Chess Disasters
by Bill Wall

In 1849, chess master Johann Loewenthal (1810-1876) met with disaster by being expelled from Hungary because of his association with the Hungarian government during a revolution. He found his way to America. In 1851, he was living in Cincinnati giving chess lessons at his chess divan, his only source of income. His customers raised enough money for him to travel to the London International Chess Tournament of 1851 and then return back to Cincinnati. However, the tournament proved to be a disaster for him. He got knocked out in the first round by Elijah Williams, losing 2 and winning 1 game. Because of his early loss, he felt too embarrassed to return to the United States to face his backers, and stayed in Europe the rest of his life, settling in London. He later became ill and could no longer financially support himself. A collection was taken up for him. Lord Randolph Churchill and many others contributed to the charity fund.

In 1853, disaster struck Lionel Adalbert Bagation Felix Kieseritzky (1806-1853), even in death. On May 18, 1853, Kieseritzky died penniless at a charity hospital (La Charite) for the insane in Paris. A hat was passed around to collect money for his funeral, but nothing was raised. As a result, he was buried in a pauper 's grave. Only one person came to his funeral, a waiter at the Cafe de la Regence. The location of his exact plot has never been found. Kieseritzky was considered a narcissist and considered himself the "Chess Messiah."

In May 1860, a fatal disaster occurred in Vicksburg, Mississippi over chess. Mrs. Lafayette Lee and Mr. U. G. Flowers sat down to play a game of chess. During the game, Mr. Lee, who was standing behind Mr. Flowers looking on, pulled out a pistol and shot his wife after a quarrel about Mrs. Lee wishing to visit her mother. He then aimed his pistol at Mr. Flowers, but Mr. Flowers pulled out his own pistol and shot Mr. Lee 5 times, killing him. Mrs. Lee was in critical condition but survived. (source: London Stratford Times, Jun 23, 1860, p. 2)

On January 3, 1866, William Henry Russ (1833-1866), also known as W.R. Henry, met with disaster. He was one of America 's leading compiler of chess problems. He died in a hospital after trying to commit suicide. He adopted an 11-year old girl and proposed to her when she was 21. When he rejected him, he shot her four times in the head. He left her for dead (she survived), then tried to commit suicide by jumping into the river to drown himself. However, the tide was out, and the water was not deep enough. He climbed out of the river and shot himself in the head. He died 10 days later in a hospital, lacking a will to live. He was only 33.

In January 1880, the 5th American Chess Congress was held in New York. It was a disaster for James Grundy (1855-1919) and Preston Ware (1821-1890) as the two were caught up in a scandal. Ware threw his game to Grundy, hoping for a draw, but lost instead. Ware alleged that Grundy had offered him $20 ($400 in today 's currency) to play for a draw. Grundy agreed, but when Ware played some weak moves, Grundy changed his mind and played for a win, tying for 1st place. Grundy was forbidden from ever taking part in an American tournament again. Preston Ware never got his $20 and he was suspended for one year from playing chess in any tournament. Ware didn 't need the money but agreed to the shady deal because he wanted his friend, Captain George Mackenzie, to take first place. (source: Chess Life, Dec 1985, p. 10)

In July 1870, the disaster of the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871) interrupted the first international tournament in Germany, held in Baden-Baden. At the outbreak of the war there was much discussion between the players as to whether or not the tournament should continue. Baden-Baden is not far from the French border and there was a real possibility that the town could be occupied by the French. In the end the players opted to continue although the atmosphere was tense. During the tournament, artillery fire could be heard in Baden-Baden from a distance of 18 miles. One of the players, Adolf Stern (1849-1907), a Bavarian reservist, was mobilized after 4 rounds.

In 1889, the 6th American Chess Congress was held in New York. It was a disaster for Nicholas MacLeod (1870-1965), two-time Canadian champion. He lost 31 games and took last place. He holds the record for the most games lost in a single tournament. The tournament was also a financial failure. After the Congress was over, there was no money left for the non-prize winners. Jean Taubenhaus (1850-1919) 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 January 22, 1890, the New Orleans Chess, Checkers, and Whist Club suffered a disaster. The building housing the chess club (the Perry Building) was gutted by fire. The club 's chess library and almost all of the Morphy memorabilia were destroyed. (source: New York Times, Jan 23, 1890)

On November 14, 1892, a disaster occurred at the home of William Steinitz (1836-1900) in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. His previous American secretary and butler, Nathaniel W. Williams, accidently shot his new German secretary, Ernest Treitel, in the house. Treitel lost an arm. It may have been attempted murder as there was an uneasy rivaly between Williams and Treitel. Williams then placed himself at the front door and threatened to kill anyone who attempted to leave Steinitz 's house. He was finally overpowered and arrested. Treitel survivied, but his left arm had to be amputated. In the end, Williams was found guilty of assault and battery with intent to kill. In the meantime, Treitel had died from typhus fever in February 1893. (source: New York Times, Nov 6, 1892, p. 1)

In 1895, the Hastings International Tournament was a disaster for Beniamino Vergani (1863-1927), the Italian champion. He ended up in 22nd place (last place), scoring only 3 points (2 wins and 2 draws) out of 21. He was so disgusted with his game that he never played in a masters' chess tournament again. He was given 2 British pounds for his efforts.

In October 1897, Major William C. Wilson, age 55, met with disaster. A prominent member of the Franklin Chess Club in Philadelphia and bookseller, he was robbed and killed in his store. The killers were never caught.

In 1897, Norman Willem van Lennep (1872-1897), a Dutch chess master from a prominent family, killed himself by jumping into the North Sea from a ship at the age of 25. His father had disowned him because Norman would not give up chess, could not find a steady job, and could not find a wife.

In 1901, Johannes von Minckwitz (1843-1901) met with disaster. He committed suicide by stepping in front of a streetcar near Biebrich, Germany. He lost both arms and died May 20, 1901. He was only 58.

In 1903, an international tournament was held at Monte Carlo. It was a disaster for Colonel Charles Paul Narcisse Moreau (1837-1916). He lost all 26 games and took last place. This was the worst result ever recorded in an international chess tournament.

In March 1905, Henry "Harry" Nelson Pillsbury (1872-1906) almost had a fatal disaster. He tried to jump out a 4th story window at the Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia. He was stopped by several nurses and doctors. He was suffering from syphilis. On June 17, 1906, at the age of 33, he died of progressive paralysis, a severe neurological disorder resulting from syphilis.

On April 18, 1906, a disastrous earthquake struck the coast of Northern California with an estimated moment magnitude of 7.9. Thousands of homes and buildings were destroyed, up to 3,000 people died, and over 80% of the city of San Francisco was destroyed. Among the buildings destroyed was the Mechanics ' Institute, which held the Mechanics ' Institute Library and Chess Room. The new Mechanics ' Institute building was not built until 1909.

On December 15, 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 survived the disaster, badly bruised, with cuts on his hand and a sprained ankle.

In August 1909, German chess master Rudolf Swiderski (1878-1909), committed suicide a few days after his 31st birthday in Leipzig. He took some poison to kill himself. When that didn 't work fast enough, he 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. Other sources say that he had an illness extending over a period of years and was discouraged by what he deemed a hopeless flight.

On February 8, 1910, Carl Schlechter (1874-1918) had a disaster on his 10th game match against Emanuel Lasker. He lost his 10th and final game against Lasker in the world chess championship. If he had drawn or won the game, Schlechter would have been world champion. Schlechter, was leading 5-4 and tried to win tactically. He had a big advantage and missed a stronger move 35. He had a draw on move 39. He continued to take increasing risks to try to win the game but ended up losing in a rook plus pawn vs. knight plus pawn endgame. Hence, the match was a draw, 5-5, and Lasker remained World Chess Champion. Schlechter was eventually left destitute and starved to death in December 1918. He was found in a room without any money, heat or food.

