Books by Bill Wall
The oldest chess anecdote found in old literature is that of Charlemagne, around 765, playing a chess match with the Prince of Bavaria. Charlemagne became so enraged at the latter for having repeatedly beaten him, that he picked up the chess board and hit the prince so hard with the board that it killed the prince. (source: The Chess Player's Chronicle, Nov 1881, p. 555)
In 1391, Yusuf II was crowned king of Granada. He decided to make sure that his son had secured the throne by killing or imprisoning the members of his family who could dispute the throne. But his youngest son, Muhammad, began a rebellion in which he ended up proclaiming himself King of Granada. His older brother, Yusuf, who was the one who had to inherit the kingdom was imprisoned in the castle of Salobrena and was held there for years. In 1408, the King Muhammad VII, for securing the throne to his son, gave the order to kill his brother. He sent an emissary to the castle of Salobrena with the death sentence and the order to return to the emissary with the head of his brother. When he arrived at the castle, the prisoner was playing a game of chess with the warden. He read the message, showed it to Yusuf, and said, "I'm sorry, I have no choice but to keep the order." Yusuf asked him as last desire before die to finish the game. They were playing chess for several hours until Yusuf won the game. When they went to execute the sentence, a messenger arrived announcing the death of Muhammad VII, and the proclamation of Yusuf III, the fourteenth sovereign of the Nasrid dynasty of the Kingdom of Granada. [source: Newcastle Weekly Couant, Sep 27, 1777, p. 2]
In 1647, Charles I of England (1600-1649) was playing chess when the news reached him that the Scots that were protecting him agreed with the English Parliament to give him up. He asked to finish his chess game before being arrested. [source: Derby Mercury, June 18, 1789, p. 2] He was beheaded on January 30, 1649. In 2012, King Charles's chessboard that he took to his execution was auctioned for a record of 800,000 British pounds.
In the 1740s, when the Duke De Nivernois (1716-1798) nobleman was ambassador to England, he was going to lord Townsend's seat, at Rainham, in Norfolk, on a private visit, en dishabille, and with only one servant, when he was obliged by a very heavy shower to stop at a farmhouse in the way. The master of the house was a clergyman, who, to a poor curacy, added the care of a few scholars in the neighbourhood, which in all might make his living about eighty pounds a year: this was all he had to maintain a wife and six children. When the duke alighted, the clergyman, not knowing his rank, begged him to come in and dry himself, which the other accepted, by borrowing a pair of old worsted stockings and slippers, and warming himself by a good fire. After some conversation, the duke observed an old chessboard hanging up; and, as he was passionately fond of that game, he asked the clergyman whether he could play. The latter told him that he could play pretty tolerably, but found it difficult in that part of the country to get an antagonist. "I am your man," says the duke. "With all my heart," answers the clergyman, "and if you will stay and take pot-luck, I will see if I cannot beat you." The day continuing rainy, the duke accepted his offer, when his antagonist played so much better, that he won every game. This was so far from fretting the duke, that he was pleased to meet a man who could give him so much entertainment at his favourite game. He accordingly enquired into the state of his family affairs, and making a memorandum of his address, without discovering his title, thanked him, and departed.
Some months elapsed, and the clergyman never thought of the matter, when, one evening, a footman rode up to the door, and presented him with a note—"The duke de Nivernois' compliments wait on the Rev. Mr. —, and as a remembrance for the good drubbing he gave him at chess, begs that he will accept the living of — worth 4001. per annum, and that he will wait upon his grace the duke of Newcastle on Friday next, to thank him for the same."
The good clergyman was some time before he could imagine it to be any more than a jest, and hesitated to obey the mandate; but as his wife insisted on his making a trial, he went up to town, and to his unspeakable satisfaction, found the contents of the note literally true. [source: Derby Mercury, Sep 26, 1777, p. 2]
In 1776, George Washington was determined to cross the Delaware and attack the British in Trenton. An Englishman in the neighborhood dispatched his son with a note to General Rahl, warning him of the approaching danger fo Washington's army. At the time, the general was deeply absorbed in a game of chess. When the spy note was presented, without withdrawing his attention form his chess game, he put the note in his vest pocket. After the battle next day, when General Rahl was brought into a house, mortally wounded. Upon inspection of his pockets, the note was found unread in his vest pocket. [sources: The Adams Sentinel (Gettysburg, PA), Aug 1, 1859, p. 1, and The Daily Exchange (Baltimore), July 14, 1859, p. 2]
In 1782, the Comte du Nord, the future Paul I of Russia, visited the Cafe de la Regence in disguise. Paul went up to a couple of chess players and betted on a difficult move. His stake was a Louis. He won, took his money and left. No one knew who he was until Paul returned and gave all his winning s to the waiter. He was then identified after attracting the attention of the crowd. [source: Reynolds Newspaper (London), Mar 4, 1866, p. 2]
In 1788, King George III (1738-1820) had trouble sleeping. Dr. Willis, his physician, prescribed constant amusements for the king so as to prevent his mind from fixing too intensely on one object. The king was left entirely to himself in the choice and occupied himself in walking, writing, or playing at chess. [source: The Ipswich Journal, Dec 27, 1788, p. 4]
In1793 , a young person entered the Cafe de la Regence and sat down at the table of Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) for a game of chess. The young person beat Robespierre twice. Robespierre was so impressed that he asked what stake were they playing for. The young person said, "For the head of a man. I have won it; give it to me," the lad replied. Robespiere drew from his pocket a sheet of paper and wrote an order to set at liberty the Comte de R----, then imprisoned in the Conciergerie. Once the paper was in the hands of the young person, the lad revealed that it was the Comte's bride. [source: Cleveland Daily Leader, Feb 14, 1866, p. 2]
In 1806, King George III spent his day reading dispatches, dictating answers, and saw people upon business. He would then ride out on his horse with some part of his family. It there was time afterwards, he played chess, especially if General Charles FritzRoy (1762-1831) or General Robert Manners (1758-1823) was in attendance. [sources: Aberdeen Journal, Aug 27, 1806, p. 3 and The Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh), Nov 20, 1806]
In the 19th century, Cardinal Constantino Patrizi (1798-1876) challenged five other nobles to a pistol duel because they denied him membership in the Noble Chess Circle of Rome. (Chess Review, February 1951, p. 50)
In 1857, the $300 first place money for the first American Chess Congress played in New York was refused by Paul Morphy, the winner. Instead, he accepted a silver pitcher, four goblets, and a silver tray. Morphy defeated Charles Stanley in a match, giving odds of pawn and move. Morphy gave the $100 prize money to Stanley's wife and children. As a mark of gratitude, she named her next daughter Pauline.
In 1862, chess player Armand Edward Blackmar (1826-1888), of the Blackmar Gambit and Blackmar-Diemer fame, was arrested by Union General Ben Butler (1818-1893) and imprisoned by Union soldiers in New Orleans for publishing "seditious" (Confederate) music, such as the Bonnie Blue Flag (Band of Brothers) and the Dixie War Song.
In January 1862, the St. Petersburg Chess Club was founded. In June 1862, the Russian police disbanded the St. Petersburg Chess Club. It was considered a front for a literary and political group of agitators. The club wasn't re-established until the late 1890s when Mikhail Chigorin brought it back to life.
In 1864, George Mackenzie (1837-1891), a former Captain in the Union army, was arrested and imprisoned for desertion from the Union army. He was released in May, 1865, and moved to New York and started playing chess. By 1867, he was U.S. chess champion.
Joseph Henry Blackburne (1841-1924) was one of the strongest players of his time and he was also a heavy drinker. In the 19th century, players often drank even during the course of a tournament or match game. In one of Blackburne's many simuls, perhaps in Manchester, he grabbed his opponent's drink when he wasn't looking, and quickly downed it. After the game, which Blackburne won, he commented "My opponent left a glass of whisky en prise, and I took it en passant." Blackburne once claimed that drinking whisky cleared his brain and improved his chess play.
Wilhelm Steinitz and Henry Blackburne would sometimes get in a scuffle. Steinitz wrote of Blackburne "...he struck with his full fist into my eye, which he blackened and might have knocked out. And though he is a powerful man of very nearly twice my size, who might have killed me with a few such strokes, I am proud to say that I had the courage of attempting to spit into his face, and only wish I had succeeded."
In 1878, Johannes Zukertort (1842-1888) won an international chess tournament in Paris. The first place prize, given to him by the President of France, was a Sevres vase, worth over 5,000 francs (perhaps about $10,000 in today's currency). A few days later, Zukertort took the vase to a pawn shop and sold it for about 2,500 francs.
In 1880, going into the last round of the 5th American Chess Congress in New York, the leading scores were: James Grundy 12.5, Preston Ware 12.5, Charles Moehle 12.5 and George Henry Mackenzie 12.5. So, the distribution of $1,000 prize money and a gold medal depended on the final games. Mackenzie won his game and scored 13.5. Then Moehle drew and scored 13 points. But Grundy's game with Ware lingered on. At one time it appeared that Ware had a certain win and the game was adjourned. Unaccountably to the onlookers, when the players resumed in the evening, Ware played what are described as 'some apparently purposeless moves', and Grundy scored a lucky point after 64 moves to tie Captain Mackenzie for first and second prizes. A two-game play off was arranged between Mackenzie and Grundy. But before it began, Ware made a written complaint to the congress committee. Ware wrote, "As I was walking down the Bowery with Mr Grundy, on Sunday 25 January, he remarked that he was poor and really needed the second prize." Ware alleged that Grundy had offered him $20 to play for a draw. He admitted that he had fallen in with the plan and that, even with a won game, he merely — in his own words — "moved back and forward as agreed. Grundy was making desperate efforts to win, and finally did so, perpetrating an infamous fraud on me." The committee couldn't do anything about the unsupported allegations, and conceded to Grundy the benefit of a technical doubt. Grundy lost the play-off 2-0 and took the $300 second prize.
In 1886, after the first Steinitz-Zukertort game, Johannes Zukertort (1842-1888) complained of want of chess practice. "Why didn't you practice in London?" he was asked. "I couldn't," fired back Zukertort: "Blackburne is always sick and Mason is always drunk." (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb 14, 1886)
In July 1887, Frederick Viewig, manager of the Eden Musee in New York, was arrested for having violated the Sunday law by exhibiting wax figures, permitting music to be played, and also by allowing Ajeeb, the chess automaton, to play a game of chess. He responded, "I consider it absurd to contend that a playing a game of chess or looking at was figures was a violation of the Sunday law." Mr Viewig had to pay $100 for bail.
In 1894, world champion Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941) had gastric fever and a broken blood vessel while in England and almost died. His medical doctor brother, Dr. Berthold Lasker (1860-1928), traveled from Berlin to England and saved his life.
In 1895, Beniamino Vergani (1863-1927) was invited to play in the Hastings International tournament of 1895. He was a chess master from Italy. He ended up in last place, scoring only 3 points (2 wins and 2 draws) out of 21. He was so disgusted with his game that he never played in a masters' chess tournament again. He was given 2 British pounds for his efforts.
