REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Boris Spassky, the Soviet chess champ who famously squared off against Bobby Fischer in Iceland at the height of the Cold War, visited his former rival’s grave on Tuesday at a small cemetery near the capital.
Fischer, who died in January aged 64, bested Spassky in that headline-grabbing 1972 match to become the first, and still only, American world chess champion.
A clearly moved Spassky bent and dusted snow off the grave and flowers before straightening up and wiping his eyes.
“Do you think the spot next to him is available,” he joked to reporters afterward, adding, “We will see what happens.”
Fischer beat Spassky again in a 1992 rematch played in the former Yugoslavia that defied U.S. sanctions and turned him into a fugitive from his native United States.
He eventually became an Icelandic citizen after coming to the small North Atlantic island nation in 2005.
The former child prodigy was in his later life known as much for his incendiary remarks and his battle with U.S. law enforcers as for his facility at the chessboard.
Although he was Jewish, Fischer often made anti-Semitic remarks and said after the Sept. 11 attacks he wanted to see his the United States wiped out.
Spassky has offered few comments about his former rival in the wake of Fischer’s death, saying only the man was a friend.
The Russian-born former champion, who now lives in Paris, was in Iceland with his wife for a chess event dedicated to Fischer’s memory.
Speaking with reporters in Iceland on Sunday, Spassky said chess now was just not the same as in his day.
“As for the modern chess, I am pessimistic because in my view computers killed classic chess,” he said.