Chess in the News

Here is some chess news found in a variety of old newspapers.

The ship Howard from Havre, arrived among the passengers, Mr. Maelzel, bringing with him the automaton chess player, which has so long puzzled and surprised all Europe.  The automaton has only lost 5 in 400 games played in England, France, and Germany.  It is considered the greatest piece of mechanism that the human mind has ever invented.  It has baffled every attempt to discover by what secret springs its movements are directed.  – Weekly Raleigh Register, Feb 24, 1826

Mr. J. Maelzel, the celebrated automaton chess player, died on July 21, on board the brig Otis, on her passage from Havana to Philadelphia.  – The Baltimore Sun, July 28, 1838.

The prizes in the Grand Tournament of the first American Chess Congress is as follows: First, $300; Second, $100, Third, $66; Fourth, $33.  Paul Morphy arrived a few weeks before the Chess Congress and already played 100 games with other players, two of which he lost.  The tournament was taking place in the Descombe’s Rooms.  The blindfold play of Paul Morphy and Louis Paulsen attracted several members of the military and the clergy.  – The Times-Picayune, Nov 3, 1857.

In early 1858, Paul Morphy, President of the New Orleans Chess Club, sent a challenge to Howard Staunton to visit New Orleans and play a chess match for a wager of $5,000 a side.  The winner of the first 11 games would be the victor.  Each move would have a time limit of 30 minutes.  If Staunton should lose, he would still be allowed $1,000 to cover his expenses.  – The Weekly Union, New Bern, NC, March 22, 1858.


Paul Morphy is to join the staff of General Johnson of the Confederate army.  Morphy is at present in Richmond, Virginia practicing law.  – The Local News (Alexandria, Virginia), Jan 3, 1862.


Howard Staunton, whose death is reported this morning, was an eminent authority of chess and Shakespeare.  He was an Oxford graduate.  The latter years of his life were devoted to literary pursuits, and especially to Shakespearian study.  For editing the “Illustrated Shakespeare,” known as Routledge’s edition, he received $5,000, which is the largest pay ever given for work of this description.  – Chicago Daily News, June 27, 1874.


In Belgravia, Richard A. Proctor showed that while it is theoretically possible to construct a chess-playing automaton, it is practically impossible because the machine would necessarily be so enormous and complicated there would scarcely be room on the earth for it, and it could not be operated.  Mr. Proctor thinks there will never be a chess automaton that can play a game unless there is “Life in other worlds than ours.”  -- The Times-Picayune, Aug 5, 1879.


Wilhelm Steinitz played a simul of 30 games at the Maryland Historical room in Baltimore, winning 29 and drawing one.  He played another 30-board simul as few days later, winning 27, drawing 2 (Julius Hall and Dr. A.B. Arnold) and losing one (A. Sellmar).  He held an unlighted cigar throughout the event as he walked from table to table. – Wilmington Morning Star, Dec 28, 1882 and Parson Daily Sun, Jan 14, 1883.

Dr. Zukertort, the great blindfold chess player, is a man of wonderful memory.  Before he was 7, and before he could read or write, he was able to demonstrate such a problem as the square of the hypotenuse or work out a simple equation entirely from memory.  Whatever he read a few times, he always retained.  From his experience the doctor is convinced that the memory can be trained to a boundless extent.  – Atlanta Constitution, Jan 25, 1884.


Paul Morphy died on the afternoon of July 10, 1884 at his ancestral home on Royal Street, after a very brief illness.  After winning the highest honors more than 20 years ago, he suddenly abandoned chess-playing, and it almost drove him into a frenzy to have the subject mentioned.  He attempted the practice of law, but his mercurial disposition and erratic habits prevented his building up a practice.  He became a victim of melancholy, verging upon madness.  For years he has been a conspicuous character on the streets.  Every fair day his trim little figure, clad in the height of snug-fitting fashion, might be swinging his little cane on the boulevards, scrutinizing through the glass the fair promenaders.  For years he thus passed his useless life away, unmolested and unmolesting.  Even so late as yesterday he was seen on Canal street chattering to himself and smiling at his own conceits.  When Steinitz and Zukertort attempted to turn his mind to chess, they were repulsed at the threshold of their attempts, coldly and haughtily, in a manner that forbade further advances.  – Chicago Daily Tribune, July 11, 1884.