In 1896, U.S. chess champion Harry Nelson Pillsbury (1872-1906) resigned from the Manhattan Chess Club (he had earlier won the Manhattan CC championship) because someone stole his umbrella and that umbrellas were not safe in the club house. (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 3, 1896)
Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900) died in the Manhattan State Hospital (Ward Island) and is buried in Brooklyn's Evergreen Cemetery, Bethel Slope Section, Lot 5896. His birth date on his grave is wrong. He was born on May 17, 1836. His tombstone says that he was born on May 14, 1837. The inscriptions on his tombstone are written in German, but his first name on the tombstone reads William instead of Wilhelm. The top of his tombstone is a chessboard.
In 1900, Frank Marshall (1877-1944) sat down to play a game against the British player Amos Burn (1848-1925) at the 1900 Paris International. Burn was a smoker and loved to smoke his pipe while he studied the chess board. After two moves, Burn began hunting through his pockets for his pipe and tobacco. By move 4, Burn had his pipe out and was looking for a pipe cleaner. By move 8, he was filling up his pipe with tobacco. Marshall made a few fast moves, and by move 12, Burn was looking for his matches. On move 14, he struck his first match, but was concentrating on the position. The match burned down and burned Burn's fingers and went out. On move 15, Burn found another match and lit it. On move 16, he finally lit his pipe, but it was too late. Burn was checkmated on move 18 and his pipe went out. He never did get to smoke his pipe.
In 1901 David Janowski (1868-1927) won an international tournament at Monte Carlo and lost all his first place money in the casino the same evening the tournament ended. The casino management had to buy his ticket home. In another event he handed his money to a friend and made him promise not to return it until after the chess tournament. However, the lure of gambling proved too strong and he begged for the return of his money. His friend refused. Janowski was so infuriated that he sued his friend.
In Vienna 1903, Jacques Mieses (1865-1954) had been going strong in The Vienna Gambit tournament. In the 13th round he was to play Isidor Gunsberg (1854-1930). Not that Gunsberg wasn't a fine player, but the wide-open games resulting from gambits were not his forte, and in addition he seemed to be completely out of form. Out of the previous twelve games, Gunsberg had lost 10 and drew 2, and was in last place. Mieses had already chalked up the point mentally. But, as so often happens, the tail-ender of the tournament had one good game in him. He let loose with everything he had, and Mieses had to resign after 50 moves. Mieses commented bitterly, "It is bad enough to get run over, but to get run over by a corpse is horrible!" This was Gunsberg's only win. He lost 15, drew 2, and won 1 in the tournament. (source: Chernev, The Bright Side of Chess, pp. 13-14)
In 1904, the great Cambridge Springs International Chess Congress was held in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania. It was sponsored by William Rider, who owned the Hotel Rider in town. Most of the support came from Rider and the directors of the Erie Railroad Company. It was reported that the players would attend a reception with President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House, but the reception was cancelled. At the end of the tournament, the organizers tried to recoup some of their expenses by selling chess boards and sets for $15. Mikhail Chigorin was stunned at these high prices, complaining that the sets were cheat, not worth more than $2.50, and the poorly made chess boards were only worth 10 to 15 cents. The sets and boards sold anyway. (source: Andy Soltis, Chess Life, Dec 1995)
In 1907, Akiba Rubinstein (1880-1961) was playing in a chess tournament in Carlsbad and had a one point lead with one game to go he was playing against Heinrich Wolf (1875-1942). Rubinstein just needed a draw to win the tournament. After 22 moves into the game, Wolf offered Rubinstein the draw. Rubinstein declined and played on till he had a superior position (he could have forced mate) then offered Wolf a draw on move 31, which Wolf gladly accepted. After the game Rubinstein was asked why he declined Wolf's draw offer and then played on till he was winning then offered a draw to Wolf. Rubinstein replied, "With Wolf I draw when I want to, not when he wants to!" Sixteen years later, at Carlsbad 1923, Wolf again offered a draw in his game with Rubinstein. Again, Rubinstein turned down the draw, but this time Rubinstein made a mistake and resigned four moves later after he made a blunder after the draw offer.
In 1911, the 15 chess masters (17 masters were invited) who participated in the San Sebastian, Spain tournament were reimbursed for their travels. It was the first time that chess players in a major tournament were reimbursed for their travels. The event was won by Jose Capablanca, age 22, in his first international tournament. The event was organized by Jacques Mieses, who insisted that all of the expenses of the masters were paid. Atkins and Lasker were invited, all expenses paid, but they refused to play in the event. The tournament was played in the Gran Casino. Initially, Ossip Bernstein objected to the participation of the unknown Capablanca who was probably not master class, but Bernstein was silenced when Capablanca defeated him in the first round.
In 1911 at Carlsbad, Nimzowitsch spent 20 minutes before making the first move against Alekhine (1.e4). Alekhine got up and bought a magazine to read. When it was Alekhine's turn to move after 20 minutes, Alekhine continued to read his magazine until 20 minutes passed on his clock. He then made his move (1...e5). The times on the clock were now even. The game was a 70 move draw, but Nimzowitsch was so outraged by Alekhine waiting for 20 minutes reading a magazine before making his move, that they never were friends again.
In 1912, Frank Marshall defeated Stefan Levitsky in a brilliant game by making an unexpected queen moves on a square where it could be captured by three of Levitsky's pieces. Frank Marshall wrote that right after the game, "the spectators...threw gold pieces on [his] board at the conclusion of [his] brilliant win over Levitsky." Years later, Marshall's wife, Carrie, denied this ever happened. She said there wasn't even a shower of pennies. Another explanation was that the players and the spectators were just paying off their bets on the game.
In 1913, at a chess tournament in Havana, Charles Jaffe (1879-1941) drew his game with Frank Marshall (1877-1944) in the first round, and later, lost his next game to Marshall, blundering away his queen for a rook and then promptly resigned. Jose Capablanca (1888-1942), who lost to Marshall and Jaffe, charged that Jaffe intentionally lost his game to Marshall so that Marshall would win the tournament ahead of Capablanca. It was alleged that Capablanca influenced tournament organizers in the USA and Cuba so that Jaffe would be unable to be invited or play in major tournaments after this, especially tournaments in which Capablanca was playing. Jaffe never played again in a tournament where Capablanca also participated. In 1916, Jaffe was involved in a court battle involving non-inclusion for publication of some of his chess analysis. Jaffe brought suit to recover $750 for work alleged to have been done in analyzing the Rice Gambit that was never published for a book called "Twenty Years of the Rice Gambit." Jaffe lost the case, since the publisher never asked Jaffe to do any analytical work for him.
In 1915, Ajeeb, a chess automaton, was set up at Coney Island. One player lost to it and was so angry he took out a gun and shot at the automaton. It killed its hidden operator, which was covered up. In another incident with Ajeeb, a Westerner emptied his six-shooter into the automaton, hitting the operator in the shoulder. One lady who lost to the Ajeeb automaton was so enraged that they stuck a hatpin into the automaton, stabbing its operator in the mouth.
In 1916, during World War I, Siegbert Tarrasch (1862-1934) and Jacques Mieses (1865-1954) played a chess match in Berlin in which the prize was Âœ pound of butter. Tarrasch won the match and the butter with 7 wins, 2 losses, and 4 draws. (source: Chess Review, Apr 1937, p. 89)
In 1916, Isidor Gunsberg (1854-1930) sued the Evening News London newspaper for libel when a newspaper columnist, Alfred William Foster, wrote that Gunsberg's chess column contained blunders. He won the suit after the British High Court accepted a submission that in chess matters, eight oversights did not make a blunder. Gunsberg won 250 British pounds for damages done to his reputation.
During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) was in the Baltic war zone (Latvia) and escaped being drafted into the military service in Russia by complaining that a fly was on his head. He then made his way to Berlin and changed his name to Arnold as a precaution against anti-Semitism.
After World War I, Alexander Fyodorovich Ilyin-Genevsky (1894-1941) had to learn chess all over again. He had been an upcoming Russian chess master, but the result of World War I shellshock that wiped out much of his memory and required him to learn all over again how the chess pieces moved (Irving Chernev said that his memory loss was due to a bullet that penetrated a portion of his brain controlling the memory — Chernev, Chess Review, April 1933, p. 9). source: Soltis, Soviet Chess 1917-1991, p. 3 In 1918 Ossip Bernstein (1882-1962) was arrested in Odessa by the Cheka and ordered shot by a firing squad just because he was a legal advisor to bankers. As the firing squad lined up, a superior officer asked to see the list of prisoners' names. Discovering the name of Ossip Bernstein, he asked whether he was the famous master. Not satisfied with Bernstein's affirmative reply, he made him play a game with him. If Bernstein lost or drew, he would be shot. Bernstein won in short order and was released. He escaped on a British ship and settled in Paris. Bernstein's son was President Eisenhower's official interpreter because he spoke almost every European language.
In June 1919, Alexander Alekhine joined the Communist Party and found work in the commission for confiscating valuables from the bourgeoisie. He may have also been working for the Intelligence Corps of the White Russian Army in Odessa. While in Odessa, Alekhine stayed in a hotel room previously occupied by a British Officer of the Intelligence Service. This British officer left behind a trunk. During a police raid, the trunk was found to contain compromising documents. He was arrested by the Cheka (Soviet state security police), imprisoned in Odesa and sentenced to death as a spy. Yakov Vilner (1899-1931), a Jewish chess master, saved him by sending a telegram to the chairman of the Ukrainian Council of People's Commissars, who knew of Alekhine and ordered his release. (source: CHESS, May 1946)
In 1920, the first All-Russian Chess Olympiad was held in Moscow. The competitors stopped halfway through the event, went on strike, and refused to play any more chess unless they were given more rations and prize money. Their demands were finally met.
In the 1920s, Eugene Znosko-Borovsky (1884-1954) supposedly published a booklet called "Capablanca's Errors," featuring most of Capablanca's chess losses. Capablanca responded that he hoped to write a book called "Znosko-Borovsky's Good Moves" but, he said, "Unfortunately, I didn't succeed in finding material for it." (source: Chernev, The Golden Dozen, 1976, p. 325 and Soltis, Chess Life, April 1993, p. 20)
In 1921, the press had reported that Hungarian chess master Leo Forgacs (1881-1930) had died during a revolutionary riot in Hungary. He didn't die until August 17, 1930. His death was reported in the "Deutsches Woshenschach" and the American Chess Bulletin.
In Vienna 1922, Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946) was playing Ernst Gruenfeld (1893-1962) where Gruenfeld played the Gruenfeld Defense for the first time. Alekhine tried to refute the opening and failed. Gruenfeld won the game in 54 moves after sealing the strongest move during the adjournment. Alekhine, wearing his hat and overcoat, went to his table to see what the sealed move was. When he saw that Gruenfeld had sealed 54...Qf3, the strongest move, he resigned by picking up his king and throwing it across the tournament room.
