Unlucky chess players

by Bill Wall

 

In 1622, the unlucky Gioacchino Greco (1600-1634) was robbed of all his money (5,000 crowns or about $2,000) that he won in Paris from playing chess while on his way to London.  He was also nearly murdered.  He died of disease in the West Indies.

 

In 1840, Louis-Charles Mahe de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840), strongest player of the 19th century, died penniless in London, having been forced to sell all his possessions, including his clothes and chess books and sets, to satisfy creditors.  He inherited some money but squandered his fortune on ill-advised land deals.

In 1853, Lionel Adalbert Bagation Kieseritzky (1806-1853), one of the strongest chess players in France, died penniless at a charity hospital for the insane in Paris.  He was buried in a pauper’s grave. Only one person came to his funeral, a waiter at the Café de la Régence.  The location of his exact plot has not been found to this day.  Kieseritzky is famous for being on the losing side of “The Immortal Game.”  Kieseritzky was considered a narcissist and considered himself the “Chess Messiah.”

In 1862, chess player Armand Edward Blackmar (1826-1888) was unlucky enough to be arrested, fined, and imprisoned by Union soldiers in New Orleans for publishing Confederate music.  A Union raid on his business forced him to cease working in the music business in New Orleans for some time.

In, 1872, Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant (1800-1872), a leading French chess master, died after being thrown from his carriage at his chateau near Algiers, Algeria.  He served as the secretary to the governor of French Guiana, but was dismissed from that appointment after he protested against the slave trade that still existed in that colony.

In 1873, Albert William Ensor (1843-1883) won the first Canadian Chess Championship.  In crime, he was unlucky.  In 1875, he was arrested for counterfeiting in New York and was deported.  He went to Germany and was arrested for gambling.  He then fled to France where he was arrested for forgery.  He died from cirrhosis of the liver in London.

In 1901 David Janowski (1868-1927) won an international tournament at Monte Carlo, but was unlucky at the roulette wheel and cards, 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.   Edward Lasker, in his book Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters, recalled that Janowski was an inveterate but undisciplined gambler who would often lose all of his chess winnings at the roulette wheel.  In 1910, Janowski went to San Sebastian for a chess tournament and won 47,000 francs at the casino.  He decided to play roulette one last time at the main table in the Castilla casino and lost all his money.

In 1901, Johannes von Minckwitz (1843-1901), a former chess champion, was reduced to poverty.  He suffered from mental and psychological problems.  He stepped in from of an electric car in Berlin, lost both arms, and died of his injuries three days later.

In 1906, Frank Marshall (1877-1944) was traveling by train in Louisiana, giving simultaneous chess exhibitions.  On his way to another chess event, his train collided with a freight train in Donaldsonville, Louisiana.  Marshall was badly bruised, with cuts on his hand and a sprained ankle.

In 1906, Nicolai Jasnogrodsky (1859-1914), a chess master, was arrested for swindling 10 citizens of Bay City, Michigan out of $10,000 to marry a rich rabbi’s daughter.  (source: New York Times, Dec 3, 1906, p. 6)

Siegbert Tarrasch (1862-1934) lost his son on the German front lines of World War I on May 14, 1915.  Tarrasch was Jewish, but converted to Christianity in 1909.  Yet he faced anti-Semitism in the early stages of Nazism.

In 1913, Dr. Julius Perlis (1880-1913), an Austrian chess master, died in a mountain climb in the Alps. During a pleasure trip, he went astray and spent the night on a mountain. He died of extreme exposure to low temperatures during a climb in the Austrian Inntaler Alps. He had only taken light clothing and fell asleep on a ledge.  He froze to death.

In 1914, Eliza Campbell Foot (1851-1914), a lady chess player, was hit by a car and died after leaving the Manhattan Chess Club.  She was walking across the street when a car turned the corner at high speed, hitting her, and then driving off.  The hit-and-run driver was never found.  Foot was President of the Women’s Chess Club in New York and was the first American woman chess author.  She wrote a book on chess puzzles.

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.  The unlucky hidden operator, Sam Gonotsky, was killed, which was covered up.  In another incident with Ajeeb, a Westerner emptied his pistol into the automaton, hitting the unlucky 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.  (source: The New York Times, January 1929 and Time magazine, Feb 4, 1929)

In 1918, Lorenz Hansen, a Danish naturalized citizen, was arrested by the Federal authorities, charged with using a secret code and spying.  The secret code turned out to be the moves in a correspondence game sent by post card.  (source: American Chess Bulletin 1918, p. 61)

In 1918, Carl Schlechter (1874-1918), leading Austrian player and one of the strongest chess players in the world, died from starvation in Budapest, Hungary, during the war-imposed famine in Central Europe. He never mentioned to any of his acquaintances that he needed food or money. He was found in a room without any money, heat or food.

