In 1918, sports writer and cartoonist LeRoy Robert Ripley (1890-1949) created something similar to Ripley's — Believe It or Not! It was a newspaper panel series that appeared in the New York Globe, which later became a radio and television show. His interest was sports feats to little-known facts. Some of his subjects covered chess. In 1929, publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst syndicated his column and published it in 17 newspapers worldwide. Ripley's Believe It or Not! Is now a franchise with 1000 cartoon panels, 30,000 artifacts, and 20,000 photographs.
In his 1930s radio show, Ripley devoted two radio episodes to the game of chess. One episode was about a game of chess that was fatal to a sultan of Egypt in 1249. While playing chess, he was poisoned by his wife. Another episode was how a game of chess drove a man crazy. In the 1800s, a mad Hungarian Count was told to play chess with a student to help his concentration. The count and the student played chess for 6 years. The Count was cured, but the student went out of his mind.
In September 1953, a 5-page story called "History Was Changed in a Chess-Game" was published in Ripley's Believe It or Not Magazine #1, published by Harvey Comics. In the story, Thomas Paine (1737-1809), author of "The Rights of Man," was arrested in Paris for favoring the exile of the French King rather than execution. He has a last-minute reprieve from the French guillotine after his wife, disguised as a young poor man, defeats Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) in three games of chess at a tavern. The story was first published by Ripley in 1944.
In 1962, a Ripley's Believe It or Not feature tells of an event in 1408 when Prince Yusuf of Granada was ordered slain by his brother, Muhammad VII, but was granted his last request — permission to finish a game of chess. As Ripley put it, "the monarch died while the game was in progress, and his condemned brother became Yusuf III, King of Granada." (source: "Most Dramatic Checkmate," Chess Review, March 1962, p. 68 In 1986, a Ripley cartoon was published in newspapers about Bobby Fisher. The text read, "Bobby Fischer: the American chess genius, in 1958 at age 15, became the youngest international grandmaster. He won the world chess championship in 1972 by defeating Boris Spassky of Russia and hasn't played in public since! In the 1850s, Paul Morphy, the only other American World Champion, also quit competing at the height of his career." (source: Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, PA), July 25, 1986, p. 56)
In 2004, a book called "Ripley's Believe It or Not!: In Celebration" was published. One of the articles was how chess was invented. Ripley wrote, "The following legend is told in connection with the invention of the game of chess. An East Indian Potentate was so pleased with the game that he promised the inventor, a slave, the fulfillment of any wish. The slave asked for the number of grains of wheat which would result, if one grain were place on the first square of the chess-board, two on the second, four on the third, etc., i.e., each time twice as many as on the last. At first glance, this wish seemed to be a modest one, but calculations showed that it would be impossible for the king to keep his promise, even if he owned the whole earth and spent his entire life growing wheat on it. The result is: 18 quintillions, 446 quadrillions, 744 trillions, 73 billions, 709 millions, 551,615 grains."
In 2006, the Ripley's — Believe It or Not website published the fact that chess champion Susan Polgar played 1,131 games of chess and won 1,112 of them over a 17-hour period in August 2005. Believe it or not, Susan Polgar was unaware of the Ripley addition about her chess until 2009 until someone sent her a link to the Ripley website. (source: Susan Polgar Global Chess Daily, May 27, 2009)
In 2015, the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum at the London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus in London devoted a whole gallery to Alice in Wonderland to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the iconic Alice in Wonderland. There was a huge Alice in Wonderland chess set on display as you walk in.
On January 28, 2017, a Ripley's Believe it or Not comic strip noted that chess prodigy Bobby Fischer died at the age of 64 — living one year for every square on the chess board.
In 2017, the Ripley's — Believe It or Not website, weird news section, published text on chess boxing and pointed out that the idea came from a French comic book (graphic novel), "Froid Equateur" by Enki Bilal. However, in the book, a chess match took place after the boxing match. (source: www.ripleys.com, Aug 9, 2017)
In 2019, a Ripley's Believe It or Not! Beyond the Bizarre book had an entry for the world's largest chess piece, which appeared on page 79. This is the big chess king in front of the World Chess Hall of Fame in St, Louis. It stands 20 feet tall with a 9 foot base. The piece was 10,860 pounds and is hand-carved from mahogany wood.
Ripley's Believe It or Not chronicled George Koltanowski's (1903-2000) amazing chess records several times. One record was in 1937, in Edinburgh, Scotland, against 34 players simultaneously without losing a game. Another was against 56 opponents consecutively in San Francisco in 1960, again without a loss.
The Ripley's Believe It or Not museum in Niagara Falls has a chess board made entirely of matchstick.
If Ripley had continued his search on weird or odd chess facts, he may have found the following believe it or not trivia items. Here is Wall's Chess Believe It or Not!.
In 1533, Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor of Peru, was imprisoned by Francisco Pizarro and the Spanish conquistadors. While in prison, he learned chess by watching the guards play. Soon, he was playing the guards and beating them. He beat a certain Spanish captain who took his revenge out and was the tie-breaking vote to have the emperor killed.
In 1576, Paolo Boi was taken prisoner and sold as a slave to a Turk. He played chess for his master that brought in a lot of money. He later gained his freedom back. He went to Naples to play chess and was poisoned by jealous rivals in 1598.
On Christmas night, 1776, George Washington crossed the Delaware River at Trenton, capturing 1,000 Hessian mercenaries under the command of Colonel Rahl. This surprise plan might have backfired, had it not been for chess. A loyalist near the American camp knew of the plan and sent his son with a note to warn Colonel Rahl earlier that day. However, the colonel was so engrossed in a game of chess, that he put the note into his pocket unread. After the battle, the note was discovered, still unread, in the mortally wounded colonel's pocket.
In 1802, the first chess club appeared in Manhattan in New York City.
In 1803, the Berlin chess club was founded. Military personnel were prohibited from being members of the chess club.
In September 1805, the first original American chess book, The Elements of Chess, was published in Boston by William Pelham (1759-1827) and edited by William Blagrove. Blagrove was the nephew of Pelham. The book recommended that the chess pieces be renamed. The king would be called Governor. The queen would be called General. The king's rook would be called First Colonel. The king's bishop would be called First Major. The king's knight would be called First Captain. The queen's rook would be called Second Colonel. The queen's bishop would be called Second Major. The queen's knight would be called Second Captain. The pawns would be called Pioneers.