On April 15, 1912, disaster struck the Titanic. The RMS Titanic had several chess boards and pieces aboard where passengers could play chess. Chess sets could be checked out to the second-class passengers after filling out an application and giving it to the Saloon Steward. RMS stands for Royal Mail Steamer because the Titanic carried mail under the auspices of His Majesty's postal authorities in England. There were several chess-related mail items that the Titanic was carrying to the United States. One of the first-class passengers was Peter Dennis Daly. His hobby was playing correspondence chess with overseas opponents. Another victim of the Titanic was Jacques Futrelle (1875-1912), an American journalist and mystery writer. He wrote about chess and short detective stories featuring Professor Augustus Van Dusen, also known as "The Thinking Machine." For a while, it was thought that U.S. chess champion Frank J. Marshall was on the Titanic. Mr. and Mrs. Marshall were on the passenger list of the Titanic. It turned out to be Henty Marshall and not Frank Marshall. Frank was still in Paris giving chess exhibitions. Letters with enclosed chess diagrams that were to be used by A.C. White in one of his famous "Christmas Series" books were lost. On July 23, 2014, a chessboard made from Titanic wood was sold for $16,385 by auctioneers Philip Weiss Auctions in Lynbrook, New York. The chessboard was made by William Parker, carpenter aboard the SS Minia, one of four ships chartered by White Star to locate bodies drifting in the Atlantic after Titanic sank. The board was originally in the Manitoba Museum of the Titanic. There have been several Titanic chess sets. One of the more expensive ones was designed by T.Q.B. Art. There is also a Titanic chess set at City Hall in Belfast, Ireland. The figures of both sets represent actual people who had a connection to the Titanic, including the captain, Edward John Smith, and the designer, Thomas Andrews.

On December 6, 1914, a fatal disaster struck Eliza Campbell Foot (1851-1914), a lady chess player. She was hit by a car and died after leaving the Manhattan Chess Club on a stormy night. She was walking across the street carrying an umbrella that blocked her view. 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.

In 1915, disaster struck the operators of the chess automaton, Ajeeb. In 1915, Ajeeb was set up at Coney Island. One player lost to it and was so angry he took out a gun and shot at the automaton. It killed its hidden operator, which was covered up. In another incident with Ajeeb, a Westerner emptied his six-shooter into the automaton, hitting the operator in the shoulder. One lady who lost to the Ajeeb automaton was so enraged that they stuck a hatpin into the automaton, stabbing its operator in the mouth. (sources: New York Times, January 1929 and Time magazine, Feb 4, 1929)

On May 7, 1915, disaster struck the RMS Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank 11 miles off the southern coast of Ireland. About 300 copies of one of Alain C. White's Christmas series chess problems books was lost. This made this book the rarest of the Christmas Series and a copy was sold at the Klittich auction in 2014 for 2,200 euros. F. G. Naumann also went down with the ship. He was a famous chess patron (he sponsored Monte Carlo 1902 and the Cambridge Springs International in 1904) and president of the Surrey County Chess Association.

In 1916, the disaster of World War I took a toll on chess players and prizes. Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch (1862-1934) and Jacques Mieses (1865-1954) played a chess match in Berlin in which the prize was a half-pound of butter. Tarrasch won the match and the butter with 7 wins, 2 losses, and 4 draws. (source: Chess Review, Apr 1937, p. 89 and Dec 1947, p. 16) Tarrasch lost one of his sons at the beginning of World War I.

During the disastrous period of World War I, British chess problemist Comins Mansfield (1896-1984) was gassed in the trenches and was temporarily blinded.

In 1917, Alexander Ilyin-Genevsky (1894-1941) suffered from shell shock during World War I and lost all his memory. He had to learn how to play chess all over again. Disaster followed Ilyin-Genevsky throughout his life. During the Russian Civil War in 1918, his wife shot herself. He 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. His second wife, uninjured on the barge, was so overcome with despair that she killed herself a few days after Alexander died. (source: Chess Review, June 1943, p. 209)

In February 1918, disaster struck Heinrich Leonhard Adolphi (1852-1918). He was a Latvian chess player and problemist. He was a German-Baltic pastor by profession. He and his wife, Ellen, were robbed and killed by the atheist Bolsheviks after the October Revolution. He was repeatedly stabbed by bayonets 18 times and hit with rifle butts. He was 65 years old.

In 1918, chess master Ossip Bernstein (1882-1962) almost suffered a fatal disaster. He was arrested in Odessa by the Cheka and ordered shot by a firing squad just because he was a legal advisor to bankers. As the firing squad lined up, a superior officer asked to see the list of prisoners' names. Discovering the name of Ossip Bernstein, he asked whether he was the famous master. Not satisfied with Bernstein's affirmative reply, he made him play a game with him. If Bernstein lost or drew, he would be shot. Bernstein won in short order and was released. He escaped on a British ship and settled in Paris. In 1944, Bernstein escaped from a Nazi concentration camp. (source: Chess Review, Aug 1944, p. 9)

In 1919, Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946) almost suffered a fatal disaster, suspected of being a spy. In June 1919, Alekhine joined the Communist Party and found work in the commission for confiscating valuables from the bourgeoisie. He may have also been working for the Intelligence Corps of the White Russian Army in Odessa. While in Odessa, Alekhine stayed in a hotel room previously occupied by a British Officer of the Intelligence Service. This British officer left behind a trunk. During a police raid, the trunk was found to contain compromising documents. He was arrested by the Cheka (Soviet state security police), imprisoned in Odesa and sentenced to death as a spy. Yakov Vilner (1899-1931), a Jewish chess master, saved him by sending a telegram to the chairman of the Ukrainian Council of People's Commissars, who knew of Alekhine and ordered his release. (source: CHESS, May 1946)

In 1927, chess proved to be disastrous to Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and his first marriage. On June 8, 1927, Marcel Duchamp married Lydie Sarazin-Lavassor. She was the daughter of a wealthy automobile manufacturer, and her marriage contract was to have supplied him with a steady source of income while he painted and played chess. During his honeymoon, he went every day to a chess club in Nice. When he returned, he spent several more hours studying chess positions. His marriage lasted only six months because of his obsession to chess. He spent most of his time playing chess around Nice, France. His bride was so frustrated at him for playing chess that she glued all the chess pieces to the board while he was asleep. She asked for a divorce, which was granted on January 25, 1928.

In 1928, chess master Norman Whitaker (1890-1975) was on his way to The Hague to play in the Amateur World Chess Championship. He was traveling by train when there was a train disaster. The train wrecked and derailed, killing 9 people and severely injuring his wife. In 1932, Whitaker was arrested for attempted extortion in a scheme to swindle $104,000 from a wealthy heiress by claiming to be in contact with the Lindbergh kidnappers. 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 1955, Whitaker was expelled from the USCF due to his past deeds, but he sued the USCF and he was allowed to play in USCF events. (sources: Chess Life, Apr 5, 1955, p. 1 and May 20, 1955, p, 1)

In 1929, disaster struck Richard Reti (1889-1929). He was crossing the road and was hit by a street car in Prague. He was taken to a hospital to heal but developed scarlet fever while in the hospital in Prague and died on June 6, 1929.

In 1932, Dutch Master Daniel Noteboom (1910-1932) met with disaster after playing in the 1931-32 stings Chess Congress, held in December-January. The weather was so cold that he caught pneumonia at Hastings and then died on January 12, 1932. He was only 21.

