47 chess anecdotes. Will you know the 32th? Humor

chess anecdotes

Table of Contents

Chess anecdotes (I): The professional chess player: Pillsbury

Let's start with some anecdotes about chess. From all indignities that a professional chess player must go through to earn a living, one of the worst would be getting inside a cubicle full of gadgets. Getting inside? Hiding. That was what the great American champion Harry Nelson Pillsbury had to do in one of the “Turkish” Ajeeb. A chess automaton-like many others did before him.

Our man spent some time like that, in the Chinese Museum in Philadelphia. Pillsbury, the professional chess player, moved the pieces that were supposed, moved by the Turkish. It was summer, the weather in New England was warm and as it is easy to imagine. It was warm inside the creature. And Pillsbury is accustomed to requesting rations of cold beer.

Once, the right hand of Ajeeb took a tower, but the piece did not reach its destination, staying halfway and in the air. The opponent was confused looking from one side to the other, searching for an explication. At that moment, a veteran spectator came by. According to him, this normally happened when Ajeeb was surrendering. An explanation of course, though inexact but sufficient for the amateur player, who later described to his friends on how he beat the unbeatable Turkish.

Chess anecdotes (II): The deathly fate of Rjumin…

In the Soviet Championship of 1931, two names have played: Botvinnik and Rjumin, of 20 and 23 years of age, respectively. No one was disappointed as their followers, both were on the podium, Rjumin as runner-up and Botvinnik as champion.

1931 was a critical year for Nikolai Rjumin. He beat Grigoriev in one match, a renowned master, with a result of 6,5-1,5 which made it clear. The young Muscovite did not hesitate when it comes to showing his superiority. In that year, also commenced the “gestation” of a record that made him won the Moscow Championship until 1936. An achievement matched later by Smyslov. The feat was no more nonsense.

And in 1933-34, for instance, twenty chess players have taken part, among them were players of the status of Yudovich, Kan, Panov, Blumenfeld, Rabinovich or Verlinsky. Rjumin had not only won in that year, but he also accomplished it with a point and half of the advantage over the second classified player.

The moral successor of Chigorin, with a strong inclination for the attacking play and the combination game, Rjumin has in his brief background victories over grandmasters of the time, such as Stahlberg, Euwe and Capablanca. A commendable feat for someone who has never left Russia!

Chess anecdotes (III): The fate…

Duke of Rivas wrote it:

“Such unbeatable load
is the vital environment
for the petty being
which born in terrible fate!”

And the existence should be unbeatable for Rjumin, who in 1935 was taken ill with tuberculosis which took him to West Siberia (fresh air) to cure what was inevitable. In 1942 at 34 years of age, he has passed away, after dreams of dreaming with a beautiful dance of obsessive figures upon the chiaroscuro board.

Chess anecdotes (IV): Older than Islam…

The mufti of Saudi Arabia has upset all the chess enthusiasts who like to play some chess games. According to him, “chess is a diabolic game” and, thus, it is reprehensible.

But is this new? Have we forgotten Jomeini and his disapproval? What are we surprised about?

Meanwhile, the petrodollars fly, even in its down times, the enshrined soccer players ended up wrapped in gold, their careers in the Persian Gulf and the chess openings of Arab countries were covered with glory and tinsels, attending to them a worldwide champion and the “crème de la crème” of world chess. But the game of Caïssa is diabolic and reprehensible, what a surprise.

Just like the great British historian and orientalist H. J. R. Murray (nothing less than over a century ago) explained to us during his time, in his monumental work, ‘A History of Chess’ – in Muslim law all the actions are inscribed in five classes, from which the worse is the haram, or prohibited actions, and which implementation must be punished by law.

The criteria vary according to the schools, but they all agree that the final criteria are ruled by the Koran, followed by the evidence of an authentic tradition. In the Koran, chess is not mentioned but for the principle of analogy, it can be established an indirect relationship with the same and many have considered illuminating these verses of Sura V.92:

“O, true believers! Surely wine and maisir and stone pillars and divining arrows, are an abomination, of the work of Satan, therefore avoid them, that ye may prosper.”

Chess anecdotes (V): Legality of chess…

By extending the condemnation to games of chance (maisir) and divining arrows (ansab) there was a clear tendency to condemn chess and its practice. But there were many dissents among the jurists and interpreters of the law. The Hanbalite ben Taimiya (d. in 1328), for example, established a sensitive difference explaining that chess is maisir (a game of chance) only when it is played for money and, in consequence, it is reprehensible.

On the other hand, they have influenced three traditions derived from the attitude of Mohammed about leisure, one of which made emphasis in its hate for games of chance. Moreover, it is implausible that Mohammed heard something about chess. Since Mohammedan jurists have not clearly resolved the question on the legality of the illegality of chess. (In the own words of the prophet.)