In 1809, the Zurich chess club was founded. It is the oldest chess club in the world that is still in existence today.
On July 9, 1813, the first newspaper chess column in the Liverpool Mercury. It ran until August 20, 1814. The column was written by Egerton Smith (1774-1841), the founder of the newspaper in 1811. It was also the first weekly publication.
In 1818, Major Sylvanius Thayer (1785-1872), the "Father of West Point," prohibited chess at West Point Military Academy. Thayer himself was a chess player but was afraid that chess would steal away study time.
In 1821, the first Russian manual on chess, "On the Game of Chess," was published by Ivan Butrimov.
On October 19, 1823, the earliest known chess column appeared in the weekly medical journal Lancet, by George Walker. It was entitled, "Origin of the game of chess." Due to the lack of popularity, it disappeared after less than a year.
On April 23, 1824, the first serious correspondence match was played, between London & Edinburgh. Edinburgh won in July 1826.
In May 1826, John Maelzel, the owner of the Turk Automaton Chess-Player, held a New York charity exhibition with The Turk and raised $128.50. The money was given to the Association for the Relief of Respectable Indigent Females.
In 1827, Charles Carrol, at the age of 89, played the chess automaton called The Turk at Baltimore and won. He was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence.
In 1828, the Hyderabad Chess Club of India played the Madras Chess Club of India in a correspondence match. This was the first major correspondence chess match outside Europe. The Madras Chess Club beat the Hyderabad Chess Club 2-0.
In 1831, the Lewis chessmen were discovered on the Isle of Lewis. 67 pieces were found. It is the oldest complete set.
In 1834, Jacques Mouret, former operator of the Turk, sold the secret to a magazine (Le MagasinPittoresque). It was the first authentic revelation of the Turk. The article was called "An attempt to analyze the automaton chess-player of M. Kempelen."
In 1836, the first chess magazine Le Palamede, was published in Paris by La Bourdonnais and J Mery. It ended in 1839.
On February 18, 1838, a correspondent, writing to Bell's Life, referred to William Lewis as a grand master. It was the first time that the term grandmaster was used in chess.
In 1839, the first chess club in Budapest (Pest) was formed. Its members included Jozsef Szen and Loewenthal. Chess clubs were not allowed following the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-1849. It wasn't until 1864 that the Budapest Chess Club was re-established.
In 1840, Fox Talbot, father of the calotype process, photographed two chess players playing chess. This may be the first instance of chess being in a photograph.
In 1841, Howard Staunton edited the first chess periodical, The Chess Player's Chronicle. It lasted until 1854.
On June 25, 1842, the first appearance of a chess column occurred in The Illustrated London News.
In 1843, the first documented American chess tournament was held, a local event in New York.
In October 1844, Howard Staunton returned to Paris for a third match with Saint-Amant, but soon fell ill with pneumonia. On October 14, the day before the match, he caught pneumonia and the match was cancelled. Staunton almost died and left his heart in a permanent weakness; the match was postponed and never took place. Staunton was unable to return to London for 3 months. The winner of the match would have received the equivalent of $750 in today's currency.
In 1845, a chess club was set up in Boston with 20 members. It disbanded in 1848 with only 10 members left as they tried to sell the club's few pieces of furniture at auction.
On October 1, 1846, the first chess magazine in America, Chess Palladium & Mathematical Sphinx and Mathematical Sphinx, came out, published by Taylor and Company, Astor House. It was edited by Napoleon Marache& J. Victor Wilson of Brooklyn. Issue No. 1 came out in October, Issue No.2 came out in November (18 3/4 cents or $2 per year), and Issue 3 came out in December. The price started out at 12.5 cents per issue or $1 for 12 issues. No.1 contained a $5 prize problem. The magazine was advertised in the New York Tribune, September 2, 1846. The magazine only lasted three issues. A review by the New York Spirit of the Times called the first issue "a most ridiculous jumble of unintelligible nonsense" in which it was nearly impossible to distinguish the chess matter from the mathematical. The publication of this periodical led to contention between it and The American Chess Magazine. This caused The Palladium to fold after three issues.
In 1847, the first women's chess club opened in Holland.
In 1847, General Romulo Diaz de la Vega was captured during the Mexican-American war and spent his time in the Castle of San Juan de Ulua prison playing chess. He later became the 23rd President of Mexico, but his government lasted only 22 days.
In 1848, a Revolution forced Karl Marx out of Belgium where he was planning a revolutionary action. He was forced to flee back in France, where he spent much of the time playing chess in the Paris cafes.
In January 1849, Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862) won the Ries Divan (London) knockout chess contest. It was the first modern chess tourney. It was the first time the word "tournament" applied to a real tournament — England.
In 1850, Pope Pius IX (1792-1878) amused himself by playing chess with his Cardinals in Rome.
On May 27, 1851, it was the opening day of the 1st international tournament (the Grand Chess Tournament), London. It was held at St. George's Chess Club, RoyaL Polytechnic Institute Building, 5 Cavendish Square during the Great Industrial Exhibition (World's Fair). There was no entry fee. Admission to the tournament was three guineas. There were 32 participants in this knockout event.
On May 18, 1853, Lionel Kieseritzky, one of France's greatest chess players, died in Paris at the age of 47. He was committed to a mental home in Paris earlier. He was buried in a pauper's grave; its location has been found but not his exact plot.
In June 1855, Charles Henry Stanley, British Vice Consul at the port of New York and U.S. chess champion, was arrested in New York on the charge of violating the neutrality laws by inviting Americans to enlist in the British army and proceeding to the Crimea.
On December 15, 1856, the first regularly organized college chess club began at Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut.
In August 1857, the first British Chess Association (BCA) Congress was held in Manchester. The winner was Johann Jacob Loewenthal (1810-1876) in the 8-person major section. Loewenthal was supposed to play Boden in the final round, but after the first game was drawn, Boden was unable to remain in Manchester, and conceded the prize to Loewenthal. First prize was a set of Chinese carved ivory chessmen. John Owens (1827-1901) won the 16-player minor section. The first-place prize was a set of Staunton chessmen made of wood.
In February 1858, the Duke of Brunswick brought legal action against the Gazette-de-Paris for censuring his practice of playing chess in his opera box. He sued for 10,000 francs.
In April 1859, a Brooklyn baseball team was named after Paul Morphy. The "Morphy Base Ball Club" was active in New York for several years. Paul Morphy was an honorary member.
