Chess Trivia

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Bacrot, Etienne (1983- )
In 1997 Bacrot became the youngest Grandmaster ever at the age of 14 years, 2 months. He was the youngest FIDE master at age 10 and won the World Under 12 championship in 1995.

Baden Baden 1870
First international tournament in Germany and the first to be interrupted by war (Franco-Prussian war). First place was 3,000 francs. This tournament was the first to introduce chess clocks, but the players had the option of using hour-glasses. Adolf Anderssen was declared the winner.

Baden Baden 1925
First international tournament in Germany after World War I. Alekhine was the winner.

Bagirov, Vladimir (1936- )
Latvian player who became a Grandmaster in 1978 at the age of 42. In 1960 he took 4th place in the USSR championship. He was a former trainer of Kasparov. In 1998 he won the 8th World Senior Chess Championship, held in Austria.

Balinas, Rosendo (1941-1998)
Philippine Grandmaster and considered Asia's best player during the 1960s. He won the Philippine championship 6 times. In 1976 he won an international tournament in Odessa, USSR. It was only the 2nd time in 35 years a foreigner won an international event in the USSR. The only other foreigner who won in Russia was world champion Capablanca.

The first ballet with a chess theme was Ballet des Echecs, performed for Louis XIV of France. A ballet called Checkmate, composed by Sir Arthur Bliss and choreographed by Ninette de Valois in 1937, was performed at the Paris World Exhibition. The first ballet on ice was included in the pantomine, Sinbad the Sailer (1953), where skaters played out the Morphy - Duke of Brunswick game. In 1986 the musical Chess, by Tim Rice, was produced.

Balogh, Janos (1892-1980)
Winner of the first international correspondence tournament, in 1932.

Banks, Newell (1887-1977)
U.S. checker champion who was also a chess master. He defeated the U.S. chess champion, Frank Marshall, and his leading challenger, Isaac Kashdan, at the Chicago Tournament in 1926.

Bardeleben, Kurt Von (1861-1924)
Strongest German player of the late 19th century and Grandmaster strength. He committed suicide by jumping out of an upper window of his boarding house in Berlin where he lived in poverty.

Baring Chess
A chess game where there is no checkmate and the game is won by the player who is able to capture all his opponent's pieces, leaving the opponent with a bare King. This game was played as early as the 9th century and some think that the baring game was the original game of chess.

Barnes, Thomas (1825-1874)
Thomas Barnes scored more wins than anyone else against Paul Morphy, winning 8 games and losing 19. He went on a diet and lost 130 pounds in 10 months, causing his death.

Best known endgame book. Reuben Fine took only 3 months to write it.

Battel, Jack (1909-1985)
Former executive editor of CHESS REVIEW from 1948 to 1969.

Baturinsky, Victor (1914- )
Chief of Karpov's delegation during the early years as world champion. He was a prosecutor in Stalin's NKVD (secret police) and a Colonel under Lavrenti Beria, the secret police chief who was later executed by Nikita Kruschev.

In 1966 the U.S. Open was held at the Seattle World's Fair Grounds. The Beatles were on hand to give a concert. At the Open the tournament director drew the curtains over the playing hall. The hundreds of Beatle fans, seeing the hall shrouded by the drapes, assumed the Beatles were inside. They began pounding on the windows until someone opened the drapes to reveal a chess tournament was taking place. Ringo Starr and John Lennon played chess. Yoko Ono, Lennon's widow, is an avid chess player and supporter.

Beauharnois, Prince Eugene (1781-1824)
Step-son of Napoleon and Viceroy of Italy. He purchased the Turk from Maelzel for 30,000 francs (equivalent to $60,000) in 1811. The Prince stored it at his residence in Milan. He sold the Turk back to Maelzel in 1817 for the same price.

Beechey, Frideswide (1843-1919)
First woman to a chess column and the first woman to win a prize as a composer of chess problems (1882).

Belakovskaya, Anjelina
Winner of the 1996 US Women's Chess Championship.

Belgrade GMA 1989
The Belgrade Grandmaster's Association 1989 tournament had 98 grandmasters participating, a world record for number of GMs in one tournament. This was the strongest Swiss of all time. The tournament was funded by Yugoslav Airlines with $100,000 prize fund. The winner was Yugoslav Grandmaster Krunoslav Hulak.

Beliavsky, Alexander (1953- )
Russian Grandmaster (1975) who won the World Junior Championship in 1973 and the USSR Championship in 1974.

First computer awarded the title of U.S. Chess Master, in 1983. BELLE won the 1980 World Computer Championship in Linz, running on a PDP 11/23. BELLE was created by Ken Thompson and Joe Condon. In 1982 Ken Thompson traveled to Moscow and thought BELLE was traveling with him in a crate to compete in a tournament. However, the U.S. Customs Service confiscated the chess computer at Kennedy Airport as part of Operation Exodus, a program to prevent illegal export of high technology items to the Soviets. It took over a month and a $600 fine to retrieve BELLE from customs.

Bellin, Jana Malypetrova Hartston Miles (1947- )
Top British woman player. She is also an anesthesiologist which she says is an appropriate specialization for a chessplayer - "it's like time trouble, you only have four minutes." Formerly married to Bill Hartston and Tony Miles.

Benedict, Clare (1871-1961)
Granddaughter of James Fenimore Cooper who moved to Switzerland and became a chess patron of a team tournament of European countries. The first Clare Benedict International Team Tournament was held in 1953 and won by the Dutch.

Benjamin, Joel (1964- )
Winner of the National Elementary (1976), Junior High School (1978), and High School Championships (1980, 1981), U.S. Junior Championship (1980, 1982), U.S. Open Championship (1985), and U.S. Championship (1987 and 1997). He was a master at 13 and became a Grandmaster in 1986. He assisted the IBM DEEPER BLUE team which defeated Kasparov in 1997.