The first tradition which related a caliph with chess made reference to Omar b. al-Jattab (d. in 643), the political father of Mohammed. It has been told that once he was asked about the legal stance of chess. His answer was: “What is chess?” Once it was explained to him, he answered: “There is nothing wrong with that. It is about war”.

It seems, anyway, that chess survived the cyclical and ambiguous condemnations or prohibitions of Muslim legislators, given that in the following centuries it had proliferated and was practiced throughout Islam.

Chess anecdotes (VI): Ignorance and religious prejudices.

This is not only about the Arabic or Muslim world. It is about ignorance and religious prejudices. The Catholic Church has also condemned and prohibited chess many times. It is even boring to remember. But chess will move forward without looking back. The chess game has started.

The verses of Omar Jayyam cannot be overemphasized:
“It is said that those who love wine pleasures
condemned are to eternally wander in hell
empty should be the paradise!”

Chess anecdotes (VII): War with the Newts…

Chess has appeared many times in the art world, sometimes in the cinema, in the painting…

“I was playing chess with Belamy in the hall of the French Hotel, in Saigon… I lost that game.

Suddenly, I thought that every play over the board had been already performed by another person and on another occasion. Maybe our story had been already “played” and here we are ready to move our pieces making the same expressions and towards the same mistakes…”

The fatality of ‘everything was written’ is reflected in a verse of ‘War with the Newts’, the most famous work of the Czech writer Karel Capek (1890-1938).

Capek was the inventor of the robot concept, which he introduced in his play R.U.R. (1920) and he is considered one of the pioneers of the science fiction.

Chess anecdotes (VIII): Humphrey Bogart in the Congo…

In 1951 the famous actor Humphrey Bogart was in the then Belgian Congo, filming ‘The African Queen’. (John Huston directed the film.) He was with his cast partner, Katharine Hepburn and his wife Lauren Bacall.

In those places a guy called Dr. Paul Limbos practiced medicine, he impersonated as an amateur chess player.

But in fact, he was a player good enough as to having won several times the Belgian Championship. It seems like Humphrey Bogart and Limbos were playing chess during the filming breaks, betting 1 dollar per game.

I only know one of those games (1-0 for Limbos, French Opening, 22 moves). Despite the beating, the level of play of the actor seems reasonable for an amateur. As a consolation, the loser won the Oscar for Best Actor that year, precisely for his performance in ‘The African Queen’.

Chess anecdotes (IX): A chair to “Mequinho”…

In the 60s (1960), a new prodigy appeared in the chess world: The Brazilian Henrique da Costa Mecking, alias ‘Mequinho’. He won the chess tournament in his country when he was thirteen years old. He was classified to the Interzonal of Sousse (1967) and Palma de Mallorca (1970).

After winning the Petrópolis (1973), he reached a place for the cycle of candidates, where Korchnoi eliminated him.

During that time, Mecking was among the best ten players in the world and he became very popular in Brazil, just like the stars of the bossa nova.

The young master attended to Las Palmas to dispute a competitive international chess tournament. The director of the chess tournament was the experienced master and ex-champion from Spain, Antonio Medina.

The problem posed to the organizers was that the phenomenon of Mecking was very exigent about his chair. Medina requested nothing less than twelve different chair models, to ease the prodigy’s choice. After having examined them all, Mequinho, shaking his head with a clear ‘No’, said he was not satisfied with any of them. Medina, who had thousands of miles and plays upon his shoulders, asked everyone to leave him alone with the big chess player.

“I understand you”, Medina said to him. “Now I know what you want.”

Mecking smiled. Medina brought a new chair in which, with a happy face, sat the Brazilian master. Expressing that this one was comfortable. Hence, the incident was resolved, thanks to the experience and cunningness of Medina. The chair in question was the first that was shown to the young genius.

Chess anecdotes (X): Full of alcohol…

It is well known that Mexican writer, Juan José Arreola was a remarkable chess amateur. Less known is that he also had a friendly chess enmity with Mexican poet, Jaime Sabines.

A journalist asked Arreola about the encounter of both on the board. “Well, what happens with Jaime Sabines is that he wins more games than me. But there is one thing – we drink while playing and Jaime has twenty times more resistance than me.

When we were playing 3 games, of two or three hours each, I may take some strong drinks, cognac or brandy. On those occasions, Jaime always won. I could also win and he knows that we actually have the same strength.

What happens is that Jaime has more resistance, not to play, but to drink and play at the same time.”


Chess anecdotes (XI): Clock sprinters…

The Kazakh GM, Vladislav Tkachiev, now a French national, has the reputation of being very strong in Blitz and quick games. He told his colleague, Eduard Gufeld:

”If there was a Worldwide Championship to two minutes, I will be the champion.”

However, in the first World cup of this style, he wasn’t, being Anatoly Karpov the winner.