The chess automaton at the Eden Musee continues to defeat every chess player who meets him at the board.  The expense of playing with the automaton is 20 cents after you have entered the Musee, 10 cents for admission to the little room where he sits, and 10 cents for every game played – 70 cents in all.  The man hidden inside is a very fine player.  --  Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec 20, 1885.


Mr. Frederick Viewig, manager of the Eden Musee, was arrested of having violated the Sunday law by allowing to be exhibited was figures, permitting music to be played, and also by allowing Ajeeb, the chess automaton, to play that game.  He responded, “I consider it absurd to contend that a playing a game of chess or looking at was figures was a violation of the Sunday law.”  Mr Viewig was held in $100 bail.  – Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jul 16, 1887.


Dr. J. H. Zukertort died in London on June 20, 1888 after a short illness.  He appeared to be enjoying very good health on Tuesday evening, when he played at Simpson’s.  Suddenly he became ill there, and was taken to the British Chess Club, King-street, Covent-garden.  Mr. Gunsberg thought it advisable to remove him to Charingcross Hospital, where he was found to be unconscious.  There were no appearances of Dr. Zukertort’s having been the victim of any chronic disease.  His death is attributed to a sudden attack of apoplexy.  – The London Times, June 21, 1888.


Dr. S.B. Minden expresses the opinion that the late Captain Mackenzie, the chess player, died of morphine taken accidently or with suicidal threats.  – The Scranton Republican, April 28, 1891.


In May 1892, Emanuel Lasker came to New York from Germany and declared his willingness to play anyone in America for $7,500 a side.  The match had to be at least 5 games, draws not counting with a time limit of 15-20 moves an hour.  -  Middletown Times Press, May 21, 1892.


Harry N. Pillsbury was declared world champion after taking first place at Hastings in 1895.  “Pillsbury has now met and defeated every expert in the world and will take the world’s championship back to Brooklyn with him.”  - Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sep 2, 1895.


In 1897, the press falsely reported Steinitz’s death.  The headline of the Indianapolis News was “William Steinitz Dead.”  A dispatch from Moscow says that William Steinitz died in a private hospital, where he had recently been placed on account of mental disorder.  – Indianapolis News, Feb 22, 1897.  It was also reported in the Alexandria Gazette and the Staunton Spectator (Staunton, Virginia).


William Steinitz, who at his own request was taken to the River Crest Sanitarium recently, has been discharged as cured.  While the former world champion has recovered his mental faculties, it is doubtful whether the state of his health will permit of his taking part in the Paris tournament.  – Chicago Daily Tribune, April 22 1900.


On May 17, 1901, Herr von Minckwitz, a former chess champion, who had been reduced to poverty, stepped in front of an electric car in Berlin and was cut to pieces.  – Chicago Daily Tribune, May 19, 1901.


The oldest chess player in the world is said to be the Dowager Lady Carew.  Born in 1798, she has lived in three centuries.  She was a good player in her youth, and still enjoys the game.  She resides at Woodstown, Waterford, has the appearance of a lady about 80, and reads without glasses.  – Chicago Daily Tribune, May 19, 1901.


Maxx Judd died on May 7, 1906 of heart disease in St Louis, superinduced by excitement over the chess tournament progressing here.  He had been warned by physicians not to participate.  – Daily Capital Journal (Salem, Oregon), May 7, 1906.  He died in his room at the Monticelio hotel of angina pectoris.   He was a prominent wholesale cloak dealer.  He served as minister to Austria under President Cleveland.  He leaves a widow but no children.  – Fort Wayne Journal, May 8, 1906.


In 1909, Jose Capablanca took a break from Columbia University and traveled throughout the United States and Canada and gave simultaneous chess exhibitions.  He played 480 games, winning 446, losing 15, and drawing 19.  – The Cincinnati Enquirer, Dec 28, 1909.


Norman T. Whitaker, former University of Pennsylvania chess champion, now a student at Georgetown University, won 25 out of 26 games against the combined high school chess teams in Philadelphia.  Whitaker has a lengthy chess record, and captained the All-Collegiate American chess team which defeated Oxford and Cambridge universities in 1910, Whitaker winning all his games.  – Washington Post, Mar 28, 1913.


Jose Capablanca, the Pan-American chess champion, while in Chicago, played 71 exhibition games of which he lost only one and won all the rest.  – Middletown Times, Feb 3, 1919.