In 1918, chess master Ossip Bernstein (1882-1962), an advisor to rich bankers in Russia, was arrested by the secret Bolshevik police and ordered executed by a firing squad because he was a legal advisor to bankers.  An officer reviewing the list of those to be shot recognized Bernstein as the famous chess master and spared his life.  He lost all his fortune during the Bolshevik Revolution, earned a second fortune and lost all that during the Great Depression.  He lost his third fortune when France was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940.  He was forced out of Paris and driven to Spain because of his Jewish origin.

In 1923, a spectator watching the Ed Lasker - Frank Marshall chess match in New York died of a heart attack.  The excitement was too much for him.

On 1924, Curt von Bardeleben (1861-1924) may have accidently fallen from his second floor low silled window of his boarding home in Berlin. He was living in extreme poverty at the time.  He may have opened the window to get fresh air and fell out.

In 1927, Dr. Joseph Eljas, President of the Reval, Estonia Chess Club, was invited to a chess tournament in Leningrad, Russia.  As soon as he entered Russia, he was arrested by the Cheka.  The Cheka, claiming his notebooks, filled with chess problems, were a secret cipher.  He was charged for spying for a foreign power.  (source: New York Times, Dec 8, 1927, p. 37)

In 1928, chess master Norman Whitaker was on his way to The Hague to play in the Amateur World Chess Championship.  He was traveling by train when the train wrecked and derailed, killing 9 people and severely injuring his wife.  Whitaker was unlucky in crime as he had been arrested several times over the years for fraud, stealing cars, and insurance scams.  He served some time in Alcatraz and Fort Leavenworth.  He was convicted of swindling a lady of $104,000 on the pretense of recovering the kidnapped Lindbergh baby, is attempting to bargain for his freedom by telling where the money is hidden.

In 1929, Richard Reti was crossing the road and was hit by a street car in Prague.  He was taken to a local hospital to heal, but developed scarlet fever while in the hospital and died.

In 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.

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 a week after the tournament on January 12, 1932.

In 1932, Edgar Colle (1897-1932), top Belgium player, died in Gand, Belgium, after an operation for a gastric ulcer. He survived three operations for a gastric ulcer, but decided to have a 4th operation, which was fatal for him.

In 1932, Frederick Yates (1884-1932), one of the top chess players in the world, died in his sleep at his home in London from a gas leak due to a faulty gas pipe connection.  It was ruled an accidental death.

In 1935, Agnes Stevenson, one of the top women chess players in the world, was killed after she walked into the propeller of the plane she had been flying on. She was on her way to Warsaw to take part in the Women’s World Chess Championship when the plane made a refueling stop at Poznan. She left the plane to have her passport inspected. On returning to the plane, she accidently stepped in front of the plane and the rotating propeller hit her, killing her instantly.

In 1937, chess problemist Mikhail Platov was arrested in Russia after making a derogatory remark about Stalin and getting caught. He was shipped off to the Gulag in Siberia and died within a year.

On May 30, 1937, Herman Steiner was on his way back to Hollywood from the annual North-South chess match when he hit a car head-on. Steiner's passenger was Dr. R.B. Griffith, who played Board 2 for the South (Steiner played Board 1). Griffith died in the car crash and the driver in the other car was critically injured. Dr. Griffith was a medical doctor for the Hollywood film industry. He was the physician for Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin.

In 1938, three women, Mary Bain, Mrs. McCready and Miss Weart, returning from the US Open chess tournament in Boston were in a car wreck after their car skidded on slippery pavement and crashed into a telegraph pole. There were a few broken bones.

In 1940, the Germans arrested all the chess players that were illegally meeting at the Warsaw Chess Club, which was banned earlier by the Germans. The Jews were all taken to a concentration camp and were later killed in a mass execution. This included Polish masters Dawid Przepiorka, Achilles Frydmann, Stanislaw Kohn, and Moishe Lowtzky.

In 1940, former New England chess champion Harold Morton (1906-1940), died in a night-time car crash in Iowa when he hit a truck that was parked on the road with no lights.

In 1940, the Germans bombed London from the air.  One of the unlucky buildings to be hit was the National Chess Centre, which burnt down. It may have been the largest chess club in the world with over 700 members. The contents of the chess center were entirely destroyed.

In 1941, Estonian player Ilmar Raud (1913-1941) was found wandering in the streets of Buenos Aires and was arrested by the police.  A fight occurred while he was in jail, and he was later sent to a lunatic asylum, where he died on July 13, 1941, most likely of starvation.

In 1941, Alexander Ilyin-Genevsky (1894-1941) died during the siege of Leningrad by the Germans. He was on a barge on Lake Ladoga, east of Leningrad, trying to escape the city, when a German aircraft bombed the barge. He was the only one killed on the barge, which was displaying Red Cross flags.