On April 20, 1932, a medical disaster took the life of Edgar Colle (1897-1932), the top Belgian chesss player. He died in Gand, Belgium, after an operation for a gastric ulcer. He survived three operations for a gastric ulcer but died after a 4th operation.

In November 1932, Frederick Yates (1884-1932) met with disaster. On November 11, 1932, Yates died in his sleep at his home in London from a gas leak due to a faulty gas pipe connection. It was not suicide. A gas company official proved that no gas tap was turned on. It was ruled an accidental death.

In 1933, disaster struck one player in the Dutch Chess Championship. On July 23, 1933, Adolf George Olland (1867-1933), a Dutch chess master, died of a heart attack while playing in the 1933 Dutch chess championship at The Hague. He was 66. His last game was White against Hamming. Olland made his 25th move, then he collapsed, his head fell on the chessboard and the pieces rolled off the table. The arbiter declared the game as won by him.

On August 20, 1935, a fatal disaster took the life of one of the top women chess players in the world. Agnes Lawson-Stevenson (1873-1935) of England 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 and stamped. On returning to the plane, she stepped in front of the plane and the rotating propeller hit her. (source: London Times, Aug 21, 1935, p. 10)

In 1936, Pyotr Izmailov (1906-1937) met with disaster after his arrest on September 10, 1936. He was arrested for "participating in a counter-revolutionary Trotskyist-fascist terrorist organization," and on April 28, 1937 he was sentenced to death and shot by a firing squad after a 20-minute trial. He was married to Galina Efimovna Kozmina, who received eight years at the harsh camp at Kolyma as "wife of the enemy of the people". In 1928, he was the first champion of the Russian Republic. He played in the Soviet Championship in 1929 and 1931.

On May 30, 1937, Herman Steiner (1905-1955) had a disastrous accident in his car. He 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. Robert B. Griffith (1876-1937), 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 (1885-1938), Chairman of the Chess Section of the Supreme Council for Physical Culture of the Russian Federal Republic, was arrested in Russia and later executed on orders from Stalin. One of the charges against him was that he had retarded the development of chess in the Soviet Union. On July 29, 1938, Krylenko was executed in Stalin 's purges. His trial lasted 20 minutes, he was then found guilty and immediately shot.

In 1938, there was a disaster after the U.S. Open chess tournament in Boston. Three women, Mary Weiser Bain, Mrs. McCready and Miss Weart, returning from the US Open chess tournament when their car skidded on slippery pavement and crashed into a telegraph pole. Miss McCready suffered minor injuries; Miss Weart was pinned under the car and sustained a fracture to her shoulder; Mary Bain suffered a fractured vertebra which required her to be in a cast for eight months, bedridden for much of that time.

In 1938, Jack Straley Battell (1909-1985) had a disaster in the 1937-38 Marshall Chess Club Championship. He lost all 11 games and took last place. He gave up over-the-board-chess tournaments and started playing correspondence chess instead. (source: Chess Review, Mar 1938, p. 60)

On January 17, 1940, disaster struck the chess clubs of Warsaw. Jewish players such as Dawid Przepiorka (1880-1940), Stanis?aw Kohn, Moishe Lowtzky (1881-1940), Achilles Frydman, Abkin, M?ynek, Zahorski and many others were rounded up, arrested and imprisoned. Later (February – March 1940) most of them (all Jewish) were killed in a mass execution by the Nazis.

In 1940, disaster struck Al Horowitz (1907-1973) and New England chess champion Harold Morton (1906-1940). On February 17, 1940, Morton, died in Iowa after a car accident. His passenger, Al Horowitz, 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 other injuries. In 1944, Horowitz survived a train wreck near Fresno, California that left several passengers dead and over a hundred passengers injured. (source: Chess Review, Mar 1940, p. 25)

On September 23, 1940, a German air raid destroyed the National Chess Centre in London. It was bombed by the Luftwaffe and burnt down during the Blitz. At the time, it was the largest chess club in the world with over 700 members. The club was located in the Cavendish Square building of the John Lewis Partnership on Oxford Street. The contents of chess club were entirely destroyed. It also served as an air-raid shelter. World women 's chess champion Vera Menchik was the manager of the club and survived this bombing, only to die a few years later in a V-1 bombing of her house, killing Vera and her younger sister, Olga. (source: Chess Review, June 1944, p. 8)

In 1941, the disastrous war reached Russia. On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany launched a massive surprise attack against the Soviet Union. This broke up the 13th Soviet Championship, which was being held at Rostov-on-Don. The Russian chess magazines 64 and Shakhmaty v SSSR were shut down. Chess columns in many newspapers and magazines disappeared. The Chairman of the USSR Chess Federation and most of the staff joined volunteer battalions and went off to the front.

In 1944, chess proved to be disastrous for one opponent playing against Al Horowitz (1907-1973). Horowitz was giving a simultaneous exhibition in Kansas City. He had just played a spectacular winning move against one of his opponents, when his opponent, shocked, had a heart attack and died.

On June 26, 1944, disaster struck world woman chess champion Vera Menchik-Stevenson (1906-1944). She died in a German bombing of London. She and her sister died in Kent after a German V-1 rocket hit her home (the bomb shelter in the garden remained intact).

On December 20, 1944, a fatal disaster occurred to George Sturgis (1891-1944), the president of the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and the president of the Massachusetts State Chess Federation. He had just gotten married and was returning to Boston from his honeymoon when he suffered a fatal heart attack. (source: Chess Review, Jan 1945, p. 12)