In 1859, Dr. James Smith McCune (1813-1865), an African-American, was one of the first Black chess players of note and wrote several essays promoting chess as a healthy form of entertainment, published in Anglo-African Magazine. He characterized chess as an art that required work and continual practice. He was also the first African-American to earn a medical degree and to run a pharmacy in the United States.
In 1860, lawyer Abraham Lincoln played chess while living in Springfield, Illinois. It was noted that he played a fair game.
In 1861, the 2nd American Chess Congress was being organized, but it was cancelled due to the Civil War. It wasn't until 1871 that the 2nd American Chess Congress was held.
In 1862, chess player Armand Edward Blackmar (1826-1888), of 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 June 1864, former Union Captain George H. Mackenzie (1837-1891) was marked as a deserter, was arrested, and was forfeited all pay and allowances. He was released in May 1865 and moved to New York and started playing chess. By 1867, he was U.S. chess champion.
In August 1865, Thomas Bill pleaded guilty to stealing two pairs of boots at the New York Hotel that belonged to Paul Morphy, who had just arrived in New York. Bill was sent to prison.
In 1866, William Russ, leading American compiler of chess problems in the 19th century, killed himself. He adopted an 11-year old girl and proposed to her when she turned 21. When she rejected him, he shot her four times in the head, then shot himself twice. She survived, he did not. His chess book, published posthumously, was entitled "American Chess Nuts."
In 1867, at the Dundee tournament, Steinitz got in an argument with Blackburne. He then spit on Blackburne, who promptly knocked Steinitz's head through a window.
In 1872, the Chess Federation of Canada (CFC) was founded. At the time, it was called the Canadian Chess Association (CCA). Its first president was J.B. Cherriman. Around that time, the first Canadian chess book was published. On August 20, 1874, Thomas Wilson Barnes (1825-1874) died after going on a diet and losing 130 pounds in 10 months (he originally weighed 220 pounds). He couldn't stop dieting. It was more than his system could handle. He was one of the strongest English chess players in the 1850s. He scored more wins than anyone else against Paul Morphy, defeating him 8 times. Morphy considered him the strongest player he had ever encountered.
In 1877, chess was first played using the telephone. The first documented telephone chess game is from Dr. White and Mr. Treadwell of New York. Treadwell won.
In 1878, a subscription was raised by American chess players to send James Mason (1849-1905) to a Paris tournament. Mason failed to win any prize money and was so embarrassed, that he did not return to the United States. He then settled in London. The first-place prize at the Paris tournament was a Sevres vase, worth over 5,000 francs. It was won by Johannes Zukertort, given to him by the President of France. Zukertort sold it three days later at a pawn shop for about half the value.
In 1879, Mary Rudge won the first Women's International Chess Congress in London.
In 1880, James Grundy needed a win in the last round to tie for first place at the 5th American Chess Congress. Grundy bribed his opponent, Preston Ware, $20 during the game to let Ware's advantage slip into a draw so that Grundy could make sure of second place. When Ware agreed and took the money, Grundy tricked him and played for a win which he did. Grundy was later banned from organized chess in America.
In 1882, James Mason (1849-1905) became the first person to forfeit a chess game by losing on time. It happed at Vienna where everyone played with a chess timing piece.
On April 26, 1883, the London International Tournament began. It was the first tourney in which double-headed chess clocks were used. Time control was 15 moves in two hours, and if you failed to make the time limit, you forfeited the game. The time piece consisted of two balanced clocks on a seesaw beam so that when one was tilted, it stopped and the other started. The tumbling-clock was manufactured by Fattonini & Sons of Bradford, England.
In 1884, George Vanderbilt was given the chess table and chessmen that formerly belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. The gift came from Mr. McHenry, who previously owned it in London. When Napoleon died, the physicians, when making their post-mortem examination, removed his heart and put it in one of the drawers of the chess table. The table still had the deep stains of blood on the inside of the drawer. Vanderbilt offered $10,000 for the table, but it was refused and McHenry gave it as a gift since he had no use for the table. The table is on display at the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina.
In 1885, Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill's father, was elected vice president of the British Chess Federation. He was the co-founder of the Oxford University Chess Club and took chess lessons from Zukertort and Steinitz.
On January 11, 1886 the first game for the official world chess championship began at Cartier's Hall on 5th Avenue in New York. Steinitz wanted the U.S. flag to be placed next to him during the match, even though he still was an Austrian citizen (he became an American citizen almost three years later). Less than 40 people were present at the start of this historical match, despite Steinitz's daughter, Flora, selling programs and photographs to earn a few extra dollars for the family. Steinitz couldn't even afford a winter coat for her daughter. The time control was 30 moves in 2 hours, with a 2-hour dinner break, then 15 moves an hour. A demonstration chess board was first used in this world championship match, run by George Mackenzie.
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 1889, James Mason lost to David Baird at a chess tournament in New York after 8 moves. Mason had visited a barroom just before the game and was unable to play any further because he was too drunk.
In 1889, after the 6th American Chess Congress was over, there was no money left for the non-prize winners. Taubenhaus of Paris was left destitute, having spent all his money he had to live on during the two months of the tourney. He received a cable dispatch from Paris to return and help manipulate the automaton Mephisto for 100 francs a week. But Taubenhaus had no money to buy a ticket for a ship leaving for Europe. He asked the tournament committee for $25 to enable him to secure at least a steerage passage, but the request was refused.
On Jan 22, 1890, a large fire broke out in New Orleans. It burned down the New Orleans Chess, Checkers, and Whist Club, including its chess library, valued at $15,000. The chess club had one of the most valuable libraries in the world, including a lot of Paul Morphy memorabilia. Morphy's relics, score sheets, autographs, portraits, and stationary were all destroyed.
In 1891, William Steinitz again played Mikhail Chigorin in Havana by cable and lost. Shortly afterward, the New York police arrested Steinitz as a Russian spy for using chess code over a cable. This was cleared up later on.
On November 4, 1892, a shooting occurred in William Steinitz's house in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. His previous American secretary, Arthur Williams, shot his new French secretary, Edward Treital, in the bedroom and tried to kill his successor with a double-barrel shotgun. Treital lost his left arm.
