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Chess Tragedies

By Bill Wall

Caliph al Walid I (668-715) who was an Umayyad caliph who ruled from 705-715,
was playing chess (shatranj) with one of his courtiers, who was a much stronger
player than the Caliph, but was purposely making bad moves in order for the
Caliph to win. One day, the Caliph observed this and was highly offended. He
seized one of the heaviest chess pieces and hurled it at the courtier’s head saying,
‘May evil befall thee, base sycophant! Art thou in thy senses to play chess with
me in this foolish manner?’ An Arabic manuscript says that the caliph broke his
opponent’s head with a blow with his firzan (equivalent to the modern Queen).
The Arab historian al-Masudi (896-956), writing in his travel diary in 950 A.D.,
described how they played and betted on chess in India. Players would wager
their fingers on a game of chess. If a player lost, he would cut off a finger with his
dagger, then plunge his hand in boiling water with special ointment to cauterize
the wound. Then he returns to the game. Another loss would mean another loss
of another finger. Sometimes a player who continued to lose would cut off
all his fingers, his hand, his fore-arm, his elbow, and other parts of his body. After
each amputation, he could cauterize the wound and return to another game of
Canute (995-1035), king of England, Denmark, Norway, and part of Sweden, was
said to have killed an earl over chess. The story is found in The Chronicles of the
Kings of Norway called the Saga of Olaf Haraldson. In 1028, the king was playing
a game of chess with his brother-in-law, Earl Godwin Ulfnadson , the husband of
the king’s sister, when the king made a bad move, which led to a loss of one of
the king’s pieces. The king took his move back, replaced his knight, and told the
earl to play a different move. The earl got angry over this, overturned the chess
board and started walking away. The king said “Runnest thou away, Ulf the
coward?” The earl responded, “Thou wouldst have run farther at Helga river if
thou hadst come to battle there. Thou didst not call me Ulf the coward when I
hastened to thy help while the Swedes were beating thee like a dog.” The earl
then left the king’s quarters. The next day, the king ordered the earl to be
killed. The earl was stabbed to death at Saint Lucius’ church. In 1035, Canute
died at the Abbey in Shaftesbury, Dorset. According to Henry Bird in Chess
History and Reminiscences, the king was killed while watching a chess
game. Armed soldiers rushed into the building and slew Canute while his
friend, Valdemar, who was playing chess, was severely
wounded. Valdemar escaped using the chess board as a shield.
Around 1120, King Henry I (1068-1135) of England and King Louis VI (1081-1137)
of France got into a fistfight over a game of chess in Paris. One story says that
Louis threw the chessboard at Henry; another says that Henry hit Louis over the
head with the chessboard. Courtiers stepped in to stop the fight. This episode
supposedly was the start of events that kept England and France at war for almost
12 years.
Around 1213, Joan (1194-1244), Countess of Flanders and the daughter of
Baldwin IX (1172-1205), count of Flanders and first emperor of the Latin Empire of
Constantinople, beat her husband, Ferdinand (1188-1233), prince of Portugal, in a
game of chess. He got so mad that he hit her. In revenge, she left her husband in
French captivity from 1214 to 1226, refusing to ransom him.
In 1251, the first known court case involving chess and violence appeared. It
dealt with a chess player who stabbed his opponent to death. A quarrel arose
between two players of Essex over a chess match. One of the players who lost
was so angered that he stabbed his opponent in the stomach with a knife, from
which he died.
In 1264, another court case was opened when a man stabbed a woman to death
with his sword after a quarrel over a chess game.
In 1495 the Inquisition saw victims of persecutions stand in as figures in a game of
living chess. The game was played by two blind players. Each time the captured
piece was taken, the person representing that piece was put to death.
Atahualpa (1497-1533) was the last sovereign emperor of the Inca Empire. In
1532, the Spaniards sacked the Inca army camp and imprisoned Atahualpa. While
in prison, he was taught chess by the Spaniards and became very good at
it. Atahualpa advised Hernando de Soto in one game of chess that helped defeat
one of the Spanish friars named Riquelme. Popular tradition in Peru says that
Atahualpa would not have been condemned to death if he remained untutored in
chess. Atahualpa was sentenced to death by 13 votes for and 11 against. It
was Riquelme’s vote that broke the tie that called for the death sentence. The
Peruvian people say that Atahualpa paid with his life for the checkmate
that Riquelme suffered because of his advice.
In 1598, Paolo Boi (1528-1598), one of the leading chess players of the 16th
century died in Naples. Historian H.J.R. Murray says he was poisoned in by jealous
rivals. Other sources say he caught a cold when hunting and died as a result of it.
The Puritans were against chess and discouraged chess play. It was considered a
sin to play chess. (source: Victorian Web)
In 1622, Gioacchino Greco was robbed of all his money (5,000 crowns) that he
won in Paris from playing chess while on his way to London.
This could have been a Shakespeare tragedy. On August 30, 1624, playwright
Thomas Middleton (1580-1627) was arrested in London after producing a play, A
Game at Chess, that satirized the proposed marriage of Prince Charles with a
Spanish princess. The play was performed in the Globe Theater in London. Its
nine performances, from August 5-14, 1624, was the greatest box-office hit and
the most talked about dramatic work of early modern London. After Middleton’s
arrest, the play was censored and was not allowed to be shown again. Further
performance of the play was forbidden and Middleton and the actors were
reprimanded and fined. Middleton never wrote another play.
In 1649, Tsar Alexei (1629-1676) banned chess in Russia. Players caught playing
chess were whipped and put in prison.
Alexandre Deschapelles (1780-1847) was arrested for being involved in the French
insurrection of June 1832. He was released a month later after writing to the king
that he was too old, too infirmed, and innocent. Earlier, when he was a soldier,
he was very seriously wounded on the battlefield against the Austrians and was
left for dead. He was covered with so many wounds, he was not recognizable.
Louis-Charles Mahe de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840), strongest player of the
19th century, died of a stroke. He died penniless in London, having been forced to
sell all his possessions to satisfy creditors. He was only 44 or 45.
In 1848, the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution banned chess clubs in
Hungary until 1864. As a chess player, Johann Loewenthal was forced to leave
On May 18, 1853, Lionel Kieseritzky (1806-1853), 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 Café de
la Régence. The location of his exact plot has not been found.
William Henry Russ (1833-1866) one of America’s leading compiler of chess
problems, 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 1875, Albert William Ensor (1843-1883) was arrested for counterfeiting in New
York. In 1873, he was the first Canadian Chess Champion. He was later arrested
in Germany for gambling and in France for forgery.
In 1879, Carl Goering (1841-1879), a German professor, philosopher, and chess
master, committed suicide in Eisenach, Germany. He got sick with rheumatism in
1872 and was suffering from depression.
Tragedy struck Johannes Zukertort (1842-1888) when he was playing in a chess
tournament at Simpson’s, a London coffee-house. He fell unconscious while
playing his game against Sylvain Meyer. Instead of calling for medical help, he
was carried to another site, the British Chess Club, a few blocks away. He was
then taken to Charing Cross hospital where they diagnosed the problem as a
cerebral attack (stroke). He never gained consciousness and died the next
day. At the time, Zukertort was in 1st place of the tournament.
