Chess: Lost or Stolen!
by Bill Wall

Around 1475, the poem Scachsd'amor was written. It was the first text of modern chess. Scachsd'amor is Catalan for "Chess of Love." The complete title of this Catalan poem is Hobraintituladascachsd'amor feta per don franci de Castellvi e Narcisvinyoles e mossenbernatfennolarsota nom de tres planets co es Marc Venus e Mercuri per conjunccio e influenciadels quals foninventada. The poem was written by Francesch de Castellvi, BernatFenollar, and Narcis de Vinyoles. The manuscript was published in Valencia, Spain around 1475. The poem is conceived as a chess game between Francesch de Castellvi and Narciso Vinyoles. The manuscript (not a printed book) was discovered in 1905 by the Jesuit P. Ignasi Casanovas (1872-1936). He discovered the manuscript in the Royal Chapel of the Palau de Barcelona. It was lost during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

In 1500, the manuscript De ludoscachorum (On the Game of Chess) was written in Latin by the mathematician and Franciscan friar Luca Pacioli (1447-1517). The 96-page manuscript contains 49 pages of over 100 chess problems, drawn in red and black. The manuscript was dedicated to Isabella d'Este (1474-1539). The manuscript was originally lost, but rediscovered in 2006.

In 1622, chess player Gioacchino Greco has 5,000 crowns stolen from him while on a trip from Paris to London. He had just won the money from chess matches and chess manuscripts that he had sold.

In September 1733, in the Craftsman newspaper, there appeared a paper with the title of A Short Essay on the Game of Chess. In reply, Rev. Lewis Rou, pastor of the Huguenot Church in New York, wrote Critical Remarks upon the letter to the Craftsman, dated December 13, 1734. The manuscript, now lost, is the oldest reference to chess in the New World. (source: New York Times, Aug 2, 1902, p. 8)

In 1896, U.S. chess champion Harry Nelson Pillsbury (1872-1906) resigned from the Manhattan Chess Club because someone stole his umbrella. (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 3, 1896)

In 1912, when the Titanic sank, dozens of chess letters, chess diagrams, and A. C. White's "Christmas Series" chess books were lost.

In 1921, International Master Norman Whitaker (1890-1975) was arrested for stealing automobiles.

the 1940s, a tournament director of the U.S. Championship had his car stolen during a chess tournament in New York. The car was recovered a day later.

In 1964, an antiques dealer in Scotland bought an ivory chessman for $6. He lost it but found it in 2019. It had forgotten that it was stored in a drawer. The dealer then took it to Sotheby's auction house in London for assessment. It turns out it was one of the Lewis Chessmen, now valued over $ 1 million. The piece had been earlier lost on Scotland's Outer Hebrides islands and found in 1831.

In 1970, a chess book was stolen from the Copper Lift Library in Sudbury, Ontario. It was returned 49 years later. The chess book was Great Moments in Chess by Fred Reinfeld.

In 1971, the only item ever stolen from me (Bill Wall) on a military base in Southeast Asia was my large magnetic chess set that I had for years. Someone broke into my hooch and that was the only thing missing.

In 1975, on his first trip to Germany, Walter Browne had a large amount of money stolen from his hotel room in Mannheim. The robber was later caught, and Browne's money was returned to him. Browne later won the German International tournament at Mannheim.

In January 1975, the Cleveland Public Library had 5 antique chess sets stolen from their White Collection. It included two 18th century Chinese chess sets, an 18th century Japanese chess set, a 20th century Japanese chess set, and a contemporary Americn pyrex chess set.

In 1978, a Waterloo chess set depicting Napoleon and Wellington troops was stolen from a British museum.

In 1978, GM Bill Lombardy was mugged in New York and thieves stole all his money. The thieves then cut has hand. Tendons in two fingers were severed and he underwent a long operation to repair the severed tendons.

In 1990, grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov (1959- ) and his wife had their luggage stolen from the trunk of a car while he was having dinner at a restaurant in New York City. The next day, he was attacked by a gang and robbed of his money, airline tickets, and 10 years of chess analysis.

In 1990, Bogdan Szetela had his car stolen. 11 days later he thought he had seen his car, but this car had a taxi light on top and "Crescent Cab Co." painted on the side. Spotting a police officer, he told the cop that the cab was his stolen car. Police weren't convinced until he told them that he left a chess set in the trunk before it was stolen. The police popped the trunk and found the chess set. (source: Deseret News, Oct 14, 1990 -

In 1992, thieves broke into GM Artur Yusupov's(1960 - ) apartment and stole many of his possessions. When Yusupov returned to his apartment the thieves shot him in the stomach.

In the 1994 Chess Olympiad in Moscow, the Macedonian team captain had $7,000 stolen from him after he left a bank.

In 1998, GM Larry Christiansen's luggage was stolen at a railway station in Albany, New York, on his way to the Toronto Internationals Open. He decided not to play in the event.

In September 2000, 14 large chess pieces were stolen from the rear courtyard of the Castle at Tarrytown, a 31-room luxury hotel and restaurant in Tarrytown, New York. The full set of chess pieces were 3 to 4 feet tall and made of a lightweight synthetic material. The value of the stolen pieces was over $6,000. The theft was caught on surveillance camera.

In February 2001, four giant chess pieces were stolen from the North Carolina Botanical Garden's outdoor chess board in Chapel Hill. Two kings and two queens, standing 3 1/2 feet tall, were stolen. The chess set was custom-mand and one of a kind. Each piece had an etching of an endangered plant. The missing chess pieces were valued at $1,250 each.

In 2001, the Mir spacecraft burned up as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. A magnetic chess set and a Fritz chess computer were burned up and lost. (source: Casado, "The Soul of Fritz," ChessBase News, Oct 3, 2018)

In 2001, Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, stole a chess piece of the chess set that was used on the first film.

