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Former World Chess Champ Bobby Fischer Detained in Japan - 2004-07-16

Immigration authorities in Japan have arrested former world chess champion Bobby Fischer. The reclusive figure has apparently been shuttling between Japan and the Philippines for several years, attempting to avoid prosecution in the United States.

Japanese and U.S. authorities here on Friday confirmed Bobby Fischer is in custody at Narita International Airport but are releasing few details.

The former world chess champion was about to board a Japan Airlines flight for the Philippines on Tuesday when he was apprehended, according to airport officials.

Copies of Japanese and U.S. government documents posted on Mr. Fischer's Internet web site in Japan show he faces deportation because he illegally re-entered Japan in April on a revoked U.S. passport.

Mr. Fischer's legal troubles date back to 1992 when he emerged from hiding to play a highly publicized match against Russian Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia, then at war with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Mr. Fischer won the competition, earning a prize of more than $3 million, but he was indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury for violating United Nations sanctions against Yugoslavia by playing the match there.

Japanese Chess Association President Miyoko Watai has visited Mr. Fischer since he was detained and describes him as desperate to avoid deportation to the United States.

"Oh, he was depressed very much," Mr. Watai said. "He said it's like death for him if he must go to the jail in America."

Mr. Fischer could face 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 as a result of the 1992 indictment.

The reclusive chess prodigy, who became a grandmaster at the age of 15, is now 61. He has occasionally been heard from, if not seen. He makes repeated phone calls to radio stations in the Philippines, making anti-American and anti-Semitic statements.

"I think the U.S. is not going to exist much longer," Mr. Fischer said. "I think everybody is going to be surprised at just how soon the U.S. collapses and the U.S. becomes history."

In other such interviews, Mr. Fischer has praised the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Many in the chess world lament Mr. Fischer's increasingly erratic behavior since he stopped playing tournament chess in the 1970s, saying they consider him probably the greatest chess player ever.