United States – Inducted 1986
World – Inducted 2001
As the 11th World Champion from 1972-75, Bobby Fischer interrupted the Cold War Soviet hegemony of chess. In 1956, at the age of 13, he beat Donald Byrne in a brilliancy known as “The Game of the Century.” The next year, he won the first of a record eight U.S. Championships. From 1970 to 1971, Fischer won 20 consecutive games in world championship qualifying events—an all-time record. My 60 Memorable Games, which he authored in 1969, is widely considered one of the greatest pieces of chess literature. He made valuable contributions to opening theory and was renowned for his opening preparation and endgame technique alike.
Fischer is best remembered, however, for his win at the 1972 World Championship, defeating Boris Spassky in the most famous match of modern times. After this match, Fischer disappeared from the chess scene until 1992, when he returned to face—and defeat—Spassky in an unofficial rematch in Yugoslavia. Jezdimir Vasiljevic, a Yugoslav businessman and private citizen, sponsored and organized the event. Given that that country was then under a United Nations embargo, Fischer’s participation violated an executive order by President George H.W. Bush, and a warrant was issued for his arrest in the United States. To escape prosecution, he spent the rest of his life in exile, living in Hungary, the Philippines, Japan, and finally Iceland, where he received citizenship in 2005. During his time abroad, he made controversial statements against the United States and Israel, and continued to spout extreme anti-Semitic commentary, which he had expressed from the early 1960s onward despite his own Jewish heritage. Undoubtedly one of history’s great chess geniuses, Fischer’s erratic behavior in competition, combined with his political extremism and hateful rhetoric, also cements him as one of the game’s most controversial players.