In January 2003, grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric (1923-2012) was attacked in his sleep and beaten up by masked burglars in his Belgrade home. The armed robbers broke into his home at 3 am, beat and tied him up, the stole his money and jewelry of his late wife. They also stole his chess trophies.

In 2003, Sandy Jones, a Washington DC school administrator, stole $30,000 from a special needs school chess club that was to be used for local and national chess tournaments. She stole the money from the chess club's bank account between May 2003 and November 2003. The 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students were all diagnosed with bipolar disorder or attention-deficit order. Chess was part of their therapy. The "special needs" team placed 33rd out of 64 of the nation's top scholastic chess teams.

In 2003, American soldiers stole an antique chess set owned by Saddam Hussein. The chess set was on display at the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad, which had been looted of over 13,000 artifacts during the American invasion of Baghdad. The objects were stolen by U.S. government employees and contractors who took them as souvenirs or war trophies. In 2017, the chess set was returned to the Government of Iraq. It had been recovered by the FBI.

In July 2005, Canadian grandmaster Pascal Charbonneau (1983- ) and his chess-playing friends had all their money stolenduring the World Open in Philadelphia.

On January 5, 2007, grandmaster Farhad Tahirov, age 19, had a thousand British pounds stolen from him by gang members while playing at the Hastings Chess Congress. It happened as we walked along Harold Road in Hastings at about 8 pm.

On February 18, 2007, GM Teimour Radjabov had all of his possessions stolen from a hotel room while playing in the Morelia-Linares chess tournament in Mexico. The burglary occurred in Patzcuaro, Mexico only a few days before the start of the tournament. Radjabov and his father left for a quick dinner and returned to their room within 30 minutes. All of their valuable items were stolen.

In 2007, the Rochester Chess Center was the official vendor at the World Open in Philadelphia. They had 21 expensive chess clocks stolen during the event. It was later discovered that some of the chess clocks were being used to pay off gambling debts from backgammon and poker at the tournament.

In December 2007, the tournament director's laptop was stolen at the 34th Eastern Open in Washington, D.C. It had occurred shortly after round 3, when the 6-month-old laptop was stolen from the director's room. Generous chess players at the event contributed $600, which was matched by a generous donor to pay for a new laptop.

In 2008, 29 out of 32 giant chess pieces were stolen from a New Zealand town.

In 2008, grandmaster Leonid Timoshenko had a precious diamond he was carrying stolen. The diamond was part of a trophy (the Gaprindashvili Cup) won by the Ukrainian National Chess Team in the 2008 Chess Olympiad. The diamond and trophy were in his checked bag on the airplane, but when he landed, his bag was open, the trophy was broken and the diamond was stolen. He was forced to check the cup into baggage at Frankfurt on his flight to Kiev. On the previous flight from Dresden, he was allowed to take the trophy onboard as a carry-on piece.

In October 2008, thieves stole a 17th century chess set in Brisbande, Australia. Thieves broke into to home of Franklin Way and stole the hand-carved ivory chess set. The chess pieces were distinctive because they were all made up of 8 individual section of ivory.

In 2008, Anatoly Karpov had a300-page chess manuscript stolen while he was in Brussels. He had ben working on the historical aspects of coins and stamps as related to a chess theme.

In 2008, a man was arrested by Boston police on a warrant of receiving stolen property. He was supposed to have been running an extracurricular chess program for elementary school students, charging $63.50 per student, but it was a scam.

In 2009, thieves stole bags from chess players during the World Open in Philadelphia. The players would set their bags down in an area with computers attached to the Internet for hotel guests to use. Thieves would then make off with the bags. Sam Sloan had his bag stolen containing 12 chess books he had recently published.

In 2010, a military person purchased a $100 Korean chess set while stationed in South Korea. It was later stolen from his storage unit in Conway, Arkansas.

In April 2010, five chess pieces were stolen from the Christchurch Cathedral Square. The large public chess set was a popular attraction in Cathedral Square. The pieces were stolen over the Easter weekend.

In 2011, IM VasikRajlich was accused of stealing computer code that he used for developing the Rybka chess engine. His program was stripped of the last four World Computer Chess Championships that the program won.

In 2011, GM VassilyIvanchuck's wooden chess set and other items were stolen during a robbery in Sao Paulo Brazil.

In 2012, two brothers, Martius and Retief van Zyl, stole the equivalent of $6,000 that was to be used for the South African Junior National Chess Championships. The money came from the Boardwalk Casino and the Sports and Recreation Department to fund chess. The brother were members of the Nelson Mandela Bay Chess Union.

In 2013, two chess kings were stolen from a giant chessboard at Strathewen Primary School in Victoria, Australia. The chess pieces were donated by the French village of Villers-Bretonneux as part of the reconstruction effort of the school when it was destroyed in a brushfire in 2009.

In 2013, giant chess pieces were stolen from the outdoor chess board at Lake Monjingup, Australia. The chess pieces were made and donated by the 1st Esperance Scout Group.

In 2013, a giant chess set made of ceramic pieces were stolen from the garden of a senior couple in Ealing, United Kingdom.

In 2014, a chess set was stolen from a car parked at a library in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

In 2015, someone stole one of the large queens from South Bend, Indiana's large chess board on display in the downtown district. It was later returned just in time for Christmas, wrapped up in a big red bow.

In 2016, a duffel bag that contained 20 chess sets and 20 chess books was stolen from a car owned by Raymond Shelly of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The estimated loss was $1,490.

In 2018, an antique chess set was stolen from a house in Upton, England.

In December 2018, a handmade glass tile chess set and other items was stolen from a family garage in Portland, Oregon. Later, a woman bought the chess pieces from a homeless man for $60.

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