chess trifles and oddities 9
The first known living chess played with people taking part of chessmen was demonstrated in the court of Charles Martel (688-741), Frankish ruler of Austrasia in 735. Martel had just annexed Aquitaine where chess was introduced by the Arabs from Spain.
Luis Ramirez de Lucena (1465-1530) was the author of the oldest existing printed book on chess, Repeticion de Amores y Arte de Ajedrez con 101 Juegos de Partido (Repetition of Love and the Art of Playing Chess) published in 1497. Less than 12 copies are known today. An earlier book, Libre dels jochs partits dels schachs en nombre de 100 (The Book of 100 Chess Problems), was published in Valencia in 1495 by Francesch Vicent, but no copies exist.
Between June and October 1834, Louis-Charles Mahe de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840) of France and Alexander McDonnell (1798-1835) of Ireland played 85 games (6 matches), the largest number of games ever played successively in match conditions. Neither knew a word of the other’s language, and the only word they exchanges was “check.” La Bourdonnais spent his time spitting, cursing, singing, and laughing. McDonnell spent up to two hours to make a single move. Some of the games lasted over 7 hours to complete. La Bourdonnais won 45 games, lost 27, and drew 13.
In 1839, the first chess club in Budapest (Pest) was formed. Its members included Jozsef Szen and Loewenthal. Chess clubs were not allowed following the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-1849. It wasn’t until 1864 that the Budapest Chess Club was re-established.
Max Lange (1832-1899) invented the helpmate in 1854. A helpmate is a type of chess problem in which both sides cooperate in order to achieve the goal of checkmating Black. Max Lange published the first helpmate in Deutsche Schachzeitung in December, 1854. The problem had White to move first. In November 1860, Sam Loyd (1841-1911) published the first helpmate with Black to move first, which Is now the standard.
Arthur Ford Mackenzie (1861-1905) was a chessplayer who composed chess problems when he was blind. He was responsible for the popularity of the two-mover in the early 20th century and won over 100 prizes. By coincidence, a problem he submitted to a composing tournament was almost identical to another problem submitted by H. Lane. They both featured the same key move. By a greater coincidence, H. Lane was also blind! Mackenzie was a school teacher in Jamaica.
The worst loss by a player was Nicholas Macleod (1870-1965) of Canada who lost 31 games (while winning 6 and drawing 1) in the New York double-round robin of 1889. Retired Colonel Charles Paul Narcisse Moreau (1837-1916) lost all 26 games at the Monte Carlo tournament in February-March, 1903. He was a French soldier serving in the artillery and an officer of the French Legion of Honor.
Gyula Makovetz (1860-1903) was editor of Hungary’s first chess magazine, Budapesti Sakkszemle, from 1889 to 1894. He was a Hungarian journalist and strong chess master. In 1890, he took 1st place at Graz, defeating Emanuel Lasker in that event.
Emil Kemeny (1860-1925) won the championships of New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. He was the author of The American Chess Weekly chess magazine.
Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was an avid chessplayer who used “Karpov” as one of his pseudonyms during his exile. A famous painting title Lenin was created by a Russian artist named Karpov.
Frank Marshall (1977-1944) was the first American to defeat a Soviet player in an international tournament (New York, 1924). He reigned as U.S. Champion from 1909 to 1936, but only defended his title once when he defeated Ed Lasker in 1923. He was the first master to play more than 100 games simultaneously. In 1916 he played 105 players at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He won 82 games, lost 8, and drew 15. He was one of the original grandmasters of chess, given the title by Czar Nicholas II.
Lev I. Loshinsky (1913-1976) is considered the greatest of all problem composers, and perhaps the greatest chess composer of three-movers. He won over 70 first place prizes in problem composing contests. He was a professor of mathematics at the Moscow Institute of Communications.
