Cultural Revolutions

Former World Chess Champion

Bobby Fischer, the former world chess champion who is wanted by the U.S. government for allegedly defying U.N. sanctions by playing a match in Yugoslavia in 1992, was detained at Tokyo’s Narita airport on July 15 as he tried to leave for the Philippines.  Fischer was traveling on a passport that the State Department says had been invalidated last December.  At the time of this writing, he is in a Japanese jail, fighting extradition to the United States and seeking an offer of political asylum in any country willing to accept him.

The story is bizarre and may prove that being paranoid does not mean “they” are not out to get you.  It started 61 years ago, when a boy, Robert James, was born out of wedlock to a Jewish-American woman whose communist sympathies took her to the Soviet Union on the eve of World War II.  Two of the few people who knew Fischer well, Serbian grandmasters Sveto-zar Gligoric and Ljubomir Ljubojevic, point out that he first attracted the authorities’ attention even before his birth because his father was a prominent Hungarian atomic physicist, Pal Nemenyi, who was involved with the Manhattan Project.  Nemenyi died soon thereafter—“Bobby” never got to know his father—but the security implications of the affair were obvious.  A suspicion of links with the Soviet secret service surrounded the mother, and eventually the boy, for years to...

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