Grandmaster Samuel Reshevsky (1911-1992) was a child prodigy in chess. He made his debut on radio singing a love song. His original name was Szmul Rzeszewski, but nobody could pronounce it. He was an accountant by profession. (Chess Review, October 1951, p. 288)
In 1924, chess master Curt von Bardeleben (1861-1924), destitute and impoverished, may have committed suicide by throwing himself out of the second-floor window of his residence in Berlin. He was 62. He had been a member of the German nobility. Other sources (Mieses and Kagan) say that he was suffering from severe arteriosclerosis and was trying to get fresh air. He opened a low silled window on the second floor of his apartment and fell out. His life and death were the basis for that of the main character in the 1930 novel The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov, which was made into the movie The Luzhin Defence (2000).
In 1925, at Baden-Baden, Carlos Torre (1904-1978) was playing Richard Reti (1889-1929). On Black's 22nd move, Reti tried to castle long (O-O-O) when Torre was walking around the tournament hall. When Torre returned, he pointed out that castling long was illegal. It looked legal. However, during the earlier part of the game, Reti moved his queen rook off its original square from a8 to b8 (8th move), then moved it back a few moves later (13th move). Reti had forgotten he had moved his rook. The rules stated that Black had to move the first piece that he touched. Reti could not remember whether he touched the rook or the king first, so it was ruled that he had to make a king move. The game ended in a draw after 31 moves. Years later, Korchnoi also made the same mistake and tried to castle after moving his rook from its original square and back to the original square. GM Yuri Averbakh was also unclear of the rules for castling in one of his tournament games.
In 1927, Efim Bogoljubov (1889-1952) was officially excommunicated from the USSR. Because he "exhibited the typically bourgeois vice of putting his pocket book above has principles," Bogoljubov, who was chess champion of the Soviet Union, was excommunicated by the chess section of the All-Union Soviet of Physical Culture. The chess section declared he was no longer chess champion. He was also no longer a member of the Soviet chess organization. He was expelled when he expressed the desire to give up his Soviet citizenship in order to be able to attend a tournament in Merano, Italy. He was unable to go because the Italian authorities refused to recognize his Soviet passport. Bogoljubov wrote to the Soviet chess organization declaring that in view of the difficulties of moving about Europe with a Soviet passport, he was thinking of assuming the citizenship of another country.
In 1927, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1978) married his first wife, the young heiress Lydie Sarazin-Lavassor, and went on their honeymoon. The honeymoon did not go well. One night when he was asleep, she glued all of his chess pieces to the chess board because he spent his honeymoon week studying chess. They were divorced 3 months later. Duchamp later married Alexina "Teeny" Sattler in 1954. They were both avid chess players.
In 1927, during the New York International tournament, Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935), who hated smoking, asked Dr. Milan Vidmar (1885-1962) not to smoke. Vidmar agreed, but later during the game, he absent-mindedly took his cigar case out of his pocket and laid it on the chess table. Nimzowitch at once left the table and ran to Geza Maroczy (1860-1951), the tournament director, complaining that Vidmar had his cigar case out. Maroczy said to Nimzowitsch, "But Vidmar is not smoking; his cigar case in unopened." Nimzowitsch responded, "I know, but as an old chess player you must know that the threat is stronger than the execution." (source: Chess Review, Sep 1936, p. 202)
In the late 1920s, Jose Capablanca (1888-1942), world chess champion from 1921 to 1927, spent his spare time hanging out in a specific cafe in Paris. Friends, acquaintances, and others would often drop by, participating in games and libations with the former world champion. One day, while Capablanca was having coffee and reading a newspaper, a stranger stopped at his table, motioned at the chess set and indicated he would like to play if Capablanca was interested. Capablanca folded the newspaper away, reached for the board and proceeded to take his own queen off the board and play a queen down. The opponent (who apparently had no idea who Capablanca was) reacted with slight anger. "Hey! You don't know me! I might beat you!" he said. Capablanca, smiling gently, said quietly, "Sir, if you could beat me, I would know you."
In the late 1920s, Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) visited Israel and went to a local chess club anonymously. He naturally crushed everyone else, and eventually one of the old kibitzers there told him: "You're a pretty good player, your style reminds me of Nimzowitsch..."
In 1928, before the start of the 2nd official Chess Olympiad at The Hague, FIDE decided that only amateurs could take part. The British and Yugoslavia suspected that the USA team included chess professionals, so they withdrew in protest. Just before the start of the Olympiad, FIDE canceled the ban on professionals, but it was too late for most of the 17 teams to send their best players. Isaac Kashdan won the gold medal with the score of 13 out of 15.
In 1930, the USSR banned blindfold chess because of its supposed health hazards. A Russian player allegedly died attempting to break the world record for number of opponents during a blindfold simul.
In April, 1930, chess was banned in Harbin, China as too dangerous and "against the public welfare." Manchurian Chinese police raided cafes and other establishments to stop anyone from playing chess. Players protested they were not gambling or playing for money. The Chinese police responded, "No matter. Such games are dangerous."
In 1931, Geza Maroczy (1870-1951) challenged Aron Nimzowitch (1886-1935) to a pistol duel at dawn during a chess tournament in Bled. Earlier, the two got in an argument and when Maroczy challenged Nimzowitch to a duel, Nimzowitsch rightly refused. Alekhine won the event. Nimzowitsch took 3rd place. Maroczy took llth place. (source: Chess Life, March 1988, p. 11)
In the early 1930s, an amateur approached Frank Marshall, who was the US champ at the time, and asked for help in a postal chess game. Marshall obliged and played a few opening moves. A few days later, another amateur dropped in at the Marshall Chess Club to also seek help in a postal game from Marshall. Marshall realized the game of the second player was with the opponent who had come in a few days earlier. Marshall helped the second player and then ended up playing himself for several months as the two amateurs marveled at how their opponent was able to play on for so long against the great Frank Marshall!
In the 1930s, the Mexican government offered all foreign chess masters officer appointments as chess instructors in the Mexican Army. Borislav Kostich was made a Colonel. Reuben Fine and Isaac Kashdan were made Lieutenants. Alexander Alekhine and Jose Capablanca were also chess instructors in Mexico, but did not accept their rank. This status and honorary title facilitated their travels to chess tournaments throughout Mexico.
In the 1930s, former world champion Max Euwe (1901-1981) was in the train analyzing chess on his pocket set. A stranger approached him and asked if they could play a couple of games. Euwe agreed and they played a couple of games which he of course all won. His opponent was quite baffled by this and exclaimed: "I have never lost so many games in a row before. At the club they even call me 'Little Euwe'."
In 1931, Geza Maroczy (1870-1951), age 61, challenged Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) to a pistol duel at dawn during the Bled International Chess Tournament. Nimzowitsch flatly refused to participate. Maroczy was satisfied since, to him, a refusal to accept such a challenge, as a matter of honor, was worse than being shot. Nimzowitsch took 3rd place (won by Alekhine). Maroczy took 11th place. (source: Chess Life, March 1988, p. 11) Maroczy was one of the original group of grandmasters given that title by FIDE, and the first GM to die.
In 1931, Aron Nimzowitsch showed up at a major chess tournament playing hall in Bled, Yugoslavia, only his bathrobe. As the queen of Yugoslavia was due at the tournament hall any moment, Hans Kmoch grabbed Nimzowitch by the neck and kicked him out the door.
In 1931-1932, Dutch Master Daniel Noteboom (1910-1932) attended the Hastings Chess Congress, held in December-January. The weather was so cold that he caught pneumonia at Hastings and then died on January 12, 1932. He was only 21.
In 1933 Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment, wanted an "All-German Chess League." He barred all Jewish chess players from official tournaments of the German Chess League, as well as ordinary chess clubs and cafe playing rooms. Goebbels sought out players who were of strong National Socialist persuasion. Goebbels was also the President of the Grossdeutsch Schachbund, a new German chess federation that got funding and encouragement from the Nazi government. (source: Chess Review, Sep 1933, p. 5) Otto Zander, President of the new league, said all Jews would be excluded unless they proved themselves at the front line of a war.
At a New York chess tournament during the Depression, the first prize was a keg of schmaltz herring.
In 1934, Svetozar Gligoric (1923-2012) learned chess in Belgrade, taught be a boarder taken in by his mother (Gligoric's father died when Svetozar was 9). He had first seen chess being played in a neighborhood bar. Gligoric did not have a chess set at home, so he made himself a chess set by carving chess pieces from corks from wine bottles. Gligoric became a chess master at the age of 16.
Up to 1934, neither Emanuel Lasker nor Jose Capablanca had ever finished below 3rd in chess tournament play. But in 1934, Lasker finished 5th at Zurich, his poorest tournament performance up to that date. In 1935, Capablanca finished 4th at Moscow, his poorest tournament performance up to that date.
Moscow 1935 was the second international chess tournament held in Moscow. Over 100,000 people requested tickets to witness the first round. (source: Chess Review, May 1936, p, 118) Salo Flohr and Mikhail Botvinnik tied for first, followed by Emanuel Lasker at age 66 (3rd place) and Capablanca (4th place). Lasker did not lose a game and Capablanca lost two games (to Lasker and Riumin). Botvinnik arrived 10 minutes late for his game with Capablanca because he forgot his glasses. The game was later drawn.
In 1935 at Margate, a small boy handed up his autograph to Sir George Thomas (1881-1972), who promptly signed it. Then the boy handed the book to Heinrich Fraenkel (1897-1996), who was reporting on the tournament, and when he told the boy that surely there could be no point in getting his autograph, the boy disagreed. "Oh yes, sir," the boy said, "I must have your autograph too." Fraenkel responded, "But why on earth? It's no good in your collection." "Oh yes, sir", said the boy, his face beaming, "I saw you talk to Capablanca!"' (source: Chernev, The Bright Side of Chess, p. 17 and Fraenkel's Foreword to Capablanca's Last Chess Lectures, 1967)
On August 20, 1935, Agnes Lawson-Stevenson was killed by a propeller of an airplane. She was four-time British Ladies' Champion and was married to Rufus Stevenson, the editor of the British Chess Magazine. She was on her way to the Women's World Championship from Berlin to Warsaw by plane. The aircraft stopped in Poznan, Poland and she left the aircraft to have her passport checked. She returned to the aircraft from the front of the plane and ran into the moving propeller. Two years later, Rufus Stevenson married the world woman champion, Vera Menchik, who later died from a V-1 rocket attack on her home.
In 1935, the All-Russian Trade Union Chess Tournament began in Russia. It had 700,000 players in the event! The tournament was held in factories, plants, railways, farms, etc. The tournament represented 110 trade unions in 6 cities. The tournament lasted 6 months, completing in January 1936. Georgy Lisitsin (1909-1972) and Vitaly Chekhover (1908-1965) tied for first place. (source: Chess Review, April 1936, p. 92)
In 1935, Alexander Alekhine placed his cat on the chessboard before his game as a good luck charm. Alekhine was also allegedly hoping that his opponent was allergic to cats. When Alekhine was forbidden to play with his cat on his lap, he turned to wearing a wool sweater with a picture of his cat on it.
In 1936, at a chess tournament in England, Mikhail Botvinnik (1911-1995) was walking with Max Euwe and remarked, "We don't have such dogs in the Soviet Union," upon seeing a rare breed. Euwe responded, "No, I suppose your people have eaten them all." This caused a rift with Botvinnik that lasted for years, but was eventually healed.