On January 23, 1890 the New Orleans Chess, Checkers, and Whist Club was
destroyed by fire. The valuable library of the chess club and all the Morphy
memorabilia were all destroyed.
In 1890, Walter Grimshaw (1832-1890), a famous chess problemist, committed
suicide just after Christmas by cutting his throat with a razor. He became
despondent and his mind became “unhinged.”
On April 14, 1891, George Mackenzie (1837-1891) was found dead at a hotel in
New York. A hotel worker called at his room and found him dead in bed. He had
terminal tuberculosis before his death. The day before, he visited the Manhattan
Chess Club and was arranging to challenge the winner of the forthcoming match
between Blackburne and Gunsberg. William Steinitz reported that his death was
from an intentional overdose of morphine. This rumor was started by a doctor
who refused to sign a certificate for an insurance policy because the doctor had
not been paid a fee. During the Civil War, Mackenzie was arrested for desertion.
On May 11, 1894, Austrian-Hungarian chess master Alexander Wittek (1852-1894)
died in a lunatic asylum in Graz. He was diagnosed with a "paralytic mental
disorder" the previous year. One source says that he committed suicide but
another cites tuberculosis.
In 1897, William Wilson, age 55, a prominent member of the Franklin Chess Club
in Philadelphia and bookseller, was robbed and killed in his store.
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 August 12, 1900, former world champion William Steinitz died in the
Manhattan State Hospital on Ward’s Island. For months, he had been confined
there, diagnosed as insane. He was committed by his wife. In 1897, he began to
have the illusion that he could talk on the phone without thread or elauricular and
his secretary often surprised him waiting for a response through the invisible
hearing aid. He also used to approach to the window where he spoke and
singed, remaining after waiting for an answer. The secretary informed about this
to the American consul who suggested that Steinitz should be taken to
a sanatorium. In 1900, he thought he could deliver electric charges, with
the help of which it would be feasible to move the pieces at will. Claimed to be in
electrical communication with God and could give him a pawn ahead and White

Johannes von Minckwitz (1843-1901) committed suicide by stepping in front of an

electric car near Biebrich, Germany. He lost both arms and died May 20, 1901. He
was only 58.
David Janowski was addicted to gambling and was always short of funds. In 1901
David Janowski (1868-1927) won an international tournament at Monte Carlo and
lost all his first place money in the casino the same evening the tournament
ended. The casino management had to buy his ticket home. In another event he
handed his money to a friend and made him promise not to return it until after
the chess tournament. However, the lure of gambling proved too strong and he
begged for the return of his money. His friend refused. Janowski was so infuriated
that he sued his friend.
In 1906, the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club was destroyed by the San Francisco
earthquake and fire. The new Mechanics’ Institute building was not built until
Harry Pillsbury (1872-1906), a world class chess player, died of syphilis, which he
caught from a prostitute in Saint Petersburg about 10 years before his death. In
March, 1905, he tried to jump out a 4th story window at the Presbyterian Hospital
in Philadelphia. He was stopped by several nurses and doctors. He died at Friends
Asylum in Frankford, Pennsylvania. His obituary in the New York Times stated that
he died from an “illness contracted through overexertion of his memory cells.” He
was only 33.
In December 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 August, 1909, chess master Rudolf Swiderski (1878-1909) committed suicide in
Leipzig. 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. Other sources say that he had an illness extending
over a period of years and was discouraged by what he deemed a hopeless
flight. He died a week after his 31st birthday.
On September 11, 1913, Dr. Julius Perlis (1880-1913), 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 (Hochtor-Ostgrat). He was only wearing light clothing. He
fell asleep on the ridge and froze to death.
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 1918, chess master Ossip Bernstein (1882-1962), an advisor to rich bankers in
Russia, was arrested by the secret Bolshevik police and ordered executed by a
firing squad. An officer reviewing the list of those to be shot recognized Bernstein
as the famous chess master and spared his life.
On December 27, 1918, Carl Schlechter (1874-1918), leading Austrian player, died
from pneumonia and starvation in Budapest, Hungary, during the war-imposed
famine in Central Europe. He never mentioned to any of his acquaintances that he
needed food or money. He was found in a room without any money, heat or food.
He was buried in Budapest on December 31, 1918. He was only 44.
In November 1921, chess master Norman Whitaker (1890-1975), his brother and
sister, were arrested for stealing automobiles and collecting on the
insurance. Whitaker was convicted, but escaped. He was arrested in 1925 and
sent to the federal prison at Fort Leavenworth.
In the 1920s, public chess playing on Sundays was banned in Massachusetts. A
law was passed to make it illegal to play checkers and chess in public on
Sunday. (source: NY Times)
On January 31, 1924, Curt von Bardeleben (1861-1924) threw himself out of the
second floor window of his boarding home in Berlin and died of his
injuries. Other sources say he fell out by accident. Seeking some fresh air, he
opened a low silled window and fell out. He was living in extreme poverty at the
Chess has broken up marriages. In 1927, the artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1978)
married his first wife, Lydie, and went on their honeymoon. One night, she glued
all of his chess pieces to the chess board because he spent his honeymoon week
studying chess. They were divorced 3 months later.
In December 1927, Dr. Joseph Eljas, President of the Reval, Estonia Chess Club,
was invited to a chess tournament in Leningrad. As soon as he entered Russia, he
was arrested by the Cheka. The Cheka, claiming his notebooks, filled with chess
problems, were a secret cipher. He was charged for spying for a foreign power.
In 1928, chess master Norman Whitaker was on his way to The Hague to play in
the Amateur World Chess Championship. He was traveling by train when the
train wrecked and derailed, killing 9 people and severely injuring his wife.
In 1929, Richard Reti 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.
In 1931, Lazar Zalkind (1886-1945), a statistician who composed many chess
problems, was arrested and sentenced to 8 years in prison as a “renegade and
traitor to the working class.” Krylenko forced his fellow composers to denounce
him in the Russian chess magazine, 64. He was due to be released in 1938, but
was given another 5-year sentence in a harsher camp. When he was released in
1943, he was told that his son, Boris, had just died on the Belorussian front. Lazar
was still not allowed to return home. He died of a heart attackon June 25,1945 in
Komsomolsk-on-Amur, located in the Russian Far East.
In 1931-1932, Dutch Master Daniel Noteboom (1910-1932) attended the Hastings
Chess Congress, held in December-January. The weather was so cold that he
caught pneumonia at Hastings and then died a week after the tournament on
January 12, 1932.
On April 20, 1932, Edgar Colle (1897-1932) 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 1932, chess master Norman Tweed Whitaker (1890-1975) 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.
On November 11, 1932, Frederick Yates (1884-1932) 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. He was buried at Leeds on November 16, 1932. He was only 48.
In July 1933, all Jews were banned from the Greater German Chess
Association. The penalty was arrest. (source: JTA)
In August 1935, Mrs. R.H. (Agnes) Stevenson, age 52, 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 forgot the propeller was rotating, stepped in front of the plane, instead
of approaching the aircraft from the rear, and the rotating propeller hit her and
killed her instantly, cutting her head in two.