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 picked up the chess clock from behind and was looking at the clock backwards. He refused to change his decision, which ultimately gave Reshevsky the title.  Denker was robbed of a US championship.

In 1944, world woman chess champion Vera Menchik-Stevenson (1906-1944) died in a German bombing of London. She died in Kent after a German V-1 rocket hit her home (the bomb shelter in the garden remained intact).  Her sister, her sister’s husband, and her mother also died in the bombing.

In 1945, Herman Pilnik of Argentina lost his plane ticket to Los Angeles after arriving in Dallas from Argentina.  In an effort to get to Hollywood for the Pan American Congress, he proceeded to drive by car with two other occupants.  In Arizona, he crashed into a parked and unlighted truck near El Centro.  Pilnik woke up in a hospital, where he was cared for two days.  The car overturned with part of it hanging over the edge of a steep embankment.  Pilnik spent two days in a hospital in Yuma, Arizona and missed his first-round game against Sammy Reshevsky.  Pilnik arrived after a 3-day delay.  The other two passengers remained in the hospital with broken bones.

In 1946, Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946) choked to death on a piece of meat. He was found dead in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal on the morning of March 24. The cause of death has been attributed to choking on a piece of meat. His body was found by a waiter when he brought in breakfast.  He had just been invited to negotiations for a world chess championship match with Mikhail Botvinnik.

In 1950, Samuel Reshevsky (1911-1992) was playing Fotis Mastichiadis, a minor master from Greece, at the chess Olympiad in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia.  Reshevsky made his 24th move too fast, and then noticed that the move was a blunder and that it would lose immediately.  Without hesitation, as Mastichiadis was busy writing down the move on his score sheet, Reshevsky offered a draw.    Unlucky Mastichiadis accepted the draw immediately without examining the position (a dead loss) before accepting the draw. 

On June 18, 1952, Efim Bogoljubov (1889-1952) suffered a heart attack after concluding a simultaneous chess exhibition in Triberg, Germany.  In 1923 Bogoljubov, former chess champion of the Soviet Union, was banned from the USSR and declared persona non grata for leaving the USSR and moving to another country to play chess.

In 1952, Pal Benko was arrested and imprisoned for 16 months in a Hungarian concentration camp for trying to escape from East Berlin and defect to the West. He was accused of being an American spy. When they searched his apartment, they found mail devoted to his postal chess games. The police assumed that the notation was secret code, and they demanded to know how to break the code.

In 1957, Max Pavey (1918-1957), an American chess master and chemist, died of accidental radiation poisoning in New York City.

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 1959, an unlucky Soviet scientist in Antarctica was killed by an axe when his fellow Soviet researcher lost a chess game to him.

In 1960, the Chess and Checker Club, located on the 2nd floor of a building, caught on fire.  The fire started on the first floor in a grease duct of Hector’s Cafeteria.  There were 150 men at the club at the time.  They began to panic.  Some tried to go down the fire escape, but flames and smoke drove them back.  One of the exit doors in the back was locked and sealed off with an iron grill.  They finally broke the windows and got out on a narrow iron balcony along the face of the building. (source: The New York Times, Feb 16, 1960)

In 1960, a U.S. sailor was arrested in New York for murder after he got in a fight with an unlucky spectator who criticized his chess game. The sailor struck the spectator with a broken beer bottle, which struck his jugular vein, and he bled to death.

In September 1961, chess master Norman Whitaker, chess expert Glenn Hartleb, and a 16-year-old boy were driving in Arkansas when they got into a car wreck, killing Glenn Hartleb.  Whitaker and Hartleb were too tired to drive, and they allowed the 16-year-old to drive.  He lost control, hit a bridge abutment and overturned the car.

In 1962, Abe Turner (1924-1962), an American chess master, was stabbed 9 times in the back by a fellow employee, Theodore Smith, at the Chess Review magazine office. Turner’s 280-pound body was placed in a safe and found by the superintendent of the building later that afternoon.  Turner had just started his new job when he was stabbed to death.  Smith had been recently released from an insane asylum and claimed that Turner was a Communist spy and had to be killed on orders from the U.S. Secret Service.

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

In 1966, during the Chess Olympiad in Havana, Mikhail Tal (1936-1992) went out one evening to a local bar in the city. Tal was caught flirting with a local woman, whose boyfriend took exception. Tal ended up being struck over the head with a beer bottle. As a result, the unlucky Tal 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 1967, Grandmaster Milan Matulovic of Yugoslavia was playing against Istvan Bilek in the 9th round at the Interzonal in Sousse, Tunisia.  Matulovic moved his bishop, pressed his chess clock, and soon realized he had made a mistake.  So he took back his bishop move, moved his king (38.Kg1), and only then said “J’Adoube” (“I adjust” – which is said before adjusting pieces on a square).  Matulovic then wrote his move on his score sheet as if nothing happened.  Unlucky Bilek went to the tournament director to protest, but Matulovic replied, “But I said j’adoube!”  There was an argument, but the tournament director, having only Bilek’s word against Matulovic, refused to require Matulovic to make his original move with his bishop, as the rules of chess state.  Bilek protested three times to the tournament director, but was ignored.  The game ended in a draw.  After this incident, even the Yugoslav players shunned Matulovic.  Ever since this incident, Matulovic has been referred as “J’adoubovic.”