Overall, and in view of the constant insistence of the expert, Gufeld proposed to him:

“Why don’t we create the alternative World cup of Blitz matches, I mean, to see who presses the button quicker?”

Chess anecdotes (XII): Keene and the vanity fair…

Raymond Keene had (and still has) an overwhelming personality in the British chess. In the mid-70s, he had competed heavily against the new star, Tony Miles, as the first player born in British land, to gain the great master title, because the millionaire Jim Slater had offered a significant reward. Both achieved it in 1976, but Miles beat him by thousandths.

Cultured, smart, insightful and astute, Keene is a prominent organizer of important chess events and shows great abilities to attract sponsors.

Also a remarkable and prolific author, Keene had during his youth published an outstanding book ‘Aron Nimzowitsch, A Reappraisal’, followed by numerous titles of different quality and fortune. A moderately sympathetic cynicism character, he once said:

“Many colleagues say they include their own games in their books because that is the stuff they know better. My case is something different. I do it just for vanity.”

Chess anecdotes (XIII): Eduard Gufeld: A sergeant firming the general…

If the hierarchy dominates many scopes of daily life, in the army it is a sacred matter. In 1960, the GM Eduard Gufeld integrated the team of Kiev in the Armed Forces Championship. And not only that, but he was the captain of the team. In a vital encounter for the interests of his team, it came down to a diagram position.

At this moment it was the Whites’ turn, defended by a general of the Ukrainian team. The general thought too much without making any plays. Meanwhile, the captain of the team was very impatient before such an obvious thing as the chess sacrifice of the bishop in f7. But the general couldn’t see it.

Then, sergeant Eduard Gufeld decided to incur in foul play conduct to inform the play to the coronel, and at the same time inform the general. But at the suggestion, he asked why should he sacrifice his valuable bishop?

As time went on dramatically for the interests of his team, sergeant Gufeld decided to confer himself the hierarchical role of captain in chess.

He approached the board of the general enough so that he could hear and asked him:
“What is the first commandment in the army?” The answer was immediate: “A subordinate must always obey the orders of his commander in chief!”

The doubts of the general were immediately dispelled and he played 10. Bxf7+!, with the feeling of accomplished duty, although he had not yet understood that to 10… Kxf7 was checkmate in two spots with 11 Qe6+ and 12 Qg6++. When his opponent understood it, he just surrendered on the spot.

Chess anecdotes (XIV): Four kings (chess) and only one fate…

In the ‘Mabinogion’, medieval saga of Celtic legends, there is a story, in which two kings play chess at the top of a mountain, while their respective armies fight in the valley.

Without them knowing, the vicissitudes of the battle follow the same course of their match.

At sunset, one of the kings knocks down the board and pieces with his hand, because he suffered a checkmate. Shortly after, arrives a bloody rider who tells him: “Your army flees. You have lost your reign.”

The scene is incredibly beautiful in its evocative strength, because of the intervention of fate, which imposes a causality nexus between both fight plans.


Chess anecdotes (XV): The abyss unbearable attraction (Pushkin)

Chess Puzzle: White to move and win.

The first move is obvious, 1.Bf4, as if the knight moves, then the pawn falls and draw.
1…Rc7 2.Be5! To any other move of the bishop on diagonal h2-b8, the rook is attacking it…
2…Re7. The defensive method lies in these two moves: …Re7 and …Rc7.
3.Nf7+! Rxe5
. No 4.Nxe5? Draw by stalemate.
4…Re6. The last resource: if 5.Nxe6? stalemate. 5.Nc6+ Rxc6+ 6.Kxc6 and White wins.
I believe this is a chess puzzle of the Czech composer Frantisek Dedrle, but I'm not sure. In any case, a wonder!

Chess anecdotes (XVI): The beronila pawn…

In 1926 Edmund Nebermann published in ‘Funkschach’ his own chess invention: the ‘Berolina’ chess pawn (in honor of Berlin). It is about a pawn that, unlike normal, moves in diagonal (one square, two in the first movement) and captures as the other pawn moves: one square in the column in which it is.

The new chess pawn was used in fantasy trouble, and in 1957 a tournament with Berolina pawns was organized.

Chess anecdotes (XVII): The extreme laconism of Eugenio Torre…

The Filipino GM Eugenio Torre is famous in the chess world for his laconism and his extreme reserve. In one occasion, an American journalist insisted on interviewing him against wind and tide.

In view of the repeated negative of Torre, the journalist told him: “Please consider that I have made a bet with my colleagues, couldn’t you tell me, at least, three words? “You have lost”, was the succinct answer of the Filipino.

