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Robert James Fischer (March 9, 1943 – January 17, 2008) was an American chess grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion. Many consider him to be the greatest chess player of all time.
Fischer showed great skill in chess from an early age; at 13, he won a brilliancy known as “The Game of the Century”. At age 14, he became the US Chess Champion, and at 15, he became both the youngestgrandmaster (GM) up to that time and the youngest candidate for the World Championship. At age 20, Fischer won the 1963–64 US Championship with 11 wins in 11 games, the only perfect score in the history of the tournament. His book My 60 Memorable Games, published in 1969, is regarded as a classic work of chess literature. He won the 1970 Interzonal Tournament by a record 3½-point margin, and won 20 consecutive games, including two unprecedented 6–0 sweeps, in the Candidates Matches. In July 1971, he became the first official FIDE number-one-rated player.
Fischer won the World Chess Championship in 1972, defeating Boris Spassky of the USSR, in a match held in Reykjavík, Iceland. Publicized as a Cold War confrontation between the US and USSR, it attracted more worldwide interest than any chess championship before or since. In 1975, Fischer refused to defend his title when an agreement could not be reached with FIDE, chess’s international governing body, over one of the conditions for the match. Under FIDE rules, this resulted in Soviet GM Anatoly Karpov, who had won the qualifying Candidates’ cycle, being named the new world champion by default.
After forfeiting his title as World Champion, Fischer became reclusive and sometimes erratic, disappearing from both competitive chess and the public eye. In 1992, he reemerged to win an unofficial rematch against Spassky. It was held in Yugoslavia, which was under a United Nations embargo at the time. His participation led to a conflict with the US government, which warned Fischer that his participation in the match would violate an executive order imposing US sanctions on Yugoslavia, and ultimately issued a warrant for his arrest. After that, he lived his life as an émigré. In 2004, he was arrested in Japan and held for several months for using a passport that had been revoked by the US government. Eventually, he was granted an Icelandic passport and citizenship by a special act of the Icelandic Althing, allowing him to live in Iceland until his death in 2008.
Fischer made numerous lasting contributions to chess. In the 1990s, he patented a modified chess timing system that added a time increment after each move, now a standard practice in top tournament and match play. He also invented Fischerandom, a new variant of chess known today as “Chess960”