In May,1936, Nikolai Salmin (1907-1938?) was suddenly and unexpectedly
arrested. He was one of the top ten players in Leningrad. The specifics of any
charges against him could not be discovered. He was found guilty and shot,
probably in 1938.
In August, 1936, Lev Spokoiny, editor of the chess magazine, Shakhmaty v SSSR,
was arrested as a Trotskyite and counter-revolutionary. He was shot in October,
On September 10, 1936, Pyotr Izmailov (1906-1937) 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.
In 1937, Petr Moussory (1911-1937), an expert chess problemist, and his mother,
were arrested and executed.
In 1937, Lazard Salkind (1886-1945), a well-known Russian chess problemist, was
accused of being a Menshevik. He was arrested and sent to the Gulag for 8 years.
In 1937 chess study composer Sergey Kaminer (1908-1938) was caught up in the
purges and was arrested. He was sent to the Siberean gulag. He died on Nov 2,
In July, 1937, Vladimir Fridberg (1884-1938) was arrested. He was sentenced 10
10 years in the Gulag. He died soon after entering the Gulag. Earlier, he had been
elected to the central committee of the Chess Section.
In October, 1937, chess problemist Mikhail Platov (1883-1938) of Latvia was
arrested in Russia after making a derogatory remark about Stalin. There was no
trial. He was sentenced under Article 58 to ten years in a labor camp. He was
shipped off to the Gulag in Siberia and died in early 1938.

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 1937, Polish chess master Achilles Frydman (1905-1940s) had just left a mental
asylum and was warned not to play chess. However, he played in the 1937 Polish
chess championship and suffered a nervous breakdown. He could not finish the
tournament after 15 rounds of a 21 round event. Reuben Fine, in his book, The
Psychology of the Chess Player, stated that Frydman had run through the hotel
without any clothes, shouting “Fire!” George Koltanowski, in one of his columns,
wrote that Frydman insisted in walking around in the lobby naked. A Polish
newspaper column reported that A. Frydman had caused many difficulties for the
tournament management and for the players. Gideon Stahlberg had the room
next to Frydman and could not sleep because Frydman would yell “check” and
“checkmate” all night long. Najdorf blamed two losses on Frydman’s interruptions
(Frydman would run to the phone after every move and make a long distance
phone call). In 1938, during a tournament in Lodz, Achilles Frydman showed up
naked to play Tartakower. Frydman was later put in a mental asylum in
Kocborowo. In 1940, he was arrested by the Nazis in Warsaw and died in a
concentration camp.
On May 30, 1937, Herman Steiner (1905-1955) 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
In the late 1930s, many chess players and organizers were purged during the
Great Terror for the crime of “formalism,” which meant indulging in chess for its
own sake rather than for political ends. Krylenko was one of those victims.
On November 21, 1937, Arvid Kubbel (1889-1938) was arrested for sending his
chess compositions to the German chess magazine, Die Schwalbe. He bypassed
the USSR Chess Section’s Central Composition Committee, which had to approve
all compositions for publication. He was charged under Article 58 1a
(treason). Arvid was sentenced to 10 year of hard labor without right to any
correspondence. He was executed on January 11, 1938, en route to a Siberian
prison camp.
In 1938, Pavel Neunyvako (1897-1940) was the chairman of the All-Ukranian
Chess Section. He was involved in controversies over formalism in
composition. He was arrested and exiled to Alma-Ata. He was later re-arrested
and shot in 1940.
In 1938, three women, Mary Bain, Mrs. McCready and Miss Weart, returning from
the US Open chess tournament in Boston were in a car wreck after their car
skidded on slippery pavement and crashed into a telegraph pole. 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.
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
other injuries.
In March 1940, the Germans arrested all the chess players that were meeting at
the Warsaw Chess Club (Kwiecinski Chess Café), which was banned earlier by the
Germans. The Jews were all taken to a concentration camp (Danilowicowskia) in
Palmiry, Poland (north of Warsaw) and were later killed in a mass execution. This
included Polish masters Dawid Przepiorka (1880-1940), Achilles Frydmann,
Stanislaw Kohn, and Moishe Lowtzky. Over 2,000 men and women were
executed there by the Nazis.
In March 1940, Moishe Lowtzky (1881-1940) was arrested in Warsaw. That same
year, he died in a Nazi concentration camp. He was a Ukrainian-Polish chess
On September 23, 1940, the National Chess Centre, located in the Cavendish
Square building on Oxford Street, was burnt down in London during The
German Blitzkreig, which began on September 7, 1940 and lasted until May 21m
1941. It had opened in September, 1939, with 360 members and expanded to
over 700 members, despite wartime blackouts and rationing. The Centre was
managed by world women’s champion Vera Menchik. It advertised “Large and
well-appointed Air Raid Shelter on the premises.”
In early 1941, a member of a chess composition circle in Moscow was
arrested. He reportedly told his interrogators that the circle was often the
occasion for anti-Soviet jokes. One by one the members of the circle were
arrested. In November, 1941, Mikhail Barulin, executive 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.
In June 1941, Estonian player Ilmar Raud (1913-1941) was found wandering in the
streets of Buenos Aires and was arrested by the police. A fight occurred while he
was in jail, and he was later sent to a lunatic asylum, where he died on July 13,
1941, most likely of starvation.
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.
On September 3, 1941, Alexander Ilyin-Genevsky (1894-1941) died during the
siege of Leningrad by the Germans. He was on a barge on Lake Ladoga, east of
Leningrad, trying to escape the city, when a German aircraft bombed the barge.
He was the only one killed on the barge, which was displaying Red Cross flags. He
was only 46. During World War I, he suffered from shell-shock and had to learn
how to play chess for the second time. During the Russian Civil War in 1918, his
wife shot herself. His second wife, uninjured on the barge, was so overcome with
despair that she killed herself a few days aster Alexander died.
On October 2, 1941, Dr. Karel Treybal (born Feb 2, 1885), famous Czech chess
master, died during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia (Bohemia-
Moravia). 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. Korchnoi survived the siege of
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. He was only 51.
In 1942 Ilya Rabinovich (1891-1942), Russian master, was evacuated from
Leningrad, but died of malnutrition in a hospital in Perm, Russia. He was a few
weeks from his 51st birthday.
Samuel Reshevsky lost the US championship due to a stupid mistake by the
tournament director. In 1942, Arnold Denker (1914-2005) beat Samuel Reshevsky
(1911-1992) on time in the US chess championship. While spectators watch, the
tournament director, Walter Stephens (1883-1948), mistakenly declared that
Denker’s time had expired. Stephens was looking at the clock backwards and
refused to change his decision, which ultimately gave Reshevsky the title.
In August, 1942, Alexey Troitzky (1866-1942) died of starvation during the siege of
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.