Chess anecdotes (XVIII): Esteban Canal and his style…

In another anecdote, by a friend of Spanish-Peruvian master Esteban Canal, Michele Cordara in ‘L’Italia Scacchistica:

“I was in La Spezia, in 1975, with the great master Esteban Canal. While drinking coffee together, I asked him about his style in chess. The answer was typical of the poet in him: “Look, Cordara, in the games I jump out of the window and only when I get land do I know if I have landed on my feet.”

Chess anecdotes (XIX): Chess, at the feet of society?

Since the value in the society was discovered, either in education, as a means of prevention against Alzheimer or for social reintegration (in jail, etc.) everyone has been looking towards the usage of chess. Some are competent and well-meant; others are limited to repeating what they hear, yet some (and mostly) do not have any idea what they are talking about.

But chess does not need a justification for this bunch of opportunists. It did not come to this world for someone to explain its value as an instrument at the service of society. Chess is a refined and perverse game, unfit for well-meant people. A marvelous game in which involves in conflict two minds and two wills. Also interpretable as a challenge with oneself, and is the justification by itself. It is not the Mother Teresa of anyone, and will not feed the moral deficits of this society.

I am ready to be crucified. But what I have just written still stands.

Chess anecdotes (XX): Saga of siblings…

The family in social chess. It is almost certain that there is not another more famous fraternal saga in chess than the Polgár family, with Zsuzsa (now Susan), Sofía and Judith, all of whom hold international titles and with Judith, an undisputed queen of the board, for her merits and her record Elo.

But there are other famous siblings in the chess world. For example, the Hungarian brothers, Endré (or Andreas) and Lajos Steiner, the latter who emigrated to Australia. A country in which he was a champion many times. And the World Champion Mariya Muzychuk and Anna also!

We also have the American Byrne brothers (Robert and Donald), victim to the ‘Immortal’ of Bobby Fischer. And the Argentinians, Julio and Jacobo Bolbochán, or the Bulgarians Kiril and Krum Georgiev.

In Spain, we had (long time not seeing them) Francisco Gallego Erazo (who used to draw the Ikurriña on the spreadsheet, properly colored) and his sister Julia, both of whom held international titles as well. But I’m sure I may have forgotten some other saga.

Chess anecdotes (XXI): Blindfold displays…

A simultaneous exhibition is when one player plays several games against several opponents at the same time.

The first demonstration of blindfold chess simultaneous exhibition seems to have taken place with an Italian player named Buzecca, in Florence in January 1266, in which he played at the same time, a game where he could see the board and two without seeing it. He won two games and the other one was a draw.

In New York, 1924, Alekhine played 26 games, with 16 wins, 5 draws and 5 losses.

Then in Paris, 1 January 1925, Alekhine played 28 games (+22=3-3).

In 1925 Richard Réti played 29 games, we ignored the final result.

After, in 1937, in Edinburgh, the international Belgian master George Koltanowski played 34 games (+24=10), being the last record on this modality which doesn’t leave any doubts, homologated by virtue of an opposition reasonably strong.

In 1947, in Sao Paulo, Miguel Najdorf set the record of 45 games, although, given the doubtful level of his opponents, many have questioned this record. Results: 39 wins, 4 draws and 2 losses.

The Hungarian IM Janos Flesch demonstrated in 1961, an exhibition of 52 games (a world record), resulting with 31 wins, 18 draws and 3 losses, after eleven hours of game time.

Taken from LA FIESTA DEL AJEDREZ, A. Gude.

Chess anecdotes (XXII): On what day did you learn to play chess?

Playing chess is something that several of us have done it many times. There probably isn’t anyone who can answer that question.

Some time ago, there was someone who could answer this: we are talking about the GM Jan Hein Donner (1927-1988), the best Dutch player for many years after Euwe and before the apparition of Jan Timman.

On 23 August 1941, a professor had taught Donner and his classmates the rules of the game and the movement of the pieces. And on the same day, the Nazis arrested his father, a prominent judiciary member, sending him to a concentration camp. For this reason, the date could not be forgotten.

Chess anecdotes (XXIII): Petrosian defends the fortress…

The preliminary agreement of draw in chess had always been much criticized, as they are considered unsporting. And of course, they are but do exist. They have always existed. It can be difficult to avoid two players of agreeing to draw in chess when this result suits them or it is important for their interests. We must understand that for professionals, the result of a game might have significant sport and economic consequences.

What is worse than a preliminary agreement of draws, is that when a party decides to break it without warning the opponent. There are some cases that have come to light in that sense. In a recent team championship in Spain, for example, Ponomariov failed to keep his word when his opponent has made some careless plays, trusting in the pact. The explanation given by Ponomariov was that his team captain has forbidden it. But this was not mentioned to his opponent.