World War II was especially disastrous for chess players. In November 1941, Mikhail Barulin, secretary of the Central Composition Committee and the first Soviet Master of Sport of Chess Composition, was arrested. He refused to sign a confession or denounce other chess problemists. He died in prison in 1943. Soviet master Georgy Schneideman-Stepanov was shot just after World War II began for the Soviets. He was falsely turned in as a spy by a fellow chess player, the Russian master Peter Romanovsky (1892-1964). He was shot in the autumn of 1941 on suspicion of being a German spy only because there was a German general named Schneideman. In 1941, Josef Cukierman, a chess master who won tournaments in Moscow, Poland, and France, committed suicide in France rather than being sent to a concentration camp. On October 2, 1941, Dr. Karel Treybal (1885-1941), famous Czech chess master, died during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. On May 30, 1941, he was arrested, imprisoned and later charged with concealing weapons for use by resistance forces and the illegal possession of a pistol. He was condemned to death and shot on October 2 in Prague. In November 1941, Viktor Korchnoi's father was killed in battle east of Leningrad. He was part of a volunteer defense unit. In 1941, Leon Schwartzmann (1887-1942) was arrested in France and was transported to Auschwitz concentration camp. He died there on September 3, 1942. He was a Polish-French chess master. In 1941, Simon Rubinstein (1910-1942) was sent to a concentration camp. He died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942. He was an Austrian chess master. In 1941, Emil Zinner (1909-1942) was sent to the Nazi Majdanke concentration camp outside Lublin, Poland. He died there on July 8, 1942. He was a Jewish-Czech chess master. In January 1942, Samuil Vainshtein (1894-1942) died of starvation in Leningrad. He was a Russian chess master, organizer, publisher and editor. In 1942, Dr. Leon Monosson (1892-1943) was deported from France to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He died there on Feb 17, 1943. He was a Belarussian-French chess master. He was Paris champion in 1935. On March 7, 1942, Sergey Belavenets (1910-1942), former Moscow chess champion, died in combat at Staraya Russia near Novgorod. On April 18, 1942, Karl Leonid Kubbel (1891-1942), a chess problemist, died of starvation during the siege of Leningrad. In 1942 Ilya Rabinovich (1891-1942), Russian master, was evacuated from Leningrad, but died of malnutrition in a hospital in Perm, Russia. In August 1942, chess problemist Alexey Troitzky (1866-1942) died of starvation during the siege of Leningrad. In August 1942, Vladimirs Petrovs (1907-1943) was a Latvian chess master. He was arrested on basis of a denunciation. He was accused of making disparaging remarks about the falling standard of living in Soviet-ruled Latvia, where he was from. He was sentenced to 10 years under Article 58 (treason) but died shortly after arriving at a labor camp. He died of pneumonia at the Kotlas Gulag on August 26, 1943. Chess master Peter Romanovsky somehow survived the siege of Leningrad, but his wife, their three daughters, and their housekeeper all died of hunger and sickness. In January 1943, Abram Szpiro (1912-1943) was arrested by the Gestapo in Warsaw and transported to Auschwitz concentration camp. He died there on February 16, 1943. He was a Polish chess master. In 1943, Wilhelm Orbach (1894-1944) was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. He died there in 1944. He was a Jewish German chess master. He won the championship of the city of Frankfurt in 1925. In 1943, Endre Steiner (1901-1944) was sent to a Nazi concentration camp near Budapest. He died there on Dec 29, 1944. He was a Hungarian chess master and the older brother of International Master Lajos Steiner (1903-1975). In 1944, Hungarian chess master Kornel Havasi (1892-1945) was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. He died of exhaustion on January 15, 1945 in Bruck/Leitha, in lower Austria. He had to work there as a forced laborer for the Nazis and died along with 155 other Hungarian Jewish slave laborers. He won the Hungarian championship in 1922. In 1944, Salo Landau (1903-1944) was gassed by the Nazis in a German concentration camp in Poland. He was sent to a forced labor camp in Graditz, Poland and died sometime between October 1943 and March 1944. His wife and daughter were sent to Auschwitz, where they were gassed and died in 1944 in an Auschwitz gas chamber. On January 14, 1945, Dutch chess master Arnold van den Hoek (1921-1945) was killed in an allied bombardment at a German defense plant. He was deported from the Amsterdam in 1943 and did forced labor at Watenstedt, a suburb of Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany. On April 17, 1945, Klaus Junge (1924-1945), one of the youngest German chess masters, was killed in action at Welle, Germany. As a lieutenant, he refused to surrender and was killed by Allied troops in the battle of Welle on the Luneburg Heath, close to Hamburg, three weeks before World War II ended. Miguel Najdorf's (1910-1997) entire Polish family died in German concentration camps during World War II. The family lived in Warsaw and Najdorf was born in Warsaw. Najdorf lost his wife, child, father, mother, and four brothers in concentration camps. Many of George Koltanowski 's family members, including his mother and brother, died in concentration camps. Members of the Polgar family perished in the Holocaust. Their grandmother was a survivor of an Auschwitz concentration camp. (source Chess Life, Dec 1985, p. 37)

Prominent chess players lost during World War II included Polish master Isaak Appel (1905-1941), Hungarian master Zoltan Balla (1883-1945), Moscow chess champion Sergey Belavenets (1910-1942), Russian master Fyodor Fogelevich (1909-1941), Henryk Friedman (1903-1943), Polish master Achilles Frydman (1905-1940), Polish champion Eduard Gerstenfeld (1915-1943), Alexander Ilyin-Genevsky (1894-1941), Klaus Junge (1924-1945), Lev Kaiev (1913-1942), Mikhail Kogan (1898-1942), Josek Kolski (1900-1941), Polish master Leon Kremer (1901-1940), Arvid Kubbel (1889-1938), Leonid Kubbel (1892-1942), Salo Landau (1903-1943), Benjamin Levin ( -1942), Moishe Lowekl (1881-1940), Kiev master Moizhe Lowtzky (1881-1940), Moscow Champion Isaak Maisel ( -1943, Mikhail Makogonov (1900-1943), Olga Menchik (1908-1944), Vera Menchik (1906-1944), Latvian champion Vladimir Petrov (1907-1945), Mikhail Platov (1883-1938), David Przepiorka (1880-1940), Ilya Rabinovich (1878-1943), Vesevold Rauzer (1908-1941), Nikolai Riumin (1908-1942), Georgy Schneiderman-Stepanov ( -1941), Byelorussian champion Vladimir Silich (1906-1943), Vasily Solkov ( -1944), Endre Steiner (1901-1944), Mark Stolberg (1922-1943), Polish master Abram Szpiro (1910-1941), Karel Treybal (1885-1941), Alexei Troitzky (1866-1942), Samuil Vainstein (1894-1942), Boris Vaksberg ( -1942), Otaker Votruba (1894-1943), Heinrich Wolf (1875-1943), and Lazar Zalkind (1886-1945).

In 1945, Herman Pilnik (1914-1981) of Argentina ran into disaster on his way to the American Chess Congress in Los Angeles. He landed in Texas by plane from Argentina and had to drive the rest of the way to California. Pilnik, who had lost his plane reservation to Los Angeles, proceeded by car to Los Angeles from Dallas, Texas. He crashed his car into an unlighted and parked truck at night near El Centro, Arizona. The car overturned with part of it hanging over the edge of a steep embankment. Two other occupants of the car were hospitalized with broken bones. 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.

In 1946, disaster took the life of world champion Alexander Alekhine. On March 24, 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 date on his grave notes that he died on March 25, 1946. The cause of death has been attributed either by his choking on a piece of meat or by a heart attack. His body was found by a waiter when he brought in breakfast. Conspiracy theories have led that Alekhine either killed himself or was murdered.

In 1948, disaster was averted when David Bronstein (1924-2006) was almost killed. Bronstein was the winner of the first Interzonal in 1948 at Saltsjobaden who survived an assassination attack during the tournament. On the last day of the event, Bronstein was playing Tartakower. Suddenly, a Lithuanian made a lunge at Bronstein to kill him. Several spectators grabbed him. He wanted to murder all Russians because he claimed the Russians were responsible for sending his sister to Siberia and murdering her.

In 1950, there was almost a fatal disaster when Larry Evans, Arthur Bisguier, and three others were returning home after playing in the US Open in Detroit. Their car overturned near Batavia, New York, and they were all hospitalized. The US Open winner, Bisguier, had a broken rib and cuts in his forehead. Larry Evans suffered from many bruises. Walter Shipman had a fractured ankle. C.C. Crittenden of North Carolina had a fractured collarbone. (sources: Chess Review, Aug 1950, p. 227 and New York Times, July 26, 1950, p. 32)

In 1951, Walter Bjornson of Vancouver, British Columbia, almost had a fatal disaster playing chess. His opponent had lost to him in a game of chess, then took out a knife and stabbed Bjornson, leaving a 4-inch gash in his forearm. (source: Chess Review, Feb 1951, p. 38)

In March 1952, Pal Benko (1928- ) ran into disaster when he tried to defect. He 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 February-March 1952, disaster struck an international tournament at the Capablanca Chess Club in Havana. During the event, there was a revolution in Cuba. The President who sponsored the tournament was deposed. The Mexican entrants were recalled by their government. The Cuban chess champion, Juan Quesada, age 40, died of a heart attack during the event. (sources: Chess Review, Apr 1952, p. 99 and Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Mar 21, 1952)