In 1942 Ilya Rabinovich, Leonid Kubbel, Mikhail Kogan (chess
historian), Samuil Vainshtein (chief arbiter), and Alexei Troitzky starved to death
during the siege of Leningrad. Peter Romanovsky somehow survived, 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, Austrian master Ladislaus Doery (1897-? ) was arrested for sedition by
the Nazis and sentenced to death. He was released from prison by allied troops in
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 othe 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 June 26, 1944, world woman chess champion Vera Menchik-Stevenson (1906-
1944) died in a German bombing of London. She died along with her sister, her
sister’s husband, and her mother. She died in Kent after a German V-1 rocket hit
her home (the bomb shelter in the garden remained intact). Her sister,
Olga Menchik-Rubery, was world woman chess challenger in 1935 and 1937. At
the time of her death, Vera was serving on the editorial staff of Chess magazine as
games editor.
In 1944, the Nazis invaded Hungary and began deporting Jews. Chessplayer
Roman Frydman survived because he could play chess. Roman, a lawyer from
Warsaw who went to Hungary, was taken to a Gestapo officer for interrogation,
but when he arrived, he notices the officer had a chess set in his room. Roman’s
brother had been a Polish chess champion before the ware, and the German had
once played in a tournament with his brother. The German challenged Roman to
a game of chess, saying, “if you win, I will save your life.” Roman played – and
won. From then on, the SS officer kept him imprisoned in Gestapo headquarters
as a chess partner. The Frydman family survived, but the majority of their Jewish
friends died in the Holocaust.
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. He was only
Miguel (Mendel) 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. If he had not gone to Buenos Aires to
participate in the Chess Olympiad, he would have perished also.
When World War II broke out, George Koltanowski (1903-2000) of Belgium was in
Guatamala, Central America. He then came to the US and became a US citizen.
Many of his family members, including his mother and brother, died in
concentration camps. Koltanowski survived the Holocaust because he happened
to be on a chess tour of Central and South America.
Members of the Polgar (Judit, Sofia, Susan) family perished in the
Holocaust. Their grandmother was a survivor of an Auschwitz concentration
Larry Evans learned chess from his older brother. His brother was later killed in
action as a bomber crew member during World War II.
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), JosekKolski (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).
After World War II, Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946) was not invited to any chess
tournaments. He was accused of converting to Nazi racial doctrines and accused
of actively collaborating with the enemy. He claimed that the Nazi articles under
his name were rewritten by the Germans. He was considered a war criminal by
the Soviet Union and also by the French underground.
In 1945, Herman Pilnik (1914-1981) of Argentina was involved in a car crash on his
way to Los Angeles to play in the Pan American Chess Congress. Two other
occupants of the car were hospitalized with broken bones. Pilnik, who had lost
his plane reservation, then drove 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. 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 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 1952, Pal Benko (1928- ) 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 1952, there was an international tournament in Havana full of tragedy. During
the event, there was a revolution in Cuba. The President who sponsored the
tournament was deposed. The Mexican entrants were recalled by their
government. The Cuban chess champion, Juan Quesada, died of a heart attack
during the event. His funeral was attended by all the masters participating in the
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 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.
In 1954, the Argentine Chess Federation called off the national chess tournament
after a fight broke out between a chess player and the tournament director.
In July 1955, Nancy Roos (1905-1957) was in a car accident just before the U.S.
women’s championship and had spinal injuries. She recovered to win the
women’s championship a few months later.
On November 25, 1955, former US champion Herman Steiner (1905-1955), age
50, 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 the 1958 Chess Olympiad, Frank Anderson (1928-1980) scored 84% before his
final round. In the final round, he became ill and was unable to play the final
round for Canada. He missed the Grandmaster title because of this missed
game. Even if he had played and lost, he would have made the final norm
necessary for the GM title.
In 1959, a Soviet scientist killed another Soviet scientist at a Soviet research
station in Vostok, Antarctica after a chess game argument. The losing player got
so mad that he killed his opponent with an axe. After the incident, the Soviets
banned chess at their Antarctic stations.
In 1960, Mikhail Tal (1936-1992) was driving to the 14th Chess Olympiad in Leipzig,
Germany when he got into a car accident. He was unable to play the first 3
rounds, but when he did show up to play, he played board 1 for the USSR. He
won 8 and drew 6 games and only lost the final round, to Englishman Jonathan
Penrose. That cost him the gold medal for board 1, and he settled for silver.
On June 1, 1960, an American sailor, Michael L. George, got into a fight at a
Greenwich Village bar, Chumley's at 86 Bedford Street, when a spectator criticized
the sailor’s chess game after he lost. The sailor struck the spectator (Clinton
Curtis, a freelance editor from Miami) with a broken beer bottle, which cut his
jugular vein, and he died. The sailor was eventually acquitted of murder and
charged with accidental death instead.
In 1961, Ernst Grünfeld (1893-1962), age 67, was playing in a chess tournament at
Beverwijk in the Netherlands. Grünfeld 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 Grünfeld managed to get to a phone booth and ring the
organizers. The organizers contacted Max Euwe, who came on the line. Hearing
of Grünfeld’s plight, he jumped into a car, and a few minutes later, he managed to
rescue Grünfeld 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, Grünfeld 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 September 1961, chess master Norman Whitaker (1890-1975), chess expert
Glenn Hartleb, and a 16-year-old boy were driving in Arkansas when they got into
a car wreck, killing Glenn Hartleb. Apparently, Whitaker and Hartleb were too
tired to drive, and they allowed the 16-year-old to drive. He lost control, hit a
bridge abutment and overturned the car.
In 1962, Bobby Fischer (1943-2008) complained that the Russian prearranged
draws against each other in order to conserve energy for play against
him. Fischer’s article “The Russian Have Fixed World Chess,” appeared in Sports
Illustrated. This led to the tournament system being scrapped in favor of a series
of elimination matches. Years later, Viktor Korchnoi, after he defected, accused
Soviet players of cheating, of ganging up on Westerners in tournaments and
throwing key games when necessary. In 2006, research from two Ph.D.
economists at Washington University in St. Louis offered strong evidence that the
Soviets cheated during the world chess championships from 1940 through
1964. Titled “Did the Soviets Collude? A Statistical Analysis of Championship,
1940-64,” the study was presented at several academic meetings. It concluded by
saying, “We have shown that such collusion clearly benefited the Soviet players
and let to performances against the competition in critical tournaments that were
noticeably better than would have been predicted on the basis of past
performances and on their relative ratings.”
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.
In 1963, Mrs. Edvige Ruinstein, the wife of a chessplayer in Milan, Italy was
granted a divorce from her husband on the grounds that he was so obsessed with
chess that he refused to work and support their two children.
In 1964, chess master Raymond Weinstein (1941- ) was arrested for murder after
he killed an 83-year old man in a nursing home with a razor. He was judged
mentally ill and was confined to Ward’s Island for the mentally ill.
In 1966, during the Chess Olympiad in Havana, Mikhail Tal (1936-1992) went out
one evening to a local bar in the city. Apparently, he was caught flirting with a
local woman, whose husband or boyfriend took exception. Tal ended up being
struck over the head with a beer bottle. As a result, he missed the first four
rounds of the event, and when he did appear in the tournament hall, it was with
his head heavily bandaged.
On February 10, 1967, French master Pierre Rolland (1926-1967) died in a car
accident. He was French champion in 1956.