A very curious case took place in the Olympics in Lugano (1968), in the match of Romania-USSR. Gheorghiu vs Petrosian has agreed on a draw. And when leaving the opening, the worldwide champion looked at his opponent questioningly. The Romanian GM said to him, “Let’s make a few more plays, for the audience…” and Petrosian realized it immediately. His opponent made a move and went to the bathroom. Petrosian followed him and then, very calmly told him: “If you make one more move, I’ll blow your head up in public.” And Gheorghiu understood that. It was draw.

Chess anecdotes (XXIV): Sam Loyd the magician…

One of the problems of help that ends in checkmate is one in which the side that is destined to become a victim collaborates with its executioner. It's needed to make the best moves to be punished, in an exercise of masochism.

This example, from the initial position, is a creation of the unrivaled Samuel Loyd. An unbeatable master in problems of fantasy.

In this familiar position, the blacks have to do a checkmate in four moves. The added condition (or challenge) is that all black moves must be made by pawns.

(SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM OF SAM LOYD: 1.f3 e5 2.Kf2 h5 3 Kg3 h4+ 4.Kg4 d6++ checkmate)

Chess anecdotes (XXV): Red Wolf plays…

Karl Marx (1818-1883), the prominent inventor of scientific socialism, was a great chess amateur and it seems like he had dedicated long evenings for its practice. According to Liebknecht, Marx didn’t like to lose and would become furious when he was beaten. During the exile, he was known as the ‘red wolf’.

In one of his trips to Berlin, Marx contacted Neumann, co-publisher with Anderssen of ‘Neue Berliner Schachzeitung’, where apparently both played some friendly games together. The diagram shows the finishing of one of the games, in which Marx had the winning black pieces as 1…Qf2+! 2.Rxf2 gxf2+ and checkmate to the next in g3. However, it is unlikely that a chess player with the skills of Neumann could reach such a position before a relatively weak amateur. Some sources pointed out that he would be someone called “G.R. Neumann”, namely another man, and if so, the mystery would have been resolved.

Chess anecdotes (XXVI): Vassily Ivanchuk: “Paris can wait…”

When he was 17 years old, Vassily Ivanchuk was one of the members of the Soviet youth team that made a brief trip through Western Europe. Once the coach, GM Alexei Suetin, told his young players that the next day a tour around the City of Light was scheduled and that, besides some museum, they would visit the Eiffel Tower.

At the scheduled time the group was missing a player: Vassily Ivanchuk. So Suetin went to his room and found him re-playing some match. The young star said that he preferred to stay in the hotel studying the Informator.

Suetin insisted: “You will always have the Informator, but who knows whether you could ever come again to Paris…”

But this was of no use.

Vassily Ivanchuk stayed in his hotel room because he didn’t care about the Eiffel Tower and the Impressionist Museum. But he did about the last developments of the chess theory.

Chess anecdotes (XXVII): Arkadij Naiditsch will play with Azerbaijan.

The GM Arkadij Naiditsch, originally from Latvia, leaves Germany to defend the colors of Azerbaijan. (Where he arrived in Germany with 16 years old). These changes of federation and country have today a merely pragmatic nature like the signings of famous football players. And, in this sense, the petrodollars from Baku result very usefully and persuasive.

National loyalties, love for the jersey? What are they talking about? These are nineteenth concepts, come to tell us the young board stars. Since the tragic demise of the great Vugar Gashimov, the Azeris are really shake active.
It was because their intimate Armenian enemies have already won hung several gold medals in the Olympics, while they remain stagnant.

What they want, what they long for desire is the barter of one gold for another. Finally, Arkadij Naiditsch will play with Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, shuts down in Madrid the popular “Café Comercial”, on the Glorieta de Bilbao, without anyone knowing the reason. There used to play chess.

Chess anecdotes (XXVIII): And thinking in these crazy days I've got some questions…

What is going on with Alexander Morozevich, that for a long time he has been in the doldrums, giving chess rating and results? Of course, he himself has said: “What is a life without defeats?”
But in his case, and after being on the top he should have gained more than enough quota of “vitality”.

Why has Olga Alexandrova not played in the female Spanish team in Reykjavik?

Why, in the few last years, there are not Hispanic delegates in the World Junior Championship?

What has happened with Paco Vallejo that after losing yesterday against the Serbian Ivanisevic, has decided to take five or six sabbatical months?

Why do they have 80 players checked and inspected in the European Games of Iceland (a large measure) only in the fifth round?

What is going on to the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, who has suffered two defeats in Iceland (having already suffered a dozen this year), losing chess rating as if he has had an emotional or mental leakage?

Why do the fanatics of the books entitled ‘I won with such or such opening’ play even worse in that opening?

And finally, why is it in Spain do we almost always improvise (a major weakness) and we are proud of our “great ability of improvisation”?

