Chess champion Bobby Fischer buried in Iceland

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Chess legend Bobby Fischer, who died in Iceland last week aged 64, was buried on Monday in a private ceremony near the city that hosted his famous victory over the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky 35 years ago.

Fischer’s spokesman, Gardar Sverrisson, said the American-born world chess champion was buried on Monday morning at a quiet ceremony attended by a few friends and his companion, Japanese chess player Miyoko Watai.

The Catholic burial was held on a cold, bright day at a small country church near the southern Icelandic town of Selfoss, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) southeast of Reykjavik.

One of the attendees, who declined to be identified, said Fischer had requested that only a handful of people be at his funeral.

The quiet end of Fischer’s life contrasted with the fiery nature of his life, both at and away from the chess board.

The former child prodigy became America’s only world chess champion by humbling the Soviet Union’s best but spent his last years as a fugitive from U.S. authorities.

He died after an unspecified illness on Thursday in Reykjavik, the site of his 1972 victory over Boris Spassky at the height of the Cold War. Media reports have said he died of kidney failure.

Once feted as a national hero and seen by some as the greatest chess talent ever, the Chicago-born Fischer handed his title to the Soviet champion Anatoly Karpov three years later by refusing to defend it.

After years of obscurity, he defied U.S. sanctions to play and beat Spassky again in the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan wars.

Of Jewish ancestry, Fischer claimed to be the victim of a Jewish conspiracy and was known in later life for often incendiary remarks. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, he said he wanted to see the United States wiped out.

After months in a Japanese jail cell as U.S. authorities worked to have him extradited, he spent his last years as a wild-haired recluse in Iceland.

Fischer’s triumph over Spassky ended the dominance of the seemingly invincible Soviet chess system which held the world title for all but two years from the late 1920s to 1972.

Chess champions through the decades have paid tribute to Fischer while acknowledging his troubled life. Russia’s Garry Kasparov said Fischer showed how a human being was capable of reaching new heights. Karpov called him a chess giant.

Reigning champion Viswanathan Anand called Fischer the ultimate romantic, saying he fought the whole system and could not deal with being a world champion.

Debate has always raged in chess circles about who was the greatest, but Fischer himself was in no doubt. He once said: “It’s nice to be modest, but it would be stupid if I did not tell the truth. It is Fischer.”

Editing by Janet Lawrence