R.I.P.: Bobby Fischer, Chess Champion

fischer.jpg
Photo by Chris Lott

World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer Dies

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) – Bobby Fischer, the reclusive American chess master who became a Cold War icon when he dethroned the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky as world champion in 1972, has died. He was 64.

People say he diverged into being a nut:

Over the years, Fischer gave occasional interviews with a radio station in the Philippines, often digressing into anti-Semitic rants and accusing American officials of hounding him.

He praised the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying America should be “wiped out,” and described Jews as “thieving, lying bastards.” His mother was Jewish.

And:

“The United States is evil. There’s this axis of evil. What about the allies of evil – the United States, England, Japan, Australia? These are the evildoers,” Fischer said.

This is going to make a fascinating biography for someone to write. What most people don’t know about is Fischer’s involvement with the Worldwide Church of God, established by Herbert W. Armstrong:

Since 1962, Fischer has been a follower of the Worldwide Church of God, founded by 83-year old fundamentalist minister Herbert W. Armstrong. The Worldwide Church has many of the same characteristic cult practices as the People’s Temple, and the story of Fischer’s involvement with it sounds startlingly similar to the accounts of the survivors of Jonestown.

In an interview with “Ambassador Report” (a magazine published by Worldwide Church defectors) Bobby told how he was drawn into the cult: “Really, my story is no different than that of any other jerk that was sucked in . . . . I had some personal problems, and I started listening to a lot of radio ministers . . . . Then I heard Mr. Armstrong, and I said, ‘Ah, God has finally shown me the one.’ . . . . Well, I kind of split my life into two pieces. One was where my chess career lies. There, I kept my sanity, so to speak, and my logic. And the other was my religious life . . . . I can remember times coming home from a chess club at four in the morning when I was half asleep and half dead and forcing myself to pray an hour and study (the Bible) an hour. You know, I was half out of my head – stoned almost.”

Although I linked to Wikipedia for background on Armstrong and the Church, those entries are sanitized (to say the least!). The true story is deeper, darker, and more twisted than you could ever imagine. Go see the archives of Ambassador Report.

Anyone familiar with the teachings of that Church has to wonder how Fischer came to say:

The United States is evil. There’s this axis of evil. What about the allies of evil – the United States, England, Japan, Australia? These are the evildoers.

There’s a mystery to be solved.

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