Moonraker, the third James Bond novel by Ian Fleming (1908-1964), written in 1954, contains references to Paul Morphy. “Morphy, the great chess player, had a terrible habit. He would never raise his eyes from the game until he knew his opponent could not escape defeat. Then he would slowly lift his great head and gaze curiously at the man across the board. His opponent would feel the gaze and would slowly, humbly raise his eyes to meet Morphy’s. At that moment he would know that it was no good continuing the game. The eyes of Morphy said so. There was nothing left but surrender. Now, like Morphy, Bond lifted his head and looked straight into Drax’s eyes. Then he slowly drew out the queen of diamonds and placed it on the table. Without waiting for Meyer to play he followed it, deliberately, with the 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and the two winning clubs.” It was a battle over a game of bridge. Moonracker was Britain’s first nuclear missile project. In 1957, Fleming wrote From Russia, With Love with several references to chess.
William Lombardy (1937- ) was the first American to win an official world chess championship when he won the World Junior Championship in 1957 with a perfect 11-0 score. The event was held in Toronto, Canada. Lombardy had won the Canadian Open the year before. He was a catholic priest, but left the church in the early 1980s to marry. He now has one son.
Edward Lasker (1885-1981) became an International Master in 1961 at the age of 75. He was the inventor of the mechanical breast pump. He was a distant relative to former world champion Emanuel Lasker.
Edgar Thomas McCormick (1914-1991) participated in more U.S. Open chess tournaments than any other person (37 times). He was a former US Amateur Chess Champion. During World War II, he served in the US Army as a special agent in cryptology and worked for the CIA. He served as Vice President of the USCF.
Brazilian grandmaster Henrique Mecking (1952- ), during his 1973 candidates’ match with Tigran Petrosian, accused the formal world champion of kicking the table, shaking the chessboard, stirring the coffee too loudly, and rolling a coin on the table. He went to the referee twice to complain that Petrosian was breathing too loudly. Mecking kicked back at the table and made noises of his own. Petrosian responded by turning his hearing aid off. In 1977, he was the 3rd highest rated chess player in the world, behind Karpov and Korchnoi. He was the first Brazilian GM. He won the Brazilian championship at the age of 13.
Irina Levitina (1954- ) was the 4-time USSR Women’s Champion who was not allowed to play in the 1979 Women’s Interzonal and for the World Women’s Championship because her brother emigrated (legally) to Israel. She has won the US Women’s chess championship 3 times. In contract bridge, she has won the world bridge championship 5 times.
Tony Miles (1955-2001) was the first English-born player to become a grandmaster for over-the-board play, in 1976. He once defeated the World Othello Champion at his own game. Miles had a mental breakdown in 1987 and moved to the United States. He then moved to Australia, then back to England. He played in the British championship (winning one time), the US championship (took last place), and the Australian championship.
Tatiana Mefodievna Lemachko, a woman grandmaster, defected from the Bulgarian team on the eve of the last round of the Lucerne Chess Olympiad in 1982. She had played board one for the Bulgarian women’s team since 1978. She settled in Switzerland.
Essex player Edward Lee (1968- ), by age 14, defeated 7 grandmasters in simultaneous exhibitions: Karpov, Korchnoi, Nunn, Speelman, Ftacnik, Kochiev, and Kupreichik. He also drew against Korchnoi and Hort in two other exhibitions. In 2010, he defeated GM Nigel Short in a blitz game.
There are 8 different ways to mate in two moves and 355 different ways to mate in three moves.
Mythical inventors of chess include Adam , Arabians, Aristotle, Attalus III Philometor (king of Pergamon from 138 BC to 133 BC) , Australian aborigines, Babylonians, Balhait, Bataks, Castilions, Chinese soldiers, Diomedes, Egyptians, Greeks, Hebrews in the third century, Hermes , Hindu counselor, Icelanders , Irish, Japhet, Jason, King Solomon, Knights of King Arthur’s Round Table, Kushan Empire of Central Asia, Lydus and Tyrrhenus, Meetaks, reign of Merodach, Moses, Palamedes, pygmies, Pythagoras, Romans, South American Indians (Araucanians), Scythians, Semiramis, Shatenscha, Shem, Ulysses, Welsh, wife of the king of Ceylon, Xerxes, and Zenobia .
By Bill Wall