In August 1969, Grandmaster Ludek Pachman (1924-2003) 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. He was released in December, 1970, but was
banned from chess in Czechoslovakia.
In 1971, when Mark Taimanov (1926- ) returned to the USSR after losing to Bobby
Fischer 6-0, he was banned from playing outside the country for several years and
was stripped of his title ‘Honored Master of Sport.’ He was a concert pianist and
was not allowed to give any more performances. He was also banned from writing
any articles and was deprived of his monthly stipend. When former world
champion Petrosian lost to Fischer, he lost his job as editor of 64 chess magazine.
In one of the US Opens of the early 1970s, a chess player had just lost his game
and, by himself, set up the pieces to analyze his game. A player sitting next to him
told him to leave the playing area, that this was not a skittles room. Ignoring the
player, the other person quietly replayed his lost game. The player again told him
to leave. The lone kibitzer replied, “Who died and made you king?” The player
then swept all the pieces off the other guy’s board with his hand. The kibitzer
responded with a right hook that knocked the player off his seat. A fight then
started, which had to be broken up by the tournament director.
In 1972, the wife of GM Larry Evans (1932-2010) was in a car accident. Evans
rushed to the hospital and was unable to play the last round at Lone Pine.
In 1973, the police raided a chess tournament in Cleveland, Ohio. The 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
In 1974, FIDE temporarily banned South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
from the chess Olympiad in Nice, France, due to their apartheid practices.
In 1974, Claude Bloodgood (1937-2001) escaped from a chess tournament after
he and another fellow inmate chessplayer, Lewis Carpenter, overpowered a guard
watching over him. They had received a furlough to play in a local Virginia chess
tournament. He was captured a few days later. This ended any further chess
organization in the prison. Bloodgood was sentenced to death in 1970 for
strangling his mother in 1969. His sentence was later commuted to life
On April 3, 1975, Bobby Fischer forfeited his world chess title to Anatoly Karpov
because he did not like the FIDE conditions for the match.
In May, 1975, Paul Keres (1916-1975) died of a heart attack in Helsinki, Finland,
while returning home to Estonia from the World Class Championship in
Vancouver, B.C. He had just won the event despite a doctor’s orders not to play in
the event due to the stress and his high blood pressure (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.
On July 24, 1975, Nicholas Rossolimo (1910-1975) fell from a flight of stairs in
Greenwich Village, New York and died of his head injuries. He had been giving
chess lessons late at night.
On November 8, 1977, Viktor 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. He asked for a
postponement in his world championship semi-final match with
Spassky. Raymond Keene was also a passenger, but not seriously injured.
In 1978, grandmaster William Lombardy (1937- ) 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, Joseph Fielder, a chess player in Wisconsin, was killed in a car
accident. Every year, Wisconsin holds a Joe Feider memorial.
In 1979, Billy Watt (1959-1979), a promising and active chess player in North
Carolina, died in a car accident in Taylorsville, NC. His father started the Billy Watt
Memorial in Statesville, NC, which I was the first director.
In 1979, after the Islamic revolution, chess was banned in Iran on the count of
encouraging gambling, warmongering, and inattention to the five ritual prayers
every day. This ban was in effect until 1988, when the Ayatollah Khomeini
rehabilitated the game.
In 1979, Patrick McKenna, a prisoner in Nevada, strangled his Las Vegas cellmate,
Jack J. Nobles, after an argument over a chess game in which he lost. He has been
on death row for over 36 years.
In the 1980s, the Soviet Union banned cosmonauts from playing chess in space
with each other (they can play against ground control personnel) after a fist fight
once broke out between cosmonauts after one of the cosmonauts lost his game
to the other cosmonaut.
In May 1981, Bobby Fischer (1943-2008) was arrested in Pasadena, California
because he matched the description of a man who had just committed a bank
robbery in that area. He was held for two days, and then released on $1,000 bail.
On January 25, 1982, UK master Duncan Wells (1964-1982) drowned in Rio de
In September 1982, Boris Gulko and his wife were arrested for protesting at the
Moscow Interzonal in Moscow. They were trying to immigrate to
Israel. Gulko was beaten by KGB agents and was forbidden to play in top-level
In 1983, Anna Akhsharumova was playing the final round of the Soviet Women’s
Chess championship against her main competitor, Nana Ioseliani. Anna won the
game on time forfeit and should have won the title. But the next day, Ioseliani
filed a protest alleging a malfunction in the chess clock. Ioseliani demanded a
new game be played. Anna refused to play, so the result of her game with
Ioseliani was reversed by the All-Union Board of Referees in Moscow (the
tournament itself was being played in Tallinn), thereby forfeiting her title. Anna
went from 1st place to 3rd place over this decision.
On December 9, 1983, Janos Flesch (1933-1983) died in a car wreck in Whitstable,
England. He was returning from the Kasparov-Korchnoi match in London to a
tournament in Ramsgate when he became involved in a car accident. He and his
wife died in the crash. He was only 50.
There was cheating in correspondence chess even before computers. In 1985,
Nick Down, a former British Junior Correspondence champion, entered the British
Ladies Correspondence Championship as Miss Leigh Strange and won the event
(and 15 British pounds along with the Lady Herbert trophy). He then signed up to
represent Britain in the Ladies Postal Olympiad. He was later caught when one of
his friends mouthed off about it and Nick confessed. The whole thing had been
cooked up by Nick Down and a group of undergraduates at Cambridge, where
Nick was a student. Nick returned the Lady Herbert trophy and was banned from
the British Correspondence Chess Association for two years.
In 1986, at the New York Open, Pal Benko was playing Hungarian Grandmaster
Gyula Sax in the final round. If Benko won, he would have earned $12,000. If
Benko drew, he would only get $3,000. Sax offered Benko a draw at a critical
position. Benko turned it down, blundered in time pressure, and lost. He got
In 1986, Israel was banned from the chess Olympiad held in Dubai in the United
Arab Emirates (UAE). (source: JTA)
In 1986, Grandmaster Georgy Agzamov (1954-1986) fell between some rocks at a
beach and died. He had just finished a chess tournament in Sevastopol and was
taking a shortcut to go swimming. He fell off a cliff and got stuck between two
rocks. Several people heard him yell for help, but he was too deep down in the
rocks and died before a rescue team could get to him. At one time he was ranked
number 8 in the world, with a 2728 rating. He died a week away from his
32nd birthday.
In 1986, grandmaster Aleksander Wojtkiewicz (1963-2006) was arrested and sent
to prison in Latvia for dodging the Soviet Army draft. While in prison, he studied
chess and found a novelty in the Sicilian Defense, Accelerated Dragon
variation. The new move was coined the “Prison Novelty.”
In 1987, Grandmaster Tony Miles (1955-2001) was arrested at 10 Downing Street
in London after trying to get in after midnight to talk to British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher about payments owed to him by the British Chess
Federation. He was eventually hospitalized for two months from a mental
In 1988, undercover police arrested a chess player at a park in New York City after
he won a marked $5 bill against a cop posing as a construction worker during a
blitz game. The chess player was jailed for 3 days, his medication was
confiscated, and he had a heart attack. The arrest was finally tossed out by a
judge. Five years later, the city settled the wrongful arrest lawsuit out of court for
In 1988, Guillermo Garcia, three-time chess champion of Cuba, took 2nd place in
the New York Open. His $10,000 prize was confiscated by the Department of
Treasury, invoking the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, because he was
Cuban. He never got the money as he died two years later.
