Unusual chess losses and losers by
chess master Johann Lowenthal (1810-1876) was living
in Cincinnati giving chess lessons. His
customers raised enough money for him to travel to the London International
Chess Tournament of 1851. However, he
got knocked out in the first round.
Because of his early loss, he felt too embarrassed to return to the
United States and stayed in Europe the rest of his life, settling in London.
In 1878, the
automaton Mephisto started playing chess in England
against all comers. It beat almost every
player except when it played a lady.
When playing with ladies, it would obtain a winning position and then
lose the game, offering to shake hands afterwards.
James Mason (1849-1905) became the first person to lose a game of chess on
time. It happed at Vienna where everyone
played with a chess timing piece.
James Mason lost to David Baird at a chess tournament in New York after 8 moves. Mason had visited a barroom just before the
game and was unable to play any further because he was too drunk.
Nicholas MacLeod lost 31 games in the 6th American Chess Congress in
New York. He holds the record for the
most games lost in a single tournament.
In 1895 at
Hastings, Steinitz was about to checkmate Curt von Bardeleben. Bardeleben, rather
than resigning, got up from his chair and left the room. He didn’t come back. Tournament official found him outside the
hall pacing angrily. He would not return
to the game and 50 minutes later, Steinitz won the game on time.
Colonel Charles Moreau lost all 26 games at Monte Carlo. He was a chess patron and arranged the Monte
In 1913, at Schevenigen, Gyula Breyer lost his game to Frederick Yates after failing to
show up an hour after the game had started.
Someone telephoned the hotel in time to reach Breyer,
but the message came back that Breyer had left the
hotel and was on his way. It turned out
afterwards that the hotel person who received the message mistook Alekhine for Breyer (they looked
alike), so nothing else could be done but let the clock run out. Breyer said
afterwards that he would never stay with Alekhine at
the same hotel.
In 1922, Alexander
Alekhine lost a game to Ernst Gruenfeld
at Vienna. In his frustration, Alekhine threw his game across the room.
In 1925, at
Baden-Baden, Aron Nimzowitch
lost a game to Friedrich Saemisch. After the game was over, Nimzowitch
got up on his chair or table and yelled in German, “Why must I lose to this
In 1927, at
Kecskemet, Hans Muller waited until it was time to seal a move. Instead of sealing a move, he wrote “I
resign” on his scoresheet and never showed up for his
In 1929, Albert Becker said that if any master should lose to Vera Menchik, a woman, he would be a member of the Vera Menchik Club. Becker became the first member when she beat him at Carlsbad in 1929. Later, other members included Max Euwe, Sammy Reshevsky, Mir Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, C. H. O'D. Alexander, Edgar Colle, Frederick Yates, William Winter, Lajos Steiner, Frederich Saemisch, Milner-Barry, Harry Golombek, Karel Opocensky, and Jacques Mieses (who lost to her four times in a match).
1930s, Tartakower once lost five games in a row. He was asked how that could happen. He replied, "I had a toothache during
the first game. In the second game I had a headache. In the third game it was
an attack of rheumatism. In the fourth game, I wasn't feeling well. And in the fifth game?
Well, must one have to win every game?"
In 1935, at
the Warsaw Chess Olympiad, Isaias Pleci
(1900-1980) of Argentina claimed his game on time forfeit against Miguel Najdorf. Najdorf made his move just before time control, but before
he could press the button on the chess clock, Pleci
picked up the chess clock and ran away with it.
Pleci said he could not forcible stop Najdorf from making his move and writing it down on his scoresheet. The
arbiters were unable to determine who was telling the trutch,
so they let the chess clock decide the issue.
Najdorf lost the game on time.
Jack Battell (1909-1985), lost all 11 games in the
1937-38 Marshall Chess Club championship, the worst score in Marshall CC
history. He then gave up on
over-the-board (OTB) chess and became the highest rated correspondence chess
player in the United States in 1946.
Weaver Adams wrote a book called White to
Play and Win. After publication of
the book, he played in the U.S. Open in Dallas.
He did not win a single game as White.
In 1942, the
flag of Samuel Reshevsky’s clock fell against Arnold Denker in the U.S. chess championship. This should have resulted in his losing on
time. However, the tournament director,
Walter Stephens, who was standing behind the clock, flipped it around and,
looking at Reshevsky’s side of the clock, now
appearing as if it was Denker’s side of the clock,
announced that Denker lost on time. He refused to correct his error explaining, “Does
Kemesaw Mountain Landis reverse himself?” The crowd demonstrated its disapproval with
boos and jeers. Denker
had filed a protest as Reshevsky was not keeping his
own score and the players were using a battered chess clock that had no flag
indicators. If there were no flag
indicators, how did Stephens know who lost on time? The erroneous ruling allowed Reshevsky to tie for 1st place with Isaac Kashdan. Reshevsky then won the play-off match to become U.S.