In 1971, when the unlucky Mark Taimanov (1926- ) returned to the USSR after losing to Bobby Fischer 6-0, he was banned from playing outside the country for several years and was stripped of his title ‘Honored Master of Sport.’ He was a concert pianist and was not allowed to give any more performances. He was also banned from writing any articles and was deprived of his monthly stipend.

In 1972, the wife of GM Larry Evans (1932-2010) was in a car accident.  Evans rushed to the hospital and was unable to play the last round at Lone Pine, California.

In 1973, the police raided a chess tournament in Cleveland, Ohio.  They arrested the unlucky tournament director and confiscated his chess sets on charges of allowing gambling (cash prizes to winners) and possession of gambling devices (the chess sets). 

In 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 despite a doctor’s orders not to play in the event due to the stress and his high blood pressure. 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 July 24, 1975, Nicholas Rossolimo (1910-1975) fell from a flight of stairs in Greenwich Village, New York and died of his head injuries. He had been giving chess lessons late at night.  He was possibly mugged.

In 1977, Viktor Korchnoi was injured in a car wreck in Switzerland and had to postpone his semi-final match against Boris SpasskyKorchnoi suffered a broken hand and other minor injuries when his vehicle collided with a Swiss Army truck and overturned.  Another passenger in Korchnoi’s car was Ray Keene, who was slightly injured.  Korchnoi had a broken right hand and other injuries.

In 1978, grandmaster William Lombardy was attacked in New York City near the Manhattan Chess Club by a mugger who had a knife.  Tendons in two fingers were severed and he underwent a long operation to repair the severed tendons.

In 1979, Patrick McKenna, a prisoner in Nevada, strangled his Las Vegas cellmate, the unlucky Jack J. Nobles, after an argument over a chess game in which he lost.  (sources: Crime & Capital Punishment blog; The Pacific Reporter, 1986, p. 616)

In 1981, the unlucky Bobby Fischer was falsely arrested in Pasadena, California under suspicion of being a bank robber.

In 1982, GM Boris Gulko and his wife were arrested for protesting at the Moscow Interzonal in Moscow. They were trying to immigrate to Israel.  Gulko was beaten by KGB agents and was forbidden to play in top-level competitions.

On October 21, 1982, Ed Edmondson (1920-1982), former president of the United States Chess Federation, died of a heart attack while playing chess on a beach in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In 1983, Anna Akhsharumova, wife of Boris Gulko, 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.  Unlucky Anna went from 1st place to 3rd place over this decision.

In 1983, Janos Flesch (1933-1983), a blindfold chess master, died in a car wreck in Whitstable, England. He was returning from the Kasparov-Korchnoi match in London to a tournament in Ramsgate when he became involved in a car accident. He and his wife died in the crash after their car collided with a truck in foggy weather.

In 1986, FIDE banned Grandmaster Quinteros of Argentina from playing chess in international events for three years because he violated a sanction and played chess in South Africa.

In 1986, at the New York Open, Pal Benko was playing Hungarian Grandmaster Gyula Sax in the final round.  If Benko won, he would have earned $12,000.  If Benko drew, he would only get $3,000.  Sax offered Benko a draw at a critical position.  The unlucky Benko turned it down, blundered in time pressure, and lost.  He got nothing.

In 1986, Grandmaster Georgy Agzamov (1954-1986) accidently fell between some rocks at a beach and died. He had just finished a chess tournament in Sevastopol and was taking a shortcut to go swimming. He fell off a cliff and got stuck between two rocks. Several people heard him yell for help, but he was too deep down in the rocks and died before a rescue team could get to him.

In 1988, at the Saint John International, the unlucky GM Kamran Shirazi was forfeited while he pondered his next move.  An arbiter reminded him of his obligation to record the moves of the game when not in time pressure.  Shirazi forgot to write down the last move and a half.  Under FIDE rules, players must keep score unless under dire time pressure.  Shirazi had ½ hour on his clock.  Shirazi was reminded again, and he balked, arguing he would think first and write later.  The arbiter then deducted 5 minutes from Shirazi’s clock.  Shirazi then stormed over to another arbiter for second opinion.  By now, he was forfeited and the appeals committee upheld the arbiter’s decision to remind Shirazi and deducting 5 minutes from his clock.

