Chess in 1918

By Bill Wall



In 1918, Ossip Bernstein (1882-1962) was arrested and imprisoned by the Cheka (Bolshevik secret police) in Odessa, during the Russian Civil War. Bernstein’s crime was his role as a legal advisor to bankers. There was no court trial. A minor official had a firing squad line up Bernstein and a number of other prisoners against a wall to be shot. A superior official appeared and asked to see the list of prisoners’ names. Discovering Ossip Bernstein on the list, he asked Bernstein if he was the famous chess master. Not satisfied with Bernstein's affirmative reply, he made him play a game with him. If Bernstein lost or drew, he would be shot. Bernstein won in short order and was released. Soon, he escaped on a British ship and settled in France.


In 1918, Alexander Alekhine finished his legal training and worked at the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department as an examining magistrate.


On March 5, 1918, Irving Rivise (1918-1976) was born in Philadelphia.  He was a strong Southern California chess player. He won the 1952 Southern California Chess Championship. Rivise tied for 1st place in the 1962 California Championship. He was a former Vice President of the United States Chess Federation.


On March 7, 1918, Miroslav Katetov (1918-1995) was born in Chembar, Russia.  He was Prague champion in 1942 and 1946.  He was awarded the International Master (IM) title in 1951.


On April 10, 1918, Peter Alexandrovich Saburov (1835-1918) died in St. Petersburg.  He was a strong amateur chess players and patron of chess tournaments.


In July, 1918, Joseph Henry Blackburne, age 76, was injured in a London air raid.  Blackburne was rendered temporarily deaf and his wife was thrown down by the force of the explosian  (source: San Bernardino News, Jul 29, 1918 and The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 22, 1918)


On August 10, 1918, the British chess problem society was formed.  It is the world’s oldest chess problem society.


On August 28, 1918, Eric Cohn (1884-1918) was killed at the Western Front in France during World War I at the age of 34.  He was a German chess master and former Berlin champion.  He was a field doctor for the Red Cross.


On September 28, 1918, the 19th Western Chess Association (US Open), held in Chicago, was won by Borislav Kostic.


On October 23, 1918, Frank Marshall played the Marshall attack against Capablanca for the first time during the New York masters’ tournament.  Capablanca won that game in round 1.  Capablanca won the event scoring 8 wins and 3 draws.  2nd place went to Boris Kostic. (source: The Winnipeg Tribune, Nov 9, 1918)


On December 4, 1918,  Kaarle-Sakari Ojanen (1918-2009) was born in Helsinki.  He was Finnish champion in 1950, 1951, 1951-52, 1952-53, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1983 (after a play-off).  He was awarded the IM title in 1952 and the IM in Correspondence (IMC) title in 1981


On December 19, 1918, Max Blau (1918-1984) was born in Munich.  He was Swiss champion in 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1967.  He was awarded the IM title in 1953


On December 27, 1918, Carl Schlechter (1874-1918) died in Budapest.  He was 44.  Possible causes of his death are a lung disease aggravated by lack of proper nutrition (starvation), tuberculosis, pneumonia and the Spanish flu epidemic.  He never mentioned to any of his acquaintances that he needed food or money. He was found in a room without any money, heat or food.  He was a leading Austrian chess master and is best known for drawing a match with Emanual Lasker that may have been for the world chess championship in 1910.