Did Chess Great, Bobby Fischer, Convert to Catholicism Before His Death?

February 7, 2008

Did Chess Great, Bobby Fischer, Convert to Catholicism Before his Death?

By Robert Kumpel

San Diego, CA - February 7, 2008 – Bobby Fischer, the chess genius whose outspoken behavior brought him both notoriety and exile, died on January 17 in Iceland at the age of 64. Yet even in death, Fischer, a Jew notorious for making anti-Semitic statements, managed to surprise the world one last time by having a Catholic funeral.

After traveling to Belgrade in the former republic of Yugoslavia to play his old opponent, Boris Spassky in 1992, Fischer never returned to the United States, becoming a fugitive after disobeying a presidential executive order not to participate in sporting events there. (He was filmed spitting on a U.S. order forbidding him to play).

In 2004, Fischer was arrested and detained in Japan for allegedly attempting to travel on a revoked passport. The U.S. government insisted that his passport had been revoked. San Diego attorney Richard Vattuone, a Catholic, flew to Japan to act as counsel for Fischer. After his release, Fischer emigrated to Iceland.

Vattuone is intrigued by Fischer's final act. "When I met him in Japan, I gave Bobby a book about G.K. Chesterton, The Apostle of Common Sense. The book covered many matters of culture and religion. I know Bobby had read at least some of the book. Chesterton was a convert and the book contained an article about his conversion. We had also discussed religion."

While Vattuone makes no claim that he "converted" Fischer, he can't help but wonder if he played some role in moving Fischer towards the Church. "Could Bobby have converted in his mind? Or was this just the final act of contrariness and the ultimate counter-cultural behavior? It would be nice to think I traveled to Japan in an effort to secure Bobby's release, but played a part in his obtaining eternal salvation! Could this (conversion) have been Bobby's final, brilliant move--to the chagrin of his detractors?"

The priest who offered Fischer's funeral Mass, Fr. Jacob Rolland of Reykiavik, said he didn't know if Fischer converted to the Catholic faith.

The Church, however, teaches us that Baptism can come in three ways, the Baptism of Water, the Baptism of Blood and the Baptism of Desire. Let's pray that Fischer was baptized with the desire to join the Church.

Robert Kumpel is a homeschooling father who writes for California Catholic Daily and St. John's Valdosta Blog (www.stjohnsvaldosta.blogspot.com)
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