On November 13, 1988, International Master Bela Perenyi (1953-1988) died in a
car accident near Kistelek. He was travelling to a chess tournament in
Saloniki. He was the fiancé of WGM Ildiko Madl.
Karen Grigorian (1947-1989), Armenian International Master, committed suicide
by jumping from the highest bridge in Yerevan. He was only 42.
In 1989, Brian Yamin was an honor student and promising chess player. He was
killed in an automobile accident in Indianapolis. A scholarship was created in his
In 1989, the police raided a chess a chess tournament in Los Angeles. The L.A.P.D.
vice officers raided a nightly chess tournament held at Dad’s Donuts. They cited
three men for gambling after finding $1.50 on the table. The police staged the
raid after an undercover detective tried unsuccessfully to join a blitz chess
game. The detective then pulled out his badge and said “all of you are under
arrest,” as the L.A.P.D. swooped in.
In 1989, during the French championship, IM Gilles Andruet and IM Jean-
Luc Seret got into a violent fight over an argument whether Andruet resigned
before Seret checkmated him. After the fight, Andruet needed 8 stitches and had
to withdraw from the tournament, despite the fact that he was in the lead after
10 of 14 rounds.
Guillermo Garcia (1953-1990), a Cuban grandmaster, died in a car wreck on his
way to the airport to catch a plane to play in the Chess Olympiad in Novi Sad. He
was only 36.
In 1990, grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov and his wife had their luggage stolen
from the trunk of a car while he was having dinner at a restaurant in New York
City. The next day, he was attacked by a gang and robbed of his money, airline
tickets, and 10 years of chess analysis.
In May 1990, top Russian Grandmaster Artur Yusupov returned to Moscow after
taking second equal prize at the SKA tournament in Munich. Hence he was
carrying quite a lot of money on the homeward trip. Shortly after he had arrived
home, armed thieves came to his apartment and proceeded to rob him of money
and other valuables. Although Yusupov put up no resistance, one of the thieves
panicked and discharged a shotgun into his stomach. For some time Yusupov was
critically ill, but his energy levels were never quite the same after this traumatic
experience, and he gradually fell back from his position as one of the top half-
dozen players in the world.
In 1990, 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 the 1990s, grandmaster Maurice Ashley was mugged twice in New York.
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. Five years later, he received a $1 million
settlement in a false arrest suit against New York City as the judge ruled that a
chess game was not “gambling” since it was a game of skill rather than chance
and the chess board was not “gambling equipment.”
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 1992, Bobby Fischer was threatened with a fine and arrest for playing chess in
Yugoslavia. Playing chess in Yugoslavia violated George W.W. Bush’s Executive
Order 12810 that implemented sanctions engaging in economic activities in
Yugoslavia. Following the match, the US Department of Treasury obtained an
arrest warrant against him. Fischer never returned to the United States for the
rest of his life.
On September 8, 1992, police in New Rochelle, NY arrested a player who refused
to put away a chess board and pieces at a library. Louis Taylor, 41, was reading a
chess book and set up his own chess pieces and board in the library. A librarian
told him to put his game away and pointed to the sign, “No Board Games.” When
he refused, the police were called who cuffed Taylor and charged him with
In 1993, a person was shot and killed while playing chess with a friend outdoors in
Bosnia. It was the first recorded killing of a chess player by sniper fire.
In 1994, chess was banned in Afghanistan by Taliban edicts. Anyone caught
playing chess were beaten or imprisoned. Chess was banned from 1994 through
In 1994, during the Chess Olympiad in Moscow, the captain of the Irish chess
team was mugged in the street by a gang of gypsy children and was only saved by
an old lady, who waded into them with an umbrella, to such effect that one boy
later required hospital treatment! Another team captain unwisely visited the
local bank to change several thousands of dollars in foreign currency, only for the
bank, “coincidentally”, to be robbed at that very moment. 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
In 1994, Martin Wirth, 37, of Fort Collins, Colorado, shot to death Vernie Cox, 24,
on his birthday after the two argued over a chess game. Cox died of two gunshot
wounds to the chest. Witnesses said that Wirth had lost a chess game with Cox,
knocked over the chess board and some furniture, and then began to argue with
his opponent. Wirth went across the street to his home and returned with a gun
and shot Cox to death.
On November 13, 1994, grandmaster Igor Platonov (1934-1994) returned home
to his apartment in Kiev after a chess tournament, when two thieves ambushed
him and murdered him. The killers were never caught.
In 1995, International Master Gilles Andruet, a former French champion, was
murdered in Paris over gambling debts. He was found dead in a plastic bag.
Isaac Boleslavsky (1919-1996) died after an operation. He had slipped on an icy
sidewalk, fracturing his hip. He contracted a fatal infection while in the hospital.
He was only 57.
In March 1997, two teenagers got into a fight over a school chess game. 13-year-
old John Slack was in critical condition. His 15-year-old opponent was arrested on
an assault charge.
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
In 1998, David Hooper (1915-1998) was killed in a car crash in Somerset,
England. He was 82. He was a former international player and author of several
chess books.
Lembit Oll (1964-1999), an Estonian grandmaster, committed suicide by jumping
out of his 5th floor apartment window in Tallinn, Estonia. He fell into severe
depression after he divorced. He had just turned 33.
On August 20, 1999, Ken Horne, a Las Vegas chess organizer, flying home in his
own airplane from the US Open Chess Championship in Reno, died after his
aircraft crashed. He died along with his wife after the plane crashed into a house
in North Las Vegas.
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.
On September 24, 2000, International Master Jaan Eslon (1952-2000) died from
injuries after a car wreck.
On February 18, 2001, USCF Executive Director Dr. George De Feis was injured in
an auto accident while attending the US Amateur Team East tournament in New
Jersey. He was in intensive care in Morristown, New Jersey and suffered a brain
Sometimes our kids are not even safe with a chess coach. In 2001, John Smith,
was arrested for molesting boys as a chess coach in Masssillon, Ohio.
On Sep 25, 2001, five chess players died in a vehicle crash in India on their way to
a chess tournament.
In 2001, 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.
In December 2001, John H. Smith of Massillon, Ohio was arrested on charges of
molesting boys as a chess coach at the York-Franklin Learning Center. He had
been a 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.
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 ripped through the Pennsylvania home of chess master
journalist Alex Dunne. 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.
On June 21, 2003, Simon Andrews, 60, of Falls Township, Pennsylvania, stabbed
to death Jerry Kowalski, 56, 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 Kowalski in the
neck. Andrews was sentenced from 15 to 30 years in state prison.
On October 27, 2003, Essam Ahmed Ali (1964-2003), an International Master and
Egypt’s top chess player, died of malaria after returning home from the All Africa
Games chess tournament in 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 that gave them malaria.