In 1936, Marlon Brando and Wally Cox were neighbors on Evanston, Illinois. One day, Brando asked Cox to play a game of chess, but Cox knew nothing about chess. Brando then set Cox down beside a chessboard and announced that he was going to teach him how to play chess. So the lesson started. Brando told Cox, "Move here. Move there. Do this. Do that." Wally dutifully moved all the men in the squares that Marlon indicated. Finally, Brando made a sweeping maneuver, knocked off all the chess pieces on the board, and put the chess set away. Cox looked at Brando in surprise and asked what happened. Brando said, "Game's over. I won." [source: Chess Life, Feb 1954, p. 37]
In 1937, Polish chess master Achilles Frydman (1905-1940s) had just left a mental asylum and was warned not to play chess. However, he played in the 1937 Polish chess championship and suffered a nervous breakdown. He could not finish the tournament after 15 rounds of a 21 round event. Reuben Fine, in his book, The Psychology of the Chess Player, stated that Frydman had run through the hotel without any clothes, shouting "Fire!" George Koltanowski, in one of his columns, wrote that Frydman insisted in walking around in the lobby naked. A Polish newspaper column reported that A. Frydman had caused many difficulties for the tournament management and for the players. Gideon Stahlberg had the room next to Frydman and could not sleep because Frydman would yell "check" and "checkmate" all night long. Najdorf blamed two losses on Frydman's interruptions (Frydman would run to the phone after every move and make a long distance phone call). In 1938, during a tournament in Lodz, Achilles Frydman showed up naked to play Tartakower. Frydman was later put in a mental asylum in Kocborowo. In 1940, he was arrested by the Nazis in Warsaw and died in a concentration camp.
In 1938 at Margate, Alexander Alekhine was playing Eero Book (1910-1990). During the game, Alekhine had sacrificed his rook and got up and started to walk around a bit. Seeing Miguel Najdorf (1910-1997), Alekhine said to him "I have sacrificed a rook; what do you think?" When Najdorf looked at the position, he didn't understand the move and couldn't see a thing in the position, but still he replied that it was very interesting. After Alekhine won the game spectacularly, Najdorf, in awe of the game later asked Alekhine "Doctor, to tell you the truth when you made the sacrifice I did not see anything" Alekhine replied "Neither did I." Shocked by the reply, Najdorf asked him "then why did you sacrifice?" to which Alekhine's answer was " I have a big nose"! (He was referring to himself as Pinocchio and was lying)
In 1939, US master Weaver Adams (1901-1963) wrote a book called White to Play and Win. After publication of the book, he played in the US Open chess tournament in Dallas in 1940. He did not win a single game with White, and won all four of his games as Black! Adams then played a match with IA Horowitz. Adams had White every game and Horowitz had Black every game. Adams lost the match. Weaver Adams's mother's side was been traced back to the founding fathers of America. Arnold Denker related of Weaver Adams that he was "a master who inherited a chicken farm and who was — so to speak — a White man clear through. He wrote a book, White to Play and Win, lived in a White house on White Street, chewed antacid pills that left the inside of his mouth perpetually White, and raised only white chickens that laid white eggs." Harry Golombek wrote in 1977 that Adams, whom he described as "author of White to Play and Win and a sodium bicarbonate addict", was on Golombek's "reserves" list for "the ten most interesting personages" from the past 100 years.
In September 1939, the British chess team at the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires had just qualified for the finals. However, World War II broke out and the entire team was recalled back to England on the next ship out. During one watchkeeping at night, Stuart Milner-Barry (1906-1995) sent out an alarm to the rest of the ship when he thought he had spotted a U-boat. It turned out to be a porpoise following the ship. Most of the British chess masters from the Olympiad went to work as code breakers.
In 1939, Sonja Graf (1914-1965) was woman champion of her native Germany. She traveled to Buenos Aires to play on the German team in the 8th Chess Olympiad. She was prevented from playing on the German team by a Nazi edict for her outspoken defiance of Hitler's government, and was taken off the list of Olympiad participants. She then decided to play in the Women's World Chess Championship, held at the same time in Buenos Aires. She went on to play at large under the banner of "Liberty." The Argentines made her a flag with the word "Libra" written on it. She played the entire tournament, winning 16 games and losing 3, taking 2nd place, behind world champion Vera Menchik. After the Olympiad, she refused to return to Germany and stayed in Argentina. She married a merchant mariner, Vernon Stevenson, and moved to Hollywood in 1947.
In early 1939, the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League Chess Club was formed, mostly made up of Jewish players. It defeated Herman Steiner's Hollywood Chess Institute in match play, but lost to the stronger Los Angeles Chess and Checker Club. (source: Chess Review, May 1939, p. 104)
In 1940, Al Horowitz (1907-1973) survived a car crash that killed his chess partner, Harold Morton (1906-1940). The two had been giving simultaneous chess exhibitions throughout the country. On February 17, 1940, a truck collided with the car in which Morton was driving near Carroll, Iowa. Morton, New England chess champion since 1929, was killed instantly and Horowitz had a brain concussion and other injuries. Morton was also Horowitz's partner in publishing Chess Review magazine.
On September 23, 1940, a German air raid destroyed the National Chess Centre, the largest chess club in London. It had over 700 members. The club was located in the Cavendish Square building of the John Lewis Partnership on Oxford Street. The contents of chess club were entirely destroyed. The manager of the club was world woman champion Vera Menchik, who later died in another air raid. The National Chess Centre was re-opened in 1952, just opposite of the original building, and was active throughout the 1950s. The National Chess Centre no longer exists.
Most people do not know the day they learned how to play chess. But GM Jan Hein Donner (1927-1988) knew exactly. It was on August 22, 1941. It was on that day a professor taught Donner and his classmates the rules of the game and the movement of the pieces. And on the same day, the Nazis arrested his father, Jan (1891-1981), a prominent judiciary member, sending him to a concentration camp. Donner would never forget that date. [source: New York Times, Nov 30, 1988, p. 30]
In 1942, Arnold Denker (1914-2005) beat Samuel Reshevsky (1911-1992) on time in the US chess championship. While spectators watch, the tournament director, Walter Stephens (1883-1948), mistakenly declared that Denker's time had expired. Stephens was looking at the clock backwards and refused to change his decision, which ultimately gave Reshevsky the title.
In 1943, the FBI prevented Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) from playing postal chess, thinking that the chess notation were secret codes. He and his wife, Lauren Bacall, appeared on the cover of Chess Review in 1945, playing chess with Charles Boyer. George Koltanowski (1903-2000) was also barred from playing postal chess or give chess lessons to students overseas or in South America. Wartime mail regulations prevented mailing abroad any abbreviations, nicknames, and codes.
In 1943, Ludek Pachman was invited by world chess champion Alexander Alekhine to his hotel suite after every round in the Prague Tournament to analyze chess games. However, Pachman said that Alekhine's Siamese cat did not like Pachman and left several solid scratches. [source: ChessBase News, Dec 25, 2020]
During World War II, it was reported that grandmaster Paul Keres (1916-1975) of Estonia was bombed by the Germans and had to have his leg amputated. Keres saved the lives of several radio operators after warning them that the NKVD (the Russian People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) was looking for them. (source: Chess Review, February 1945, p. 9)
During World War II, two chess players were sitting in a coffeehouse in Berlin playing each other a game of chess. The Allied Forces were bombing the city heavily and suddenly there was a terrible big noise outside, right in front of the coffeehouse. Something was hit and blasted away. It was getting late and after the game was finished, the two chess players went in the direction of the door. The room seemed to be somehow bigger than usual. One of the players said, "Hey, there is something wrong here. I can't find the door." It was already late at night and dark. The two players went further and suddenly they were standing on the road. They had a look around and were amazed to see that the front of the coffeehouse was completely missing and that a lot of house were completely destroyed.
In June 1944, Vera Menchik-Stevenson (1906-1944), women's world chess champion since 1927, was killed when a V-1 rocket bombing raid hit her home (47 Gauden Road, Clapham) in South London. Her younger sister, Olga, and mother also died in the air raid. Their bomb shelter, a few yards away, was undamaged. Today, the address is an apartment complex.
After World War II, Cold War spies in Germany sent postcards back to MI5 in England containing coded messages written in cryptic text base around a series of postal chess games. Gordon Thomas, historian for MI5 and MI6, said that chess moves were a common way of communicating during the Cold War. He also said the Russians in particular favored using chess as a method of communicating. It was their great national pastime and information would often be disguised as chess moves.
In July-August 1945, the Hollywood Chess Group and the Los Angeles Times organized the Pan-American International Tournament. Unfortunately, the USA was still at war in the Pacific and transportation was difficult for many of the invitees. Herman Pilnik of Argentina was a last-minute replacement. He lost his plane reservation and drove by car. He crashed his car into an unlighted truck at night in Arizona, but arrived 3 days later with head wounds. Singer and actress Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) was there to open the event and draw the players' numbers for the pairings. Humphrey Bogart, a tournament director of the U.S. Chess Federation, was selected as the Master of Ceremonies. One of the spectators of the tournament was actress Marlene Dietrich (1904-1992), a chess player. Samuel Reshevsky won the event and $1,000.
In 1946, British chess International Master Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander (1909-1974) was awarded the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his contributions as a top British cryptanalyst. After the award, Alexander was asked by an interviewer, "Does that mean you are a Knight?" Alexander replied, "Alas, barely a tempo."
In 1948 at Saltsjobaden, David Bronstein (1924-2006) survived an assassination attack during the Interzonal tournament. On the last day Bronstein was playing Savielly Tartakover. Suddenly, a Lithuanian made a lunge at Bronstein to kill him. Several spectators grabbed him. He wanted to murder all Russians because he claimed the Russians were responsible for sending his sister to Siberia and murdering her. Bronstein won the game and the Interzonal with a 13.5-5.5 score.
In 1948, Kit Crittenden won the North Carolina State Chess Championship at the age of 13, becoming the nation's youngest state champion. The year before, he finished in last place in the NC championship. He won the NC championship 5 times.
In March 1949, Jacques Mieses (1865-1954), age 84, defeated Dirk van Foreest (1862-1956), age 86 during an exhibition game at The Hague. After the game, Mieses was quoted as saying, "Youth has triumphed."
In 1949, when Zsa Zsa Gabor (born in 1917) married the actor George Sanders (1906-1972), her third husband, they played chess "incessantly" on their honeymoon. George wrote in his autobiography that the two played chess nearly every night on their honeymoon.
In 1949, in a match between Reuben Fine and Miguel Najdorf, one of the games was adjourned after 45 moves. At the adjournment, there was an ending with a knight and three pawns for Najdorf and a knight and two pawns for Fine, all pieces in the same side, but with Najdorf's pawns connected, and Fine's pawns isolated. Fine, who had just written his famous Basic Chess Endings, said to Najdorf, "We are wasting our time. Look at my book, and you'll see this is a theoretical draw." Najdorf replied, "I think I'm a little better, and would like to play on a bit more." Fine then said, "I bet you a thousand dollars that this is a draw." Najdorf replied, "That is too much money for me! I'll bet you two hundred." Fine responded, "Look, I don't want to steal your money. Let's follow without bets if that makes you happy." It turned out that Najdorf was right and he won the game. Fine had to change the conclusion from his own endgame book. Fine said it only took 3 months to write Basic Chess Endings.