In 1893, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) wrote a short story called Moxon's Master. It was first published in his 1893 short story collection Can Such Things Be? (and reprinted in 1909). It appeared in the San Francisco Examiner newspaper on April 16, 1899. It is one of the first descriptions of a robot in English literature. The story describes a chess-playing automaton or robot that murders its creator, Mr. Moxon. The unnamed narrator converses with Moxon at his house, who is playing chess with his robot. The narrator leaves, but later returns to the house and finds that Moxon wins the chess game with a checkmate and the automaton strangles him in an apparent fit of rage. In 1894, Emanuel Lasker 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 1894, Alfred Binet (1857-1911) carried out the first psychological study of the game of chess, with emphasis on the mental abilities of chess masters.
On March 13, 1896, the first cable chess match between Great Britain and the United States began. It was organized by the Brooklyn Chess Club, and would be the first Anglo-American chess match. The first team match had 8 players per side. Subsequent matches had 10 players per side. Sir George Newnes (1851-1910) was president of the British Chess Club and he provided a $300 silver cup that would go to the winning team. Newnes was an editor and publisher of magazines in Britain. He was the first to publish the Sherlock Holmes mystery series, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. USA won the first match, 4.5 to 3.5.
In 1897, Norman Willem van Lennep (1872-1897), a Dutch chess master, killed himself by jumping into the North Sea from a ship at the age of 25. His father had disowned him unless he gave up chess and found a steady job.
On May 31st to June 1st, 1897, a cable match was arranged between five members of the U.S. House of Representatives (3 Democrats, 1 Republican, and 1 Populist) in Washington, DC, and five members of the British House of Commons in London. The match ended in a draw, 2.5 to 2.5. This match was arranged by Richmond Pearson (1852-1923), U.S. Representative of North Carolina and Sir John Heaton (1848-1914), a British Conservative Member of Parliament. In this match, a record of time in cable matches was established. Twenty moves were cabled in 21.5 minutes, one move going to and from Washington in 14 seconds. The signals were carried by the Anglo American Telegraph Company and the Western Union Telegraph Company.
In Jan 1899, former world chess champion William Steinitz resigned from the Manhattan Chess Club after a judge said that the club was not a club for professional players. Steinitz took offense and resigned his membership.
In 1901, chess master and addicted gambler David Janowski won an international tournament at Monte Carlo. He then 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 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 1902 the first chess match between players on different ships at sea was played by passengers on the American liner Philadelphia and the Cunard liner Campania 70 miles away. The moves were broadcast by wireless operators aboard the ships. The match was not concluded since the radio was required for navigational use.
In Aug 1903, "A Chess Dispute" was released. It was the first film about chess.
In 1903, retired French Army Colonel Charles Paul Narcisse Moreau (1837-1916) lost all 26 games at the Monte Carlo tournament in February-March, 1903. He was a French soldier serving in the artillery and an officer of the French Legion of Honor.
In 1904, the chess cable matches between the United States and England was halted due to the Russio-Japanese ware, which made arrangements for the cabling too difficult. The cables were filled with battle reports and diplomatic necessities, with no time to allow chess cable matches.
In May 1905, U.S. chess champion Harry Nelson Pillsbury (1872-1906) tried to commit suicide at the Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia hospital during a fit of insanity, brought on by syphilis. He tried to jump from the 4th story window. He was stopped by several nurses and doctors.
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.
In September 1906, Jose Capablanca entered Columbia University to study chemical engineering and perhaps play professional baseball. Capablanca was soon selected as shortstop for the Columbia University freshman team, and later played second base, where he was varsity team captain.
In 1908, Emanuel Lasker married at the age of 48 and became husband, father, and grandfather all at once. His wife, a few years older than he, was already a grandmother.
On August 2, 1909, Rudolf Swiderski committed suicide in Leipzig at the age of 31. He was a German chess master. He played in eight major tournaments from 1902 to 1908 with his best results being 1st at Coburg 1904 and 1st at the Monte Carlo 1904 Rice Gambit theme tournament. He took some poison, and then shot himself in the head with his revolver. He had recently been convicted of perjury in connection with a love affair and he was to face legal proceedings.
In 1911, Akiba Rubinstein at the 1911 San Sebastian international tournament, complained of a fly which kept settling on his forehead and breaking his concentration. After he won the tournament, the tournament director, Jacques Mieses, took him to a leading psycho-neurologist at Munich. The doctor examined Rubinstein and said, "My friend, you are mad. But what does it matter? You are a chess master!"
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 1913, there were 5,000 chess book titles worldwide. Now there over 100,000 titles.
On Aug 2, 1914, the last round of Mannheim tournament, 19th German Chess Federation Championship was played. Alekhine led by 9.5 — 1.5, followed by Vidmar and Spielmann. After the declaration of war, eleven "Russian" players were interned in Rastatt, Germany. On September 14, 17, and 29, 1914, four of them were freed and allowed to return home via Switzerland. Romanovsky was freed and went back to Petrograd in 1915, and a sixth one, Flamberg was allowed to return to Warsaw in 1916.
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 by James Smith and Emma Haddera. One player lost to it and was so angry he took out a gun and shot at the torso of the automaton. It killed its hidden operator, Sam Gonotsky, 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, The first-place prize for the winner of the Tarrasch-Mieses chess match was a half-pound of butter.
In October 1917, after the Bolshevik revolution, chess was officially discouraged in Russia as a "decadent bourgeois pastime." Virtually all organized chess activities and chess clubs ended in Russia.
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.
In 1918 chess master Ossip Bernstein was arrested in Odessa by the Cheka and ordered shot by a firing squad 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 chess 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.
In 1918, Carl Schlechter starved to death during the war-imposed famine in Central Europe, never mentioning to any of his acquaintances that he needed money or food.
In June 1919, Alexander Alekhine was briefly imprisoned in Odessa's death cell by the Odessa Cheka, suspected of being a spy. He was charged with links with White counter-intelligence after the Russians liberated the Ukraine from German occupation. He was sentenced by a Revolutionary tribunal to be shot by a firing squad. Some sources say that Leon Trotsky himself spared Alekhine's life.
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 food rations and prize money. Their demands were finally met.
On February 1, 1921, the American state department and the American consulate in Berlin refused to give a visa to world chess champion Emanuel Lasker and his wife for his proposed trip to the United States and Cuba to meet Capablanca. Lasker planned on going to Cuba via New York, but the State Department refused to give Lasker a visa for any American port city because of his German background. Lasker then made arrangements to travel via Amsterdam direct to Havana.