Samuel Rzeschewski, nine-year-old chess marvel, who defeated 21 of Europe’s foremost players at the same sitting, is now in the U.S.  The child is accompanies by his father, a wealthy linen merchant of Lodz, Poland, and his physician, Dr. Rosen.  He was met by his manager, Max Rosenthal.  During the voyage over on the Olympic, he played 11 opponents from the passenger list, including one blindfold game, and he won all his games in an hour.  – NY Times Herald, Nov 11, 1920.


On November 4, 1923, Alexander Alekhine played 54 games simultaneously at the Montmarte Chess Club in Paris against the best players in Paris and the provinces.  He won 46, lost 3, and drew 5.  By profession he is an examining magistrate who was ruined by the Russian revolution.  – Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov 5, 1923.


Because he “exhibited the typically bourgeois vice of putting his pocket book above has principles,” E.D. Bogolubov, chess champion of the Soviet Union, has been officially excommunicated by the chess section of the All-Union Soviet of Physical Culture.  The chess section declares he is no longer champion.  He is also no longer a member of the Soviet chess organization.  He was expelled when he expressed the desire to give up his Soviet citizenship in order to be able to attend a tournament in Miarno, Italy.  He was unable to go because the Italian authorities refused to vise his Soviet passport.  He wrote the Soviet chess organization declaring that in view of the difficulties of moving about Europe with a Soviet passport, he was thinking of assuming the citizenship of another country.  – Bridgeport Telegram, Jan 21, 1927.


A chess game with the contestants 11,000 miles apart – one of them in Antarctica-may be the result of a challenge which Dr. Norman Shaw, of McGill University, Montreal, will issue to Frank C Davies, physicist of the Byrd expedition.    – Harrisburg Evening News, May 11, 1929.


Samuel Reshevsky, at 19, is a member of one of the tennis teams at the University of Detroit, where he is studying accounting.  In one month, he played 1,500 games in Chicago, winning all of them with one exception, which was a draw.  – Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 24, 1931.


Herman Steiner, international chess champion, poses with his bride, the former Miss Selma Siegelman, concert pianist.  They are in Hollywood, California, where Steiner teaches movie stars how to handle knights and pawns.   – San Bernadino County Sun, Feb 16, 1933.


Norman Whitaker, imprisoned lawyer companion of FBI agent Gaston B. Means, convicted of swindling Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean of $104,000 on the pretense of recovering the kidnapped Lindbergh baby, is attempting to bargain for his freedom by telling where the money is hidden.  Whitaker also is said to have declared that Means knows the “inside story” of the Lindbergh kidnapping.  – The Daily Republican (Monongahela, PA), March 15, 1934.


Albert Einstein, contrary to published statements, doesn’t play “three-dimensional” chess for recreation.  The fact is that he doesn’t even play chess in two dimensions.  He seems to think he has a better use for his mind.  He doesn’t play bridge either.  Bridge is work, he says, not relaxation.  What does he do for recreation?  He walks and plays the piano or violin.  Music and physical exercise are ideal for brain-workers.  – The Daily News (Canonsburg, PA), April 8, 1936.


Dr. Robert B. Griffith, 58-year-old Beverly Hills physician who played for the University of Pennsylvania in the early days of the Triangular College Chess League, was killed in a head-on collision on the highway south of Ventura, California.  Herman Steiner, chess editor of the Los Angeles Times, was seriously injured.  Brookyn Daily Eagle, June 10, 1937. 


War in Europe has echoed in the world chess tournament here in Buenos Aires with the French and Polish players unwilling to face the Germans and Bohemia-Moravians “to move bits of wood while cannons are being moved at home.”  The French and Polish teams have asked the committee to call off their matches for the Hamilton Russell cup against representatives of the hostile nations.  – Pampa Daily News, Sep 7, 1939.


George Koltanowsku, Dallas Chess Club director, can’t send any more chess lessons to his students in South America.  Wartime mail regulations prevent mailing abroad any abbreviations, nicknames, and codes.  Koltanowski was told by Postmaster J. Howard Payne.  – Denton Record-Chronicle, March 31, 1942.


Humphrey Bogart, who became a chess expert while in the navy, plays his favorite game for the first time on the screen in “Casablanca,” being made at Warner Bros.  – Salt Lake Tribune, July 13, 1942.