1950s, Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) played a chess game against is friend Mike Romanoff
(1890-1972) at Romanoff’s restaurant and lost. He then went home, phoned
Romanoff and bet some money on a new game played over the phone. Bogart
won the game, but then admitted he cheated. At the time, U.S. Champion
Herman Steiner (1905-1955) was visiting Bogart at his house, who helped Bogart
with the moves.
In 1957, Donald Byrne was playing
Samuel Reshevsky in a match. The referee, Hans Kmoch, was watching the game. In the first game, both
players got in time trouble, and Byrne’s flag fell. All the spectators,
as well as Hans Kmoch, saw the flag fell but no one
said anything. Reshevsky, who was not paying
attention to the clock, then offered Byrne a draw, which Byrne accepted right
away (he knew his flag fell). After the agreed draw, Kmoch
then told Reshevsky that he could have claimed a win
on time forfeit. Resheveky then replied, “I
claim it.” But it was too late. In
the second game, Byrne’s flag fell first, then Reshevsky’s flag fell. Neither player had noticed
that the other ‘s flag had fallen. Seated in the
front row was Mrs. Reshevsky who suddenly rose to her
feet and shouted, “I claim the game on behalf of my husband.” Samuel Reshevsky, who heard this and now noticed the fallen flags,
made a claim of his own. Then Byrne, seeing Reshevsky’s
flag down, made his own claim. The matter was referred to a committee for
a ruling, which Byrne protested and temporarily resigned the match. Reshevsky’s claims to both the first and second games and
Byrne’s claim to the second game were all disallowed. Play eventually
resumed and Reshevsky won the match.
In 1959, Grandmaster
(1896-1975) lost all 13 games on time at a tournament in Linkopping
Grandmaster Klaus Darga resigned his game to Levente Lengyal at the Amsterdam Interzonal, overlooking he had a won game. He overlooked an escape move for his king in
which he would have been an exchange up.
Instead, he thought he was losing a rook, so
he extended his hand in resignation. A
moment later, he struck his forehead and exclaimed, “My God, I have a winning
position!” However, he had just resigned
In 1969, at the World Student Team
Championship in Dresden, the Yugoslavian player Momcilo
Despotovic was playing the American player Gregory DeFotis, who had white. DeFotis
got in time trouble and was depending on Despotivic’s
score sheet to determine when 40 moves were made before time control at 5
hours. Despotovic relaxed, made his next move,
wrote it as move 41, and walked away from the board. DeFotis
had 25 seconds left and thought he made time control since his opponent had
turned over the score sheet after recording what was
seemingly his 41st move. When DeFotis
saw his flag fall, he thought he had made time control. But Despotovic swooped back to the board and immediately
claimed a win on time, stating that his own score “accidently” contained a
duplication of one move and hence only 40 white moves had been played. Despotovic was awarded the point. It was alleged that
Despotovic pretended to make 41 moves in order to
mislead his opponent. Despotovic pulled
the same trick on another opponent during the tournament.
In 1970, Oscar
Panno lost his game with Bobby Fischer because Panno refused to show up and play at the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal. Fischer
played 1.c4 and waited an hour before winning on time. Panno refused to
play in protest to the organizers’ rescheduling of the game to accommodate
Fischer’s desire not to play on his religions’s
(Worldwide Church of God) Sabbath.
In 1970, at
the chess Olympiad in Skopje, Yugoslavia, Viktor Korchnoi
overslept and missed his round against Spain, losing be default. The round started at 3 pm and Korchnoi showed up after 4 pm.
Skopje, Albania decided to forfeit their match against South Africa as a
protest against racial segregation. The
lost their match 4-0.
In the 1970s
Kavalek forfeited the last round of a tournament by
not showing up. He had a chance to win
the event. His excuse was that his hotel
failed to give him a wake-up call. He
wanted the forfeit annulled because it was the hotel’s fault, not his.
Bobby Fischer forfeited game 2 of his world championship game.
Robert Heubner lost a game for not apologizing to the
tournament arbiters after he played a game with Kenneth Rogoff. In the World Student Championship, Huebner
played one move and offered a draw. Rogoff accepted.