In 1950, Chantal Chaude de Silans (1919-2001) was the first female to play in the Chess Olympiads. She played on the men's French team as first reserve. She won one, drew one, and lost four games at the 9th Chess Olympiad, held in Dubrovnik in 1950.
In 1951, Humphrey Bogart was in the Belgian Congo, filming The African Queen.' Between breaks, Bogart played Dr. Paul Limbos (1914-1987) several chess games, betting one dollar per game. Bogart had Katharine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall fill Limbos's glass with whiskey. Bogart still lost his money to Limbos. Bogart did not know that Limbos was a strong chess player, winning the Belgian championship in 1961 and 1963. At the time, Dr. Limbos was associated with the Institute of Tropical Diseases in Antwerp and was in the Congo for his studies.. As a consolation, the loser won the Oscar for Best Actor that year for his performance in The African Queen.' [source: Kavalek article, Washington Post, Apr 6, 1998]
In 1952, there was an international tournament in Havana. During the event, there was a revolution in Cuba. The President who sponsored the tournament was deposed. The Mexican entrants were recalled by their government. The Cuban chess champion, Juan Quesada, died of a heart attack during the event. His funeral was attended by all the masters participating in the tournament.
In the 1950s, a Louisiana law barred blacks from chess playing rooms in New Orleans. This prevented blacks from playing in the U.S. Open chess tournament in 1954, which was held in New Orleans. Several Blacks tried to enter the event, but were refused. (source: Chess Life, July 20, 1954)
In 1954, the U.S. Open chess tournament in New Orleans banned African-Americans from entering the open tournament. At the time, Louisiana segregated Black and White chess players, even in chess clubs. In 1955, an African-American chess player, William A. Scott, was refused to be allowed to play in the Georgia Open chess championship.
In 1954, the Argentine Chess Federation called off the national chess tournament after a chess player punched a tournament director. (source: Chess Review, December 1954, p. 358)
The Rosenwald Trophy for the U.S. championship in the 1950s was engraved incorrectly. The engraving says Lavore Praetium Honoris (washing is the price of honor) instead of Labore Praetium Honoris (labor is the price of honor). Some chess players thought the prize might be a bar of soap. (source: Chess Life, January 5, 1955, p. 2)
Moonraker, the third James Bond novel by Ian Fleming (1908-1964), written in 1954, contains references to Paul Morphy. "Morphy, the great chess player, had a terrible habit. He would never raise his eyes from the game until he knew his opponent could not escape defeat. Then he would slowly lift his great head and gaze curiously at the man across the board. His opponent would feel the gaze and would slowly, humbly raise his eyes to meet Morphy's. At that moment he would know that it was no good continuing the game. The eyes of Morphy said so. There was nothing left but surrender. Now, like Morphy, Bond lifted his head and looked straight into Drax's eyes. Then he slowly drew out the queen of diamonds and placed it on the table. Without waiting for Meyer to play he followed it, deliberately, with the 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and the two winning clubs." It was a battle over a game of bridge. Moonracker was Britain's first nuclear missile project. In 1957, Fleming wrote From Russia, With Love with several references to chess.
In 1955, Fridrik Olafsson (born in 1935) of Iceland arrived late to participate in the annual Christmas Hastings tournament in England. No rooms could be found for him, so he spent his first night in a jail cell at the Hastings police station as a guest to the local police. Olafsson went on to tie for 1st place with Vicktor Korchnoi in this event. Olafsson became Iceland's first chess grandmaster in 1958.
The Rosenwald Trophy for the U.S. chess championship in the 1950s was engraved incorrectly. The engraving says Lavore Praetium Honoris (washing is the price of honor) instead of Labore Praetium Honoris (labor is the price of honor). Some chess players thought the prize might be a bar of soap.
In 1955, an African-American chess player, William A. Scott, was refused to be allowed to play in the Georgia Open chess championship.
In 1956, Isaac Kashdan (1905-1985) appeared on Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life. The episode aired February 9, 1956. Groucho called him "Mr. Ash Kan" throughout the show. Kashdan's partner was Helen Schwartz, the mother of Tony Curtis. Kashdan told Groucho that it was pretty hard to cheat in chess. Groucho responded, "If I can't cheat, forget it. The only fun I have in any game is cheating." They failed to win any money and did not say the secret word.
In 1957, Bill Lombardy (1937-2017) won the World Junior Chess Championship in Toronto, scoring 11 out of 11. Following him was the German player Matthias Gerusel and the Dutch player Lex Jongsma. The USSR representative, Vladimir Selimanov (1939-1960), could only manage 4th place. This was very disappointing, as the Soviets expected him to win the gold medal. After all, the previous world junior championship, held in 1955, was won by Boris Spassky. And what happened to Selimanov? He was barred from any further international chess. Three years later, at age 21, he committed suicide by jumping out of a window from a high building. He was in love with a Canadian girl, but was prohibited from traveling back to Canada to see her. Selimanov's step-father was ex-world champion GM Vasily Smyslov (1921-2010). Selimanov's father was killed in a Stalinist purge.
In the late 1950s, Bobby Fischer was playing blitz in a Moscow chess club during his visit, and absolutely beating everyone in sight until Petrosian, who was then in his prime, came along and gave Bobby his first losses. At the time young Bobby had the habit of adjusting his opponent's pieces during the game if they weren't in the middle of the square. Also, while his opponent was pondering a move, he would now and then brush imaginary specks of dust off the board. Nobody had said anything, but when Fischer touched one of Petrosian's pieces to adjust it, he got a lesson he never forgot. The Armenian champion was a strong man despite his short stature. Petrosian quickly stretched out his big hand and gave young Bobby an incredibly hard rap on the knuckles. This no-nonsense punishment worked absolute wonders! Fischer never ever again touched an opponent's pieces after that rather painful experience.
On October 8, 1958 at the 13th Chess Olympiad in Munich, Germany, Spain vs. USA were matched. On third board Roman Toran (1931-2005) and Arthur Bisguier (1929-2017) were playing. When Bisguier resigned, Toran said with a smile, "I am so happy, it is the best present for my birthday!" Bisguier replied, "It's all right, today happens to be my birthday too."
In the 1958 Chess Olympiad, Frank Anderson (1928-1980) scored 84% before his final round. In the final round, he became ill and was unable to play the final round for Canada. He missed the Grandmaster title because of this missed game. Even if he had played and lost, he would have made the final norm necessary for the GM title.
In 1958, The Gambit Chess Club in London finally closed. It began as a coffee house in 1898. From 1898 to 1958, it was only closed for two days during September 1940, when it was bombed during a Nazi air raid. During its existence, it only had one burglary. A man once died at the club while playing chess. The club was owned and run by Edith Price, who, for many years, did not allow women to enter the club, although she did hire waitresses for the club.
In 1959, the US Junior chess champion was allowed to play in the US championship. In 1959, Robin Ault (1941-1994) was allowed to play in the 1959-1960 US championship, but lost all 11 games. After that, the US junior champion was not allowed to automatically play in the US championship. Robin Ault was the first person to win the US Junior championship three times (1959-1961).
In 1960, Walter Harris of Harlem became the first African-American chess master, at the age of 18. On May 11, 1958, he drew a game against Bobby Fischer in a live TV simul in New York. In 1959, he played in the U.S. Open in Omaha, Nebraska and defeated several other masters (he took 27th out of 135 players). He won the top 'Class A' prize. He was unable to get a hotel room where the tournament was held because he was Black. In 1959, he played in the U.S. Junior championship, taking 5th place out of 40 players. He later gave up chess and became a physicist. He was a physicist at the U.S. Naval Observatory for several years.
Shortly after midnight on June 1, 1960, Michael George, an American sailor, got into a fight at a Greenwich Village bar (Chumley's) in New York after a spectator and regular patron, Clinton Curtis, criticized the sailor's chess game after he had lost a chess game to freelance writer Lauren Disney. Michael struck Curtis with a glass in his hand that smashed and severed his jugular vein. Curtis bled to death. Michael was later acquitted of murder and charged with accidental death.
In 1961, US chess champion Larry Evans (1932-2010) was giving a simultaneous exhibition in a mental institution in New York. He made pretty good result but one opponent was playing absolutely brilliant and defeated GM Evans. Evans won 39 games and lost one game. As he was leaving the facility, Larry congratulated the winner once again and the patient said: "Mister Evans. For one it's not indispensable to be crazy so he could play good, but it really helps a lot."
In 1961, Ernst Grunfeld, age 67, was playing in a chess tournament at Beverwijk in the Netherlands. Grunfeld had lost a leg when in his early childhood and had an artificial leg. Despite his age, and this handicap, he spurned the organizers' offer of a car, and insisted on walking the mile or so from where he was staying to the chess tournament hall each afternoon. On one particular day, he set off, but fell down in the road, and his wooden leg came off and fell into a ditch! A distressed Grunfeld managed to get to a phone booth and ring the organizers. The organizers contacted Max Euwe, who came on the line. Hearing of Grunfeld's plight, he jumped into a car, and a few minutes later, he managed to rescue Grunfeld and his wooden leg and take him back to the house he was staying at. After a refreshing cup of coffee and a few minutes' rest, Grunfeld was re-united with his artificial leg and driven to the tournament hall. Unfortunately, he faced the East German GM Wolfgang Uhlmann that day, and despite having White, the trauma took its toll on him. He lost in just 21 moves!
In 1961, Marcel Duchamp persuaded several eminent painters and artists to donate their work to help raise money for sending an American chess team abroad. He visited the set of "Paris Blues" to teach Duke Ellington to play chess. Ellington watched Duchamp demonstrate the fundamental moves, then made his sole comment, "Crazy, man, crazy."
In 1961-62, Lisa Lane (1938- ) played four games in the Hastings Reserve tournament, then withdrew after one draw, two losses, and an adjourned game. She said she could not concentrate on her chess because she was "homesick and in love." In 1960 she appeared on "What's My Line" and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Only she and Bobby Fischer has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
In 1962, Milton Ioannidis of Cyprus (Board 3) played all 20 games in the 15th Chess Olympiad, held in Varna. He lost all 20 games, the worst performance of any chess player at any Chess Olympiad. He played in the 16th Chess Olympiad in Tel Aviv and lost all four games that he played on Board 4. He lost all 24 games he played in Chess Olympiad competition.
In July 1963, the First Piatigorsky Cup was held in The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Paul Keres and world champion Tigran Petrosian tied for 1st place. They split $5,250 in prize money. If the money had been returned to the USSR, they would have been exchanged for rubles at an unfavorable rate. So Keres and Petrosian each bought a car (AMC Rambler) with their winnings. Petrosian was the first reigning champion to play in an American tournament since Alexander Alekhine at Pasadena in 1932. The tournament was the strongest to be held in the United States since New York 1927. Bobby Fischer was invited to play, but Fischer also asked for a $2,000 appearance fee. He declined the invitation after his appearance fee was denied. His invitation went to Pal Benko, who finished in last place. Each round saw almost 500 spectators at the event.
