Bobby Fischer Found
July 16, 2004 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Bobby Fischer found, trying to travel from Tokyo to the Phillipines. He has been detained and is awaiting deportation to the states for attending a 1992 chess match in Yugoslavia in violation of international sanctions.
posted by o2b (46 comments total)
I never pass through Japan when travelling. They have the strictest airport security outside of Israel that I've ever been through. I think by now Fischer wishes he'd known that.

Why would a chess match violate sanctions? Nothing's being traded, right? And he beat them!
posted by brownpau at 7:11 AM on July 16, 2004

Is anybody else hoping he's been thrown into an arcane asian Chess dungeon where he has to play a tournament of "Checkmate or death" matches against grandmasters to gain his freedom? No? Okay.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:12 AM on July 16, 2004

A prominent American defying the will of the U.N.? Unthinkable.
posted by rory at 7:18 AM on July 16, 2004

I think they should lock him in a cell with nothing but some checkers.
posted by bondcliff at 7:21 AM on July 16, 2004

um... I do, stan.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:29 AM on July 16, 2004

Ooookay, now I've read about Bobby Fischer's downward spiral, and am thoroughly creeped.
posted by brownpau at 7:31 AM on July 16, 2004

More detailed article
posted by whatzit at 7:37 AM on July 16, 2004

If I remember correctly Paul Simon violated this same sort of cultural ban when he recorded with the South African musicians on Graceland. I guess if Bobby had put out a video of himself laughingly losing a match to Chevy Chase this all would have been forgotten.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 7:43 AM on July 16, 2004

Our long national nightmare has ended.
posted by ColdChef at 7:46 AM on July 16, 2004

spartacusroosevelt, someone at slashdot commented on the Paul Simon question. Apparently, he didn't break any U.S. laws that were on the books at the time, though there were U.N. sanctions in effect.

Bobby Fischer is a very ill person from what I can tell. The article linked by brownpau pretty much sums it up.
posted by lowlife at 8:02 AM on July 16, 2004

They're considering it the same as trade since he's sort of selling them his popularity and promotion.

Kind of silly considering how many people go to Cuba and do things like this, but Fischer is probably high on the Most Wanted List for his anti-American sentiments.
posted by destro at 8:16 AM on July 16, 2004

Bobby Fischer alive ? I thought he was long gone and his brains were in a big pickle jar over at NIMH.
posted by troutfishing at 8:28 AM on July 16, 2004

Why would a chess match violate sanctions?

I suppose it would have something to do with the bosnian pograms, as well as the other human rights abuses. By imposing sanctions against Serbia, the US was attempting to distance itself from any nation-state condoning such behavior.

Nothing's being traded, right?

Wrong. The match, as with an art exhibition, music concert, formal gathering, etc., was a cultural exchange. The sanctions limited such relations to discourage fraternization with countries supportive of war crimes.

One only needs to understand the cold war atmosphere presiding the early Fischer/Spassky matches to understand the metaphoric and sociopolitical nuances of parlor games.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:35 AM on July 16, 2004

I thought it was because there was a warrant out for his arrest related to possession of drugs. Wasn't he caught with some pot or something equally ridiculous back in the 80's?
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 8:43 AM on July 16, 2004

When I was in Budapest, a friend and I kept a list entitled 'Bad Ideas to Carry out In Europe.' 'Find Bobby Fischer' was on the list, as we had heard he might be in Budapest, but we made litle progress. And after finding out he was insane and probably in the Phillipines, we gave up. (We did manage to complete about two thirds of the list, though...)
posted by kaibutsu at 8:53 AM on July 16, 2004

From Slashdot, a letter to Fischer from the Department of the Treasury:

The Executive Order prohibits U.S. persons from performing any contract in support of a commercial project in Yugoslavia, as well as from exporting services to Yugoslavia. The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the performance of your agreement with a corporate sponsor in Yugoslavia to play chess is deemed to be in support of that sponsor's commercial activity.
posted by zsazsa at 8:56 AM on July 16, 2004

He was missing?
Of course, in the wild world of chess, who can tell where anyone is.
posted by Dillenger69 at 8:59 AM on July 16, 2004

Woah. I had no idea Fischer had gone so far off the deep end. In fairness, the "black man to Africa" comment isn't quite as bad as it appears when you read the whole thing:

"Ultimately the white man should leave the United States and the black people should go back to Africa," he said. "The white people should go back to Europe, and the country should be returned to the American Indians."