#Arkadij Naiditsch #chess #federation

Chess anecdotes (XXIX): My ranking of chess quotes…


1 Of chess, it has been said that life is not long enough for it – but that’s the fault of life, not of chess! EDWARD NAPIER

2 Chess is the sublimation of life in par excellence. ANTHONY SAIDY

3 Chess, with its philosophical depths, is anything more than a game. In its the best sense, it is a game in which the intelligence, character and will of everyone are shown. BORIS SPASSKY

4 Chess is life. BOBBY FISCHER


5 Chess is imagination. DAVID BRONSTEIN

6 Chess is an art manifested in the form of a game. GREAT SOVIET ENCYCLOPEDIA

7 Chess is a utopia that only gives a privilege: the spiritual enrichment of the artist. FERNANDO ARRABAL

8 The passed Pawn is a criminal, who should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures such as police surveillance are not sufficient. AARON NIMZOVICH

Chess anecdotes (XXX): Chess and life…

Boris Spassky: “Chess is like life “.

Viktor Korchnoi: “Chess is my life.”

Bobby Fischer: “Chess is the life.”

A Tolstoi’s character says: “But chess isn’t life, Sergei, without heart life cannot exist.” Now well, apologize for my audacity to question master Tolstoi: Who did say that chess has not to heart?

Chess anecdotes (XXXI): Some bad jokes…

A traveler goes into a train compartment and finds an unusual scene: a man and a dog playing chess. Seeing this, the traveler could just say:


“There is nothing extraordinary”, said the man. He has already lost three games.

Who was the best player in history? Moses, because he had a draw with God.

In the early days of computer chess, they asked the Dutch GM Jan Hein Donner if he would be ready to face a computer and he answered, “Yes, but with a good hammer.”

Chess anecdotes (XXXII): Charles Lindbergh…

The connection between Charles Lindbergh and Norman Whitaker: The aviator Charles Lindbergh was a declared pro-nazi. A species that is not scarce either in the United States or in England. Complete fans of Hitler, a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War.

His merit (which is not small) was crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a flight without stopovers. That is to say, he was the first who flew across the Atlantic, from the east coast of North America to Paris. Nothing less than 5,860 kilometers was traveled on his airplane, the Spirit of Saint Louis, in about 33 hours. The feat took place between 20th and 21st May, in 1927.

But five years later, his great success and luck were tarnished by a tragic incident: his son. A baby of just a few months was kidnapped. The fame of Lindbergh made this incident something that was extensively publicized by the American press. The father offered a reward of 100,000 dollars (an astronomical sum during that time) to the kidnapper. But who was he? No one was identified.

Chess anecdotes (XXXIII): Norman Whitaker…

Then Norman Whitaker went on the stage, a chess player and criminal (one thing doesn’t lead to the other), and pocketed the reward. The tragic is that the child never reappeared, or, better said, he appeared dead a few days later. Norman Whitaker was neither the kidnapper nor the murderer, just a rogue who took advantage of the situation. But for his disgrace, police found him and he ended in Alcatraz.

The sum of the reward, however, was never seen again. Maybe it was at this time that Norman Whitaker invented the gambit in his name, the French defense (1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Ae3). We already know that the gambit is a sacrifice of material and Norman Whitaker would feel generous, given the profitable loot. However, it did not make him a worthwhile man.

Norman Whitaker was born in Philadelphia in 1890. He was a lawyer and had on his charge a patent office.

He died of old age in Alabama, in 1975.

Chess anecdotes (XXXIV): Chess and love…

Sometimes chess and love are connected. In 1957, North American William Lombardy won the World Junior Championship with an impressive 100% score – 11 out of 11! Following him, the German and Dutch players, Matthias Gerusel and Lex Jongsma respectively were also classified. The representative of the USSR, Vladimir Selimanov, could only manage the fourth position. This was a frustrating result for him and for the Soviet chess, whose authorities were only considering his triumphal return with the gold medal. In the previous championship (1955), Boris Spassky had proclaimed world champion in Antwerp.

What was the subsequent career for Selimanov? In precise language – non-existent. Three years later, being 21 years old, he had committed by jumping out of the window.

Chess anecdotes (XXXV): What reasons could spur the young player to leave this beautiful world?

It seems that during the World Junior Championship took place in Toronto, he fell in love with a Canadian girl. It is possible that the implausible attempt to meet her had led him to despair. When you are 20 years old an unattainable love can result in something really distressing and unbearable for the spirit. Also, it has been said that he was suffering from schizophrenia.

It will not be easy to dive into this question to reach any sort of conclusive answer, particularly since his mother, Nadezhda Andreevna and his adoptive father, Vassili Smyslov (yeah, the ex-world champion) had died a few years ago and they have discussed a few times (being this understandable) about this tragic event in their lives. Among the names of his parents, and in the same tomb of the Novodevichy graveyard of Moscow, a tombstone graces the memory of Vladimir Selimanov.