In 1988, International Master Bela Perenyi (1953-1988) died in a car accident near Kistelek.  He was travelling to a chess tournament in Saloniki.  He was about to get married to  WGM Ildiko Madl.

In 1989, during the French championship, IM Gilles Andruet and IM Jean-Luc Seret got into a violent fight over an argument whether Andruet resigned before Seret checkmated him.  After the fight, Andruet needed 8 stitches and had to withdraw from the tournament, despite the fact that he was in 1st place after 10 of 14 rounds.

In 1990, the unlucky Boris Ustinov couldn’t tolerate defeat.  In a chess game with the Leonid Nikanov in Moscow, when Leonid checkmated Ustinov with his queen, Ustinov got red in the face and his veins in his neck bulged out.  Them Ustinov snatched the queen off the board and popped it in his mouth.  Ustinov soon clutched his throat as he accidently swallowed the chess piece.  He fell off the side of the chair and choked to death.  (source: Weekly World News, March 6, 1990)

In 1990, grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov and his wife had their luggage stolen from the trunk of a car while he was having dinner at a restaurant in New York City.  The next day, he was attacked by a gang and robbed of his money, airline tickets, and 10 years of chess analysis.

In 1990, Guillermo Garcia (1953-1990), a Cuban grandmaster, died in a car wreck on his way to the airport to catch a plane to play in the Chess Olympiad in Novi Sad.  In 1988, Guillermo Garcia, 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.  Garcia never saw any of the money, which is still in escrow.

In 1990, top Russian Grandmaster Artur Yusupov returned to Moscow after taking second equal prize at a chess 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, and Yusupov was critically injured.  He spent several months in a hospital.

In 1990, FIDE president Florencio Campomanes (1927-2010) barely escaped death as he had a car crash in Uganda.  The president of the Uganda Chess Federation sitting next to him was killed.

In 1991, Arkady Flom, a 64-year-old grandfather was arrested in Manhattan after a young man sat down to play chess with him in the park. The young man played so poorly that Flom would give him pointers in exchange for $2. The young man agreed. They played for 20 more minutes and the young fellow paid his money. As soon as Flom put the money in his pocket, four NYPD officers approached him, slapped him in handcuffs and read him his rights. He was arrested for promoting gambling in the second degree and for possession of a gambling device, his chess set. He was jailed for 3 days, his medication was confiscated, and he had a heart attack, but survived.

In 1992, Robert Bryan, 55, of England shot Matthew Hay, 22, over a chess game. Bryan had ‘had enough’ after losing to Hay and was jailed for 10 years after admitting attempting to murder Mr. Hay by shooting him with a shotgun. (source: The Independent, Dec 9, 1992)

In 1992, the unlucky Grandmaster and former world junior champion Pablo Zarnicki of Argentina was disqualified from a Dos Hermanas Internet Chess Club tournament, accused of cheating by using a computer, which he denied.  There was no proof he was using a computer.

In 1993, an unlucky person was shot and killed by a sniper while playing chess in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the first to die from sniper fire while playing chess.

In 1994, Martin Wirth of Fort Collins, Colorado, shot to death the unlucky Vernie Cox after the two argued over a chess game. Cox died of two gunshot wounds to the chest. Witnesses said that Wirth had lost a chess game with Cox, knocked over the chess board and some furniture, and then began to argue with Cox. Wirth went across the street to his home and returned with a gun and shot Cox to death.

In 1994, during the Chess Olympiad in Moscow, the captain of the Irish chess team was mugged in the street by a gang.  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.  The Macedonian team captain was beaten into unconsciousness and robbed twice.  The first time, he was robbed of $7,000 inside a bank that was across the street from the playing center.  A U.S. player was mugged, and robbers threatened his life if he did not come back the next day with more money.  Other chess players reported that thugs pounded on their hotel doors in the middle of the night and threatened them.

On November 13, 1994, grandmaster Igor Platonov (1934-1994) returned home to his apartment in Kiev after a chess tournament, when two thieves ambushed him and murdered him.  The killers were never caught.

In 1995, International Master Gilles Andruet, a former French champion who had a bad gambling habit, was murdered in Paris over gambling debts.  He was found dead in a plastic bag.

In 1996, Isaac Boleslavsky (1919-1996) slipped on an icy sidewalk, fracturing his hip. He contracted a fatal infection while in the hospital.

In 1999, Ken Horne, a Las Vegas chess organizer and Vice-President of Nevada Chess, flying home in his own airplane from the US Open Chess Championship in Reno, died when his plane crashed.  Another chess player, John Trivett, was severely burned in the crash and had burns over 35% of his body.  He was pulled to safety by bystanders.  He was in the hospital in critical condition.  Horne had a degree in physics and worked at Nellis AFB at the Range Safety Division.  He was planning to retire a month before the crash.

In 2000, GM Vladimir Bagirov (1936-2000) died of a heart attack when in a winning position in a tournament game in Finland. 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.