Arnold Denker, the new US chess champion, was interviewed at his Forest Hills apartment.  “Back in 1936, the Russian government offered me a professorship in chess at a certain university.  It was a lucrative offer, but I did not care to leave my own country.  Naturally, I felt like going to a land where chess means so much – where crows of from 50,000 to 90,000 gather to watch a chess match.  It was a tempting offer.”  Denker is a representative of a firm of distributers of canned goods.  He is a former New York golden gloves boxer.  – The News-Herald (Franklin, PA), May 12, 1944.


Vera Menchik Stevenson, world champion among women chess players, was killed by a “robot” bomb in England.  Her sister, Olga Rubery, also a noted chess player, was killed by the same bomb.  – Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, July 14, 1944.


In his long trip by air via Dallas, Herman Pilnik of Argentina lost his plane priorities.  In an effort to get to Hollywood for the Pan American Congress, he proceeded by motor and the car, exceeding any normal speed limit, crashed into a parked and unlighted truck near El Centro.  Pilnik woke up in a hospital, where he was cared for two days.  He showed up with a thoroughly bandaged head.  – Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug 2, 1945.


The US and Russia will square-off for an international chess championship to be conducted by way of commercial short wave radio hookup between Moscow and New York City.  Each nation will be represented by 10 leading players.   The tournament will last 4 days.  Headquarters of the US contestants will be in the ballroom of the Henry Hudson Hotel.  The New York Chess Federation, sponsor of the match, has billed the contest as “the first international sports event since 1939.”  -- Kingsport News, Sep 1, 1945.


A book on chess published in 1474 and reputedly the second volume printed in the English language brought $7600 at a Southeby’s auction today.  “The Game and Playe of Chesse” by Jackobus De Cessolis, translated by William Caxton, once formed a portion of the library of Lord Cunliffe.  – Harrisburg Telegraph, May 13, 1946.


In his exhibition at the Brooklyn Library, Max Pavey played 13 games with different opponents without losing one.  He drew two games against Edmar Mednis, a junior member of the Marshall Chess Club, and Sylvan Katske.  The other 11, including eight-year-old Bobby Fischer, were defeated.  – Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan 18, 1951.


Oklahoma City: Bobby Fischer, the 13-year-old whiz, after playing his fourth master opponent in a row asked me: “When do I get a fish as an opponent?”  So I promptly gave him Fischeimer of Chicago.  George Koltanowski.  – The Corpus Christi Times, Nov 11, 1956.


Bobby Fischer is learning to ski under the tutelage of Olympic competitor Toni Kastner – and in return is teaching Kastner to play chess.  Many chess champs have been good atheletes.  Capablanca was a top tennis star and Boris Spassky clears six feet in the high jump.  – Ogden Standard-Examiner, Jan 27, 1958.

In June 1960, Clinton Curtis got in a fight with Michael George over a chess game in a Greenwich Village bar.  Curtis threw a punch at George but missed.  George then struck Curtis on the head with a beer glass and killed him.  – Anderson Herald, June 2, 1960.


Americans, Russians, and New Zealanders are deep in strategic moves in the Antarctic – fighting out an international chess tournament.  New Zealanders at Scott base are playing Lazarev base, a Russian base, while the Americans are playing the Russian station at Mirny.  – Kansas City Star, July 31, 1960.


Marcel Duchamp is interested in chess.  To raise funds for sending an American chess team abroad, he persuaded eminent painters to donate their work for a Parke-Bernet action.  He visited the set of “Paris Blues” to teach Duke Ellington to play chess.  Ellington watched Duchamp demonstrate the fundamental moves, then made his sole comment, “Crazy, man, crazy.”  -- Daily News-Texan, May 10, 1961.


A man was seized last night in the slaying of a 280-pound master chess player, whose body was found stuffed in a walk-in wall safe of a basement laboratory on Manhattan’s upper West Side.  The victim, Abe Turner, 38, had been stabbed 9 times.  Turner did general office work for “Chess Review” magazine.  He had been stabbed in a hallway of the building and his body dragged to a basement laboratory used by a doctor who has an office on the front floor.  Seized was Theodore Smith, 38, a clerk-typist with “Chess Review.”  He admitted to the slaying and said he threw away the knife in Central Park.  – Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Oct 26, 1962.