However, the arbiters insisted that some moves be played. So after 11 moves, another draw was
agreed. The arbiters ruled that both
players must apologize and play an actual game later in the evening. Rogoff appeared and
apologized. Huebner did not appear and
did not apologize, so was given a loss after an hour’s time when Heubner’s clock was started. Rogoff was declared
the winner. Heubner
did not want to play the round so that he could rest and he still had several
adjourned games to play.
In 1972, Tigran Petrosian (1929-1984) lost
a game on time against Robert Huebner in the 1972 Skopje Olympiad, his first
loss on time in his whole career. When
he was later told that the incident was shown on television, re responded, “If
I had known that, I would definitely have smashed the clock.”
1973, Henrique Mecking lost his match with Petrosian and made a formal protest. He accused Petrosian of kicking the table, shaking the chessboard,
stirring the coffee too loudly, and rolling a coin on the table. He went to the
referee twice to complain that Petrosian was
breathing too loudly. Mecking kicked back at the
table and started making noises of his own. Petrosian
responded by turning his hearing aid off.
In 1981, at the Lone Pine, California, Sammy Reshevsky offered a draw to John Fedorowicz.
After letting his time tick down, Fedorowicz
accepted. Reshevsky then denied he made the
offer. There were several witnesses to Reshevsky’s
offers, but the tournament director, Isaac Kashdan,
eliminated all the witnesses, saying they were all Fedorowicz’s
friends, and upheld Reshevsky’s fabrication.
However, the game was resumed with Fedorowicz almost
out of time and Reshevsky lost!
In 1982, the Ugandian team
forfeited their first round match at the 1982 chess Olympiad in Lucerne,
Switzerland because they showed up late.
They went to the wrong city, thinking the chess Olympiad was at Lugano, Switzerland instead of Lucerne, Switzerland. Lugano was the home
of the 1968 chess Olympiad.
In 1986, at the New York Open, U.S. GrandmasterPal Benko was playing
Hungarian Grandmaster Gyula Sax in the final
round. If Benko won, he would have earned
$12,000. If Benko drew, he would only get
$3,000. Sax offered Benko a draw at a critical
position. Benko turned it down, blundered in
time pressure, and lost. He got nothing for his efforts.
David Straus became the first International Master to lose to a computer in
tournament competition. He lost to a
Fidelity computer at the U.S. Open in Somerset, New jersey.
Bent Larsen became the first Grandmaster to lose to a computer in tournament
former world chess champion Ruslan Ponomariov became the first chess player to lose a game of
chess because his mobile telephone rand during a game. He was playing in a match representing the
Ukraine against Sweden at the European Team Championship in Plovdiv,
Bulgaria. He lost in his game against
Swedish Grandmaster Evgeny Agrest. Ponomariov
protested and refused to sign the scoresheets
indicating his loss.
In 2004, Evgeny Agrest lost when his cell
phone rang. Was it Ponomariov
In 2004, top seed Christine Castellano was playing in the Philippine Women’s National
Chess Championship when her cell phone rang. She was disqualified from
In 2005, Zoltan Almasi became the first
grandmaster to lose to a computer program in Chess960 format (random chess).
In 2006, Kramnik defaulted on his 5th world championship
game with Topalov.
2008, a chess player in Malaysia lost a chess game because his phone rang due
to a birthday reminder.
2008, Nigel Short lost a chess game in the second round of the European Union
Individual Open after his cell phone beeped (it did not ring) because it was
low on battery power. He lost his game
to Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant
from Scotland. The Nokia cell phone had
been a gift from a sponsor at a previous chess tournament and Short had only
started using it. He was unaware that
the cell phone beeped when it was low on battery power.
In 2009 at a
Chinese tournament, Wang chen
and Lu Shanglei both lost a game in which they played
no moves, but agreed to a draw with each other.
The chief arbiter declared both players to have lost the game.
In 2009, Hou Yifan lost a game for
arriving 5 seconds late for the beginning of the round. He went out for a smoke break and was late
In 2009, Aleksander Delchev of Bulgaria
lost against Stuart Conquest of England when Delchev’s
cell phone rang at the 2009 European Team Championship.
2009, Grandmaster Vladiislav Tkachiev
appeared for his round 3 game at Kolkata in an intoxicated state. He could hardly sit in his char. He fell asleep during the game a number of
times, resting his head on the table, Attempts to wake him up appeared
futile. He was ultimately declared the
loser after 15 moves. He had to be
carried off. He lost his game to Praveen
Grandmaster Eshan Ghaem Maghami was disqualified from a tournament in Corisca after he refused to play against his 4th
round opponent, Israeli FIDE master Ehud Shachar.
seven players lost on time for failing to show up at the 13th
European Individual Championship. All of
these players forgot about daylight saving time and were not staying in the
main tournament hotel.