In 2000, Latvian grandmaster Aivars Gipslis (1937-2000) died of a stroke while playing chess in Berlin. He was playing for a local Berlin chess club when he collapsed from a stroke during the chess game. He died in a German hospital after being in a coma for several weeks.

In 2000, Laurence Douglas of Puoghkeepsie, New York, stabbed Craig Williams to death over a chess game. Williams had just beaten Douglas in a chess game that had a $5 wager. Williams took a $5 bill from Douglas after the game. Douglas then pulled out a knife and stabbed the unlucky Williams 16 times.

In 2000, David Beaumont got in a fist fight with Alexander Gaft at the annual Doeberl Cup in Canberra, Australia.  Beaumont, still playing his chess game, became upset by the noisy comments made by Gaft, who had just finished his game.  Beaumont politely asked Gaft to keep quiet, but Gaft replied with abuse.  A violent brawl ensued, with Gaft being repeatedly punched and Beaumont thrown onto a glass door.

In 2003, grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric, age 79, was attacked in his sleep and beaten up by masked burglars in his Belgrade home.  The armed robbers broke into his home at 3 am, beat and tied him up, the stole his money and jewelry of his late wife.  They also took his chess trophies

In 2003, former world champion Ruslan Ponomariov lost a game when his cell phone rang during the European team championship.  The unlucky Ponomariov lost his game to Evgeny Agrest (who lost a game in 2004 when his cell phone rang) in his Ukrainian team match versus Sweden.  Ponomariov was the first player penalized under this rule at a major event.

In 2003, Simon Andrews of Falls Township, Pennsylvania, stabbed to death Jerry Kowalski during a chess game. Authorities said that Andrews was disturbed by Kowalski’s constant talking during their chess games. Andrews then pulled a knife from under a sofa-bed mattress and stabbed the unlucky Kowalski in the neck, who bled to death. Andrews was sentenced from 15 to 30 years in state prison.

In 2003, Essam Ahmed Ali (1964-2003)  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 2004, top seed Christine Castellano was playing in the Philippine Women’s National Chess Championship when her cell phone rang.  She was disqualified from the event.

In 2005, Simon Webb (1949-2005), British International Master, was stabbed to death in the family kitchen by his son during an argument.  Simon Webb had just returned from a chess tournament.    His son was later arrested after he tried to commit suicide by driving his car into a building wall.

In2005, GM Nigel Short was in a car crash while driving from Messinia to Athens.  His car was struck by an oncoming vehicle which had skidded uncontrollable off a wet bend. 

In 2005, Canadian grandmaster Pascal Charbonneau and his chess-playing friends were mugged at gunpoint at the World Open chess tournament in Philadelphia.

In 2005, GM Vladimir Akopian was arrested at the Dubai airport in the UAE having been mistaken for an individual of the same name wanted by Interpol for murder.

In 2005, chess master Robert Snyder was arrested in Fort Collins, Colorado on charges of molesting three chess students of his. Two boys were age 13 and one boy was age 12. He later escaped and was featured on America’s Most Wanted in 2009. He was later captured in Belize after someone recognized him from the TV show. He was released from jail in 2008 and was supposed to register as a sex offender, but he never did. He was featured on America’s Most Wanted in November, 2009. A girl had recognized him as a chess teacher in her school in Belize and notified the authorities. US Marshals tracked him down in Belize and arrested him.

In 2006, former world champion Anatoly Karpov was working on a manuscript for a new chess book when it was stolen in Brussels.  One thief distracted him while the other attacked from behind and stole his briefcase with the 300 page manuscript.

In 2006, Jessie Gilbert (1987-2006) accidently fell from the 8th floor of a hotel in the Czech Republic, where she was playing in the Czech Open chess tournament.  She may have been a sleepwalker and could have fallen to her death through the window, which was left open due to the hot summer weather in Europe.  It is also possible she forgot to take here anti-depressants as she was suffering from depression.

In 2007, grandmaster Farhad Tahirov, age 19, was kicked and punched by a gang of eight thugs during the 82nd Hastings International Chess Congress.  He was robbed of a thousand British pounds.

In 2007, former FIDE president Florencio Campomanes was involved in a car accident in Turkey that left him in intensive care.  He was on his way to the airport for a return flight to the Philippines after the FIDE Presidential Board meeting in Antalya, Turkey when the driver lost control of the vehicle.  The car overturned and plunged over the side of the road.  Campomanes was sitting in the back seat and not wearing a safety belt.  He was thrown from the car, which was badly damaged.  Campomanes was operated on for 7 and ½ hours to repair broken bones in his legs, hands, neck and face.