With a check, a mate, and a whirling of gears, a Soviet computer has defeated an American computer in a long-distance game of chess.  Three more games remain to be played by the computer at the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics here and its adversary at Stanford Univeristy.  Tass said the Russians, with one game already in hand, had an unbeatable lead in a second game, led in a third, and trailed in only one game.  Institute director Abram Alikhanov said he had sent a telegram to Stanford reporting that the Soviet machine scored mate on the 19th move.  – Independent (Long Beach, CA), March 11, 1967.


During the Middle Ages, chess was outlawed at Oxford University in England.  It was called “noxious, inordinate and unhonest,” according to National Geographic.  – San Bernadino County Sun, April 12, 1970.


At speeds quicker than the eye can see, the 3rd annual U.S. Computer Chess Championship flashed to a close with the perennial champion still on top.  Northwestern University’s Control Data Corp 6400 computer, undefeated in the 3 years of competition, overwhelmed Carnegie-Mellon University’s Digital Equipment Corp. PDP-10 computer in the final game.  The event, part of the 25th annual conference of the Association of Computing Machinery, was played over 3 nights, with 8 computers entered in the single-elimination tournament.  Prof. Monty Newborn of Columbia University, said, “in possible 15 years computers will be able to beat the likes of Bobby Fischer.”  -- Fairbanks Daily News, Sep 2, 1974.


A new Bobby Fischer or the same one, just mellowed a bit because, as he put it, “the pressure is off” and he is enjoying a new lifestyle after winning the world chess title.  Fischer signed all the autographs the fans wanted, posed for all the pictures asked of him and smiled his way through a rare interview when he appeared Sunday in conjunction with the final round of the Church’s international chess tournament.  When asked why he wasn’t competing in the tournament, Fischer replied, this money is a joke.”  Although a performer in the Church’s field said Fischer may not choose to defend his world title in 1975, Fischer quashed the possibility with a loud laugh.  – The Childress Index, Dec 12, 1972.


Two convicted murderers overpowered a corrections officer in his apartment and escaped.  Sgt. George Winslow had been accompanying the two prisoners on a promotion tour for a chess tournament among inmates when the escape occurred.  The inmates were identified as Claude Bloodgood III, 49, and Lewis Capleaner, 30.  – Danville Register, Jan 6, 1974


Russian grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi has a present for his 140-year-old son, Igor – 44 “rock” record albums.  Korchnoi, who is playing Brazilian Henrique Mecking in Augusta, Georgia, was presented the albums by radio station WBBQ.  Igor had sent a list of the albums he wanted to his father and WBBQ got in touch with distributers who supplied the records.  The albums included records by Alice Cooper, the Beatles, Brocul Harum, Moody Blues, Simon and Garfunkle, and the Osmonds.  – Aiken Standard, Jan 29, 1974.


Paul Keres was stricken with a heart attack at Helsinki, Finland, where his plane touched down returning from his Canadian visit and before he could cross by boat to Estonia.  His wife was notified by phone, but the shock hospitalized her, too, with a heart attack.  Keres was under intensive care for several days before succumbing on June 5, 1975.  His body lay in state in the city’s concert hall and tens of thousands filed past.  His obituary ran three pages in a local paper. – Ottawa Journal, July 15, 1975


I interviewed Walter Browne in Henderson, NC  on Dec 3, 1975 during his USA simul tour.  He started playing chess at 8, but wasn’t aware of chess books and magazines until age 11.  He later joined the Manhattan Chess Club and became quite active.   He had no chess trainer and was basically self-taught, but studied chess every day and practiced.  He became a GM in 1969.  As an Australian citizen, he could represent Australia and that zone easier than an American to participate in zonal tournaments to get his International Master title first.  He sees chess in a depression after Fischer, being on the decline since early 1974.   Europe Is much better for tournaments.  He had just played in a tournament in Milan, which had 400 spectators.  America doesn’t support chess and he was trying to encourage chess through his American tour.  He set a record of playing over 1,000 players in a 30 day period.  He had over 100 players in Denver and Pittsburgh.   There was no question that Fischer could beat Karpov in a world championship match.  – Pawn Power weekly article by Bill Wall, published in Statesville Record & Landmark, Statesville, NC, Dec 13, 1975.  I wrote a weekly chess column from 1975 to 1978.


12-year-old Harry Kasparov became the youngest winner in the 30-year history of Soviet youth chess championships when he topped the list of 66 under-18 competing at Tbilisi.  Kasparov is a pupil of ex-world champion Mikhail Botvinnik. – Lincoln Star, Jan 20, 1976