Fischer's 19-Year-Old Companion Shares Chess Limelight

SVETI STEFAN, Yugoslavia - Bobby Fischer's teenage companion, Hungarian chess whiz Zita Rajcsanyi, wasn't even born the last time he went up against Boris Spassky. At this matchup, though, she's attracting almost as much attention as the players.

For the better part of a month Rajcsanyi has been ensconced at this Adriatic resort with Fischer, who has broken his 20-year isolation to play a rematch with his old rival. Fischer triumphed in their opening game on Wednesday and they tied yesterday.

It's been a big week for Rajcsanyi, too. Sunday she won Hungary's junior chess championship; Tuesday she celebrated her 19th birthday.

"It's hard to believe that it's happening to me, actually," she said yesterday.

At an elaborate match-opening extravaganza Tuesday night, she and Fischer sat side by side: he tall, graying and stern-faced at 49; she short, youthful and smiling, with straight brown hair and glasses.

They met in April after they had been in touch by letter and telephone discussing their mutual passion, chess.

Is it serious between the two of them? Well, she's met his mother. But she avoided talking about the relationship except to say they are not engaged.

Fischer, Rajcsanyi said flatly, "is a genius." She wouldn't comment on his famed eccentricities, but said she likes "crazy people or geniuses."

"I sometimes thought about working in a mental hospital," she said.

"He believes what he says 100 percent. It's wonderful."

Like Fischer, Rajcsanyi started playing chess at age 8 and discontinued her education to pursue it full time. A high-school graduate, she said she has no plans to go on to college.

Rajcsanyi, who speaks English with only a trace of an accent, says she lived for 10 months in Guttenberg, N.J., when she was 11 and attended an American school. Her father is a diplomat-turned-businessman and her mother a chemical engineer.

She's being credited with helping persuade Fischer to end his isolation and return to the chess world he abandoned after becoming world champion in 1972.

But she says there's no real truth to that.

"I didn't really have to convince him. When I met Bobby he was already talking about it," she said. She only helped find the match organizer and sponsor, she said.

Rajcsanyi's getting the royal treatment from match officials, and organizer Jedzimir Vasiljevic has even agreed to bankroll her trip to Argentina in October to compete in the world chess junior championship.

Being with Fischer has been good for her game, she said - "I am learning from him. I watch him analyze and I watch him play."

She said she'd like to be world champion herself someday. "I hope so," she said. "I should try."