In the 1950s, it was a disaster for blacks trying to play chess in America. In the early 1950s, blacks were banned from chess clubs in Chicago. Blacks were also not allowed to play in chess tournaments run by the Southern Chess Association. In 1952, blacks were denied membership in the Chicago Chess Club. In the 1950s, a Louisiana law barred blacks from chess playing rooms in New Orleans. This prevented blacks from playing in the U.S. Open chess tournament in 1954, which was held in New Orleans. Several African-Americans tried to enter the event but were refused. In 1955, an African-American chess player, William A. Scott, was refused to be allowed to play in the Georgia Open chess championship. In 1959, Walter Harris, the first African-American chess master, was unable to get a hotel room where the US Open was being held in Omaha, Nebraska, because he was black. (sources: Chess Review, Oct 1950, p. 289; Chess Review, July 1951, p. 196; Chess Life, Feb 20, 1952; Chess Life, July 20, 1954, p. 1 and Aug 20, 1954, p. 4; Chess Life, Dec 1995, p. 58)

In 1954, a disaster occurred in Argentina when the Argentine Chess Federation called off the national tournament after a chess player punched one of the tournament arbiters. The players protested the organization. (source: Chess Review, Dec 1954, p. 358)

In the 1958 Chess Olympiad, Frank Anderson (1928-1980) scored 84% before his final round. In the final round, disaster struck. He became extremely 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, disaster hit U.S. Junior chess champion Robin Ault (1941-1994). As the reigning U.S. junior champion, he was allowed to play in the 1959-1960 US championship but lost all 11 games and took last place. After that, the US junior champion was not allowed to automatically play in the US championship.

In the winter of 1959, a disaster occurred in Antarctica. A Russian scientist at a Soviet research station at Vostok Station, Antarctica, lost a game of chess with a fellow Russian scientist. He got so mad he killed his opponent with an axe. Chess was subsequently banned at Russian Antarctic stations. (sources: The Antarctic Legal Regime, p. 67; Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica; The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica)

In 1961, Ernst Gruenfeld (1893-1962), age 67, had quite a disaster playing in a chess tournament at Beverwijk in the Netherlands. Gruenfeld had lost a leg when in his early childhood and had an artificial leg. Despite his age, and this handicap, he spurned the organizers' offer of a car, and insisted on walking the mile or so from where he was staying to the chess tournament hall each afternoon. On one particular day, he set off, but fell down in the road, and his wooden leg came off and fell into a ditch. A distressed Gruenfeld, without his wooden leg, managed to get to a phone booth and ring the organizers. The organizers contacted Max Euwe, who came on the line. Hearing of Gruenfeld's plight, he jumped into a car, and a few minutes later, he managed to rescue Gruenfeld and his wooden leg and take him back to the house he was staying at. After a refreshing cup of coffee and a few minutes' rest, Gruenfeld was re-united with his artificial leg and driven to the tournament hall. Unfortunately, he faced the East German GM Wolfgang Uhlmann that day, and despite having White, the trauma took its toll on him. He lost in just 21 moves.

In the 1960s, Yugoslav Grandmaster Mijo Udovcic (1920-1984) had a simultaneous exhibition disaster. He agreed to give a 10-board simultaneous blindfold exhibition in a village in Yugoslavia. At one point, he could no longer remember the positions on the boards. He then excused himself to go to the bathroom, found an open window, climbed out of it, and went as fast as he could back to his home town in Zagreb.

In January-March 1962, the Stockholm Interzonal was a disaster for International Master Manuel Aaron (1935- ). He lost 16 games, drew 4, and won only 2 games to take last place (23rd place), scoring 4 out of 22.

In October 1962, disaster struck the offices of Chess Review magazine. On October 25, 1962, Theodore Smith, an ex-mental patient, was arrested for murder after stabbing to death chess master Abe Turner (1924-1962) at the office of Chess Review magazine. Smith stabbed Turner 9 times in the back, and then stuffed his 280-pound body in a safe. Turner 's body was found by the building superintendent that afternoon. 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. (sources: Chess Review, Nov 1962, p. 356 and New York Daily News, Oct 26, 1962)

In October 1962, the 15h Chess Olympiad in Varna, Bulgaria, proved to be a disaster for Cyprus and their players. Milton Ioannidis of Cyprus had the worst score of any player in the chess Olympics, with 20 losses and no wins or draws. His teammate, Andreas Lantsias, drew one game and lost 19. Another teammate, Fieros, won one game and lost 19. Their board one player won one game, drew one game, and lost 18 games. Cyprus scored the worst record of any chess Olympiad team, losing 20 matches. Their four players won a total of 2 games, drew 2 games, and lost 76 games.

In 1964, International Master Raymond Allen Weinstein (1941- ) was arrested for murder after he killed an 83-year old man in a nursing home with a razor. The older man had made derogatory remarks about Weinstein 's mother, who as in an asylum at the time. Weinstein was judged mentally ill and was confined to Ward 's Island for the mentally ill.

In 1965, disaster struck a well-known player at the U.S. Open. On July 31, 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, Mikhail Tal (1936-1992) had a disastrous start at the Chess Olympiad in Havana. He went out one evening to a local bar in the city. Apparently, he was caught flirting with a local woman, whose husband or boyfriend took exception. Tal ended up being struck over the head with a beer bottle. As a result, he missed the first four rounds of the event.

In 1967, an Interzonal was held in Sousse, Tunisia. It was a disaster for Bobby Fischer, but not for his chess play. He did not like the lighting, objected to the noise, and threatened to smash a news photographer's camera. He did not like the glare of a chandelier in the playing room. He refused to have his picture taken with the American Ambassador. The organizers did not take into account his religious observations and gave him no break from adjourned games. He finally withdrew from the event in the 10th rounding after leading the tournament. (source: Matthews, "The Further Adventures of Terrible-Tempered Bobby," Sports Illustrated, Nov 20, 1967)

In 1969, Grandmaster Freidrich Saemisch (1896-1975) had a disastrous year in chess. At Busum, Germany, he lost all 15 games on time and took last place. A few months later, he lost all 13 games on time in Linkoping, Sweden, taking last place. (source: Chess Life, Jan 1997, p. 26)

In 1969, disaster fell Grandmaster Ludek Pachman (1924-2003). He was arrested and imprisoned for his political activities in Czechoslovakia. He was charged of defaming a representative of the Republic and supporting Dubcek. He was sent to Ruzyn Prison on the outskirts of Prague. He was later charged with subversion and up to 10 years imprisonment. While in prison, he tried to kill himself. He was released in December 1970 but was banned from chess in Czechoslovakia.

In 1970, the disaster of apartheid affected chess. In the 1970 Chess Olympiad in Siegen, West Germany, a number of players and teams protested against South Africa's inclusion, some withdrawing themselves, and the Albanian team forfeited its match against the South African team.

In October 1973, the disaster of the Yom Kippur War caused the Israel Open to be cancelled. Two old kibitzers showed up and wondered why there was nobody there. Eight top-ranked Israeli chess players died during the Yom Kippur War. Three of the eight were military officers. In 1974, FIDE temporarily banned South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from the chess Olympiad in Nice, France, due to their disastrous apartheid practices. FIDE later sanctioned chess players who played in countries that practiced apartheid. South Africa did not return to the Chess Olympiad until 1992, after the end of apartheid.

In 1974, the Virginia prison system had a disastrous policy of allowing prisoners to play in chess tournaments outside the prison, accompanied by a guard. In 1970, Claude Frizzel Bloodgood (1937-2001) was sentenced to death for killing his stepmother by strangulation in 1969, apparently in a fight about an inheritance and bad-check charges. He was scheduled for execution 6 times but received a reprieve on all occasions. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1972. In 1974, Bloodgood escaped after he and another chess player (Lewis Capleaner – a murderer inmate) overpowered a guard (George Winslow) who was escorting them to a chess tournament. Bloodgood cuffed the guard, stole his guns, and fled to New York, when he was recaptured after several weeks at large. They had received a furlough to play in a local Virginia chess tournament. After this incident, the Virginia prison system changed its policy of allowing chess players furlough to play chess.

