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Chess Champ Spassky Urges Mercy for Fischer

Former world chess champion Boris Spassky (search) has written an appeal to President Bush asking that he show mercy for his former rival Bobby Fischer (search) and not seek Fischer's extradition from Japan, according to a copy of the letter faxed to media.

Fischer rose to chess stardom by defeating Spassky, formerly of the Soviet Union, in a series of games in 1972 to claim the world championship. Fischer is wanted by the United States for violating international sanctions by playing a rematch against Spassky in the former Yugoslavia in 1992.

Japan detained Fischer last month at Narita International Airport (search) for allegedly trying to board a plane for the Philippines with an invalid passport. Fischer is currently fighting a deportation order.

Acknowledging some of Fischer's views — including past anti-Semitic statements — may have made him unpopular, Spassky said the chess great nevertheless deserved clemency.

"He is an honest and good-natured man. Absolutely not social. He is not adaptable to everyone's standards of life," Spassky said. "I would not like to defend or justify Bobby Fischer. He is what he is. I am asking for only one thing. For mercy, charity."

Masako Suzuki, Fischer's lawyer, said in a statement that she would deliver the letter for Bush to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Wednesday.

While appealing the deportation order, Fischer has also applied to Japan for refugee status. Last week, he said he wanted to renounce his U.S. citizenship.

Fischer's supporters have acknowledged that his anti-Semitic statements could hamper his case.

He has said "an international Jewish conspiracy" and a "Jew-controlled U.S." are behind plots to both rule the world and ruin his life. He has also denied the Holocaust.

Japanese authorities moved Fischer on Tuesday from a small detention cell at Narita to an immigration facility in the city of Ushiku, north of Tokyo, Suzuki said in a separate statement.

The eccentric chess legend had complained that his airport cell was filled with the smoke of other inmates' cigarettes, and that he had for weeks been unable to exercise or even see sunlight. Though most deportation cases are handled within days, it is common for detainees in more drawn-out cases to be moved away from the airport, officials said.