|Chess Legend Granted Residency
Agence France-Presse, Thursday,
Dec 16, 2004
REYKJAVIK -- Iceland offered yesterday
to give a residence permit to chess
legend Bobby Fischer, who is being
held by Japanese immigration authorities
while the United States seeks his
"The directory of immigration has
today confirmed that Mr. Fischer's
application has been approved.
The Icelandic embassy in Tokyo has been
instructed to inform Mr. Fischer
about the decision," Iceland's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. In
an interview broadcast on Monday by Icelandic television station Channel
2, Mr. Fischer said he had written to Icelandic Foreign Minister David
Oddsson requesting asylum. Reykjavik agreed only to grant a residence
permit, though it instructed its
embassy in Japan to "help him to get to Iceland if he so wishes."Mr. Fischer,
who became an American hero for wresting the world chess crown from Soviet
domination in 1992, has been held by Japanese immigration authorities in
Ushiku, north of Tokyo, since July 13. He is being held after trying to
board a flight to the Philippines using an invalid passport. It was revoked
by the United States.
The 61-year-old chess master has
been wanted by the United States since
1992 for earning more than $3-million
in a chess match staged in the former
Yugoslavia, in defiance of an international
embargo. That match was a rerun of his 1972 "match of the century" against
Soviet Grandmaster Boris Spassky, a series that was held in Reykjavik.
It remains unclear whether Japanese
authorities, who rejected Mr. Fischer's
request for political asylum, will
release him or deport him to the United States, where he could face up
to 10 years in prison. But the Icelandic Chess Association, which lobbied
for his release, hailed the government's decision.
"This is a great victory, a victory
for Bobby and for Iceland," Gudfridur Lilja Gretarsdottir, president of
the association, told Icelandic public television.
"We are helping an old friend in
need, and we are proud that the
government had the courage to do
that. Playing chess has never been a crime."
Neither Mr. Spassky, now a French
citizen, nor the German referee of the
Yugoslav game has been prosecuted
in his home country for violating the
international embargo. Mr. Spassky
wrote in an open letter that he would
gladly join Mr. Fischer in a U.S.
prison cell if Mr. Fischer is sentenced.
"Just let us play chess," he added.