In July 2004, Bobby Fischer was arrested in Japan, accused of traveling on a
revoked American passport. He was wanted by the U.S. government on charges
of violating a ban to travel to Yugoslavia in 1992, where he went to play chess
with Boris Spassky.
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 2005, GM Alexander Stripunsky was in a terrible car crash just before the 2005
US chess championship. He played his chess games wearing dark sunglasses to
protect his left eye, which was badly injured in the accident. He tied for 1st in the
2005, US chess championship, but lost to Hikaru Nakamura in the playoff match.
In July 2005, Canadian grandmaster Pascal Charbonneau and his chess-playing
friends were mugged at gunpoint at the World Open in Philadelphia.
In September 2005, chess master Robert Snyder was arrested in Fort Collins,
Colorado on charges of molesting three chess students of his. Two boys were age
13 and one boy was age 12. He later escaped and was featured on America’s
Most Wanted in 2009. He was later captured in Belize after someone recognized
him from the TV show. He was released from jail in 2008 and was supposed to
register as a sex offender, but he never did. He was featured on America’s Most
Wanted in November, 2009. A girl had recognized him as a chess teacher in her
school in Belize and notified the authorities. US Marshals tracked him down in
Belize and arrested him.
In 2006, 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
In 2006, WGM Lilit Mkrtchian was hospitalized after a car accident in Armenia.
In 2006, Anatoly Karpov was working on a manuscript for a new chess book when
it was stolen in Brussels. One thief distracted him while the other attacked from
behind and stole his briefcase with the 300 page manuscript.
On July 26, 2006, Jessie Gilbert, 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
In 2006-2007, many forged email posts were made on the Internet targeting
several U.S. Chess Federation members and candidates in the upcoming USCF
election. The fake identities were alleged to come from Susan Polgar, former
world women’s chess champion and a board member of the USCF, and her
husband, Paul Truong. In 2009, both were removed from the executive board of
the USCF. Their webmaster, Gregory Alexander, was indicted by a federal grand
jury on 34 counts of email hacking and one count of aggravated identity theft.
On January 5, 2007, grandmaster Farhad Tahirov, age 19, was kicked and punched
by a gang of eight thugs during the 82nd Hastings International Chess
Congress. He was robbed of a thousand British pounds. It happened as we
walked along Harold Road in Hastings at about 8 pm.
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
In 2007, GM Farhad Tahirov played in the 2006-2007 Hastings Chess
Congress. After the last round, having a couple of hours to kill before the prize-
giving, he decided to take a walk along the Hastings seafront. Unfortunately, he
passed by a particularly dodgy pub, frequented by various skinheads and other
charmers, several of whom attacked and robbed him. He lost almost £1,000 in
cash, plus a mobile phone and camera, as well as ending up in hospital for
treatment to his injuries.
In 2007, 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, Grandmaster Maxim Sorokin (1968-2007) died a week after a traffic
accident while on his way from Elista, Kalmykia to Volgograd. He was only 39.
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 February 2007, Florencio Campomanes was involved in a car accident in Turkey
that left him in intensive care. He was on his way to the airport for a return flight
to the Philippines after the FIDE Presidential Board meeting in Antalya, Turkey
when the driver lost control of the vehicle. The car overturned and plunged over
the side of the road. Campomanes was sitting in the back seat and not wearing a
safety belt. He was thrown from the car, which was badly
damaged. Campomanes was operated on for 7 and ½ hours to repair broken
bones in his legs, hands, neck and face.
In 2007, two players got into an argument at the Village Chess Shop in New York
during a chess game. One player was using his piece to knock off the other
player’s piece rather than using the hands to remove a captured piece. One
player than picked up the wooden board and hit the other player in the mouth,
which drew blood. The police were called. The player that was hit was pressing
criminal charges and vowed to sue.
In December 2007, the tournament director’s laptop was stolen at the
34th Eastern Open in Washington, D.C. It had occurred shortly after round 3,
when the 6-month-old laptop was stolen from the director’s room. Generous
chess players at the event contributed $600, which was matched by a generous
donor to pay for a new laptop.
In January, 2008, Philip Hogarty, age 19, was struck by a patrol car and died in
Ireland. He was rated as one of the best junior players in Ireland. (source: Irish
In January 2008, Zachary Lucov was playing chess with Dennis Klien in
Greensburg, Pennsylvania, when a scuffle broke out. Luco pulled out a gun and
Klein was shot in the elbow. Lucov was arrested for aggravated assault and
reckless endangerment.
On January 17, 2008, Bobby Fischer died from degenerative renal failure in a
Reykjavik hospital. He was 64. He had a blocked urinary tract and refused
surgery or medications that would have prevented an early death.
In 2008, grandmaster Leonid Timoshenko had a precious diamond he was carrying
stolen. The diamond was part of a trophy won by the Ukrainian National Chess
Team in the 2008 Chess Olympiad. The diamond and trophy was in his checked
bag on the airplane, but when he landed, his bag was open, the trophy was
broken and the diamond was stolen. He was forced to check the cup into
baggage at Frankfurt on his flight to Kiev. On the previous flight from Dresden, he
was allowed to take the trophy onboard as a carry-on piece.
In 2008, 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 2008, FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was in a car accident on the way to the
airport to go to the 38th Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany. He was unable to
attend the opening ceremony.
In October 2008, 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 December 2008, a man was so upset in losing a chess match, that he threw his
opponent out the window. It happened in Gloazov, Russian Republic
of Udmurtia. 43-year-old Aleksey Valentikhin lost several games to 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 2009, fundamentalist Muslim religious schools in Britain banned chess.
In January 2009, a heated argument erupted at a Dubai chess tournament
between an Iranian chess master and his Asian opponent. The two then got into a
fight after the Asian opponent said he was good in karate.
In January 2009, a Bridgeport, Connecticut man was stabbed with a plastic snow
shovel after a dispute arose over a chess game.
In 2009, Philip Hogarty, a strong chess player, was killed when he was hit by a
police car while walking across a badly-lit road in London. He suffered head
injuries and died later that day.
In 2009, National Master Landon Brownell (1989-2009) died after a car accident
near Bakersfield, California. He was 19. In 2006, he won the National High School
In February 2009, a man killed a friend with a sword after a chess game in
Alameda, California. An argument broke out during their game, and the two
started wrestling. Joseph Groom retreated to his bedroom and returned with a
sword, which he used to stab Kelly Kjersem once. Kjersem later died.
On April 21, 2009 Landon Brownell (1989-2009) died in a car accident in Tucson,
Arizona. He was a chess master and rated almost 2300. He was the national high
school champion in 2006. (source: USCF)
In 2009, the 2nd Gedeon Barcza Memorial was supposed to take place in
Budapest. Although the first round was actually played with 5 International
Masters and 7 Grandmasters, it soon became clear that the main organizer did
not have the money to play with the hotel or the players. The Ramada Resort
Hotel, where the players were staying and where the tournament was held, never
received any money from the organizer. On the second day, the hotel decided to
close the playing hall. The hotel manager said, “no money, no business.” All 12
chess players were financially harmed and the top GMs were still waiting for their
appearance fees. The organizer blamed the situation on lost potential sponsors.