In 2007, GM Teimour Radjabov had all of his possessions stolen from a hotel room while playing in the Morelia-Linares chess tournament in Mexico.  The burglary occurred in Patzcuaro, Mexico only a few days before the start of the tournament.  Radjabov and his father left for a quick dinner and returned to their room within 30 minutes.  All of their valuable items were stolen.  They reported the crime, but got neither help from the local authorities, nor even a police investigation.

In 2007, the Rochester Chess Center was the official vendor at the World Open in Philadelphia.  The unlucky club had 21 expensive chess clocks stolen during the event.  Some of the clocks were being used to pay off gambling debts in chess, poker, and backgammon.

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 in cash, plus a mobile phone and camera, as well as ending up in hospital for treatment to his injuries.

In 2007, Grandmaster Maxim Sorokin (1968-2007) died after a traffic accident while driving from Elista, Kalmykia to Volgograd.

In 2008, grandmaster Leonid Timoshenko had a precious diamond he was carrying stolen.  The diamond was part of a trophy won by the Ukrainian National Chess Team in the 2008 Chess Olympiad.  The diamond and trophy was in his checked bag on the airplane, but when he landed, his bag was open, the trophy was broken and the diamond was stolen.  He was forced to check the cup into baggage at Frankfurt on his flight to Kiev.  On the previous flight from Dresden, he was allowed to take the trophy onboard as a carry-on piece.

In 2008, unlucky Grandmaster Nigel Short lost a game when his cell phone rang.  The Nokia phone had been a gift from a sponsor at a recent chess tournament and Short had only started using it. 

In 2008, Ivan Cheparinov forfeited his game at Wijk aan Zee for not shaking hands with his opponent, Nigel Short.

In 2008, FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was in a car accident in Moscow.  He suffered minor injuries and was taken to the hospital.  He was on his way to the airport to attend the opening ceremonies of the Dresden Chess Olympiad.

In 2008, a man was so upset in losing a chess match, that he threw his opponent out the window.  It happened in Gloazov, Russian Republic of Udmurtia.  43-year-old Aleksey Valentikhin lost several games to the unlucky 60-year-old pensioner neighbor.  He got so mad that Aleksey threw his opponent from his second floor window.  The pensioner broke several bones and later died.  Valentikham was sentenced to 6 years in prison. (source: Susan Polgar blog, April 24, 2009)

In February 2009, a man killed a friend with a sword after a chess game in Alameda, California. An argument broke out during their game, and the two started wrestling. Joseph Groom retreated to his bedroom and returned with a sword, which he used to stab Kelly Kjersem once. Kjersem later died.

In 2009, Philip Hogarty, a strong chess player, was killed when he was hit by a police car while walking across a badly-lit road in London.  He suffered head injuries and died later that day.

In 2009, a chess player who had just finished a tournament at the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan was mugged after leaving the club.

In 2009, Indian Grandmaster G.N. Gopal was banned for one year in all India events for failing to appear in the National Championship.

In 2009, in a match between Bulgaria and England, the Bulgarian Grandmaster Alexander Delchev’s cell phone went off, leading to an immediate forfeit of the game.

In 2009, Grandmaster Vladislav Tkachiev was playing in the Kolkata Open. He appeared for his round 3 games in an intoxicated state, fell asleep at the board and forfeited his game.

In 2010, someone fired a shot at The Chess Club in Syracuse, New York.  An unlucky 16-year old boy at the chess club received a gunshot wound to the foot.

On March 17, 2010, Anthony Beaver, age 19, was shot and killed while being robbed in Atlanta.  He had been chess champion of his high school and won the 2009 Clayton County Chess Championship.

In 2010, a chess game between inmates at the Indian River County Jail in Florida led to a fight.  Christopher Brown was playing chess with another inmate in the cell block when Christopher O’Neal, who was watching the game, commented about the game on the other inmate’s behalf.  Brown told O’Neal to shut up, but O’Neal ignored him and continued to discuss the ongoing chess game.  The two then got into a fight.  It took several detention deputies to break up the flight.

At the 2010 chess Olympiad, the Yemeni team lost scored 0-4 after refusing to sit down across from the Israeli team.

In 2011, two people were stabbed at a Chuy’s Restaurant in Phoenix after police say a person got mad over a game of chess.  Officers at the scene said two people were playing a game, but when one person won the game the other person, a sore loser, got mad and stabbed the winner twice.  The victim’s friend jumped in and tried to help, but he was also stabbed. (source: ABC 15.com, Aug 12, 2011)

In 2011, Grandmaster Eshan Ghaem Maghami was disqualified from a chess tournament in Corsica after he refused to play his 4th round opponent, Israeli FIDE master Ehud Shachar.

In 2011, grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk and his wife were robbed at gunpoint in Sao Paulo, Brazil as they were sitting in the taxi form their hotel to the airport.  Two men with guns took two suitcases and a handbag and ran.  They missed his laptop computer by his feet and his passport in the inside pocket of his jacket, but got his wife’s passport which was in the handbag.  Ivanchuk said that the most valuable item stolen was his chess set, which he had for many years.