Chess anecdotes (XXXVI): A chess player president…

The first president of the Baltic country of Lithuania, after its independence from the USSR, Vytautas Landsbergis, is a strong chess player, who (between 1950 and 1970) faced some of the best chess players of the time. And he has, to his credit, draws against Petrosian, Lilienthal, Suetin and Mikenas.

Chess anecdotes (XXXVII): Are you not a pusher?…

Annoyed and disappointed with the behavior of the sport soviet authorities, who always tended to ignore the norms and instead hand-picked at the last minute the participants in the USRR championship that didn’t deserve it…

Piotr Romanovsky could not hide his anger. When somebody suggested submitting a written protest, the Petersburg master said a memorable phrase:

“Try to show you are not a pusher!”

Chess anecdotes (XXXVIII): One million of chess grandmasters…

China debuted in the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires (1978), where they ended in the 20th position, among fifty teams. Their first two boards were defended by Ye Jiangchuan and Liu Wenche, who soon became chess grandmasters. The entire world will remember the spectacular miniature that the latter made with the chess grandmaster Donner, with a sacrifice of queen included.

Liu Wenche was punished during the time of the Cultural Revolution. He spent his time in something that would have been very helpful for the chess sport in his country:

He spent entire days in the National Library of China, translating books from Russian into Chinese.

Later, his efforts and studies were paid-off as he was appointed as the Chief Trainer for the Chinese team. This position is now occupied by Ye Jiangchuan, who declared that “after a decade of hard work, it is time for a Chinese player to win the crown jewel: the individual world title.”

Was he thinking of Yi Wei and Liren Ding? Time will tell. There are many good Chinese players rising to the forefront, and retrospectively the headline of the German magazine Schach-Echo seems to make sense after the Olympics of 1978: “One million of chess grandmasters”.

Chess anecdotes (XLIX): Was Wesley lucky?

Wesley So was proclaimed the champion of the Bilbao Chess Masters, after winning the playoff against Anish Giri (1,5-0,5).

Some people simply said that he was lucky. Let’s see. In the first game during the playoff (4 m. +3 seconds per player), Giri played 42…Nf4 in a superior position (although not won). And later, in view of the evident checkmate in f5, he surrendered. The second was an Italian with d3 prolonged until the move 98, in which each team had R+B+2 pawns. It was a draw.

Now we will analyze the “luck” of So.

In the tournament, the chess grandmasters So and Giri tied in the first position with 8 points (victory = 3 points). Which means, +1 =5 for each. Hence, So beat Liren Ding and Giri did the same with Anand.

The performance of Wesley was 2851 and for Giri, it was 2838.

The first aspect of this analysis is that to “have luck” in a playoff, one should first of all have been able to reach the playoff.

In the second place, if one makes a major mistake, and still wins, that is luck. If your opponent makes a mistake and you take advantage of that, that is not luck – that is competence. As long as one knows that there are also mistakes in chess. And if they do not exist, as Tartakower would say, we would have to invent them. Some people go on to add that fortune favors the bold and while others say that champions always have luck.

Congratulations, Wes.

Chess anecdotes (XL): Magnus Carlsen and his new proposal…

Magnus Carlsen and his new proposal: For the dispute of the worldwide tournament. According to Magnus Carlsen, a yearly tournament by K.O. system (or knockouts competition) would invigorate the system and would give chances to more players.

However, this is nothing new, because the FIDE already implemented this formula from 1999, which resulted in a number of ghostly champions that today lie in the cemetery of the elephants (the Jalifman, Ponomariov, Kasimzdhanov & Cia.).

On the other hand, we understand that only a king deserves the world chess crown, the best. And not players who win eventually with the chance that can help them in an isolated game or an Armageddon.

Chess anecdotes (XLI): Candidates tournament…

The eight aspirants that will fight for facing the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, have been defined… Anand, Karjakin, Svidler, Caruana, Nakamura, Topalov and Giri y Aronian.

The event will take place in Moscow, from 10th to 30th March 2016 and is sponsored by the Tashin Group of millionaire Samuel Karapetyan. He granted the ‘wild card’ (that means, the invitation place for the sponsor) to Levon Aronian.

Are there any favorites? A priori, it seems like the experts who have discarded to Anand and Topalov. Caruana, Nakamura and Karjakin are the best ones in the bets.

We will have to see how things evolve during the next months, for example, in the great classic of Wijk ann Zee.

The tournament offers more than 500,000 dollars in prizes.

Chess anecdotes (XLII): Who would be the candidate at the world chess championship title?

Fide has confirmed that all the candidates have signed the contract and will take part in the tournament. It will take place from 10th to 30th March, in Moscow. The eight candidates are Anand, Karjakin, Svidler, Caruana, Nakamura, Topalov, Giri and Aronian.

Who dares to give the prognosis?

