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Bobby Fischer detained in Japan

July 16, 2004 16:44 IST

Former world chess champion Bobby Fischer was detained in Japan by immigration authorities for an apparent passport violation on Tuesday. Officials said he would be deported to the United States.

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The 61-year-old Fischer, who is wanted by the US authorities since 1992 for playing a tournament in Yugoslavia despite U.N. sanctions, was halted at Tokyo's Narita International Airport while he tried to make his way to The Philippines, an airport official said.

The newspaper Asahi Shimbun said he was detained on suspicion of violating immigration laws.

The US Embassy in Tokyo said they are aware of the case.

"We are aware that Bobby Fischer has been detained," an embassy official said on condition of anonymity.

Fischer, a chess prodigy, became Grandmaster at age 15. He became a Cold War hero in 1972 when he defeated Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union to become the first American world chess champion. But he stunned the chess world by refusing to play again. He forfeited the title in 1975, withdrawing because the International Chess Federation would not give in to conditions he demanded.

After that he virtually disappeared, living in secret outside the United States.

He emerged in 1992 to play another former world champion, Boris Spassky, in a highly publicised match in Yugoslavia. He won the tie 10-5 to emerge richer by US $3.35 million.

The US government accused Fischer of violating UN sanctions against Yugoslavia by playing the match. The sanctions were imposed on Yugoslavia for provoking warfare in neighbuoring Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The reclusive Fischer is a fierce critic of America. He praised the September 11 terrorist attacks, saying America should be "wiped out," and described Jews as "thieving, lying bastards", even though his own mother was Jewish.