Fugitive former world chess champion Bobby Fischer has an unlikely ally in his battle against U.S. authorities seeking his handover from Japan — ex-rival Boris Spassky.
Spassky wrote President George W. Bush asking that he show mercy toward Fischer by not seeking his extradition, according to a copy of the letter faxed to media Tuesday.
Fischer rose to chess stardom by defeating Spassky, formerly of the Soviet Union, in a series of games in 1972 to claim the world championship.
He is wanted by the United States for violating international sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia when he went there in 1992 to play a rematch against Spassky. Fischer won, collecting more than $3 million in prize money.
Japan detained Fischer last month at Narita International Airport for trying to board a plane for the Philippines with an invalidated passport. He is now fighting a U.S. deportation order.
Acknowledging that some of Fischer’s views may have made him unpopular, Spassky said the chess great nevertheless deserves clemency.
“He is an honest and good-natured man. Absolutely not social. He is not adaptable to everyone’s standards of life,” Spassky said. “I would not like to defend or justify Bobby Fischer. He is what he is. I am asking for only one thing. For mercy, charity.”
Masako Suzuki, Fischer’s lawyer, said she would deliver the letter for Bush to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Wednesday.
While appealing the deportation order, Fischer has also applied to Japan for refugee status. Last week, he said he wanted to renounce his U.S. citizenship.