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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FBI Feared Fischer Worked for Soviets

APChess prodigy Bobby Fischer playing a game in August 1971. The U.S. government watched the Fischer family for three decades.
PHILADELPHIA -- Bobby Fischer, the eccentric chess prodigy who dueled Soviet grand masters and won a world title in 1972, was investigated by FBI agents who suspected his mother was a communist spy, according to the bureau's records.

FBI files obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer under the Freedom of Information Act show that the U.S. government watched the Fischer family for three decades and at one point feared that Soviet agents had tried to recruit Fischer himself.

The bureau ultimately concluded that his mother, Regina Fischer, was not a spy, but only after years of researching her history, reading her mail, studying her canceled checks and questioning her neighbors.

"They made it hard for her to keep a job," said her son-in-law, Russell Targ, a physicist in Palo Alto, California.

The FBI was especially interested in Bobby Fischer's 1958 trip to play chess in Russia.

An agent posed as a student journalist to interview producers of the television show "I've Got a Secret," which featured Fischer before he left and paid his plane fare.

Informants at the tournament said Fischer behaved badly and at one point called his mother to complain, "It's no good here."

"[It's] possible that the Soviets may have made an approach to Robert Fischer to which the youth took exception," FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's office wrote to the FBI's New York field office in 1958. The theory was later discounted.

Fischer became a Cold War hero when he beat a Russian, Boris Spassky, for the world title in 1972.

Then, he stunned the chess world by refusing to play. As his personal behavior became increasingly bizarre, he forfeited his title in 1975 and virtually disappeared, living in secret outside the United States.

Now 59, Fischer makes only rare public appearances. In recent radio interviews, he has praised the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying America should be "wiped out," and has described Jews as "thieving, lying bastards." His mother was Jewish.

Regina Fischer, a pediatrician who spoke eight languages, died of cancer in 1997. The last entry in her 750-page FBI file is dated 1973 and notes her opposition to the Vietnam War.

In her teens, she moved from the United States to Germany and then Russia, where she lived from 1933-38 and attended medical school.

She married a German biophysicist in Moscow in 1933, then went to the United States in 1939, four years before the birth of her son. The FBI files pay attention to a Hungarian mathematics teacher who paid child support for her son but do not say if he was the father.