Bobby Fischer’s 2005 Reykjavik Interview
Bobby Fischer arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland after spending almost nine months in a Japanese prison. Fischer held a press conference the day after his arrival in Iceland on March 25, 2005. Jeremy Schaap, the son of the late Dick Schaap, asked Fischer numerous questions at the start of the press conference. Icelandic chess grandmaster Helgi Olafsson writes about their encounter:
Jeremy Schaap tried his utmost to humiliate Bobby. In answer to his question Bobby said: ‘He [Dick Schaap] rapped me very hard, he said I don’t have a sane bone in my body, I didn’t forget that.’ And later he addressed Schaap again and talked about his father, who once took him to Knicks games: ‘His father, many many years ago, befriended me…acted kind of like a father figure, and then later, like a typical Jewish snake, he had the most vicious things to say about me.’
To which Jeremy Schaap replied, temporarily silencing Bobby: ‘Honestly I don’t know that you’ve done much here today really to disprove anything he said.’
Schaap may have had a point, but to my mind this was an attack that was not called for at that moment. It didn’t seem right to have this discussion with a man who has just been released from prison after nine rough months.
A few weeks later Jeremy Schaap was rewarded for his work in Reykjavik. At the Emmys he won the Dick Schaap Award for Outstanding Writing, an award named after his father, for an Outside the Lines feature titled ‘Finding Bobby Fischer’.
The New York Times reported about another mission shortly afterwards: ‘…Schaap was at a news conference promoting Mike Tyson’s June 11 fight against Kevin McBride. Tyson asked him what he had been doing in Iceland. Tracking another former world champion, Schaap said.
“Bobby Fischer”, Tyson said. “That guy’s crazy!”
The media coverage was almost unbelievable. Several times I was called by staff writers from the New York Times and other newspapers. When I looked for the name Bobby Fischer on Google it turned out that he was all over the news. The death of Pope John Paul II on April 2 got more attention, but Fischer was close.
Jeremy Schaap later said he asked Fischer questions at the press conference until he had no more questions to ask. Schaap left the one-hour press conference 22 minutes after it began. Obviously, if Schaap was sincerely interested in understanding Fischer, he would have stayed for the entire press conference to hear Fischer’s answers to other reporters’ questions. Schaap left early because he had an encounter with Fischer that would make Fischer look bad around the world.
Jeremy Schaap’s hit piece on Bobby Fischer includes a fine dramatic performance by Jeremy Schaap who made himself the story:
Fischer’s Comments After Schaap’s Departure
Fischer made some interesting comments at the press conference after Jeremy Schaap’s departure. Fischer said that the U.S. and Japanese governments had illegally colluded to imprison him in Japan. Fischer described his imprisonment in Japan as a vile and criminal kidnapping. Fischer said his passport was illegally destroyed after his imprisonment, and then the U.S. government falsely said his passport had been revoked. Fischer described the U.S. as an evil, hypocritical and corrupt nation throughout the press conference.
Fischer said that he and Boris Spassky originally wanted to play their 1972 World Chess Championship match in Iceland. U.S. Chess Executive Director Ed Edmondson convinced Fischer to ask to play their match in Yugoslavia, since Fischer could always later choose to play in Iceland. Fischer said he thought that Edmondson was a CIA agent. Fischer also said that he had offered Anatoly Karpov perfectly fair conditions to play chess in 1975. According to Fischer, it was Karpov and not Fischer who had refused to play for the 1975 World Chess Championship.
Fischer made it clear during the press conference that he was finished with traditional chess; only Fischer Random chess interested him now. Fischer denied playing chess with Nigel Short or anyone else via the Internet. Fischer did acknowledge that he played traditional chess with a man while Fischer was imprisoned in Japan. However, this was only because Fischer had nothing else to do while he was imprisoned.
Fischer said he had a couple of fights with Japanese guards while he was in jail, which resulted in his twice being placed in isolation rooms. Fischer considered the guards and everyone else in the jail to be kidnappers. Fischer said in his second isolation cell the Japanese used a yellow light that prevented him from sleeping for 96 hours. He described the yellow light used against him as being very vicious and a form of torture.
Fischer was asked about the great chess players from the past. Fischer said that great chess players from the past would not do well against today’s grandmasters because today’s grandmasters have far more knowledge of openings. Fischer said the only relevant question is which chess players had the most talent. In his biased opinion, Fischer thought he was the best chess player ever. Since Fischer won an unsurpassed 20 straight games against high-level grandmasters in the early 1970s, he had a legitimate basis for making this statement.
Fischer emphatically said at the press conference that every World Chess Championship match between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov had been prearranged. Fischer said that prearrangement at the upper levels of chess tournaments was a common practice. Fischer called Kasparov and Karpov criminals and chess cheats. Fischer challenged Kasparov and Karpov to take a voice lie detector test to prove they had not participated in prearranged matches.
A reporter asked Fischer if Kasparov and Karpov were not good chess players. Fischer replied that Kasparov and Karpov were both very good chess players. However, Fischer compared their matches to wrestlers who engage in studio wrestling matches. Fischer said the studio wrestlers are both very good wrestlers, but anyone with common sense can tell that these wrestling matches are prearranged.
Fischer bitterly complained during the press conference that all of his personal belongings and memorabilia had been stolen from a Bekins storage facility in Pasadena, California. These personal belongings included extensive research and writings he had made in regard to the Kasparov-Karpov matches. With his research and writings stolen, Fischer was never able to publish a book documenting the prearrangement of the Kasparov-Karpov matches.
I am not qualified to determine if Fischer is correct that the Kasparov-Karpov championship matches were all prearranged. I will state that if Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov are innocent, they should take lie detector tests to prove their innocence. Since neither Kasparov nor Karpov have taken lie detector tests, I think it is quite likely that Fischer is correct in his assessment that their chess matches were all prearranged.
Bobby Fischer was widely called sick and even insane because of his controversial statements outside of chess. For example, Charles Krauthammer wrote that “he’s clearly a sick man.” However, it would be more accurate to say that Fischer used his prodigious intellect to read widely and deeply to discover how corrupt our society is. Fischer’s inability to adjust to such a corrupt society does not mean he was sick. As Indian spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti stated:
“It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
Dr. Magnus Skulasson, an Icelandic psychiatrist who knew Fischer well toward the end of Fischer’s life, insisted that Fischer was neither psychotic nor schizophrenic. Skulasson said about Fischer:
“He had problems, possibly certain childhood traumas that had affected him. He was misunderstood. Underneath I think he was a caring and sensitive person.”
Chess grandmaster Boris Spassky made an impromptu tribute to Bobby Fischer at the end of a 55-minute press conference on November 23, 2008. Spassky was still in shock 10 months after his friend’s death. Spassky said that Fischer was the most honest and vulnerable person in chess history. Spassky also said that Fischer was a very pure person, and he reiterated that it was a pity Fischer had died. Spassky made it clear that he thought Fischer was both an exceptional person as well as an exceptional chess player.
Boris Spassky’s emotional tribute to Bobby Fischer commences at the 53:45 minute mark:
Extended recording of the Reykjavik press conference Jeremy Schaap walked out of for dramatic effect:
Prior Bobby Fischer articles:
 Olafsson, Helgi, Bobby Fischer Comes Homes, The Netherlands: New In Chess, 2012, pp. 65-66.
 Olafsson, Helgi, Bobby Fischer Comes Homes, The Netherlands: New In Chess, 2012, pp. 65, 130.
 Brady, Frank, Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Rise and Fall—from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness, New York: Crown Publishers, 2011, pp. 274, 318.