See? He wants America to be returned to the Indians. That's not so bad, right?

"They are quick to point out that he was raised in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, has had close friends who were Jewish, and in fact had a Jewish mother (information he has gone to great lengths to deny)."

Reminds me of this other guy I read about, except he was from Austria, not Brooklyn. :)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:03 AM on July 16, 2004

WOW! now i can sleep easy each night knowing that the effective war on terror by this administration has brought to justice one of the most feared and (obviously) satan-worshipping chess masters to justice. no more will i, new yorker, have to fear for my fellow patriot.

i'm sorry, i'm just so jaded lately…
posted by eatdonuts at 9:14 AM on July 16, 2004

Yeh, but civil, that guy's mother wasn't a jew. Fisher's was.

It all reads like classic paranoid schizophrenia, to me. He was probably on the edge for a long time. Damn shame. I hate reading about people trapped inside these illnesses.
posted by lodurr at 9:15 AM on July 16, 2004

Hooo boy, I've read the article brownpau linked to, and I am deeply thankful I'm no genius.

It would almost be a kindness if they did sentence the guy to pyschiatric care.
posted by orange swan at 9:28 AM on July 16, 2004

We did manage to complete about two thirds of the list, though...

I would like to see this list.

Our long national nightmare has ended.

hehehe Yes, we can all sleep a sound sleep. All is well in the world.

Was he really still being sought? Mildly pathetic given the events we live with daily these days.
posted by a3matrix at 9:36 AM on July 16, 2004

One of the rationales behind cultural sanctions is to make the citizens and/or leaders of the target country acutely aware that they are behaving in a manner the rest of the world views as 'beyond the pale'. This was arguably a contributing factor to the success of the sanctions against the South African apartheid regime: being banned from international rugby competitions was psychologically difficult for many South Africans. This sort of pressure (again, arguably) can cause elites to change their policies, or it can cause the 'masses' to put pressure on their leaders. Usually, these sanctions are deployed in combination with economic, diplomatic, military sanctions, etc.

/poli sci geekfilter
posted by stonerose at 9:38 AM on July 16, 2004

Searching for Bobby Fischer
posted by kirkaracha at 9:41 AM on July 16, 2004

Does anyone see the irony in America enforcing "cultural sanctions" against other nations because they don't want to support the commercial endeavours of a nation acting in a manner considered "beyond the pale"? I feel like I'm trapped in a Philip K. Dick short story.
posted by The God Complex at 9:49 AM on July 16, 2004

I'm glad we're spending our time going after real terrorists like this. Clearly, his reclusive chess-playing lifestyle was a danger to the world. America is a safer place, thanks to Bush's policies. Thank you, Mr. Bush!

Randomize the back row pieces, indeed!
posted by jmccorm at 10:34 AM on July 16, 2004

... his brains were in a big pickle jar over at NIMH.

What would a bunch of talking mice want with Bobby Fisher's cerebellum? Are you pondering what I'm pondering?
posted by bonehead at 10:40 AM on July 16, 2004

Bobby Fischer Goes to War is an extremely interesting read. It dispenses with the chess mechanics (inscrutable to the general layperson anyway) and instead focuses on the social and behavioral phenomena that made Fisher the world champion.
posted by aladfar at 10:51 AM on July 16, 2004

bobby fischer sodomized chess pawns while thier queens begged to be killed.
posted by quonsar at 10:55 AM on July 16, 2004

Was he really still being sought? Mildly pathetic given the events we live with daily these days

I'm glad we're spending our time going after real terrorists like this.

OK; these comments are pretty much ridiculous. It's not like there was an FBI task force going after the guy: he's been on the lam for 12 years. He raised a flag in Japan with an invalid passport, the grand jury indictment popped up on their computers, and he was detained. It was a matter of luck, not of any concerted law enforcement activity.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:59 AM on July 16, 2004

Was he really still being sought?