In 1922, a picture of Samuel Reshevsky playing Charlie Chaplin on a Drueke chess set appeared in the January 1922 issue of the American Chess Bulletin. Another picture was taken of Charlie Chaplin playing Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (1833-1939) in a game of chess while Reshevsky watched. Charlie Chaplin offered Reshevsky a movie job, but Reshevsky's advisors turned it down for religious reasons.
On June 3, 1923, Sam Katz was playing a game against Louis Silverman at the Pitkin Chess Club in New York. Katz made a move which resulted in the loss of Silverman's queen. The shock of losing his queen caused Silverman to have a heart attack. He died at the chess board. Silverman was only 47.
In 1924, Curt von Bardeleben, was one of the strongest chess players in Germany. He committed suicide by jumping out of an upper window of his boarding house in Berlin.
In September 1925, Mrs. June Sawyer was granted a divorce from her husband, Barritt Sawyer of Philadelphia, on the charge of cruel and barbarous treatment. Mrs. Sawyer alleged that her husband lost control and hit and beat her following chess games in which she defeated him in a game of chess.
In 1927, Marcel Duchamp got married for the first time. Later, his bride, Lydie, glued all his chess pieces to the board because he spent his honeymoon week studying chess. They were divorced three months later. Duchamp later married a chess player.
In July 1928, the Brooklyn YMCA banned chess. All the chess tables and pieces were removed and the YMCA management forbade its members from playing chess even on a magnetic or pocket chess set. The secretary of the YMCA concluded that chess attracted too many undesirable elements to the YMCA and that too many chess players or spectators were smoking during a chess game. Smoking was forbidden inside the YMCA. The YMCA also did not want to fund the extra supervisory personnel it needed to keep a room open for chess.
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 April 1930, chess was banned in Harbin, China as too dangerous and "against the public welfare." Manchurian Chinese police raided cafes 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, Maroczy challenged Nimzowitsch to a pistol duel during an international tournament in Bled. Nimzowitsch rightly declined.
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 1932, chess master Norman Whitaker (1890-1975) gained notoriety during the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr in March 1932. A former FBI Agent named Gaston Means concocted a scheme to swindle $104,000 from a wealthy heiress by claiming to be in contact with the kidnappers. Means intended to use Whitaker as the bagman to pick up her money, but both were arrested and convicted. Whitaker was later convicted of attempted extortion. He claimed that the Lindbergh kidnappers had refused $49,500 of the ransom money paid by Mrs. Evalyn McLean because the serial numbers on the money had been published. Therefore, he demanded replacement money in the amount of $35,000, in exchange for which he promised to return the original $49,500 plus the baby. That was when the FBI was finally called in. Whitaker never got any of the money and, when asked what happened to the money, Whitaker replied, "I do not know and I wish I did". Whitaker got out in just 18 months. Earlier in his life, he was convicted of several other crimes, including auto theft, sending morphine through the mail, and sexual molestation of a minor. He served time in Alcatraz and was a friend of Al Capone there.
In 1933 Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment, wanted an "All-German Chess League." He barred all Jewish chess masters from official tournaments of the German Chess League. Goebbels sought out players who were of strong National Socialist persuasion.
On March 26, 1934 Alexander Alekhine married for the 4th time to Grace Wishart at Villefranche-sur-Mer in the French Riviera. The marriage certificate spells her maiden name as Wishaar.
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 1935, Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti wrote "Auto de Fe." The main character was named Fisher, who dreams of becoming world chess champion and buying clothes from the best tailors in the world. Just like Bobby Fischer in 1965.
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 1937 Nikolai Krylenko, Commissar for Justice for the USSR and Secretary of the Soviet Chess Federation, was arrested and charged with retarding the development of chess, cutting it off from the social and political life of the Soviet Union. He was ordered executed by Stalin as an enemy of the people and shot the next day.
In 1939, U. S. chess master Weaver Adams (1901-1963) wrote a book called "White to Play and Win." Just after publication of his book, he played in a chess tournament in Dallas. He lost all his games as White and won all his games as Black!
On February 17, 1940, the several times New England chess champion, Harold Morton (1906-1940), died in Iowa after a car wreck. His passenger, Al Horowitz (1907-1973), was seriously injured. They were travelling together giving tandem simultaneous chess exhibitions across the country. Morton was driving on the return trip from the west back to an exhibition in Minneapolis when he collided with a truck. Morton was killed instantly, and Horowitz suffered a concussion and chest injuries.
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.
On January 21, 1941, Arthur Harris, age 65, had the honor of meeting and playing an exhibition match with I.A. Horowitz in Kansas City, Missouri. Harris told friends at the Kansas City Chess Club that he was about to experience the greatest thrill of his life playing Horowitz. Then he sat down at the chess table opposite Horowitz about to make his first move. A moment later, Harris slumped across the table. He had died of a heart attack from the excitement.
In 1942 Arnold Denker beat Reshevsky on time in the U.S. Championship. While spectators watched, the tournament director (Walter Stephens) mistakenly declared that Denker's time had expired. He came from behind, picked up the chess clock and flipped it over, and was looking at the clock backwards. He refused to change is decision, which ultimately gave Reshevsky the title.
In 1943, Alexander Kotov (1913-1975), who later became a grandmaster, was a military engineer who designed the 120-PM-43 mortar. t was used in the Soviet army up until the late 1980s. He was awarded the Order of Lenin for his mortar design.
In 1943, Humphrey Bogart was contacted by the FBI and ordered not to play postal chess with anyone overseas. The FBI though that the chess notation was some kind of secret code. Bogart had been playing correspondence chess with some military service members.
In 1944 Vyacheslav Ragozin trained with Mikhail Botvinnik for the USSR Championship. They trained with a radio going full blast in the room to get accustom to a possibly noisy tournament hall. Ragozin ended up in 14th place out of 17 and blamed his results on the unusual quietness of the tournament hall!
In 1944, world woman chess champion Vera Menchik-Stevenson (1906-1944) died in a German bombing of London. She died in London 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, when the Red Army liberated the Estonia, Soviet authorities planned initially to execute Paul Keres because he participated in German tournaments during World War II. Botvinnik interceded by talking to Stalin and Keres was spared.
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 choked to death on a piece of meat while playing over a chess game. His body was not buried for three weeks as no one wanted to claim his body. Only 10 people showed up for his funeral. He was buried in Portugal but in 1956, his body was transferred to Paris. His tombstone has his birth and death date wrong. Years later, a storm wrecked his burial site.