In 2009, a chess player who had just finished a tournament at the Marshall Chess
Club was mugged after leaving the club.
In 2009, thieves stole bags from chess players during 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 October 2009, David Christian of Iowa City, Iowa, was arrested after killing his
neighbor, Michael Steward, after the two got into a fight over a chess game. He
was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In 2010, Tyrone Lee, a long-time Chicago chess player, was killed in a car accident
while traveling to Tennessee.
In 2010, someone fired a shot at The Chess Club in Syracuse, New York. A 16-year
old boy received a gunshot wound to the foot.
On March 17, 2010, Anthony Beaver, age 19, was shot and killed while being
robbed in Atlanta. He had been chess champion of his high school and won the
2009 Clayton County Chess Championship.
On July 23, 2010, International Master Zdenko Krnic died from a hit-and-run
accident. He was on the crosswalk in Belgrade when he was hit by a motorcycle
driver, who then sped away. He was the Director and Chief Editor of Chess
Informant at the time. He was 62. (source: Spraggett on Chess)
At the 2010 chess Olympiad, the Yemeni team lost scored 0-4 after refusing to sit
down across from the Israeli team.
In 2010, a chess game between inmates at the Indian River County Jail in Florida
led to a fight. Christopher Brown was playing chess with another inmate in the
cell block when Christopher O’Neal, who was watching the game, commented
about the game on the other inmate’s behalf. Brown told O’Neal to shut up, but
O’Neal ignored him and continued to discuss the ongoing chess game. The two
then got into a fight. It took several detention deputies to break up the flight.
In October, 2010, seven players were arrested for playing chess in a playground
in Inwood Hill Park, New York (Manhattan). The chess tables in the park were off
limits to adults if not accompanied by a child.
On August 11, 2011, two people were stabbed at a Chuy’s Restaurant in Phoenix
after police say a person got mad over a game of chess. Officers at the scene said
two people were playing a game, but when one person won the game the other
person, a sore loser, got mad and stabbed the winner twice. The victim’s friend
jumped in and tried to help, but he was also stabbed.
In October 2011, Grandmaster Eduardo Iturrizaga, the top player in Venezuela,
got in a car wreck on his way to the airport to participate in a chess tournament in
Barcelona. He was unable to make it to the tournament.
On October 4, 2011, grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk and his wife were robbed at
gunpoint in Sao Paulo, Brazil as they were sitting in the taxi form their hotel to the
airport. Two men with guns took two suitcases and a handbag and ran. They
missed his laptop computer by his feet and his passport in the inside pocket of his
jacket, but got his wife’s passport which was in the handbag. Ivanchuk said that
the most valuable item stolen was his chess set, which he had for many years.
In 2011, 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 has 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.

In November 2011, Quinton Smith, age 17, was competing in the K-12 Nationals in
Dallas. 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
and was given a bye in the 5th round. (source: USCF)
In 2012, chess master John Charles Yoos of Vancouver, British Columbia, was a
victim of identity theft. A person with the same name and age had been charged
with attempted murder in New York.
On March 2, 2012, Isaac Braswell, age 32, committed suicide a day after playing in
a match in the Chicago Chess League (CICL). He persevered through a lifetime of
mental illness and poverty to be ranked among the top 60 players in Illinois.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
In May, 2012, Shanker Roy, age 36, one of Bengal’s leading chess players,
committed suicide. He hung himself from a ceiling fan using his wife’s long scarf.
He had been suffering from depression.

On July 27, 2012, Ron Washington (1951-2012) of Chicago drowned in Lake

Michigan. He was swept into the water and caught in a rip current. He was a
popular chess player at the North Avenue Beach “Chess Pavilion.” (source: Chess
In January, 2013, 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 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, a Chinese player murdered his best friend and then killed himself
so they could play chess in the afterlife.
On August 8, 2013, Russian Grandmaster Igor Kurnosov (1985-2013), age 28, was
hit by a car as he was crossing the street in Chelyabinsk and died at the scene of
the accident. He was one of the top 20 GMs in Russia, rated 2680 at his peak. He
was run over by a car and was filled on the spot at 2:45 am.
In August 2013, correspondence grandmaster Mark Noble walked away from
what could have been a fatal car crash. A car failed to stop at a stop sign, hitting
the front end of Mark’s car, just missing the driver’s door.
In 2013, GM Andrei Istratescu and IM Dragos Dumitrache were involved in a car
accident on the way to a Zurich chess tournament and had to withdraw.
On September 9, 2013, Alexander Bitman was killed by a hit-and-run car accident
in Moscow. He was a chess master and co-developer of one of the first chess
programs in the world.
In January, 2014, an Italian man, Saverio Bellante, who had been living in a rented
home in Dublin, killed his unlucky landlord over a game of chess. He was arrested
for the killing after stabbing his landlord, Tom O’Gorman, multiple
times. O’Gorman was a minister. Bellante told police that they were fighting over
a chess game. Bellante was then asked by O’Gormon to leave the house following
an argument over a chess move. Instead, Bellante found a kitchen knife and
stabbed O’Gormon, then beat him over the head with a dumbbell. Bellante was
also accused of eating the heart of his victim.
In April 2014, chess master David Harris was arrested in Providence, Rhode Island,
and charged with indecent solicitation and third-degree sexual assault. More
investigation continues since Harris was involved with chess in schools. Police
were still looking at his contact with other children that he taught chess to.
On June 15, 2014, several ax-wielding thugs went on a rampage in a Chinese chess
hall in Hotan City, Xingiang. Four people were injured during that attack.
In August 2014, 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. (source:
In September 2014, an internationally ranked chess player, Thomas Elberling, age
11, was shot and killed by his father in a murder-suicide in New Jersey. Thomas
was ranked #5 in the USA for his age group.
In 2014, a man strangled another man, and then committed suicide, leaving a
suicide note. The suicide not indicated that he was lonely and wanted to have
someone to play chess with in the afterlife.
In 2014, Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah, the Sunni grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared
chess “haram” (forbidden by the faith). He called it a waste of time and an
opportunity to squander money. He said that chess causes enmity and hatred
between people. It would be tragic to forbid chess in the Muslim community of
1.6 billion people. Chess was banned in Iran between 1981 and 1988.
In January 2015, Erich Spielman, age 92, was struck by a car driven by another 92-
year-old in England and died. He was a chess player (winner of several club
championships in Loughton) and the nephew of the famous chess player Rudolf
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, a Dumont, New Jersey boy, age 10, jumped to his death after losing
a game of chess at his school at Grant Elementary School. (source: NY Daily News)
In July 2015, Craig Woolcock of Wales killed himself after he quit his job as a
customer services official to concentrate on chess, but failed to qualify for the
British chess championship. The unlucky player suffered from mood swings.
(source: Daily Mail)
In October, 2015, 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.
(source: UPI)
In January, 2016, Grandmaster Ivan Bukavshin (1995-2016) died at the age of 20
of a stroke. Bukavshin became U12 European champion in 2006, U14 European
Youth Champion in 2008 and U16 European champion in 2010. He took 3rd place
in the 2015 Aeroflot Open in Moscow.