I don't think it's so much that the US (or anyone else) was seeking him, but rather that he is being deported from Japan for having an invalid passport -- an invalid American passport. The Japanese government contacted the US Embassy, most likely, and the embassy realized who it was -- and it made the news.

On preview: what mr_roboto said. doumo arigato.
posted by armage at 11:01 AM on July 16, 2004

read much, mr_roboto?

"He didn’t know that his passport had been revoked," said Watai, a member of the Japan Chess Association. "He had been traveling frequently over the past 10 years, and there was never a problem. I don’t understand why his passport was revoked all of a sudden."
posted by quonsar at 11:04 AM on July 16, 2004

Fox News Producer: "Quick! Photoshop me a picture of Bobby Fischer playing chess with Osama! And don't forget the sexual organs!"
posted by wendell at 11:42 AM on July 16, 2004

Maybe it was rovoked 10 years ago and it just took a decade for the paperwork to go through. Wouldn't surprise me in the least, that.
posted by ChasFile at 11:47 AM on July 16, 2004

off topic - beyond the pale, a racist term?
Do the origins of a commonly used expression become unimportant as time goes on?
posted by asok at 11:57 AM on July 16, 2004

Passports expire after 10 years.
posted by nickmark at 12:16 PM on July 16, 2004

Beyond the Pale:

"The phrase is a reference to the general sense of boundary, not to any of the particular places, such as the English Pale in Ireland, which bore that name."

source: Oxford English Dictionary

What racism are you talking about?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:22 PM on July 16, 2004

On preview, nickmark beats me to it.

I've always understood that "beyond the pale" came from a corpse. First they fall ill, then they pale, then they die.

Then again, I was convinced that "Let's call a spade a spade" was a card playing term, not a racial insult. Thankfully, the person who I'd offended understood that I really didn't know at the time that spade meant anything other than a card suit or a device for digging.
posted by eriko at 12:25 PM on July 16, 2004

"To call a spade a spade" did not originate as a racial slur (nor as a card playing term.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:35 PM on July 16, 2004

This is actually how a suprising number of criminals get caught. Not because the police are out there canvassing the streets for them, but because a trivial violation triggers a red flag on a background check.

Has for the crime. I think the government has to make something stick (even if it is just a slap on the wrist), because the same legal argument behind the grand jury indictment for Fischer playing in Yugoslavia, is also behind the embargo against Cuba.

Re. Beyond the pale: To be more specific, this is a case of convergent evolution of two different words to the same spelling. In the context of "beyond the pale" the most likely origin is the latin "palus" which became "pale" meaning an enclosed fence or picket. In contrast "pale complexion" derives from "pallidus".
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:36 PM on July 16, 2004

eriko, you were right, they were wrong.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:36 PM on July 16, 2004

Oh my god, I use "call a spade a spade" all the time, and the other day I got really dirty looks for it. I thought I had just pissed them off because I wanted them to stop giving me the run around. Perhaps they think I'm an incarnation of Hitler now.
posted by geoff. at 1:23 PM on July 16, 2004

Ew, ICKY /shudd
er/. Sure he should obey by the laws of the United States, but we have enough nasty people here as it is. I liked it better when Fisher was hiding abroad.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:50 PM on July 16, 2004

asok: The "pale" in "beyond the pale" is a row of spikes used as a barrier (same root as impale and palisade). The phrase is no more racist than the terms "unmanned vehicle" or "manually operated" are sexist (man, from manus, meaning hand; see also "all hands on deck", "mano-a-mano").
posted by hattifattener at 2:54 PM on July 16, 2004

Was he really still being sought?

From the article:
"Moreover, it appeared last night that US customs officials had been tracking his movements in the past weeks with the hope of finally bringing him into custody."

Signs point to Yes.
posted by mkdg at 4:55 PM on July 16, 2004

Is Fischer still a U.S. citizen? It seems like he has as good as given it up. The whole thing reminds me of John Walker Lindh, being accused of not being a good citizen to a country he turned his back on. Don't arrest him, embrace the exile and make it legal.
posted by thirteen at 11:19 AM on July 17, 2004

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