bobby fischer: the neurotic jumble


The news of Fischer’s death on 17 January had spread far and wide, but no one beyond the burial party had any notion that the controversial, Uncle Sam-hating, Jew-bashing former world chess champion was already underground until four the next afternoon, when the neighbour who had been present, Gardar Sverisson, phoned a friend to let him know. So closely held was the secret, so hastily arranged the funeral, that even the Lutheran priest whose church this was did not get to hear about it until after the event; even Fischer’s American brother-in-law (the first husband of his dead sister) did not know about it, which was especially galling since he had flown in from America for the funeral (and for a cut of Fischer’s €2m fortune), oblivious to the fact that the ceremony was taking place at the very moment his plane from New York touched down. Nor had Fischer’s most loyal Icelandic friend, Saemi Palsson, been told.

Palsson, a local hero in Reykjavik about whom a film is being made, told me he was saddened not to have had the chance to pay his last respects to his old friend yet he agreed, as did half a dozen people I spoke to in Iceland who had known Fischer, that this was just the way the dead grandmaster would have wanted it. ‘He distrusted everybody, he hated the media and he was so secretive that none of us knew until now, after his death, that Myoko Watai was his wife,’ Palsson said.

more from The Observer Magazine here.