Chess Trifles and Oddities 7
In India, chessplayers in the 10th century wagered their fingers in a game of chess. The loser had to cut off his finger with a dagger and plunge his hand in a boiling ointment that cauterized the wound.
Henry I (1068-1135) was the King of England who, in 1106, imprisoned his brother Richard, Duke of Normandy, in Cardiff Castle for 28 years. Richard’s only activity was playing chess.
The Huon of Bordeaux is a romance written around 1200 describing a servant who plays chess against a princess, the daughter of Emperor Yvorin. If he loses the game, he loses his head. If he wins, he may sleep with the princess. The princess happens to be a master chess player. In the end, she finally lets him win, but he rejects the reward.
The Innocent Morality (Quaedam moralitas de scaccario) was an allegory written in the 13th century which appeared in a manuscript collection of sermons of Pope Innocent III (1161-1216). It is the earliest known printed reference to chess. The morality compares chess with life, the pieces representing different positions of men in society. It was not written by Pope Innocent, but most likely by John of Wales (John Waleys) (1210-1285).
In September 1467, Heidelberg was the site of the first known European chess tournament. It was sponsored by Frederick I, Elector of the Palatinate. A second tournament was followed 10 years later in Nuremberg.
Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) was a keen chessplayer who died from a stroke while playing chess with Bogdan Belsky (pictured). Ivan reportedly arranged living chess games in which the human players were executed as they were captured in the chess game.
The Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in Hamburg, Germany, is the oldest chess club in Germany, founded in 1830.
Miron James Hazeltine (1824-1907) was a newspaper chess columnist in the late 19th century. He was the first person to omit the “to” from recorded moves – making “P to K4″ into “P-K4.” He was the chess editor of the New York Clipper for more than 50 years. He began his first chess column in the New York Saturday Courier on February 3, 1855. This may be the first chess column in the United States,
W.E. Henry was the pseudonym of William Henry Russ (1833-1866). He compiled a manuscript of all chess problems published in America (over 4,000). He adopted a 11-year-old girl and proposed to her when she was 21. She rejected the offer so he shot her in the head four times, and then shot himself in the head twice. She survived, he did not. His book, posthumously published, was called American Chess Nuts (1868).
The Grundy Affair is the most infamous scandal in U.S. championship history. James Grundy (1855-1919) needed a win in the last round to tie for first place at the 5th American Chess Congress in 1880. Grundy bribed his opponent, Preston Ware (1821-1890), $20 during the game to let Ware’s advantage slip into a draw so that Grundy could make sure of second place. When Ware agreed and took the money, Grundy tricked him and played for a win which he did. The event was won by George Mackenzie, who beat Grundy on tiebreak, 2-0.
Albert Beauregard Hodges (1861-1944) was a former U.S. Champion (1895-97). His first job was a hidden operator of Ajeeb, the Chess Automation. He was the only American master to play against 5 world chess champions over a period of 60 years. He was the only player to participate in all 13 cable matches between the USA and England from 1896 to 1911.
Franz Gutmayer (1857-1937) was an Austrian chess writer. In 1898, he wrote a book (The Road to the Championship) on how to become a chess master, but he never became one himself. He never won first place in a Haupturnier, which was a requisite for the title of master in Germany.
In 1916, Isidor Gunsberg (1854-1930), a Hungarian who later became a British citizen, sued the Evening News for libel when they said that his chess column contained “blunders.” He won the suit after the British High Court accepted a submission that in chess matters, eight oversights did not make a blunder. In his earlier years, he operated the automaton Mephisto.
In August 1928, the Internationaler Correspondensschachblund (ICSB) was created. This was the first successful attempt to create an international correspondence chess federation. The Internationaler Fernschachbund (IFBS), the International Association of Correspondence Chess, was founded in December, 1928 for the purpose of promoting correspondence chess. It was superseded in 1945 by the International Correspondence Chess Association. In 1951, it became the International Correspondence Chess Federation.
Alexander Ilyin-Genevsky (1894-1941) was a Russian master who had to learn the game twice. He was gassed, then shell-shocked in World War I, which took away his memory. He had previously been champion of Geneva where he added the city’s name to his own. He had to learn the game all over again, starting from how each piece moved. He organized the first USSR chess championship in 1920. He won the first Trade Unions Championship of the USSR in 1927. He supposedly died during the siege of Leningrad in 1941 after a Nazi air raid on his ship. Other sources say that he died during Stalin’s Great Purge.
Nikolai Grigoriev (1895-1938) was a Soviet endgame analyst. In 1936 the French magazine, La Strategie, promoted an end-game competition. Of the 12 awards, he won 10 of them He shared 1st and 2nd prizes, won 3rd, 4th and 5th prizes; shared 1st and 2nd honorable mentions, and was awarded 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th honorable mentions. He won the Moscow championship 4 times. He composed over 300 endgame studies.
The Ingo system was the first rating system. It was introduced by Anton Hoesslinger (1875-1959) in 1948 and named after his birthplace of Inglostadt, Bavaria. The Ingo rating system was used by the West German Chess Federation from 1948 until 1992. For the Ingo rating system, lower numbers indicated better performance.
In 1958 the reigning Irish Champion won his game at the Munich Olympiad, yet Ireland lost the match 0-4! That’s because the Irish Champion, Wolfgang Heidenfeld (1911-1981), played for South Africa, where they defeated Ireland 4-0. Heidenfeld was born in Berlin, but was forced to move from Germany to South Africa because he was a Jew. He won the South African Chess Championship 8 times. He won the Irish Championship 6 times. During World War II, he helped decode German messages for the Allies.
The Hong Kong Chess Federation was founded in 1960 and joined FIDE in 1961. The Hong Kong team in the 1974 Students’ Chess Olympiad, held in Teesside, England, consisted of four brothers aged 8 to 18. They were Suresh, Krishan, Naresh, and Ramesh Jhunjhnuwaia.
The Italian Chess Federation refused to allow one of its best players, Stefano Tatai (1938- ), to play on the 1982 Italian Olympiad team. Tatai was 44 and seven time national champion. The Italian Chess Federation only wanted members that were age 30 or younger to represent Italy. The result was a very poor showing at the Chess Olympiad in Lucerne (42nd place).
The 1984 Chess Olympiad was supposed to be held in Indonesia, but they withdrew their support due to reduced oil revenues. It was finally held in Thessaloniki, Greece.
From 1979 to 1988, Ayatollah Khomeini banned the game of chess in Iran because “it hurts memory and may cause brain damage.” He also said chess contributed to a war-mongering mentality. Prior to that Iran, under the Shah, was the only Arab country at the 22nd Olympiad in Israel.
By Bill Wall
Tags: chess trivia