Heart attack and Chess

Heart attacks are probably the leading cause of death in chess players.  It is the number one killer of adults over 38.

Top chess players who died of a heart attack include Adolf Anderssen (age 60), Karen Asrian (age 28), Vladimir Bagirov (age 63), Joseph Blackburne (age 82), Efim Bogoljubow (age 63), Gyula Breyer (age 28), Max Euwe (age 80), Albert Hodges (age 83), Paul Keres (age 59), Emanuel Lasker (age 72), Paul Leonhardt (age 57), Frank Marshall (age 67), Miguel Najdorf (age 87), Cecil Purdy (age 73), Samuel Reshevsky (age 80), Vladimir Simagin (age 49), Gideon Stahlberg (age 59), Howard Staunton (age 64), Leonid Stein (age 38), Herman Steiner (age 50), Alexei Suetin (age 74), Wolfgang Unzicker (age 81), Alexey Vyzmanavin (age 40).

Alexander Alekhine may also have had a heart attack when he died at the age of 53.

Other chess players who died of a heart attack include Haydn Barber (63), Alan Benjamin (age 67), Humphrey Bogart (age 57), David Burris (age 56), Rodolfo Tan Cardoso (75), Lim Chong (56), Richard Deluane (age 49), Ed Edmondson (age 62), Arpad Elo (age 89), Oscar Freeman (age 67), Jim Gallagher (age 46), Alexander Halprin, Ken Harkness (age 74), Ivan IV "the Terrible (age 54), Charles Keyser, Alan Kotok (age 64), Mackenzie, Birdie Reeve (age 89), Gustavus Reichhelm, Mike Valvo (62), Nick Ziminski (age 82)

Those that had a heart attack while playing chess or had just played chess include Adorjan (he survived), Bagirov (right after time pressure and his flag fell), Bogoljubow, Edmondson, Ivan the Terrible, Paul Leonhardt, Purdy, Stewart Reuben (he survived), Steiner, Suetin, Wunsch (he survived).

On June 22, 1874, Howard Staunton (1810-1874) died of a heart attack (coincidently, on Morphy’s birthday) at his home in London while working on his last chess book, Chess: Theory and Practice, which was published in 1876. His grave had been unmarked and neglected until 1997. Then, a memorial stone bearing an engraving of a chess knight was raised over his grave.

On November 9, 1921, Gyula Breyer (1893-1921) died of a heart attack in Bratislava at the age of 28. 

In 1923, a spectator watching the Ed Lasker - Frank Marshall chess match died of a heart attack.

In May, 1931, Andors Wachs of Hungary had just checkmated his opponent at a chess club in Hungary. He then dropped his head on the table and died of a heart attack.

On December 14, 1934, Paul Leonhardt, a German chess master, died of a heart attack in Konigsberg (East Prussia) during a game of chess at the Konigsberg Chess Club.

On February 3, 1944, Albert Beauregard Hodges, former US chess champion, died of a heart attack.  He was 82.

In 1944, Al Horowitz's opponent died of a heart attack in Kansas City just after Horowitz made a spectacular move.

On December 20, 1944, George Sturgis (1891-1944), president of the US Chess Federation, died of a heart attack in Boston after returning from his honeymoon.

On June 18, 1952, Efim Bogoljubov (1889-1952) suffered a heart attack after concluding a simultaneous chess exhibition in Triberg, Germany.

In 1952, Juan Quesada, Cuban chess champion, died of a heart attack during an international tournament in Havana.

On November 25, 1955, Herman Steiner died of a heart attack after a California State Championship game in Los Angeles. He was defending his state championship title and finished his 5th round game (a 62-move draw against William Addison). He then said he felt unwell, so his afternoon game was postponed. About two hours later, around 9:30 pm, Steiner had a heart attack while being attended by a physician. By agreement of the players, the 1955 California State Championship tournament was cancelled.

On July 31, 1965, E. Forry Laucks (1897-1965), founder of the Log Cabin Chess Club, collapsed of a heart attack and died after the 6th round of the U.S. Open in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

On May 26, 1967, Gideon Stahlberg (1908-1967) died of a heart attack during the 1967 Leningrad International chess tournament.

On September 25, 1968, Russian grandmaster Vladimir Simagin (1919-1968) died of a heart attack while playing in a chess tournament in Kislovodsk, Russia.  He died after round 12 of a 15 round tournament.

In 1970, Charles Khachiyan, President of the New Jersey Chess Association, died of a heart attack while playing chess at the Montclair Chess Club in New Jersey.

On October 4, 1972, USCF business manager Kenneth Harkness (1898-1972) died of a heart attack on a train in Yugoslavia on his way to a FIDE meeting in Skopje, Yugoslavia, where the chess Olympiad was to take place.