In 2011, Grandmaster Eduardo Iturrizaga, the top player in Venzuela, got in a car wreck on his way to the airport to participate in a chess tournament in Barcelona.  He was unable to make it to the tournament.

In 2012, six players from Soviet Georgia were all forced to forfeit their games at the European championship.  They failed to arrive at the boards on time after setting their clocks wrong at the start of Daylight Savings Time.

In 2012, chess master John Charles Yoos of Vancouver, British Columbia, was a victim of identity theft.  A person with the same name and age had been charged with attempted murder in New York.

In 2012, Grandmaster Mamedyarov was forfeited his game at the European Chess Championship when he arrived at his board 10 seconds after the officially stated start time.  Later, he and his opponent were forfeited for agreeing to a draw in 19 moves.  Mamedyarov then immediately quit the tournament and left.

In 2012, chess player Ron Washington of Chicago was swept into the water and caught in a rip current in Lake Michigan.  He drowned before anyone could rescue him.

In 2012, GM Suat Atalik of Turkey was given a 15-month ban from international play by the Turkish Chess Federation.  The ban was a result of his refusal to sign a Turkish Chess Federation document stating that he is responsible for all financial consequences of his participation in chess tournaments abroad.  Further, that he will “act in accordance with the responsibilities of a national athlete” and won’t commit “any activity against the Turkish Republic.”

In April, 2013, six members of the Melbourne Chess Club in Australia were returning from a chess tournament in Canberra when their car rolled off the freeway.  Two of the chess players died.  International Master James Morris (1994- ) was seriously injured in that accident.

In 2013, Igor Kurnosov (1985-2013), a Russian chess grandmaster, died after being accidently run over by a car while he crossing the road in Chelyabinsk.

In 2013, Alexander Bitman was killed by a hit-and-run car accident in Moscow.  He was a chess master and co-developer of one of the first chess programs in the world.

In 2013, GM Andrei Istratescu and IM Dragos Dumitrache were involved in a car accident on the way to a Zurich chess tournament and had to withdraw.

In 2013, Mike Anders, a popular chess player and chess equipment/book seller in Kentucky, died when the plane he was piloting crashed into a house in Florida.

In 2014, an Italian man, Saverio Bellante, who had been living in a rented home in Dublin, killed his unlucky landlord over a game of chess.  He was arrested for the killing after stabbing his landlord, Tom O’Gorman, multiple times.  O’Gorman was a minister.  Bellante told police that they were fighting over a chess game.  Bellante was then asked by O’Gormon to leave the house following an argument over a chess move.  Instead, Bellante found a kitchen knife and stabbed O’Gormon, then beat him over the head with a dumbbell.  Bellante was also accused of eating the heart of his victim.

In 2014, two chess players died within days of each other at the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway.  On the final day of the 2014 Chess Olympiad, Alisher Anarkulov of Uzbekistan died in his hotel room.  One was a journalist covering the event at the Tromso Chess Olympiad.  He was asleep and woke up after a fire alarm (false alarm) went off in the hotel and was forced to leave the hotel.  He became disoriented, suffered a heart attack, fell into a coma and later died.  This was just after Kurt Meier, age 67, of the Seychelles team died while playing his final round match.  Kurt Meier’s son was playing on the next board and tried to revive his father.

In January 2015, Erich Spielman, age 92, was struck by a car driven by another 92-year-old in England and died.  He was a chess player (winner of several club championships in Loughton) and the nephew of the famous chess player Rudolf Spielmann.

In March 2015, Stephen Dillard, a chess master, chess organizer (Vice President of the Kentucky Chess Association) and chess teacher, was stabbed by Ronshal Jenefor more than 140 times. Jenefor claimed that Dillard had molested him.

In July 2015, three men were stabbed outside a London chess club (South Norwood Chess Club) and were all hospitalized.  One man was in critical condition and the other two men were in stable condition. (source: The Telegraph, Jul 9, 2015)

In July 2015, Craig Woolcock of Wales killed himself after he quit his job as a customer services official to concentrate on chess, but failed to qualify for the British chess championship. The unlucky player suffered from mood swings. (source: MailOnline, July 14, 2015)

In July 2015, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov had his entry of his accomplishments removed from a book commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Russian sports club Spartak, of which he is a member.  Because he is an anti-Putin political activist, authorities told the editor not to include Kasparov.  Kasparov has been unlucky enough to be arrested several times in Russia for political reasons.  One time, while Kasparov was signing autographs, an autograph-seeker grabbed a chess board instead, and hit Kasparov over the head with it, saying that he enjoyed Kasparov’s chess, but not his political activities. (source: The Independent, Jul 23, 2015)

 

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