In My 1975, Paul Keres 1(916-1975), age 59, met with a fatal disaster after winning the Vancouver Open in Canada. 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 on the plane. The aircraft turned around and landed back at Helsinki and Keres was rushed to the hospital. But he died before he could get to the hospital.

In July 1975, disaster struck Grandmaster Nicolas Rossolimo (1910-1975). He had just taken 3rd place in the World Open in New York. Later, he accidently fell down some stairs after giving chess lessons at his chess studio in Greenwich Village. He died of head injuries from his fall several days later. He was 65.

In 1977, Viktor Korchnoi (1931-2016) had a disastrous accident that almost proved fatal. On November 8, 1977, Korchnoi, age 46, was injured in a car wreck with a broken right hand and other injuries. Korchnoi 's taxi collided with a Swiss army truck on its way to Zurich. The car rolled over three times.

In 1979, chess was banned in Iran and chess players were punished when caught playing chess. It was banned because it was thought that chess encouraged gambling, that it hurts memory and may be the cause of brain damage. In 1988, Ayatolla Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989) allowed chess to be played in Iran after banning it for nine years.

In November 1980, the Italian chess championship was delayed until 1981 because of a disastrous earthquake in Naples, Italy that killed 3,000 people. (source: Chess Life, Sep 1981, p. 13)

In the 1980s, a disaster almost occurred in space. Two cosmonauts got into a fist fight over a chess game. Since then, cosmonauts were not allowed to play chess with each other while in space.

In 1982, UK master Ian Duncan Wells (1964-1982), age 17, met with disaster. He was caught in an undertow and drowned at the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro one day after participating in an international chess tournament. He was rescued by lifeguards, but never regained consciousness and died on January 25, 1982, after 6 days in a coma.

In 1982, Israel was involved in a disastrous war with Lebanon. The Israel Chess Championship was stopped in the middle of the tournament as several of its participants were called up for army service in Lebanon.

On December 9, 1983, GM Janos Flesch (1933-1983) of Hungary died in a disastrous 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, Ildiko, died in the crash.

The 1984 chess Olympiad was supposed to have been played in Indonesia, but they withdrew their support due to reduced oil revenues that would have paid for the event. The 26th Chess Olympiad was eventually held in Thessaloniki, Greece.

In 1986, Grandmaster Georgy Agzamov (1954-1986) had a fatal disaster. 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.

1986 was a disaster for Grandmaster Quinteros of Argentina. He played chess in South Africa, violating a sanction by FIDE on South Africa for their Apartheid policies. He was suspended and banned from playing chess in international events for three years. Other players banned because they played chess in South Africa included Ludek Pachman (1924-2003), Karl Robatsch (1929-2000), and Hans-Guenther Kestler (1939- ).

In 1986, the New York Open was a financial disaster for Pal Benko. Benko was playing Hungarian Grandmaster Gyula Sax (1951-2014) in the final round. If Benko won, he would have earned $12,000. If Benko drew, he would only get $3,000. Sax offered Benko a draw at a critical position. Benko turned it down, blundered in time pressure, and lost. He got nothing.

In 1989, International Master Gilles Andruet (1958-1995) and 1988 French champion had a disastrous time at the French Chess Championship. 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 the lead after 10 of 14 rounds. On August 22, 1995, Andruet was murdered. His body was found on the shores of the Yvette river in Saulx-les-Chartreux. He had been beaten to death and put in a plastic bag over some gambling debts.

In 1990, grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov (1951- ) and his wife met disaster in New York City. On their first day in New York, they had their luggage stolen from the trunk of a car while he was having dinner at a restaurant. The next day, he was attacked by a gang and robbed of his money, airline tickets, and 10 years of chess analysis.

In May 1990, disaster struck Russian Grandmaster Artur Yusupov (1960- ). Yusupov returned to Moscow after taking second equal prize at a chess tournament in Munich. He was carrying quite a lot of money on the homeward trip. Shortly after he had arrived home, armed thieves came to his apartment and proceeded to rob him of money and other valuables. Although Yusupov put up no resistance, one of the thieves panicked and discharged a shotgun into his stomach. For some time Yusupov was critically ill, but his energy levels were never quite the same after this traumatic experience, and he gradually fell back from his position as one of the top half-dozen players in the world.

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

In 1992, financial disaster affected the Manhattan Chess Club. Traditionally, the club was supported by the patronage of Wall Street executives. When they passed away, the American Chess Foundation, which owned the building, fell into the hands of non-chess players. They ordered the Manhattan Chess Club to move.

In 1993, a person was shot and killed by a sniper while playing chess in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the first to die from sniper fire while playing chess. (source Chess Life, Sep 1993, p. 10)

In 1994, a fatal disaster struck a chess player on his birthday. Martin Wirth, 37, of Fort Collins, Colorado, shot to death Vernie Cox on his 24th birthday after the two argued over a chess game at the Johnson Trailer Park. Cox died of two gunshot wounds to the chest from Wirth 's .38-caliber revolver. 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 his opponent. Wirth went across the street to his home and returned with a gun and shot Cox to death. In 2016, Wirth shot three sheriff 's deputies, one fatally, before he was shot dead. The deputies were serving an eviction notice at his home in Bailey, Colorado.

In 1994, chess became a disaster in Afghanistan. Chess was banned in Afghanistan by Taliban edicts. People caught playing chess were beaten or imprisoned. Haji Shirullah, a Kabul businessman, was caught playing chess with his brother. There were thrown in jail and he chessboard and pieces were burned. Several doctors at the Kabul hospital were caught playing chess and were arrested. Chess was banned from 1994 through 2001.

In 1994, the Chess Olympiad in Moscow was a disaster for some of the players. The captain of the Irish chess team was mugged in the street by a gang of gypsy children and was only saved by an old lady, who waded into them with an umbrella, to such effect that one boy later required hospital treatment! Another team captain unwisely visited the local bank to change several thousands of dollars in foreign currency, only for the bank, "coincidentally", to be robbed at that very moment.

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. (source: Chess Life, Dec 1995, p. 59)

In 1997, British GM Nigel Short (1965- ) suffered a disaster while playing in a chess tournament in Novgorod. Just before the last round, where he was supposed to play Kasparov the next day, Nigel decided to take a midnight stroll down by the river. Unfortunately, one of the locals was also there, accompanied by his Russian German shepherd. The dog escaped from his owner and attacked Nigel, biting both of his arms as Nigel tried to fend off the dog. The dozy owner realized that his dog was attacking someone and called the dog off, but Nigel was badly bitten and wasn't sure if the dog had rabies. Nigel spent much of the night in a Russian hospital, an experience he later described as worse than the attack itself. The hospital was filthy and unsanitary, and he was told that rabies was quite widespread amongst dogs in Russia at that time.

In 1999, an aircraft disaster took the life of Las Vegas chess organizer Ken Horne (1944-1999). On August 20, 1999, he was flying home in his own airplane from the US Open Chess Championship in Reno, when his aircraft crashed. He died along with his wife, Gwen, after the plane crashed into a house in North Las Vegas. John Trivett, a passenger and chess player, was severely burned in the crash but was pulled to safety by bystanders.

