a radio program on a station in the Philippines, which no one in the West listened to or even knew existed.  Years later, tapes of these broadcasts surfaced on the Internet. Meanwhile, about all Bobby could do was to stew about it, occasionally calling this radio program to vent his anger.  You can read the transcript of the radio show Click Here, but be aware that Fischer uses explicit language and his rant contains wild charges against “the Jews”.  You can google search more of his rants, in one call right after the attacks on the World Trade Center, he made some heavy anti-American statements that were in extremely bad taste, considering how many innocent folks died as a result. To many who have heard these rants, Fischer comes across at this time as completely unhinged.

His agent, Bob Ellsworth claimed that he went to the auction and used his own money to personally buy back 80 percent of the material, all of the best stuff, to pay for his mistake in not making Bobby’s payment to Bekins. He further claimed he later delivered the material back to Fischer in Hungary, yet Fischer seemed to have a disconnect, and still continued to talk about the loss of his memorabilia.

Why Was Bobby So Angry with the Jews?

But why all the anger at “the Jews”?  Bobby’s mother Regina was said to be Jewish. It is now almost a certainty that his real father was Paul Nemenyi, a brilliant physicist, who was also Jewish, and fled Europe and the Nazis to the U.S.  Many of his friends throughout his life were Jewish.  By this time, had he been pushed over the edge mentally?  All his accomplishments ignored, all his memorabilia stolen, his indictment and persecution by Bush and the U.S. government, now a man without a country, all this must have affected him. And what was the source of his rage against Jews?  Was it subconscious anger at his father, who was rarely around?  When he was growing up, did his mother tell him who his real father was? Or was that only a part of it?  And how could such a brilliant man blame everything bad that happened to him on “Jews”, when a majority of his real trouble was caused by George H.W. Bush, certainly not a Jew, but a self-proclaimed Christian?

A glimpse of it could be from his years spent in Pasadena, California, and the Los Angeles area.  This is all speculative, of course, but may lead to some understanding.  Start with Bobby’s immense ego. His brilliant accomplishments in the world of chess, and the feedback given to him served to balloon his ego. Statements that he made, and statements from his friends lean to this. Every once in a while, we hear of some famous person who secretly worships Hitler because of the power he held.  This fascination in complete power is represented by Hitler, although the facts of the German Third Reich show that Hitler was not nearly as powerful as outsiders thought.  But image is everything.

In Pasadena, Bobby supposedly had a picture of Adolf Hitler over his bed.  He attended the Worldwide Church of God, whose British-Israelite message excluded some Jews as the “chosen” people, and said that white Britons and other European folks were the true descendants of the ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and hence God’s special, chosen ones.  He was reading anti-Jewish pamphlets like “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion“. How strongly did these things affect him, along with his own self-imposed isolated living habits that started when he was a child in Brooklyn?  Did he turn even more inward, carrying this angst that slowly built up whenever someone who was Jewish did him wrong, and ignoring the outside world and the good things his many Jewish friends did to help him along the way?  His few really close friends describe him as being a simple man, and a very kind person. But his high I.Q. would point to a much more complicated person.  What was going on inside the Fischer skull?  Even the mighty Soviets were baffled.  Unless Bobby left a manuscript somewhere that explains his behavior, we will probably never know the root cause of this and the hurtful things he said about Jews, including many of his former friends who did a lot to help him during his rough times.


The Final Years

For a time his final years were spent in exile in Japan.  He married a Japanese woman who was a chess champion of Japan.  However, his U.S. passport was revoked and he was imprisoned in Japan, and threatened with deportation back to the United States.  His chess friends intervened, and in March, 2005 he was granted full citizenship in Iceland.  He moved to Reykjavik, the scene of his victory over Spassky, and moved into the same building as his friend Gardar Sverrisson. Iceland was loyal to Fischer – he had put the country on the map during the chess match, and they were happy to give him sanctuary.  This is where he spent his final years. When he died, as his request, he was quietly buried in a local church, with only a few people present.  It was so quiet that even the pastor of the church did not know about it, until after he was buried.

There was a big legal struggle for his estate.  Bobby’s sister, Joan, had married Russsell Targ, who is familiar to many as a “Remote Viewer” and co-founder of the Stanford Research Center, an intelligence operation to investigate paranormal and parapsychology for military and intel purposes.  How much did Bobby know about his brother-in-law’s operations?  At any rate, Bobby’s wife, Targ’s sons, and a woman in the Philippines all laid claim to Bobby’s millions.  The woman from the Philippines claimed Bobby was the father of her daughter, so the authorities dug up Bobby and took DNA samples, which proved he was not the father.  Targ’s sons lost and got stuck with a large legal bill.  The Japanese wife was the winner.

Since then, Bobby’s friend Gardar Sverrisson has written a book called Bobby Fischer’s Final Years, which is only published presently in Icelandic.  We hope to see it in English at some future time.

The Final Words

“Look what I have done for the U.S.,  Nobody has single-handedly done more for the U.S. than me. When I won the world championship, in 1972, the United States had an image of, you know, a football country, a baseball country, but nobody thought of it as an intellectual country. I turned all that around single-handedly, right? But I was useful then because there was the Cold War, right? But now I’m not useful anymore. You see, the Cold War is over and now they want to wipe me out, steal everything I have, and put me in prison.”

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Rest In Peace Bobby Fisher, America’s Forgotten Cold War Hero.

RIP Bobby Fischer, died January 17, 2008.  America’s Forgotten Cold War Hero.