In 1963, Mrs. Edvige Ruinstein, the wife of a chessplayer in Milan, Italy was granted a divorce from her husband on the grounds that he was so obsessed with chess that he refused to work and support their two children.
In 1965, Ray Charles (1930-2004) learned chess after being busted and hospitalized for heroin addiction. He learned chess in the hospital where he went cold turkey.
In 1966, the US Open chess tournament was held at the Seattle World's Fair grounds. The Beatles were on the grounds to give a concert. At the chess playing site, the tournament director drew the curtains over the playing hall. Hundreds of Beatle fans, seeing the hall shrouded by the drapes, assumed the Beatles were inside. They began pounding on the windows to see the Beatles until someone opened the drapes to reveal a chess tournament was taking place.
In 1966, during the Chess Olympiad in Havana, Mikhail Tal (1936-1992) went out one evening to a local bar in the city. Apparently, he was caught flirting with a local woman, whose husband or boyfriend took exception. Tal ended up being struck over the head with a beer bottle. As a result, he missed the first four rounds of the event, and when he did appear in the tournament hall, it was with his head heavily bandaged.
In 1966, chess was banned in China as part of the Cultural Revolution. By 1974, there was an easing of the ban. China began to participate in international events in 1976 and has now become a world power in chess.
In 1967, a famous incident occurred in a game between Milan Matulovic and Istvan Bilek at the Sousse Interzonal in Tunisia. Matulovic played a losing move but then took it back after saying "J'adoube" ("I adjust" — which should be announced before adjusting pieces on their square). His opponent complained to the arbiter but the modified move was allowed to stand. This incident earned Matulovic the nickname "J'adoubovic."
In 1968, Dris Benabud travelled all the way from Morocco to the 18th Chess Olympiad in Lugano, Germany, just to play one game of chess. He only played one game as second reserve and lost (to a Swedish player). He is the only chess player in Chess Olympiad history to play less than 3 games in a Chess Olympiad.
In 1968, at the Lugano Chess Olympiad, Tigran Petrosian of the USSR and Gheorghiu of Romania had agreed to a draw. After a few moves and leaving the opening, Petrosian wondered why Gheorghiu was not accepting a draw. Gheorghiu said to Petrosian, "Let's make a few more plays, for the audience " Gheorghiu then made a move and went to the bathroom. Petrosian followed Gheorghiu to the bathroom and then told Gheorghiu, "If you make one more move, I'll blow your head up in public." Gheorghiu finally understood. They both returned to the chess board and Gheorghiu agreed to a draw.
On June 9, 1970, cosmonauts Vitaly Sevastyanov (1935-2010) and Andrian Nikolayev played chess against their ground control while on board Soyuz 9. It was the first time chess was played in space. The mission, and the chess game, was commemorated in a stamp issued shortly after the mission was completed. Sevastyanov later became head of the Soviet Chess Federation.
In 1971, Trevor Stowe, an antiques dealer in London was arrested and fined for indecent exhibition of a chess set while on display in the window of his shop. Each of the 32 pieces showed couples in sexual positions. The dealer had to pay $132 in fines and court costs. Stowe specialized in newly manufactured chess sets at his "Galeries d'Echec" in Harcourt Street, London.
In 1971, Mark Taimanov lost to Fischer 6-0 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and returned to the USSR in disgrace. Normally grandmasters are not searched when crossing the border to the Soviet Union, but Taimanov was asked to open his luggage for examination. They found one of Solzhenitsin's banned books which Taimanov brought from Canada. He was stripped of his title 'Honored Master of Sport' and deprived of his monthly earnings for holding the grandmaster title. Both were returned to him when Fischer also beat Larsen 6-0. Taimanov's trainer, Evgeny Vasiukov, blamed Taimanov's loss to malnutrition. Taimanov was trying to save money (he was allocated $11 a day for food by the USSR Sports Committee) and paid less for food so that he could buy some things he couldn't buy in the USSR. Taimanov never visited the restaurant of his 5-star hotel that he was staying at. He purchased cheap food products at a supermarket instead.
In 1971, Tigran Petrosian lost his Candidates match with Fischer in Buenos Aires. After the match, Petrosian's wife, Rona, blamed Petrosian's loss on his trainer, Alexei Suetin. Rona slapped Suetin's face for his poor analysis after Tigran lost the 6th game.
In 1972, during the World Youth Team championship in Graz, Switzerland, Robert Huebner of Germany was scheduled to play Ken Rogoff of the USA. Both were tired from previous long games and Huebner offered a draw to Rogoff without making any moves. However, the arbiters did not like this and refused the game. So the two players put together a scoresheet of a game that looked like this: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.Ng1 Ng8 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Ng1 Ng8 and so on ... Draw. The arbiters were not amused. They insisted that the two play some real moves. So the next game went 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nf1 Bg7 4.Qa4 O-O 5.Qxd7 Qxd7 6.g4 Qxd2+ 7.Kxd2 Nxg4 8.b4 a5 9.a4 Bxa1 10.Bb2 Nc6 11.Bh8 Bg7 12.h4 axb4 draw. The arbiters were not amused. They insisted that the two play a valid game. Rogoff agreed but Huebner did not, so Rogoff was given a win and Huebner was given a loss. The Russian team pressed for a double forfeit, but Huebner insisted that he alone bore responsibility. Years later, the main arbiter, Sajtar, admitted he was wrong in ordering a rematch of the games.
In 1972, at the world chess championship match in Reykjavik, Iceland, Bobby Fischer, arbiter Lothar Schmid, and reporter Brad Darrach were in a hotel room working out some details in the arrangement of the match. At one point, Schmidt stood up abruptly and hit his head on a low-hanging overhead light. Bobby said, "Wow, are you OK, Lothar?" Afterwards, Schmidt often defended Fischer in discussions about all the difficulties of the match. Lothar would say, "Say what you will about Bobby, but he really cares about people!" However, after Fischer and Darrach left the room, Bobby broke up and laughed hysterically about Schmidt's mishap: "Did you see Lothar whack his head! Pretty funny. Ha-Ha-Ha!" Fischer wasn't really concerned about Lothar Schmid and hitting his head on a light.
In 1972, Larry Evans was playing Anthony Saidy in the final round of the Church's Fried Chicken San Antonio tournament. The game was adjourned and Saidy had a winning position. Evans, after staying up all night studying the lost position, decided the adjourned position was hopeless and booked an early flight home. The next day, Saidy blundered on move 46. At move 60 when there was still time to catch the plane, Evans said "It's a book draw." "Show me the book" replied Saidy. Evans responded, "I have a schedule to meet." Saidy replied, "Show me the schedule." With each move the draw became more obvious. Finally, Saidy said "You know it's against the rules to talk to your opponent." "Show me the rules!" said Evans . The game was finally drawn after 106 moves. After the game, Saidy told Evans "You know we have played 12 games and it was the first time I was up a pawn against you. I was enjoying it too much. Sorry." The tournament director later told Evans that he should not have told Saidy that he had a plane to catch. When Saidy finally signed the score sheets, Evans rushed off to the San Antonio airport, but he missed his flight and had to stay another day.
In 1973, during the Anglo-Dutch match, chain smoker Jan Donner (1927-1988) was filling up a large Bakelite ashtray with all of his discarded cigarettes. Cigarette after cigarette and all the ashes were making a big pile in the ashtray, much of which was still emitting smoke. Eventually, after several hours of play and several packs of cigarettes, the mountain of ash and discarded cigarettes burst into flames, causing the Bakelite ashtray to crack completely in half. The players were still transfixed on the position of their game as the chess table started to burn, with neither player seemingly about to take any action to control the fire. At this point, Ray Keene picked up Donner's coffee cup and threw the contents over the fire. With the chess table now covered in a mess, the players looked at one another and offered a draw, shook hands, and left the table.
In October 1973, the Israel Open was cancelled after a few rounds due to the Yom Kippur war. Actually, two old kibitzers showed up and wondered why there was nobody there. In 1982, the Israel Chess Championship was stopped in the middle of the tournament as several of its participants were called up for army service in Lebanon. It was later won by Yehuda Gruenfeld.
In 1974, Claude Bloodgood (1937-2001) escaped from a chess tournament after he and another fellow inmate chessplayer, Lewis Carpenter, overpowered a guard watching over him. They had received a furlough to play in a local Virginia chess tournament. He was captured a few days later. He had been sentenced to death for killing his mother. While on death row, he played over 1,200 postal chess games. He was scheduled for execution 6 times, but received a reprieve on all occasions.
In 1974 in a tournament in Poland, Mikhail Tal (1936-1992) was playing Jan Adamski (1943- ) with both players in time trouble. Adamski's flag fell but Tal lost a piece and resigned. At that moment Tal's wife, who had been counting the moves, said "Black has not yet made 40 moves." The flag had fallen before Tal resigned. The arbiter intervened and awarded the win to Tal, who went on to win the tournament. Tal's wife scored this point! Later, it was shown that Adamski quit writing his moves down after move 25 because of time trouble, and then he added two fake moves while reconstructing his score sheet to make it seem he made more than 40 moves.
In 1975, Henrique Mecking was to play in an international chess tournament in Las Palmas, Spain. Mecking was very particular with the chair that he wanted. The tournament organizer, Antonio Medina, requested 12 different chair models for Mecking to choose from. After examining them all, Mecking said he was not satisfied with any of them. Medina removed all the chairs from the room and asked everyone to leave him alone with Mecking. Medina then asked what the requirements were for a good chair. Mecking told him and Medina responded "I understand you. Now I know what you want. The next day, Medina brought in a new chair for Mecking to try out. Mecking expressed that this one was comfortable and the one he wanted. The incident was resolved, thanks to the experience and cunningness of Media. The chair in question was the first that was shown to Mecking.
In 1975, International Master Bernard Zuckerman (born in 1943) was playing in the Cleveland International in Ohio. A spectator became too loud for him and Zuckerman told him to shut up. When the spectator continued to talk loudly, Zuckerman threw a chess piece (it was a bishop) at him. Zuckerman was reprimanded for his "unsportsmanlike" conduct. Zuckerman has not played in a serious chess tournament since 1990, but occasionally plays blitz tournaments.
In 1976, during a chess tournament in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Mikhail Tal became the first Soviet grandmaster to oppose a bull in a bull-fighting arena. Years later, Larry Christiansen also opposed a bull in a bull-fighting arena.
In 1977, during the candidates semifinal match between Viktor Korchnoi (1931-2016) and Lev Polugaevsky (1934-1995) in France, Korchnoi asked to play under the Dutch flag. He had defected earlier from the Soviet Union and was now living in the Netherlands. Victor Baturinsky (1914-2002), the head of Polugaevsky's delegation, objected on the grounds that Korchnoi had not been living in the Netherlands for a full year and could not play under the Dutch flag. Korchnoi's delegation of Raymond Keene and Michael Stean suggested that Korchnoi play under the Jolly Roger pirate flag.