In 1947, Herman Steiner (1905-1955) was the chess advisor for the movie Cass Timberlane, starring Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner. Steiner told Lana Turner, "Don't play chess. Sitting at a chess board for hours might make you fat and spoil your perfect figure." There were several chess scenes in the movie.
In 1948, David Bronstein was the winner of the first chess Interzonal at Saltsjobaden who survived an assassination attack during the tournament. On the last day Bronstein was playing Tartakover. Suddenly, a Lithuanian made a lunge at Bronstein to kill him. Several spectators grabbed the potential assassin. He wanted to murder all Russians because he claimed the Russians were responsible for sending his sister to Siberia and murdering her.
In 1948, Kit Crittenden won the North Carolina chess championship at age 13, becoming the nation's youngest state champion. The year before, he finished in last place in the state championship.
In 1949, 125,000 chess players competed for the championship of the USSR collective farms.
In 1950, Walter Bjornson, a chess player in Vancouver, British Columbia, was arrested for assault after cutting his chess opponent in the arm with a knife after he lost a chess game.
In March 2, 1951, James Bolton (1928-2004), 22, was arrested in Connecticut's first draft evasion case under the new Selective Service Act after the outbreak of the Korean War. He testified he believed the law was unconstitutional and lost. He was sentenced to one year and one day in jail. Bolton was the winner of the 1950 New England chess championship. He won the Connecticut State Championship in 1953, 1957, and 1966.
In March 1952, Pal Benko (1928-2019) 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 the 1950s, British chess master Conel Hugh O'Donal Alexander was prohibited from travelling to any communist country because of his association with cryptography. He helped break the German Enigma Code during World War II.
In 1952 there was an international chess 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 and had to drop out in the middle of the tournament. Finally, the Cuban champion, Juan Quesada, playing in the event died of a heart attack during one of his games. His funeral was attended by all the chess masters participating.
In 1953, Bent Larsen labored all night on an adjourned game to find a winning line. Then he tried to get a few hours' sleep. He lost the game because he had overslept and failed to appear on time.
From June 16 to June 24, 1954, a chess match was played between a team from the USSR and a team from the USA at the Hotel Roosevelt in Manhattan. It was the first time the Soviet chess team played on United States soil. The match drew 1,100 spectators, more than any other previous chess event in U.S. history. The match was refereed by Hans Kmoch (1894-1973). The USSR team won 20-12. Bobby Fischer, age 11, attended all four rounds and kept score of all the games.
In 1955 GM Fridrik Olafsson arrived late to participate in the annual Hastings tournament in England. No rooms could be found for him, so he spent his first night in a cell at the Hastings police station as a guest to the local police.
n 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.
In 1956, Isaac Kashdan (1905-1985) appeared on the Groucho Marx "You Bet Your Life." The episode aired February 9, 1956. Groucho kept calling Kashdan Mr. Ash Can throughout the show. The partner with Kashdan was Helen Schwartz, the mother of Tony Curtis. Kashdan told Groucho that it was pretty hard to cheat in chess. Groucho responded, "If I cannot 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, Samuel Reshevsky played Donald Byrne in a match in New York. In the first game of the match, Byrne's flag had fallen, and Reshevsky offered a draw. Byrne accepted, and the draw stood, because Reshevsky did not claim a loss on time after the flag fell before the game ended. In the 2nd game, Byrne's flag fell again, and again Reshevsky did not notice it. Then Reshevsky's flag fell. Neither player noticed that both flags had fallen. However, Mrs. Reshevsky, sitting in the audience, remembering that is was important to claim a flag-fall, claimed it herself. Byrne pointed out that only the player on the move could claim a time forfeit. Since it was his move, he claimed the game himself. An appeals committee was organized to settle the dispute, which Byrne objected to. The committee declared that the game was drawn. Byrne then walked out of the match but returned later. He lost the match 7-3.
In 1957, there were only 50 grandmasters in the world. The USSR had 19, followed by Yugoslavia with 7, then the USA at 5, and Argentina at 4.
In 1957, William Lombardy won the World Junior Championship in 1957 with a perfect 11-0 score. The event was held in Toronto, Canada. He was the first American to win an official world chess championship. Lombardy had won the Canadian Open the year before.
In 1958 the reigning Irish chess champion won his game at the Munich Olympiad, yet team Ireland lost the match 0-4! That's because the Irish Champion, Wolfgang Heidenfeld, played for South Africa, where their team defeated Ireland 4-0.
In 1959, Robin Ault, the first person to win the U.S. Junior Championship three times in a row, was invited to play in the U.S. championship. He lost all 11 games. After that, the U.S. Junior champion was no longer invited to play in the U.S. chess championship.
In 1959, a Soviet scientist in Vostok Station, Antarctica was killed by an axe when his fellow Soviet researcher lost a chess game to him.
In June 1960, an American sailor, Michael George, got into a fight at a Greenwich Village bar, Chumley's, when a spectator criticized the sailor's chess game after he lost. The sailor struck the spectator (Clinton Curtis) with a broken beer bottle, which cut his jugular vein. The sailor was eventually acquitted of murder and charged with accidental death instead.
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.
In 1961, Robert Scrivener won the Mississippi State Championship at the age of 80, the oldest state champion.
In 1961, Edward Lasker (1885-1981) became an International Master at the age of 75. He was the inventor of the mechanical breast pump. He was a distant relative to former world champion Emanuel Lasker.
In 1962, Lisa Lane, U.S. women's champion, withdrew from the Hastings, England Reserve tournament after a draw and 2 losses. She said she could not concentrate because she was "homesick and in love."
In 1963, chess master Abe Turner was killed after being stabbed nine times in the back by a fellow employee, Theodore Smith, at Chess Review. Abe had been working there for two weeks. The assailant had been released from an asylum and claimed that Turner was a Communist spy and had to be killed on orders from the Secret Service.
In 1963, Mrs. Edvige Ruinstein, a wife of a chess player in Milan, Italy, filed for divorce because her husband was so obsessed with chess that he refused to work and support their two children. The court ruled that Mrs. Ruinstein was entitled to a separation from her husband.
In September 1964, a radio match between a South African Antarctic outpost and Radio Nederland had to be called off because Moscow radio was jamming their frequency.
In 1965, Ray Charles was busted and hospitalized for heroin addiction. He learned chess in the hospital where he went cold turkey. He used a peg set made for the blind. His favorite opponent was Willie Nelson, which he beat.
