On the day Bobby Fischer would have celebrated his 71st birthday, Garry Kasparov paid a visit to his grave in Selfoss, Iceland. It was a historic moment for chess: arguably the two greatest players of the game never met, and so they were never as close to each other. Chess.com was there to witness the moment and for a brief interview with Mr Kasparov.
On Sunday, March 9th, 2014 the President of the Icelandic Chess Federation, Gunnar Björnsson, took Garry Kasparov to the small town of Selfoss, which is about 50 km east of Reykjavik. About half a year earlier he had invited the 13th World Champion to come to Iceland, to visit both Fischer’s grave, and the Reykjavik Open. At the same time Mr Kasparov would have the opportunity to meet several Presidents of Scandinavian chess federations, to try and convince them to vote for him at the upcoming FIDE Presidential elections.
For Kasparov, the visit to Fischer’s grave was the most important event, and it was carefully planned to take place on March 9th – Fischer’s birthday. The author of these lines had the honor (it really was!) to be present at the historic moment when Kasparov arrived in Selfoss, walked towards the grave, had some photos taken, and sat inside the small church for a while.
Below is the brief interview with Mr Kasparov – in it you will also see images from his visit to the new Bobby Fischer Center in Selfoss.
“I can’t help but thinking that this is the graveyard also for great, unfulfilled hopes, because so much could be achieved. This is the country where Robert Fischer reached his peak. It was not only his peak, but it was one of the most glorious moments in the history of the game of chess. It could have ended differently. It’s not for us to come up with hypothetical versions of alternative history, but it’s still very sad. It’s as if this graveyard… We could feel that so many great hopes and expectations have been buried, without being realized. It’s all behind us, all the controversies, and what is left is the unique contribution of Robert James Fischer to the game of chess and I’m here to pay this tribute.
It’s a huge sense of sadness because… he stopped playing chess at 29. It’s insane. How much can be done, how much could be achieved, if not for this terrible tragedy that put him away of the game of chess. Again, now, after everything is behind us, all these controversies, and all these things that have been associated unfortunately with Fischer’s name, what is left is just this sadness that he’s gone.
And also, I couldn’t help myself but thinking: I never met him, which is also quite amazing, OK, I was nine in 1972 when he won the title, but still, there were many opportunities technically, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. It’s something that of course I will be missing.
1972 definitely was one of the greatest moments in the history of chess. I don’t think chess ever reached such a peak of popularityas in 1972. I could only dream of using my abilities to make sure that the heritage of 1972, and the memories of Fischer’s great rise, will be somehow repeated in the future.
As I just put in the book of condolances, it could be a great dream of working with him to promote the game of chess, but it didn’t work out. But still, this legend I’m sure will accompany us in our quest for making the game of chess as popular as Fischer wanted.”
Text & Video: Peter Doggers