In 1979, Cecil Purdy of Australia, the first correspondence world champion, was playing a game of chess in Sydney when he suffered a heart attack. His last words to his son (who was also in the same tournament) were purportedly, "I have a win, but it will take some time." Another source says that his last words were "I have to seal a move." He died shortly after.
In November 1980, the Italian chess championship was delayed until 1981 because of a serious earthquake in Naples, Italy that killed 3,000 people. The championship was eventually won by Bela Toth.
In 1981, after former 39th U. S. President Jimmy Carter (1924- ) left the White House, he wanted to become a chess player. He bought many chess books and computer chess programs throughout the years. He finally gave up on chess around 1997, saying: "I found that I don't have any particular talent for chess. I hate to admit it, but that's a fact." He hand-carved his own chess sets and contributed hand-carved chess sets to the Carter Center to be auctioned for charity.
In 1982, Ken Thompson (1943- ) traveled to Moscow for a computer chess tournament and thought his computer, BELLE (PDP-11/23), was traveling with him on the airplane in a crate. However, the U.S. Customs Service confiscated the chess computer at Kennedy Airport as part of Operation Exodus, a program to prevent illegal export of high technology items to the Soviets. It took over a month and a $600 fine to retrieve BELLE from customs. Thompson later said that the only way the BELLE would be a military threat if it was dropped from an airplane on the head of some government official. (source: Chess Life, September 1982, p. 12)
In 1982, the Ugandan chess team showed up at Lugano, Switzerland to play in the Chess Olympiad. But the 1982 Chess Olympiad was held in Lucerne, Switzerland. The 1968 Chess Olympiad was held in Lugano.
In 1983, Anna Akhsharumova was playing the final round of the Soviet Women's Chess championship against her main competitor, Nana Ioseliani. Anna won the game on time forfeit and should have won the title. But the next day, Ioseliani filed a protest alleging a malfunction in the chess clock. Ioseliani demanded a new game be played. Anna refused to play, so the result of her game with Ioseliani was reversed by the All-Union Board of Referees in Moscow (the tournament itself was being played in Tallinn), thereby forfeiting her title. Anna went from 1st place to 3rd place over this decision.
Prior to 1984, Czechoslovakian film director and chess enthusiast Milos Forman was trying to make a movie about American chess player Paul Morphy. He then changed his mind and was attempting to make a movie about the Fischer-Spassky world championship match. He even got Boris Spassky to agree to play himself and was trying to convince Bobby Fischer to play himself. He was going nowhere with Fischer ("his personality wasn't compatible with the rigors of moviemaking") and decided to make a movie about Mozart instead. And glad he did. Amadeus was nominated for 53 awards and received 40 awards, including 8 Academy Awards (including Best Picture).
The 1984 chess Olympiad was supposed to have been played in Indonesia, but they withdrew their support due to reduced oil revenues that would have paid for the event. The 26th Chess Olympiad was eventually held in Thessalonki, Greece.
Dr. Timothy Leary (1920-1996) used chess sets as visual props for preparing classes at Harvard in his lectures on LSD. He said, "Life is a chess game of experiences we play." He also said, "There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory decreased short-term memory, and I forgot the third." He once wrote, "Foreign policy is the game of mad monsters playing chess blindfolded with mammalian-gene-pools as pawns."
In 1985, Viktor Korchnoi claimed that he started a chess game with the ghost of Geza Maroczy (1870-1951). The game lasted until 1993, when Korchnoi won after 47 moves. The game was played through a "medium" named Robert Rollans (1914-1993). Rollans recorded Maroczy's moves by automatic writing. He did not know how to play chess at the beginning of the match, but was taught the game during the match.
In 1985, Nick Down, a former British Junior Correspondence chess champion and Cambridge graduate, entered the British Ladies Correspondence Chess Championship as Miss Leigh Strange. He (she) won the event (he won all the games but one) and 15 British pounds. He was later caught (a friend turned him in) and admitted his deception was a prank that got out of hand. He also signed up for the Ladies Postal Olympiad and started to play before being caught. He was later banned from the British Correspondence Chess Association for two years. The title went to the runner-up, Doreen Helbig.
In 1986, the world championship match between Kasparov and Karpov was played in London and in Leningrad. The purse for the match was $900,000 and it was all donated to the victims of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.
In 1986, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Joint (HJ) Resolution 545 by unanimous consent which stated that the United States government recognizes Bobby Fischer (the resolution spelled his name Fisher) as the official World Chess Champion. The resolution was sent to the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service. The resolution then went to the Senate and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary where it was objected by Senator Howard Metzenbaum (1917-2008), Democrat from Ohio. The resolution died in the Senate's Judiciary Committee a week later. The resolution was drafted by Representative Charles (Chip) Pashayan, Republican from California. Congressional resolutions are non-binding and has no force of law within or outside the United States. Pashayan later served as Fischer pro bono lawyer.
In 1986, Alex Chang took 1st place in the National Elementary Championship. His older sister, Angela, took 2nd place. (source: Chess Life, August 1986, p. 24)
In 1987, Viktor Korchnoi was playing Anatoly Karpov in a tournament in Brussels. In a drawn position, Korchnoi accidently touched his king on his 48th move, which would have led to a loss of his knight and loss of the endgame. Instead of resigning normally, he took his hand and swept all the chess pieces off the chessboard and onto the floor before storming out.
In 1988, Grandmaster Jan Donner (1927-1988) was asked how he would prepare for a chess match against a computer. Donner replied: "I would bring a hammer."
The first and only rated public celebrity chess tournament was held in Hollywood in 1988. The eight celebrities that participated were Lew Ayres, Erik Estrada, Gene Scherer, William Smithers, William Windom, Gerry Goffin, Jimmy Komack, and Hiram Strait. The event was won by Hiram Strait.
In 1988, Guillermo Garcia (1954-1990), three-time chess champion of Cuba, took 2nd place in the New York Open. His $10,000 prize was confiscated by the Department of Treasury, invoking the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, because he was Cuban. The money is still in escrow.
In 1988, Ayatolla Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989) allowed chess to be played in Iran after banning it for nine years. It was banned because it was thought that chess encouraged gambling, that it hurts memory and may be the cause of brain damage.
In 1989, I captained a 5-man Air Force/Navy team from Moffett Field Naval Air Station, California, which participated in the Pacific Armed Forces Championship at another navy base in Northern California. After the first day, I was in 1st place, but the rest of my team mates didn't do so well. One of my team mates, a navy Lieutenant, J.G., had just lost a long endgame that he should have won. After the game, I went over his game and pointed out over a dozen moves that he could have won or drawn. Every time I showed him a winning variation for him, he would wince in pain, upset at what he missed. As we drove back to base, he kept playing over the game, making him sicker. The next morning, I tried to pick up all the players for the next rounds, but was told that the Lieutenant wasn't going to make it for the rest of the event. Apparently, he had a heart attack in the middle of the night and was rushed to a Navy hospital in Oakland. It looks like the stress of missing all those bad chess moves contributed to a heart attack. He survived and gave up chess.
In May 1990, top Russian Grandmaster Artur Yusupov returned to Moscow after taking second equal prize at the SKA tournament in Munich. Hence he was carrying quite a lot of money on the homeward trip. Shortly after he had arrived home, armed thieves came to his apartment and proceeded to rob him of money and other valuables. Although Yusupov put up no resistance, one of the thieves panicked and discharged a shotgun into his stomach. For some time Yusupov was critically ill, but his energy levels were never quite the same after this traumatic experience, and he gradually fell back from his position as one of the top half-dozen players in the world.
In 1990 Bogdan Szetela noticed a car drive by that looked like his that had been stolen 11 days earlier. But this car had a taxi light on top and "Crescent Cab Co." painted on the side. Spotting a police officer, he told the cop that the cab was his stolen car. Police weren't convinced until he told them that he left a chess set in the trunk before it was stolen. The police popped the trunk and found the chess set.
In 1991, International Master Ricardo Calvo (1943-2002) was censured by FIDE and declared persona non grata for writing a letter that was interpreted by many Latin American readers as racist. He wrote of an unnamed South American journalist who "corrupted" young people.
Perhaps the oldest person to finally make master (rated over 2200) was Bernard Friend of New Jersey. In 1991, at the age of 71, he became a master for the first time. (source: Chess Life, September 1991, p. 37)
In December 1992, Bobby Fischer was indicted on charges that he had violated economic sanctions against Yugoslavia by playing a chess match there for money. A Federal grand jury were handed up the indictment that accused Fischer of violating an executive order issued by President Bush in June that restricted commercial relations with what remains of Yugoslavia. Immediately after the indictment, Federal officials issued a warrant for Fischer's arrest. If arrested, he would have to spend 10 years in jail and fined $250,000. Early in September, Fischer produced a Treasury Department letter ordering him not to play chess with Boris Spassky and warning of possible prosecution. In a news conference in Sveti Stevan, Yugoslavia, Fischer held up the letter and spit at it. The Federal government was also trying to seize his winnings of $3.35 million and 10 percent of the match's royalties.
John Penquite (1935-2007) had the highest chess rating ever recorded by the United States Chess Federation. In the 1990s his correspondence rating was 2939 with a perfect 58-0-0 score from correspondence play. He won the Iowa State Chess Championship 8 times between 1951 and 1973. (source: Chess Life, April 1993, p. 36)
In 1993, a person was shot and killed by a sniper while playing chess in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the first to die from sniper fire while playing chess.
At the 1993 World Open in Philadelphia, an unrated Black newcomer wearing headphones used the name "John von Neumann" and scored 4.5/9 in the Open Section, including a draw with a grandmaster and a win over a 2350-rated player. This player seemed to have a suspicious bulge in one of his pockets, which appeared to make a soft humming or buzzing sound at important points in the game. When he was quizzed by the tournament director, he was unable to demonstrate even a rudimentary knowledge of some simple chess concepts, and he was disqualified.
In 1994, at the Moscow Chess Olympiad, the organizers accidently posted two different locations for the first round between Bermuda and Kyrgyzstan. One team sat down at boards in one playing area, and the other team sat down in another area. Both teams waited for the other team. After 40 minutes, someone discovered the error and got the two teams together in one playing area.
In 1994, during the Chess Olympiad in Moscow, the captain of the Irish chess team was mugged in the street by a gang of gypsy children and was only saved by an old lady, who waded into them with an umbrella, to such effect that one boy later required hospital treatment! Another team captain unwisely visited the local bank to change several thousands of dollars in foreign currency, only for the bank, "coincidentally", to be robbed at that very moment.
In 1994, Garry Kasparov made a move and changed his move against Judit Polgar after momentarily letting go of a piece. Kasparov went on to win the game. The tournament officials had videotape proving that his hand left the piece, but refused to release the video evidence. A factor counting against Polgar was that she waited a whole day before complaining, and such claims must be made during the game. The videotape revealed that Kasparov did let go of the piece for one quarter second.