I would say that Nakamura and Karjakin are the fit players, along with Svidler, while Aronian will be the favorite one and Giri a rising player, with high expectations.

Chess anecdotes (XLIII): Liren Ding: The tribulations of a chinaman in China

This was the title of a novel written by Julio Verne, supposedly comical, but it wasn’t funny at all. It wasn’t either funny for the young prodigy Yi Wei with the stumble suffered before Sergei Karjakin, who knocked him down in the unusual game that is disputing Russia and China in the city of Heixiazi. Liren Ding is the current leader of China.

After a draw in the classic game, Karjakin won both Blitz, despite he was lost in one of them. The form of this encounter may result strange but doesn’t lack originality. Each team brings five players. By Russia: Karjakin, Tomashevsky, Morozevich, Nepomniachy and Adreikin. By China: Yi Wei, Liren Ding, Hua Ni, Yangyi Yu and Yue Wang. Every day there is a game, which consists of a classic game and two Blitz (with possible Armageddon payoffs) the player who loses is eliminated, and the next follows. So, today play Karjakin and Liren Ding

To do this even rarer, the second part of the encounter will be disputed from 12th to 17th December. The team that runs out of players will lose.

Chess anecdotes (XLIV): The competition…

These attempts to change the chess in his habitual formats and competitions seem to be disturbing the organizers. First, the super-blitz of 3 and 2 minutes, then the 960 Chess (or Random Chess), the circus forms by Sr. Van Oosterom (The Melody Amber), the chess of the future (with computers and database), the neoclassic chess, and now this formula a bit hallucinogenic. Will we return to the correspondence or to the three-dimensional chess? Or it is just that the organizers want to drive us all mad?

Karjakin has eliminated Liren Ding. Then Karjakin continue. Tomorrow he will play against Hua Ni.

Chess anecdotes (XLV): London Chess Classic: What some say of others and others, of some…

Recently, there was a dissemination of a video in which the participants in the London Chess Classic gave their opinions on their most qualified opponents. With short answers preferred, if possible, one-word answers.

With regards to the champion, for example, the most abundant adjectives used on him was “star”, “prodigy” and “talent”.

Michael Adams is considered “technically strong” by his colleagues. While some others considered him a “genius” and others yet, a “spider”, in allusion to his convoluted victories.

However, malicious comments and darts were not long in coming. Hence, Carlsen described Nakumara as “descent” (ironic, considering that when he said it, he had a score of 11-0 in his favor – and now it is 12-0). Anand said of Giri that he is “young”. And Caruana, also referring to Giri, said with a malicious grin, that he was “cocky”.

All the descriptions on Anand were, at a minimum, respectful. Grischuk characterized him as “genius”, Caruana highlighted his “solidity” and Aronian in his “wisdom”. It is necessary to remember that since he obtained the GM title in 1988. And not forgetting his worldwide titles, Anand has been in the elite for a period of 27 years.

Chess anecdotes (XLVI): Carlsen sprints in Wijk aan Zee…

After a few anodyne rounds in the Wijk aan Zee that ended in draws, Magnus Carlsen, the undisputed number one in worldwide chess, has stepped the accelerator. This kind of performance, which is perfectly known in the performances of the worldwide champion, marks a curious competitive phenomenon. In the last two years, the tournaments of Carlsen have been characterized by warm beginnings. They have notably improved in the second parts.

It is as though it would cost too much to him to be aware that he must be really engaged to score or, maybe, he cannot be motivated enough to perform at full stretch. Whatever it is, he has won the Tata Steel in Wijk aan Zee.

Chess anecdotes (XLVII): Carlsen wins the Tata Steel…

The victory of Magnus Carlsen in the Tata Steel of Wijz aan Zee (being this the number five) leaves some clear reading.

To begin with, it has reproduced the model in which a worldwide champion may start a tournament with four or five anodyne plays (4 draws, in this case). And still being able to win. His final result, +5=8 (2881 of performance), 9 points (of 13). And one in advantage over his immediate opponents, Caruana and Diren Ling, was impeccable.

But there are also other conclusions. Firstly, unlike his famous predecessor, Gari Kasparov, he does not base his triumphs on opening advantages. As he usually plays in middlegames, from which he performs miracles.

Secondly, his admirable combativity and self-confidence. It has enabled him to take advantage of any detail or trivial mistake of his opponents.

(For example, see among others, his play against Yifan Hou).

Thirdly, the admirable tenacity becomes in pure bullying. When similar to the last round before Diren Ling, he pretended to win a final of rook and bishop against rook that any strong fan would know to define. Even without reading the book De La Villa. Unnecessarily prolonging a game during several dozens of plays, in a try to beat about the bush. And all before a player of the elite! An authentic jerk.

Also, you can read more about anecdotes in chess openings clicking here!

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