In 1966, chess master Jude Acers played 114 opponents at the Louisiana State Fair, and won all 114 games.
In 1966 Mikhail Tal was hit in the head with a bottle in a bar during the 1966 Olympiad in Havana and beaten up. He had been flirting with some women in a bar. Tal missed the first five rounds of the Olympics because of his injuries.When he did appear in the tournament hall, it was with his head heavily bandaged.
In 1966, Master Emeritus Walter Ivans (1870-1966) died at age 98. He had a chess-playing span of 85 years.
In April 1967, Bobby Fischer took 1st place at Monaco. His USCF rating was 2762. He received an appearance fee of $2,000 and a 5,000-franc first prize. The trophy was presented to him by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Fischer refused to pose for a photograph with the prince or princess.
In 1968, Ken Rogoff gave a 26-board blindfold simultaneous exhibition at the age of 15, a world record for his age. The exhibition, at the Rochester Chess Club in New York, lasted 5 hours.
In 1968, GM Ludek Pachman was imprisoned in Czechoslovakia after openly protesting the Soviet occupation of his land in 1968. He was beaten and suffered a broken skull and backbone.
In 1968, the USA only had 25 blind chess players in its Braille Chess Association. The USSR had 150,000 blind players in its Braille Chess Association.
In 1970, Mark Taimanov returned to the USSR in disgrace after losing to Bobby Fischer 6-0 in Vancouver, British Columbia. 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 Solzhenitsyn'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.
In 1970, Vitaly Sevastianov, became the first person to play chess in space, during the Soyuz IX mission. He invented the Soyuz-Apollo cocktail (25% vodka, 25% gin, 50% brandy). It was designed to put you in orbit. He later became president of the USSR Chess Federation.
In 1971, a prisoner failed to return to Western Penitentiary from a chess match at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. A week later a second prisoner escaped after a chess tournament. The warden remarked, "I'm afraid we won't be invited back to the university if this keeps up."
In 1972, Tigran Petrosian, at the Skopje Chess Olympiad, lost a game on time to Robert Huebner, his first loss on time in his whole career. When he was later told that the incident had been shown on TV, he said, "If I had known that, I would definitely have smashed the clock."
In 1973, The police raided a chess tournament in Cleveland, Ohio, arrested the tournament director and confiscated the chess sets on charges of allowing gambling (cash prizes to winners) and possession of gambling devices (the chess sets). The case was later dismissed.
In 1974, FIDE temporarily banned South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from the chess Olympiad in Nice, France, due to their apartheid practices.
On June 5, 1975, GM Paul Keres (1916-1975) died of a heart attack in Helsinki at the age of 59. He died of a heart attack while returning home to Estonia from the Vancouver Open 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 (he did not play in any tournament in 1974 due to health problems). 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.
In 1976, Tony Miles (1955-2001) became the first English-born player to become a grandmaster for over-the-board chess play. He once defeated the World Othello Champion at his own game.
At the 1976 Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires, a rich member of a Middle East team tried to buy one of the girls working at the site for $1 million. The offer was not taken up.
In 1976, David Lawson (1886-1980) was 89 years old when his biography of Paul Morphy, Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess. He is perhaps the oldest chess author of a major chess book.
In 1977, Viktor Korchnoi was injured in a car wreck in Switzerland and had to postpone his semi-final match against Boris Spassky. Korchnoi 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 1977, the worst performance in a simultaneous exhibition took place in New Jersey. A player invited 180 opponents to play him. Only 20 showed up and 18 won. Of the two losses, one was to the exhibiter's mother.
In 1978, grandmaster William Lombardy (1937-2017) was attacked in New York City 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, Irina Levitina (1954- ), a 4-time USSR Women's Chess Champion, qualified but was not allowed to play in the 1979 Women's Interzonal because her brother emigrated to Israel (legally).
In 1979, GM Milan Matulovic (1935-2013) was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to 9 months in prison for a car crash in which a woman was killed. Matulovic complained that the sentence was too long because, "…she was only a Bosnian."
In 1980, John Jarecki (1969- ) won the National Elementary and National Junior High Chess Championship in the same year.
In 1980, GM Igor Ivanov (1947-2005) went to Cuba with the rest of his Soviet team to play in the Capablanca Memorial. On the way back to the USSR, during a refueling stop in Newfoundland, Ivanov left the aircraft and defected to Canada, and later, to America.
In 1981, future grandmaster John Fedorowicz and grandmaster Andras Adorjan got into a fistfight at the Edward Lasker Memorial on New York. Fedorowicz was upset that Adorjan beat him when Adorjan was drawing all his earlier games. Most of the blows landed not on each other, but on the tournament director, Eric Schiller, who was trying to break up the fight.
In 1981, English International Master Andrew Martin played 430 blitz (5-minute) games in 60 hours and winning over 70% of his games.
In 1982, Ken Thompson traveled to Moscow for a computer chess tournament and thought his chess-playing computer BELLE was with him on the plane. 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.
In 1982 the Israel Chess Championship was stopped as several of its participants were called up for Army service in the war with Lebanon.
There were 88 grandmasters on the world in 1972, with 33 GMs from the USSR.
In 1983 two bus drivers from Bristol, England played chess non-stop for 200 hours. Roger Long and Graham Croft played 189 games with Long winning 96 to 93.
In 1986, Nick Down, a former British Junior Correspondence Champion, was banned from British Correspondence Chess Association tournaments. In the 1985-86 British Ladies Correspondence Chess Championship, Nick Down entered as Miss Leigh Strange and won the event. He was later caught and admitted his deception was a prank that got out of hand.
In 1986, the $900,000 prize fund from the Karpov-Kasparov world chess championship was donated to the victims of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.
In August 1986, Russian Grandmaster Georgy Agzamov had just finished a chess tournament in Sevastopol and decided to go hiking. He fell off a cliff an became trapped between two rocks. Other people heard his cries for help, but he was too deep down, and by the time rescue crews got to him, it was too late, and he died.
In 1987 the Zone 11 (East Asia/Australia) Zonal in Jakarta, Indonesia was cancelled after charges that the Chinese players were throwing games to insure one of their own advanced to the Interzonals. A majority of players refused to play after a Chinese player resigned a drawn game and lost on time to other Chinese players. The player was watching other games and made no attempt to make time control against the front-runner, Xu Jun. FIDE then nullified the tournament. Later, FIDE President Campomanes reversed the decision, and ruled that the results would stand.
