The controversial former world chess champion, Bobby Fischer, has died in Iceland at the age of 64.

The US-born player, who became famous for beating Cold War Soviet rival Boris Spassky in 1972, died of an unspecified illness, his spokesman said.

He was granted Icelandic citizenship in 2005 as a way to avoid being deported to the US.

Mr Fischer was wanted for breaking international sanctions by playing a match in the former Yugoslavia in 1992.

He also had alienated many in his homeland by broadcasting anti-Semitic diatribes and expressing support for the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York.

The reclusive player - who had renounced his US citizenship - had lived undetected in Japan for a number of years before moving to Iceland.


Mr Fischer died in Iceland on Thursday, his spokesman Gardar Sverrisson said.

The nature of the illness was unknown but Mr Fischer had been reportedly seriously ill for some time.

Spassky said he was "very sorry" to hear of Mr Fischer's death, the Associated Press reported.

Russia's Garry Kasparov, a former world champion, said that Mr Fischer's ascent through the chess world in the 1960s was "a revolutionary breakthrough" for the game.

'Match of the century'

Mr Fischer was born in Chicago in 1943, but was brought up in New York's Brooklyn.

He became a US chess champion at 14 and then a youngest grand master a year later.

He achieved world fame after playing a world championship match in Iceland in 1972, beating title-holder Spassky.

The so-called chess "match of the century" came to be seen as a proxy for the Cold War, as the Soviets had held the world title since World War II.

Mr Fischer, the individual who had triumphed over the might of the Communist system, became an American hero.

The 1972 match made chess fashionable, even sexy, some experts say.

He lost the world chess crown in 1975 after refusing to play against his Soviet rival Anatoly Karpov.

US critic

The eccentric US genius then simply disappeared, declining all lucrative sponsorship deals.

He resurfaced briefly in 1992, to play a re-match with Spassky in Yugoslavia in defiance of international sanctions.

Mr Fischer then vanished again, though it later became clear he had been living for a number of years in Japan.

He hit world headlines again after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

In an interview to a radio station in the Philippines, he described the attacks as the "wonderful news".

In another interview Mr Fischer accused the media of trying to "poison the public against me".

"They constantly use the words eccentric, eccentric, eccentric, weird. I am boring. I am boring!" he said.

He had also been strongly criticised for making anti-Semitic comments.

Mr Fischer was granted Icelandic citizenship in March 2005, after spending several months in detention in Japan.