Chess Trivia 4
George Washington played chess, but Mount Vernon does not have any of his chess sets. Washington acquired an ivory chess set around 1780. The only time they have ever exhibited a chess set was one that is still owned by one of Martha Washington’s descendants. A chess set supposedly owned by George Washington is in the collection of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. There are no Washington chess sets cataloged in any of the other Smithsonian museums. Almost all the historical chess sets (John Quincy Adams, Lincoln, McClellan, Ray Charles) are in the collection of the Natural Museum of American History. (thanks to Shannon Bailey of the Chess World Hall of Fame for this information)
In the 1930s, the Mexican government offered all foreign chess masters officer appointments as chess instructors in the Mexican Army. Kostich was made a Colonel. Reuben Fine and Isaac Kashdan were made Lieutenants. Alexander Alekhine and Jose Capablanca were also chess instructors in Mexico, but did not accept their rank. This status and honorary title facilitated their travels to chess tournaments throughout Mexico.
On September 23, 1940, a German air raid destroyed the National Chess Centre (see photo), the largest chess club in London. It had over 700 members. The club was located in the Cavendish Square building of the John Lewis Partnership on Oxford Street. The contents of chess club were entirely destroyed. The manager of the club was world woman champion Vera Menchik, who later died in another air raid. The National Chess Centre was re-opened in 1952, just opposite of the original building, and was active throughout the 1950s. The National Chess Centre no longer exists.
In 1955, Fridrik Olafsson (born in 1935) of Iceland arrived late to participate in the annual Christmas Hastings tournament in England. No rooms could be found for him, so he spent his first night in a jail cell at the Hastings police station as a guest to the local police. Olafsson went on to tie for 1st place with Vicktor Korchnoi in this event. Olafsson became Iceland’s first chess grandmaster in 1958.
Shortly after midnight on June 1, 1960, Michael George, an American sailor, got into a fight at a Greenwich Village bar (Chumley’s) in New York after a spectator and regular patron, Clinton Curtis, criticized the sailor’s chess game after he had lost a chess game to freelance writer Lauren Disney. Michael struck Curtis with a glass in his hand that smashed and severed his jugular vein. Curtis bled to death. Michael was later acquitted of murder and charged with accidental death.
In 1970, British Grandmaster Dr. John Nunn, at the age of 15, was admitted to Oriel College, Oxford to study mathematics. At the time, Nunn was Oxford’s youngest undergraduate since Cardinal Wolsey in 1488. Nunn graduated at age 18 and got his doctorate in math at the age of 23. His thesis was on H-spaces. Nunn remained at Oxford University as a mathematics lecture until 1981.
In 1978, Niaz Murshed (born in 1966) tied for 1st place in the Bangladesh chess championship at the age of 12, becoming the youngest winner of a national federation. He won the next four Bangladesh championship at age 13, 14, and 15, and 16. He became a grandmaster in 1987. He was the first grandmaster to emerge from South Asia.
In 1985, Viktor Korchnoi claimed that he started a chess game with the ghost of Geza Maroczy (1870-1951). The game lasted until 1993, when Korchnoi won after 47 moves. The game was played through a “medium” named Robert Rollans (1914-1993). Rollans recorded Maroczy’s moves by automatic writing. He did not know how to play chess at the beginning of the match, but was taught the game during the match.
In 1986, 10 year-old Heidi Cuellar became the youngest participant of the chess Olympiad, held in Dubai, when she played on the Guatemala women’s team as board 3. She played 9 games, winning 2, drawing 3, and losing 4. The Guatemalan women’s team took 36th out of 49 teams. At the same event, the Guatemala men’s team consisted of four brothers. The Guatemalan men’s team took 53rd out of 108 teams.
Marc Arnold won the 2012 U.S. Junior Chess Closed Championship held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in Saint Louis. He is perhaps the first chess player to be mentioned in “Faces in the Crowd” in Sports Illustrated. He was featured in the August 20, 2012 issue. Comments have already been made that Sports Illustrated should not have listed this accomplishment as chess is not a sport. Arnold earned his second grandmaster norm at the U.S. Junior Closed championship and his third and final norm at the World Open In Philadelphia when he tied for 3rd place. Among world junior players, he ranks in the top 30. (thanks to Carl McNutt who stumped me on this one)
– Bill Wall
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