Fischer comes out spitting

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The Independent Online
WITH A SINGLE well-aimed spit, Bobby Fischer, the former world chess champion, showed that twenty years' living as an obsessive recluse has left his charm unaffected.

The grandmasterly spitting occurred during a press conference in the Yugoslav resort of Sveti Stefan, where Fischer, 49, will today begin a rematch of his successful 1972 world title fight against Boris Spassky, 55.

Questioned about official warnings from the United States Treasury Department, which threatened him with a possible jail sentence if he broke UN sanctions by playing in Yugoslavia, Fischer rummaged through his briefcase to find a letter.

'This is the order to provide information and cease and desist activities, from the Department of Treasury, Washington, DC, 21 August 1992,' he explained. Then Fischer held the document in front of his face and said, 'So, this is my reply to the order not to defend my title here'. And he spat loudly on the paper, to the applause of Yugoslav journalists and match organisers.

Fischer also said professional chess had been dominated by cheating since his withdrawal, that the Karpov-Kasparov world title matches were rigged, with every move pre-arranged, and that he does not support UN sanctions because he does not support the UN. He expressed contempt for Communism, Israel and Jews but denied being anti- Semitic. 'This term anti-Semitism is a nonsense term, because my understanding is that Arabs are also Semites, not only Jews,' he explained. 'I'm definitely not anti-Arab.' He did not add that he definitely is half Jewish.

Back in the playing room, carpenters and electricians were working on the table, the lighting and Fischer's custom-built leather chair, making minute alterations to satisfy his meticulous demands. He had specified the exact brightness of the lamp, and insisted on no shadows.

In Fischer's hotel room, according to workers in the match office, his lavatory seat had been raised by one inch to meet his specifications.

Bobby has spoken. On this evidence, little has changed since 1972. Today we shall see whether his chess still has its old eloquence.

(Photograph omitted)