Bobby Fischer's fiancée insists marriage plans are genuine

maricheri
Dec 12, 2007, 12:00 AM |
1 | Chess Players

By Joseph Coleman
ASSOCIATED PRESS
2:13 a.m. August 17, 2004

TOKYO – Former chess champion Bobby Fischer's announcement that he is engaged to a Japanese woman could win him sympathy among Japanese officials and help him avoid deportation to the United States, his fiancee and one of his supporters said Tuesday.

Fischer, wanted in the United States for allegedly violating international sanctions on former Yugoslavia, was detained in Japan last month when he tried to travel on an invalid American passport. He has been battling a deportation order to the United States.

The chess legend's lawyer, Masako Suzuki, announced the marriage plan on Monday as she pressed the U.S. State Department to send a consular officer to Fischer's detention center outside of Tokyo so he could renounce his U.S. citizenship.

Fischer's fiancee, Miyoko Watai, the president of Japan's Chess Association and a long-term friend of his, said in a statement Tuesday that the two first met in 1973 and had been living together in Japan for the past four years.

"We have taken the very serious decision to marry in the midst of this crisis in the hope that disclosing ... that we have been living together as man and wife might help the two of us return to that happy life we had been sharing," she wrote.

Marriage to a Japanese citizen would not have any legal effect on the deportation order against Fischer, but supporters hope the engagement will win him some sympathy with the Japanese Justice Ministry, said Fischer adviser John Bosnitch.

"This will have no legal bearing, but it is a humanitarian consideration that these two individuals have been living as man and wife for four years," said Bosnitch.

Fischer and Watai, however, face some legal hurdles before they can get married.

Under Japanese law, Fischer has to present proof he is a U.S. citizen and a U.S. government document proving he is not already married to someone else. But he cannot get those documents unless a U.S. consular officer visits him in his detention center outside of Tokyo, Bosnitch said.

A U.S. Embassy official visited Fischer soon after he was detained, but the embassy has not acted yet on a request for a follow-up visit. Fischer, an outspoken critic of the United States, also wants the meeting so he can renounce his American citizenship.

Watai, who has been active in supporting Fischer's case against deportation, said the couple had previously kept their relationship private, even from their closest friends.

But she said that "under the current difficult circumstances," the two decided to reveal their romance.

"I am therefore releasing this statement about the background of our relationship in order to stress that our feelings are genuine and are based on our years of close companionship," Watai said in the statement, which was faxed to news organizations in Tokyo.

The marriage announcement came as Fischer and his supporters were exploring various ways of avoiding deportation.

He is fighting his detention and the deportation order in court. He has applied for asylum in Japan and his supporters have mentioned plans to apply for refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

At the same time, he is attempting to renounce his U.S. citizenship. Fischer's animosity toward his homeland is well-known, and he once praised the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in a radio interview, saying America should be "wiped out."

Fischer soared to fame when he defeated Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union in a series of games in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1972. The Cold War win made him the first U.S. world champion in more than a century.

Increasingly erratic and reclusive, he lost his title as world champion in 1978 and then largely vanished from the public eye until he reappeared to play a rematch in the former Yugoslavia against Spassky in 1992.

Though Fischer won, and took home more than $3 million in prize money, he played in violation of United Nations' sanctions and has been wanted in the United States ever since.

Open Letter

Japan Chess Association President Miyoko Watai reads a statement regarding her marriage plan with former chess champion Bobby Fischer, in Tokyo. Fischer's announcement that he is engaged to Watai could win him sympathy among Japanese officials and help him avoid deportation to the United States, Watai and his supporters say.

Bobby Fischer and I have decided to marry.

I first met Bobby Fischer in 1973 when he visited Japan, accompanied by another American man, to meet several members of the Japan Chess Association. I was 28 at the time. One male member and one female member from our Japan Chess Association were offered the chance to play Bobby Fischer. I was the female player. Just one year before, Bobby had become the Chess World Champion after defeating former World Champion Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union, in Reykjavik, Iceland. Bobby was gracious and said we played well.

Soon after playing Bobby, I was invited to attend a dinner at which Bobby was present. We spoke and the next day I gave Bobby a tour of Tokyo. We became friends and we stayed in touch by writing to each other.

In the next year, 1974, the Women's Chess Olympiad was held in Medellin, Columbia, and I was selected to be a member of the Japan team. On the way to Columbia, I visited Bobby in America. Over the years since, we have seen each other many times and have always kept in close touch by writing to each other and by talking by telephone.

In 2000, Bobby returned to Japan and stayed with me at my home. Since then, Bobby has spent most of his time in Japan and we have lived together here. We have also traveled together extensively inside and outside Japan. Until today, we managed to keep our relationship entirely private, even from our closest friends. However, under the current difficult circumstances, this is no longer possible. I am therefore releasing this statement about the background of our relationship in order to stress that our feelings are genuine and are based on our years of close companionship.

Sadly, I regret say that this day of the announcement of our impending marriage – a day that would normally be one of celebration – is for me is just another day of worry and anxiety. My husband-to-be is being held by Japanese Immigration and faces possible deportation. I am praying every day for Bobby's release, so that we can be reunited and be allowed to continue our life together here in Japan, quietly and normally as man and woman as we have been for the past four years.

We have taken the very serious decision to marry in the midst of this crisis in the hope that disclosing the reality that we have been living together as man and wife might help the two of us to return to that happy life we had been sharing before Bobby's unwarranted detention. After more than 30 years, we have made a very serious decision that we firmly hope will be respected as the right of every man and woman.

Sincerely,


Miyoko Watai

August 17, 2004
Tokyo


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