On June 5, 1975, Paul Keres (1916-1975) died of a heart attack in Helsinki, Finland, while returning home to Estonia from the World Class Championship in Vancouver, B.C.  He had just won the event (on May 25th) despite a doctor’s orders not to play in the event due to the stress.  His airplane had taken off from Helsinki to Tallinn when Keres had his heart attack.  The aircraft turned around and landed back at Helsinki and Keres was rushed to the hospital and died.

On November 6, 1979, Cecil Purdy (1906-1979) died of a heart attack while playing chess in the Sydney, Australia chess championship. His opponent was Ian Parsonage. His last words were, “I have a win, but it will take some time.”

On November 26, 1981, Dr. Max Euwe died of a heart attack at a hospital in Amsterdam where he had been recovering from major surgery.  He was 80.  Euwe suffered a heart attack earlier in the year while on vacation in Israel.

On October 21, 1982, Ed Edmondson (1920-1982) died of a heart attack while playing chess on a beach in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In 2000, GM Vladimir Bagirov (1936-2000) died of a heart attack when in a winning position in a tournament game in the Heart of Finland Open. He had just finished a move while in time pressure and his flag fell. As both players moved to a separate board to reconstruct the game, he collapsed and died.  He won his first 3 rounds and died during the 4th round.

In 2001, Alexei Suetin (1926-2001) died of a heart attack after returning home from the Russian Seniors Chess Championship.

On June 9, 2008, Grandmaster Karen Asrian had a heart attack and died.  He was only 28.  He was one of Armenia’s leading grandmasters and won the Armenian championship in 1999, 2007, and 2008.

On January 17, 2010, Dale S. Lyons of Milton, Vermont, died of a heart attack while attending a chess tournament in New Hampshire.  He suffered a fatal heart attack between the 3rd and 4th rounds of the Portsmouth Open.  He was 60 years old.

On Nov 26, 2010, Lim Chong, pioneer chess columnist in Malaysia, died of a heart attack at the age of 56.  He was on a flight back to Malaysia from London where he had been on assignment.

In 2012, the United States Chess Federation put out a press release that a Los Angeles casting company was casting for a national commercial and was looking for chess players who survived a heart attack.

In 2013, Steve Ferrero, Atlantic Chess News editor, died of a heart attack.

On Aug 21, 2013, Rodolfo Tan Cardoso of the Philippines died of a heart attack.  He was 75.  He was the first International Master from the Philippines.

In October 2013, Haydn Barber died of a heart attack at the age of 63..  He was a FIDE master and many times Western Australian champion.

Stroke victims include Amos Burn (age 77), Jose Capablanca (age 53), Jan Donner (age 61), Reuben Fine (age 79), Aivars Gipslis (age 63), Eduard Gufeld (age 66), Paul Morphy (age 47), Johannes Zukertort (age 45),

Stroke survivors include Eric Schiller (51) and John Watson (age 48).

Those who had a stroke while playing chess include Jose Capablanca (who survived the first stroke), Gipslis, and Zukertort.

A heart attack (acute myocardial infarction), occurs when the supply of blood and oxygen to an area of heart muscle is blocked, usually by a clot in a coronary artery.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly interrupted or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into the spaces surrounding brain cells.

So does chess contribute to a heart attack or stroke? If it does, then it must be the stress (mental tension) during the game. The highest risks for a heart attack or stroke are high blood pressure (140/90 or worse), smoking, high blood cholesterol (LDL cholesterol over 100mg/dL), obesity (BMI of 30 or greater), diabetes, excessive alcohol, heredity, and not enough exercise.

A surge in adrenaline caused by stress causes the blood to clot more readily, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Deadlines (time control) may have a significant impact on heart attack risk. Small periods of high pressure stress are worse for your heart than longer periods of slightly elevated stress.

Increasing age increases the risk of a heart attack. This risk factor cannot be changed. Over 83 percent of people who die of heart attack or coronary heart disease are 65 or older.

In the United States, 1 in 5 deaths are due to heart attacks. Heart attacks has been the leading cause of death in the United States every year except 1918.

Every year, there are 1.5 million heart attacks in the USA, with 500,000 deaths.

A heart attack occurs every 20 seconds with a heart attack death about every minute.

About 50 percent of deaths occur within one hour of the heart attack outside a hospital.

About 40 percent of people who experience a heart attack in a given year die from it.

The highest heart attack death rates are in Russia, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The USA ranks 17th. The lowest were Japan, France, Spain, Switzerland, and Canada.

The average age of patients hospitalized for a heart attack was 68.