In 1995, Alexander Ivanov (1956- ) was playing in the U.S. chess championship in Modesto, California when he lost his first round on time. After the first round, he wife, Woman International Master (WIM) Esther Epstein (1954- ), arrived to play in the Women's championship. She told her husband, "I don't care how you lose, just don't lose on time!" It worked. He won 6 games, lost one (not on time) and tied for 1st place in the U.S. chess championship. Esther finished 3rd place in the women's championship (she won it in 1991 and 1997). She also refrained from telling her husband that a fire had damaged their apartment in Massachusetts until after the tournament was over.
In 1995, the band Phish played chess with the audience while on tour. Every venue they played a new move would be made by the band and a move made by the audience. Usually, they had two chess games going on at the same time. The backdrop to the stage was a giant chessboard with pieces that could be moved. The members of the band played lots of chess on the bus while touring.
On August 22, 1995, Gilles Andruet (1958-1995), the 1988 French chess champion and International Master (1982), was murdered. His body was found on the shores of the Yvette river in Saulx-les-Chartreux. He had been beaten to death and put in a plastic bag over some gambling debts. His father was the famous ralley-car driver, Jean-Claude Andruet.
In 1996, Yoko Ono (1933- ) donated $2,500 to enable the Edward R. Murrow High School chess team in Brooklyn, New York, to attend the state and national championships. The school had been national champions in 1992, 1993, and 1994, but had no funds in 1995 and 1996. The school won the national championship in 2013, their 8th time winning it (1992, 1993, 1994, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2013). They have also won 15 state titles and 16 city championships. Yoko says she plays chess almost every day.
In 1996, Essam Ahmed Ali (1964-2003) won the Arab Chess Championship. In 2003, he won the Egyptian championship. He was an Egyptian International Master and Egypt's top player, who died on October 27, 2003, of cerebral malaria after returning from the All Africa Games tournament in Abuja, Nigeria. The 60-year-old head of the Egyptian chess delegation, Mohammed Labib, died of the same disease the next day. Both were incorrectly diagnosed in Egypt after becoming ill. Both were bitten by an infected mosquito.
In 1997, English Grandmaster Tony Miles (1955-2001) was playing the Croatian grandmaster Davorin Komljenovic in a Benasque tournament. Miles as usual, put his wrist watch aside on the chess table. Komljenovic then brought his big alarm clock and put it also beside his board. Miles protested, but Komljenovic said that if Miles has the right to put the watch, he can put his big alarm clock. Everyone was laughing, the game went on, and later in a drawn rook and pawn endgame Miles lost the game.
In 1997, a Swedish tournament was being held where the lots (position number at the start of a tournament) were on the bottoms of gold bars. The chess players were warned that the gold bars were too heavy to be picked up by one hand. Despite the warning, Gary Kasparov began flexing his right arm, obviously determined to draw his lot one-handed. He tried, but failed and had to use both hands. However, when it came to 60-year-old strong man Lajos Portisch (1937- ), he picked up his gold bar one handed with no apparent strain.
In 1997, British GM Nigel Short was playing in a chess tournament in the Russian city of Novgorod. Just before the last round, where he was supposed to play Kasparov the next day, Nigel decided to take a midnight stroll down by the river. Unfortunately, one of the locals was also there, accompanied by his Russian German shepherd. The dog escaped from his owner and attacked Nigel, biting both of his arms as Nigel tried to fend off the dog. The dozy owner realized that his dog was attacking someone and called the dog off, but Nigel was badly bitten and wasn't sure if the dog had rabies. Nigel spent much of the night in a Russian hospital, an experience he later described as worse than the attack itself. The hospital was filthy and unsanitary and he was told that rabies was quite widespread amongst dogs in Russia at that time. Despite the trauma, Nigel was able to draw against Kasparov the next day.
In the late 1990s, Ray Charles (1930-2004) and Willie Nelson (1933- ) were both avid chess players and they would play chess between shows. Ray seemed to always win and then, one night, Willie figured it out how to beat Ray. When asked, "What did you tell him Willie?" Willie responded, "I said, 'The next time we play, can we turn the lights on?'"
In October 1998, the 33rd Chess Olympiad was held in Elista, Russia (autonomous Republic of Kalmykia). It was covered live on the Internet. However, its website homepage was attacked by hackers. Anyone who logged onto the website was greeted with a black screen and a message reading "hacked to Kasparov." This may be the first time a chess page was attacked by hackers. There were no clues as to the origin of the hacker. The original website had to be changed to www.chessplanet.com.
In 1999, the FIDE World Chess Championship was held in Las Vegas. The format was a knockout tournament of short matches. The incumbent champion, Anatoly Karpov, had no special privileges and had to play in the knockout event. Karpov protested and refused to play. Garry Kasparov and Viswnathan Anand also refused to play. Kasparov and Anand had been negotiating a match for the world title, but the match never took place. Only three of the top 15 reached the quarterfinals. Kasparov called three of the quarterfinalists "tourists." The winner was Alexander Khalifman (1966- ), ranked 44th in the world at the time. After the event, Khalifman said, "Rating system works perfectly for players who play only in round robin closed events. I think most of them are overrated."
In 2002, Dutch Grandmaster Loek van Wely was driving on the autobahn heading for a chess tournament in his brand new Jaguar X. He lost control of the vehicle and flipped the car over while driving around 100 mph. The car was totaled, but "Lucky Loek" walked away with only a mild concussion. This was the third car he had totaled in 5 years. No one in the Netherlands wants to be a passenger with van Wely. (source: chessbase.com, Nov 27, 2011)
In November 2003, the first World Championship of Chessboxing was held in Amsterdam, won by Iepe Rubingh (his opponent exceeded the chess time limit). It attracted over 800 people. The "sport" was inspired by a 1992 comic book called Froid Equateur, written by Enki Bilai, that portrays a chessboxing world championship.
In 2003, GM Evgeny Agrest (born in 1966) won a game from world champion Ruslan Ponomariov when Ponomariov's cell phone rang during their match in the European team championship. A cell phone ringing during a match is an automatic disqualification. Ironically, Agrest lost a game in 2004 when his cell phone rang during the Swedish championship.
In 2004, the 36th Chess Olympiad was held in Calvia, Spain (Ballaearic Islands). At the closing ceremony, FIDE vice president Zurab Azmaiparashvili (1960- ) was beaten up, wrestled to the floor, and dragged to jail by a group of security agents when he tried to go on stage to give a chess award. He was trying to inform FIDE officials that the organizers had neglected to award a prize named in honor of Georgian former Women's World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili. Zurab and a security agent (head-butted by Zurab) both suffered injuries. He was detained for 48 hours before being released. The Spanish police claimed he had conducted himself in a way that provoked the ire of the organizers and the security personnel. No charges were ever filed.
In 2006, Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov played a world championship match designed to reunify the Classical World Chess Championship (Kramnik) with the FIDE World Chess Championship (Topalov). During the rest day before the 5th game, Topalov's team complained the Kramnik was using the bathroom too much, implying that Kramnik might be cheating and using computer assistance. Kramnik thought it was a lot of crap. The match's appeals committee decided to alleviate the complaints by opening a common bathroom for the two players, rather than allowing each to have a private bathroom. In response, Kramnik's team said that Kramnik would not continue the match unless the agreed-upon match conditions were upheld, including his right to use the bathroom as often as necessary. Kramnik then forfeited game five as he refused to play under the decision of the appeal's committee of one bathroom. After game 5, the original bathroom situation was reinstated and the appeals committee resigned. The match ended in a draw, but Kramnik won on rapid tiebreaks, 2.5 to 1.5. The event became known as 'toiletgate.'
In 2007, GM Farhad Tahirov played in the 2006-2007 Hastings Chess Congress. After the last round, having a couple of hours to kill before the prize-giving, he decided to take a walk along the Hastings seafront. Unfortunately, he passed by a particularly dodgy pub, frequented by various skinheads and other charmers, several of whom attacked and robbed him. He lost almost 1,000 pounds in cash, plus a mobile phone and camera, as well as ending up in hospital for treatment to his injuries.
In late 2008, at the Chess Olympiad, Vassily Ivanchuk (1969- ) refused to take a drug test after losing a game and then reportedly stormed out of the room in the conference center, kicked a concrete pillar in the lobby, pounded a countertop in the cafeteria with his fists and then vanished into the coatroom.
In 2009, the 2nd Gedeon Barcza Memorial was supposed to take place in Budapest. Although the first round was actually played with 5 International Masters and 7 Grandmasters, it soon became clear that the main organizer did not have the money to play with the hotel or the players. The Ramada Resort Hotel, where the players were staying and where the tournament was held, never received any money from the organizer. On the second day, the hotel decided to close the playing hall. The hotel manager said, "no money, no business." All 12 chess players were financially harmed and the top GMs were still waiting for their appearance fees. The organizer blamed the situation on lost potential sponsors.
World chess champion Vishy Anand was in Switzerland with his wife and she told him "I put some of your stuff in the hotel room safe — the code is very easy to remember, it's 2706, so you can take whatever you need." Anand thought to himself and said, "Well, 2706 is not really a good Elo chess rating. Normally it's rounded off to the nearest 5 or 10." So he told his wife that he couldn't see how he could remember that. She looked a bit shocked and then she explained to him that the 27th of June (27/06) was their anniversary.
In 2013, the World Junior Championship was supposed to have been played in Hatay, Turkey, only 12 miles away from the Syrian border. But the Turkish Chess Federation decided to move the event from Hatay to Kocaeli, Turkey to move it as far away from Syria as possible due to the Syrian civil war. Many federations had already decided not to send their players.
In 2015, Yasser Seirawan stated that "Magnus [Carlsen] is going to kick butt [at the 2015 Sinquefield Cup]. I think he was generally embarrassed by what happened in Norway. He's got everything to prove and a huge chip on his shoulder." Maurice Ashely echoed that prediction, saying, "Magnus came out of Norway playing horribly. Now he has a thirst for blood. He could go 9-0, trying to erase that memory! He's eager to prove that he's the number one player, so I can see Magnus owning this event." The problem is that Magnus did not win this event in 2015, did not play in 2016, and did not win in 2017. In 2015, Levon Aronian won the event, scoring 13 tour points to 10 tour point for Carlsen. In 2017, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won with 13 tour points. Carlsen and Anand tied with 9 tour points.
Magnus Carlsen was considered for a role in a Star Trek movie (Star Trek 2), but couldn't get a U.S. work permit in time. JJ Abrams, the producer, wanted Carlsen to play a role of a chess player in the future.
In 2018, GM Ding Liren of China fractured a hip while falling off a bicycle. That didn't stop him from winning a cooking competition. Ding resumed playing chess a few months later. Ding went on a non-losing streak, not losing a game after 100 straight games, thereby breaking Mikhail Tal's 95-grem streak in the 1970s.
In 2019, former world chess champion proposed a new rule in chess: get rid of castling in chess. He said that this new rule would get rid of boring draws and repetitive chess openings. Kramnik tested his idea by playing games with no castling against the neural-network chess engine Alpha Zero.