In September 1999, Laurence Douglas, 32, stabbed Craig Williams, 25, to death over a chess game in Poughkeepsie, New York. Williams beat Douglas in a chess game that had a $5 wager. Williams took a $5 bill from Douglas after the game and Douglas then stabbed Williams 16 times. Douglas was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

In 2000, disaster took the life of GM Vladimir Bagirov (1936-2000). He died of a heart attack on July 21, 2000, when in a winning position in a tournament game at the Heart of Finland Open 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. At the time, Bagirov was leading in the tournament.

In 2001, there was a fatal disaster in a prison. Christopher Newton, imprisoned for burglary, murdered his cellmate, Jason Brewer, 27, over a game of chess in a Ohio prison. Brewer would resign his chess game against Newton every time a pawn was lost or the position looked bad. Newton tried to tell him not to give up and play the game out, but Brewer refused. After a month of playing chess and Brewer always resigning early without playing out the game, Newton finally had enough and strangled Brewer. Newton was executed on May 24, 2007 by lethal injection on Ohio. He was the first murderer executed for killing someone over a chess game.

On Sep 25, 2001, five chess players died in a vehicle crash in India on their way to a chess tournament. Their vehicle collided with a bus. After the tragedy, the tournament was cancelled.

In December 2001, a school in Ohio suffered a disaster when they hired a chess coach. John H. Smith of Massillon, Ohio, age 40, was arrested on charges of molesting boys as a chess coach at the York-Franklin Learning Center. He had been a scoutmaster and chess coach there since 1997. The parents of two boys later sued Massillon City Schools for allowing such a thing to occur. The school did not conduct a criminal investigation background check on Smith. He had previously been in prison for two years for gross sexual imposition.

On February 1, 2002, the Manhattan Chess Club had its final disaster when it finally closed for good. It existed for 124 years. The Chess-in-the-Schools organization owned the building and evicted the Manhattan Chess Club.

In 2002, Dutch Grandmaster Loek van Wely (1972- ) almost met a fatal disaster. He was driving on the autobahn heading for a chess tournament in his new Jaguar X. He lost control of the vehicle and flipped the car over while driving around 100 mph. The car was totaled, but "Lucky Loek" walked away with only a mild concussion. This was the third car he had totaled in 5 years. (source:, Nov 27, 2011)

In January 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. Gligoric suffered a black eye.

In February 2003, a fire disaster ripped through the Pennsylvania home of chess master journalist Alex Dunne (1942- ). His wife, Janet, and 2-year-old grandson, Ronald, were burned to death. Alex Dunne was not home at the time. His large chess library and computers were all destroyed.

In 2003, a fatal disaster struck several Egyptian players. Egypt 's strongest player, Essam Ahmed Ali (1964-2003), 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 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 March 2005, British International Master Simon Webb (1949-2005) was stabbed to death by his son, Dennis, in Sweden after returning home from a chess tournament. His son was arrested after he tried to commit suicide by driving his car into a building.

In April 2005, an interesting grandmaster tournament called "Memorial Heroes of Chernobyl" was held in the Kiev region, Ukraine, near the Chernobyl disaster. The official tournament site has games, results and pictures. The winner earned a grandmaster norm. The problem was that the event never happened, and the tournament was faked. Sanctions were later applied to its organizers and arbiters. (source: "The fake Heroes of Chernobyl," ChessBase News, May 3, 2005 and May 23, 2005 -

In April 2005, it was a disaster for Armenian GM Vladimir Akopian to travel to the United Arab Emirates. He was the top seed for the 7th Dubai Open Chess Championship. When he arrived at the Dubai International airport, he was arrested. He had been confused with another Vladimir Hakobian. This one was wanted by Interpol on suspicion of murder. The grandmaster was released later, but his passport was held back by the Dubai police till all circumstances were completely clarified. GM Akopian was unable to play in the tournament, which he had won in the past. (source: "Akopian held on mistaken murder suspicion?", ChessBase News, Apr 7, 2005 -

In 2005, disaster struck a few players at the World Open in Philadelphia. In July 2005, Canadian grandmaster Pascal Charbonneau (1983- ) and his chess-playing friends were mugged at gunpoint.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a deadly Category 5 hurricane, caused a big disaster along the Gulf Coast of the United States. Chess master Jude Acers (1944- ) barely survived the hurricane when he was stuck in New Orleans. For some time, he lived in a displaced persons camp in Tennessee before returning to his customary chess table in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

In September 2005, chess master Robert Michael Snyder (1954- ) was arrested in Fort Collins, Colorado on charges of molesting three chess students of his, dating back to 1983. He later escaped and was captured in Belize on March 30, 2010, after someone recognized him from the America 's Most Wanted TV show. He is now serving an open (up to life) imprisonment. (source: Denver Post, Mar 30, 2010)

In September 2005, a chess tournament in Tuticorin, India was a disaster. The results were submitted and rated by FIDE. Several players complained about the results and noticed their Elo points dropped as much as 45 points. Over 40 players were listed with no rating changes, which was surprising. A number of participants listed in the results had never set foot in Tuticorin or played in the event. The tournament was either a fake or flawed in its reporting of results. 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, disaster was averted after a cheating scandal. In July 2006, at the World Open in Philadelphia, Steve Rosenberg was leading before the final round in one of the sections. He was playing for $18,000 if he won his last round. But he was caught using a wireless transmitter and receiver in his ear (Rosenberg claimed it was a hearing aid) and was disqualified and banned from the event.

In 2006, Moscow had a serial killer disaster. In 2006, Alexander Pichushkin, 32, was arrested in Moscow for murdering 49 people. He said he killed 61 people and was trying to murder 64 people, one for each square of the chessboard. He said he was a great fan of chess and was dubbed the Crazy Chess Killer. He said his killings were linked to moves in a chess game.

In 2006, disaster struck the Jesse Gilbert family. On July 26, 2006, Jessie Gilbert (1987-2006), a rising chess star, fell from the 8th floor of her hotel while playing in the Czech Open in the Czech Republic. It was a possible suicide. A few days later, it was revealed that her father, Ian Gilbert, a director at the Royal Bank of Scotland, had been previously charged with rape, with Jessica Gilbert as one of the victims, but he was found not guilty. Hours after the acquittal, Angela Gilbert, the mother of Jessie, was arrested on suspicion of threatening to kill her ex-husband over claims she hired a hitman to murder her ex-husband. She was later released, and lawyers decided not to proceed with the case.

In 2007, the 2006-2007 Hastings Chess Congress was a disaster for Farhad Tahirov, age 19. 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 British pounds in cash, plus a mobile phone and camera, as well as ending up in hospital for treatment to his injuries.

In February 2007, the president of FIDE almost had a fatal disaster. Florencio Campomanes was involved in another 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 œ hours to repair broken bones in his legs, hands, neck and face. (source: "Florencio Campomanes turns eighty," ChessBase News, Feb 22, 2007 -

In 2007, disaster plagued GM Teimour Radjabov (1987- ) and his father. On February 18, 2007, 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. Teimour was forced to withdraw from the tournament.

In 2007, one of the chess vendors had a disaster. The Rochester Chess Center was the official vendor at the World Open in Philadelphia. They had 21 expensive chess clocks stolen during the event.

In 2007, an elementary school suffered a financial disaster. In 2007, $73,000 was donated on behalf of a chess program and team at an elementary school in Washington, DC. 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 December 2007, disaster struck the tournament director of the Eastern Open in Washington, DC. His laptop with all the pairings and other information was stolen. It had occurred shortly after round 3, when the 6-month-old laptop was stolen from the director 's room.

On January 17, 2008, Bobby Fischer (1943-2008) died from degenerative renal failure in a Reykjavik hospital. He was 64. He refused to go to the hospital or get medical care. He had a blocked urinary tract and refused surgery or medications that would have prevented an early death.

