Chess Trivia 2
In the 14th century, Timur or Tamerlane (1336-1405) was the Mongol ruler and conqueror of many lands. He considered hunting and chess as the two pastimes worthy of a warrior. He named his eldest son after a chess rook (Shah Rukh).
In the 16th century, the Spanish nun Teresa Sanchez y Cepeda of Avila (1515-1582) wrote a devotional work, The Way of Perfections, using chess in allegory. She was an able chess player. She later became a saint and is considered the patroness saint of chess players in Spain.
The Staunton knight pattern used in the first Staunton design was modeled after the Greek horse’s head of the Elgin Marbles. The marbles were purchased by the British government in 1816 and placed on display in the British Museum. Nathaniel Cook, who designed the Staunton chessmen, based the design of the knight on the horse’s head carved on the Parthenon Marbles.
On June 10, 1902, the first chess match between players of different ships at sea was played in the Atlantic. Passengers of the American liner Philadelphia, traveling from Southampton to New York, played against passengers of the Cunard liner Campania, traveling from Liverpool to New York. The moves were broadcast by Marconi wireless operators aboard the ships, which were 70 miles away. The match lasted three hours until the game was interrupted by the advent of a sister ship.
In 1909, Saviely Tartakower (1887-1956) received a Doctor of Law degree, but became a professional chess player. During World War I, he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army as a Lieutenant. He saw action on the Russian front and was shot in the stomach, but survived. He lived in France but played for Poland in six consecutive chess Olympiads (from 1930 to 1939), even though he never lived in Poland, nor could he speak Polish. He won the Polish Championship twice (1935, 1937). During World War II, he was a Lieutenant in the Free French army. Under the pseudonym Cartier, he joined the forces of general Charles de Gaulle.
In 1929, Richard Reti was crossing the road and was hit be a street car. He was taken to a hospital in Prague to heal. While in the hospital, he contracted scarlet fever, which killed him a week after he turned 40. In 1942, Alekhine was struck with scarlet fever and was taken to the same hospital in Prague where Reti died. Alekhine was very superstitious and was convinced he was going to die the same way that Reti died, but he survived.
In 1937, the Polish championship was held in Jurata, Poland. Twenty-two masters had to play 21 games in 14 days with no adjournment. The event was won by Tartakower, followed by Gideon Stahlberg and Mieczyslaw (Miguel) Najdorf. Last place went to Leon Widermanski, who lost 20 games and only drew one game. Achilles Frydman won 3 games, drew 7 games, and lost 5 games before withdrawing. He withdrew after losing in the 15th round and suffered a nervous breakdown.
In 1939, George Sturgis was elected the first president of the United States Chess Federation. He died of a heart attack on December 20, 1944, at his home in Boston, after returning home from his honeymoon in New Hampshire. He was 53.
In 1950, Chantal Chaude de Silans (1919-2001) became the first woman to play in a men’s chess Olympiad. She played first board reserve for France at Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, winning one game, drawing one game, and losing four games. She was also the first woman to ever take part in the French Chess Championship (men’s section), finished 7th in 1947. In 1951, shed tied for 3rd place in the French Chess Championship (men’s section).
In the winter of 1952, Willie Sutton (1901-1980), the famous back robber (he had stolen an estimated $2 million), was arrested by the FBI. In his possession was How to Think Ahead in Chess by Al Horowitz. Sutton had learned chess while previously in prison, and he found half-dozen inmates who were enthusiastic chess players.
From 1964 to 1976, the United States was unable to produce a single chess grandmaster. In 1976, James Tarjan (1952- ) became the first American chess grandmaster in 12 years. Tarjan later gave up chess to become a librarian.
Louis D. Statham (1907-1983) was a millionaire with a PhD In mathematics who sponsored the Lone Pine tournaments from 1971 to 1981. He sold his 29-room mansion that he owned in Los Angeles (Holmy Hills) and moved to Lone Pine. He sold his mansion to Hugh Hefner in 1971 for $1.1 million ($6 million in today’s currency), who turned it into the Playboy mansion. Today, the mansion is now worth $54 million. Statham pioneered the use of shock waves in oil exploration and contributed to the development of the artificial heart and measuring devices used to keep spacecraft on course.
In 1983, chess master Ken Smith (1930-1999) won $140,000 at a poker tournament in Las Vegas. He earned more money in that one event than his entire chess career. He won the Texas chess championship 9 times and the Southwest Championship 7 times. As a poker player, he was known as “Top Hat.” He always played poker in a black silk top hat which he bought at Ford’s theater in Washington, D.C. As a chess player, he was known as “Capablanca of the cattle country.” He and I wrote two chess books on the Smith-Morra Gambit.
In 1986, International Master David Straus (1946- ) became the first IM to lose to a computer in a major event. An experimental Fidelity S-6 machine defeated Straus at the 1986 U.S. Open in Somerset, New Jersey. On move 44, the computer announced mate in five and Strauss resigned. Strauss quit competitive chess and became involved in medical research.
– Bill Wall
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