In 1988, Stan Vaughan of Nevada played 1,124 correspondence games at once.
In 1988, three-time Cuban champion Guillermo Garcia 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. He died in an automobile accident near Havana and the money was never paid.
In 1989, the Belgrade Grandmaster's Association (GMA) had 98 grandmasters participating, the most grandmasters in one tournament.
In 1989, the Los Angeles Police Department vice officers raided a nightly chess tournament at Dad's Donuts. They cited three men for gambling after finding $1.50 on the table. The plainclothes detectives staged the raid after one tried unsuccessfully to join a blitz game. The detective then pulled out his badge and said, "you are under arrest," and the other police officers swooped in.
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 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.
In 1992, Robert Bryan of England shot Matthew Hay 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 in the neck with a shotgun.
In 1993, chess was banned from American River College in California because of disruptive behavior on people playing in the cafeteria and library. Campus police ordered some chess players to stop playing chess. The players refused and the campus police confiscated the chess board and pieces.
In 1993, a person was shot and killed while playing a chess game in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the first to die from sniper fire while playing chess.
In 1994, Rustam Kamsky, GM Gata Kamsky's father, threatened to kill grandmaster Nigel Short at a restaurant during a Kamsky-Short chess match. Rustam, a former boxer, would often go to chess tournaments with his some and threaten anyone who he perceived was disturbing the concentration of his son.
In 1994, FIDE master Graham Burgess played 500 games of blitz chess (5-minute chess) in 3 days. He won over 75% of his games.
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.
In 1995, Robert Smeltzer of Dallas played 2,266 USCF-rated games in one year, the most ever.
In June 1995, Gilberto Rodriquez-Orejuela was arrested in Columbia for illegal importation of 200 metric tons of cocaine over the past 10 years. He was known as "the chess player" for his hobby of playing chess.
In 1996, Swedish GM Ulf Anderson set a world record by playing 310 boards simultaneously, winning 268, drawing 40, and losing 3 in 15 hours and 23 minutes.
In 1996 chess and other clubs were banned from some high schools in Salt Lake City, Utah. Most of the school board is Mormon which condemns homosexuality. Rather than let gay high school students form an organization, they banned all nonacademic clubs. School board members said federal law gave them only two options: allow all extracurricular clubs or eliminate them all. Some 30 clubs, including the chess club, are banned for 1996-97.
On February 16, 1997, Alvis Vitolins (1946-1997), Latvian International Master, committed suicide by jumping onto the frozen ice of the Gauja river from a railway bridge. He was only 50.
In August 1998, China hosted the Women's Candidates Final Match between Russian GM Alisa Galliamova and GM Xie Jun. Galliamova refused to play as she objected that the entire match was scheduled to be played in China. However, China was the only country to bid for the match. The match was declared forfeited to Xie Jun.
In 1999, at the Bobingen Open, a German club player Clemens Allwermann used an earpiece linked to Fritz to win all his games. He was subsequently exposed and returned his prize money.
In May 17, 1999, Lembit Oll (1966-1999) committed suicide by jumping out of the window of his apartment on the 5th floor. At the time, he was ranked number 42 in the world in chess. He suffered severe depression after his divorce.
In 2000, Laurence Douglas of Poughkeepsie, 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 Williams 16 times.
In 2001, chess was allowed in Afghanistan after being banned by the Taliban in 1994.
On February 1, 2002, the Manhattan Chess Club closed. It existed for 124 years. Its last president was Jeff Kossak.
In 2003, the first Chess Boxing World Championship was held.
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.
2004, supermodel Carmen Kass was elected president of the Estonian Chess Federation. She was president from 2004 to 2011.
In 2005, Grandmaster Mato Damjanovic was banned from tournament play for one year for pretending to play in a chess tournament (Kali Cup) which did not exist.
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, $73,000 was donated on behalf of a chess program and team at an elementary school in Washington, D.C. It turned out that the school business manager who handled the funds was a thief. The business manager ripped off most of the $73,000 that was supposed to go to the chess program. The person used the school's ATM card more than 100 times to steal from the chess fund. When the pillage was discovered, the school security and the police were immediately notified, but the authorities did little or nothing until an anonymous tipster told the D.C. government's inspector general about the missing money. Before the plundering, the money was used to fund 12 Washington D.C. kids to Nashville to take part in the national scholastic chess tournament. The children of the chess team never competed in another tournament after the theft of their funds.
In 2008, a man was arrested by Boston police on a warrant of receiving stolen property. He was supposed to have been running an extracurricular chess program for elementary school students, charging $63.50 per student, but it was a scam.
In 2009, Magnus Carlsen's rating was 2810, ranking him number one in the world and the youngest ever to be rated number one in the world at the age of 19 years and one month.
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 fight.
In 2011, the French Chess Federation suspended two Grandmasters and one International Master, finding them "guilty of a violation of sporting ethics" for allegedly cheating during the 2010 Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk. They may have been texting each other chess moves on their mobile phones.
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.
On August 8, 2013, GM Igor Kurnosov of Russia has hit and killed by a car in his home town of Chelyabinsk, Russia.
In 2013, the number of FIDE-rated chess players reached a new peak of 150,000 players. There were 50 players in the world rated over 2700.
In May 2014, Magnus Carlsen had a FIDE rating of 2882, the highest ever.
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.
On March 6, 2015, a 10-year-old boy lost a game of chess at a school tournament in Dumont, New Jersey, walked to the school window and jumped to his death.
In September 2016, the U.S. chess team won the 2016 Chess Olympiad held in Baku, Azerbaijan. It was the first time an American team had taken first place in a Chess Olympiad in which Russia or the Soviet Union competed.
In 2017, at the Chess World Cup held in Tbilisi, Georgia, tournament organizer Zurab Azmaiparashvili approached the Canadian player Anton Kovalyov at the start of the third round, stating that his attire of Bermuda shorts violated the FIDE dress code. Kovalyov wore the same Bermuda shorts in rounds 1 and 2. He also wore them during the 2015 World Cup without incident. Azmaiparashvili objected and said that his clothing made him look like a gypsy. Kovalyov interpreted this as a racial slur, left the tournament hall, and did not return, thus forfeiting his game. He flew to Dallas, Texas, where he is studying for a master's degree in Computer Science at the University of Texas.
In 2018, the classical time-control portion of the World Chess Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana ended with 12 consecutive draws. This was the only time in the history of the world chess championship that all classical games have been drawn.
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