In October 2008, a fatal disaster occurred at a rooming house. David Christian of Iowa City got in a fight with Michael Steward while playing a game of chess at the rooming house where they both lived. He was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Christian choked Steward to death.

In November 2008, the Haitian chess team missed the 2008 Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany, because of a series of disastrous hurricanes. 800 people were killed in Haiti and the island was ravaged.

In December 2008, chess proved to be disastrous for one pensioner in Russia. 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 a 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.

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 men started wrestling. Joseph Groom retreated to his bedroom and returned with a sword, which he used to stab Kelly Kjersem once. Kjersem later died.

The 2009 Gedeon Barcza Memorial chess tournament was a disaster. It was supposed to take place in Budapest. Although the first round was actually played with 5 International Masters and 7 Grandmasters, it soon became clear that the main organizer did not have the money to play with the hotel or the players. The Ramada Resort Hotel, where the players were staying and where the tournament was held, never received any money from the organizer. On the second day, the hotel decided to close the playing hall. The hotel manager said, "no money, no business." All 12 chess players were financially harmed, and the top GMs were still waiting for their appearance fees. The organizer blamed the situation on lost potential sponsors.

In 2009, it was a disaster for some of the players at the World Open in Philadelphia. The players would set their bags down in an area with computers attached to the Internet for hotel guests to use. Thieves would then make off with the bags.

In 2010, the Peruvian National Chess Team suffered a disaster by being banned by FIDE from all international chess competitions. Apparently, the Peruvian Chess Federation had a debt of 7,800 euros owed to FIDE as membership dues. In 2011, FIDE banned and suspended the Bangladesh Chess Federation following the unpaid dues of 35,000 Turkish dollars. FIDE also removed all the rated chess players of Bangladesh from the FIDE website. This was the second time that the Bangladesh Chess Federation was suspended for not paying their dues.

In April 2010, a volcano eruption in Iceland affected the World Championship match. Vishy Anand was supposed to travel from Madrid, Spain to Sofia, Bulgaria. A volcanic ash cloud forced their plane down in Frankfurt, Germany. Anand and his team drove over 40 hours to Sofia for the world championship match.

In 2011, it was a disastrous year for Vasik Raijlich and his Rybka chess engine. Rybka, the best chess-playing computer program in the world, was disqualified and banned for the plagiarizing of two other chess engines, Crafty and Fruit. Its author, International Master Vasik Rajlich, was told to return all trophies and prize money back to the International Computer Games Association (IGCA), which governs the World Computer Chess Championships. On June 29, 2011, after a 5-0 vote, Rybka was stripped of its titles, and Rajlich has now been banned for life in playing in computer chess championships. The ICGA disqualified and banned Rybka and its programmer, Rajlich, from previous and future World Computer Chess Championships. Rajlich has denied using other code, saying that Rybka is 100% original at the source code level. Further allegations have been made that Rajlich violated the Gnu Public License (GPL) based on a decompilation effort by chess programmer Zach Wegner. The ICGA demanded that Rajlich return the four replicas of the Shannon trophy (World Computer Championshop Trophy) and prize money of the World Computer Chess Championships of 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

On August 11, 2011, a disaster occurred over a game of chess at Chuy 's Restaurant in Phoenix. Two people were stabbed 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 got mad and stabbed the winner twice. The victim 's friend jumped in and tried to help, but he was also stabbed.

On October 4, 2011, GM Vassily Ivanchuk (1969- ) and his wife ran into disaster. They 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. At the time, Ivanchuk was leading in the Grand Slam Masters Final.

In November 2011, a disaster occurred at the K-12 Nationals in Dallas. Quinton Smith, age 17, was competing in the K-12 Nationals. During the tournament, he climbed to the roof of the Hilton Anatole (27 stories) and fell (or jumped) to his death. He laid on the ground for several hours while being attended by bystanders and police. He had lost his first four games, was in last place, and was given a bye in the 5th round.

In January 2013, an airplane disaster took the life of a chess player. Mike Anders, a chess equipment/book seller and popular area chess player, died when the plane he was piloting crashed into a house in Florida.

In April 2013, six members of the Melbourne, Australia Chess Club were involved in a disastrous car crash while returning from a chess tournament in Canberra, Australia. Their Toyota Tarago van rolled off the freeway near Winton in north-eastern Victoria, killing two of the players (Andrew Saint and Hannibal Swartz). Two other players, IM James Morris and Dimitry Partsi, were seriously injured.

In 2013, the World Junior Championship was supposed to have been played in Hatay, Turkey, only 12 miles away from the Syrian border. But the Turkish Chess Federation decided to move the event from Hatay to Kocaeli, Turkey to move it as far away from Syria as possible due to the Syrian civil war. Many federations had already decided not to send their players.

In January 2014, a fatal disaster over a game of chess took the life of a minister. An Italian man, Saverio Bellante, who had been living in a rented home in Dublin, killed his 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.

The years 2014-2016 were a disaster for Grandmaster William Lombardy (1937-2017). He had asthma and had just had a double-hip replacement. He got behind on his rent in the apartment he had for almost 40 years. There was a forced entry into his apartment. There was lack of heat. He complained of broken appliances. He was finally evicted in 2016 as the landlord said that he owed over $49,000 in back rent. For a brief time, he was homeless (living in a subway station), during which time he was assaulted and hospitalized. In 1978, Lombardy 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. (source: Henderson, "the Life and Sad Endgame of Bill Lombardy," CHESS Magazine, Jan 2018)

In August 2014, disaster struck the Chess Olympiad. Candidate Master Kurt Meier, 67, a Swiss-born member of the Seychelles chess team, died on the last day of the 41st Chess Olympiad, held in Tromso, Norway. His son was playing on the board next to him and tried to revive him. Hours later, Alisher Anarkulov from Uzbekistan was found dead in his hotel room in central Tromso.

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 April 2015, there was a disaster at an elementary school. A Dumont, New Jersey boy, age 10, jumped to his death after losing a game of chess at his school at Grant Elementary School.

In July 2015, a fatal disaster occurred when 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.

On October 17, 2015, disaster struck International Master Emory Tate. He was playing in a chess tournament near San Jose when he was struck by a heart attack. He was 56.

In October 2015, a fatal disaster was averted at a library. James Vernon, a 75-year-old public library chess club teacher was injured saving children from a knife attack. He acted as a human shield against a public library attacker with two hunting knives. The attacker, Dustin Brown, barged into the classroom where Vernon was teaching chess claiming he was there to kill somebody. The children escaped, and Vernon suffered several knife wounds. The attack occurred at the public library in Morton, Illinois.

In 2016, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov ran into disaster while trying to visit the United States. On August 25, 2016, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was barred from boarding a plane from Moscow to New York. He was on a sanctions list by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control for allegedly "materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria."

In 2016, GM Yuri Eliseev (1996-2016) participated in a sport that had fatal consequences. On Nov 26, 2016, Eliseev died in Moscow at the age of 20 after falling from a balcony on the 12th floor of his Moscow apartment, apparently while undertaking the extreme sport of parkour. He was trying to reach the balcony of a neighboring apartment when he slipped and fell. In 2012, he was the world under-16 chess champion.

In May 2018, Chinese Grandmaster Ding Liren suffered a disaster while participating in the Altibox Norway Chess tournament. He was involved in a bicycle accident in the early afternoon and broke his hip. He was riding with his father when the 25-year-old fell off his bicycle making a turn at high speed. He went into surgery at the Stavanger University Hospital and had to withdraw from the tournament after playing just three rounds.

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