Chess great Bobby Fischer stops over in Denmark on way to new home, Iceland

Chess legend Bobby Fischer landed Thursday in Denmark for a brief stopover on the journey to his new home, Iceland, after being released from nine months in a Japanese detention center.

Fischer, the first passenger to emerge from the Tokyo flight, did not even glance at a crowd of reporters gathered inside the terminal. Two police officers ushered him and his fiancee down a staircase and into an unmarked van.

They were set to board another flight to the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik.

Earlier Thursday, Fischer sporting a long beard and wearing a baseball cap walked free from a Japanese detention center following a nine-month standoff with Tokyo officials trying to deport him to the United States.

Before leaving, the eccentric genius offered a few parting shots to the leaders of Japan and the United States, whom he accused of "kidnapping" him.

"I won't be free until I get out of Japan," he told reporters at the Tokyo airport before boarding his flight to Denmark. "This was not an arrest. It was a kidnapping cooked up by Bush and Koizumi," he said, referring to U.S. President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"They are war criminals and should be hung," he said in an apparent criticism of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Japanese officials released the chess icon Thursday morning after taking him into custody in July, when he tried to leave the country using an invalid U.S. passport.

Fischer, 62, arrived at the Tokyo airport characteristically defiant, accompanied by his fiancee, Miyoko Watai the head of Japan's chess association and Iceland's ambassador to Japan, Thordur Oskarsson.

As he walked toward the airport entrance, he turned, unzipped his pants and acted like he was going to urinate on the wall. He called Japan's ruling party "gangsters." Fischer, whose mother was Jewish, also said he was being hounded by the United States because it is "Jew-controlled."

Fischer claims his U.S. passport was revoked illegally and sued to block a deportation order to the United States, where he is wanted for violating sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia by playing an exhibition match against Russian Boris Spassky in 1992.

This week, Iceland's Parliament stepped in to break the standoff by giving Fischer citizenship. Iceland is where he won the world championship in 1972, defeating Spassky in a classic Cold War showdown that propelled him to international stardom.

Moving to Iceland doesn't necessarily mean Fischer has beaten Washington's effort to prosecute him. Iceland, like Japan, has an extradition treaty with Washington.

A federal grand jury in Washington, meanwhile, reportedly is investigating possible money-laundering charges involving Fischer, and he may face tax-related charges as well. Fischer was reported to have received US$3.5 million from the competition in the former Yugoslavia, and boasted then that he didn't intend to pay any income tax on the money.

Ambassador Oskarsson had said before Fischer's release that Washington sent a "message of disappointment" to the Icelandic government over giving Fischer citizenship.

"Despite the message, the decision was put through Parliament on humanitarian grounds," Oskarsson said.

In Washington on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said it had officially asked Japan to hand over Fischer.

"Mr. Fischer is a fugitive from justice. There is a federal warrant for his arrest," said Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department.

Tokyo initially refused Fischer's request to go to Iceland, saying Japanese law only allowed his deportation to the country of his origin. But following Iceland's decision on Monday, Japanese Justice Minister Chieko Nono said officials would consider letting Fischer go there.

Fischer became a chess icon when he dethroned Spassky in a series of games in Iceland, claiming the United States' first world chess championship in more than a century.

But he gave up the title a few years later to another Soviet, Anatoly Karpov, by refusing to defend it. He then fell into obscurity before resurfacing to play the 1992 exhibition rematch against Spassky in the former Yugoslavia.

Fischer won the rematch. But his playing violated U.S. sanctions imposed to punish then-President Slobodan Milosevic. If convicted, Fischer who hasn't been to the United States since then could face 10 years in prison and a US$250,000 fine.

Though generally a recluse, Fischer has emerged from silence in radio broadcasts and on his Web page to express anti-Semitic views and rail against the United States.

JAN M. OLSEN (Associated Press)

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