Burkle Fellow Dr. Kantathi Suphamongkhon: On An Icelandic Dinner with Bobby Fisher
The Nation, January 27, 2008
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2008
The Nation - Online
Published on Jan 27, 2008
Written by Dr. Kantathi Suphamongkhon
It was January 2, 2007 in Reykjavik, Iceland and I was visiting my Icelandic friend Mr. Thorsteinn Thorgeirsson.
There had been a change in government in Thailand and I was no longer Foreign Minister but I was then the President of Thailand’s Chess Association. Thorsteinn said to me that Bobby Fischer was in town and he would try to invite him to dinner. I agreed, even though it was well known that Bobby Fischer did not like to socialize.
Bobby Fischer accepted the invitation and arrived with his partner Miyoko Watai. He said that he came because he had goggled my name and found interesting information. He wanted to meet me.
He expressed his well known views on the United States and the Jewish community. He then impressed me with his knowledge about Thailand and the political situation there. He said that throughout the years, he would spend much time everyday listening to the BBC World Service.
On chess, he said that it was no longer a strategy game. Instead of coming up with original moves, players would only use strategies memorized from books. That was the reason he introduced what he called “Fischer Random”, which required pieces to be placed on the board randomly at the beginning of the game, so players cannot revert to old strategies from memory.
After returning to Thailand, Bobby Fischer began to email me. He had kind words for me, saying that “it was truly a great pleasure and honor” to meet me. He also said, “I’m glad to see that there are still some people in the heart of things who are full of good will!”
He asked me about the “red rain phenomenon that fell over Kerala, India in 2001”, saying that I should check it out via Google. In his later email, he expressed concerned about news reports that Israel may have been planning a “Nuclear strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities”. He mentioned that one of the reasons why he was “so unpopular” to certain people was because he had “a long memory”.
In one of the last emails to me, he discussed the closing of the new airport in Thailand. He then asked me whether I had a Siamese cat. He said that Siamese cats were very different from western cats and that he remembered them from an old Walt Disney movie. He concluded that Siamese cats were “very aristocratic!”
That was the side of Bobby Fischer that I got to know. It was a human side showing a man with deep interest in world affairs and with a sense of humor.
(Dr. Kantathi Suphamongkhon is the 39th Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand. He is presently the University of California Regents’ Professor at UCLA. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Burkle Center for International Relations in Los Angeles.)