Benko, Pal (1928- )
French-born Hungarian player. He won the Hungaian national championship at age 20. He was secretly involved in the 1956 Hungarian revolt. He spent a year and a half in a Hungarian political prison. He was permitted to play first board on Hungary's team in the 1957 Student Olympiad in Iceland where he defected to the U.S.

He became a Grandmaster in 1958. In 1970 he yielded his interzonal place at Palma de Mallorca to Bobby Fischer, who went on to become World Champion. He has won or tied for 1st in 8 US Opens - a record.

Bergraser, Volf (1904-1986)
Won the Franch chess championship in 1957 and 1966. He became a Correspondence Grandmaster at the age of 77.

Berlin Pleiades
The seven stars of German chess:

  • Paul von Bilguer, Army Lieutenant and author of the Handbuch, the most influential chess book for 90 years;
  • Dr. Ludwig Bledow, professor of mathematics and Pleiades founder;
  • Wilhelm Hanstein, civil servant;
  • Bernard Horwitz, painter and chess professional;
  • Baron Tassilo von der Lasa, Prussian Ambassador and chess book; collector (over 2000 books). He never played in a tournament or match;
  • Carl Mayet, barrister and judge;
  • Carl Schorn, painter.

Berliner, Hans (1929- )
Winner of the 5th world correspondence championship (1965-68). His 3 point margin of victory was the greatest margin of victory ever achieved in a World Championship final round, and his winning percentage (87.5%) was also the greatest of any World Champion. In 1979 he developed a backgammon playing program that defeated the reigning World Backgammon Champion. This was the first time that a World Champion had ever been beaten by a computer. He was the first U.S. correspondence Grandmaster.

Bernstein, Ossip (1882-1962)
In 1918 Ossip Bernstein was arrested in Odessa by the Cheka and ordered shot by a firing squad just because he was a legal advisor to bankers. As the firing squad lined up, a superior officer asked to see the list of prisoners' names. Discovering the name of Ossip Bernstein, he asked whether he was the famous 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. He escaped on a British ship and settled in Paris. Bernstein's son was President Eisenhower's official interpreter because he spoke almost every European language. At age 74, he was still playing in international tournaments.

Bertl Von Massow Medal
Medal for distinguished service to international correspondence chess.

Best Game Prize
A prize for the best game of a tournament or match. The first best game prize was awarded to Gunsburg for his game against Mason, New York 1889.

Best-selling chess book
Perhaps the best selling chess book is CHESS MADE EASY by C. J. Purdy and G. Koshnitsky. First published in 1942, by its 24th edition in 1977, it had sold 438,000 copies.

Bhat, Vinay
In 1995 he became America's youngest master at the age of 10 years, 6 months. The old record as youngest master has held by Jordy Mont-Reynaud.

Bilek, Istvan (1932- )
Hungarian Grandmaster (1962). In 1979 at an international tournament in Skupsk, he had a bye in the first round, drew his next 10 games in 13, 14, 12, 9, 12, 13, 17, and 9 moves, taking 5, 12, 15, 26, 7, 4, 5, 12, 18, and 5 minutes, respectively. Thus, he made only 125 moves in 109 minutes in this 11 round master event. When he won the Hungarian championship, he wife won the Hungarian women's championship.

The Caliph of Bagdad who composed the first chess problem in 840.

Bisguier, Arthur (1929- )
US champion in 1954. Winner of the US Open in 1950, 1957, and 1959. He was awarded the Grandmaster title in 1956. He has been known not to take cash prizes that he has won if the tournament organizer was taking a loss on a tournament.

Blackburne, Joseph Henry (1841-1924)
His nickname was the Black Death, given to him by a comment in the tournament book of Vienna 1873. He was also known for his temper. After losing to Steinitz in a match, he threw him out of a window. Luckily for Steinitz that they were on the first floor. He was once arrested as a spy because he sent chess moves in the mail and it was thought the the moves were coded secrets. He tied for first in the British Championship of 1914 at the age of 72. During a simultaneous exhibition at Cambridge University, the students thought to gain the advantage by placing a bottle of whisky and a glass at each end of the playing oval. In the end he emptied both bottles and won all his games in record time. During the temperance movement in England he declared that whisky drinking improved one's chess because alcohol cleared the brain and he tried to prove that theory as often as possible. It is estimated he played 100,000 games of chess in his career.

Blathy, Otto (1860-1939)
Credited for creating the longest chess problem, mate in 290 moves.

Bledow, Ludwig (1795-1846)
Founder of the first German magazine, Deutsche Schachzeitung, in 1846.

Blind Chessplayers
In 1950 Sir. T. Thomas was the first blind player to play in a chess Olympiad (Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia). The International Braille Association was formed by blind player R. Bonham. The first World Blind Correspondence Championship began in 1955 and was won by R. Bonham. James Slagle won the first U.S. Championship for the blind in 1971. The American master Albert Landrin (1923-) participated in the World Chess Championship for the Blind and played all his games from memory, without use of a board. In 1968 the United States had only 25 blind chessplayers in its Braile Chess Association. The Soviet Union had 150,000 blind players in its Brail Chess Association.

Blindfold checkers
Blindfold checkers is more difficult than blindfold chess. The greatest number played blindfold simultaneously is 28. The uniformity of checkers makes it harder to reach distinctive positions.

Blindfold chess
Buzecca, a Muslim, was the first blindfold player in Europe, playing two games blindfold in Florence in 1265. It took 518 years before three games were played blindfold, by Philidor in 1783. One newspaper wrote 'This exertion of Mr. Philidor's abilities appear one of the greatest of which the human memory is susceptible. That record stood for 74 years. In 1857 Louis Paulsen played four games blindfold simultaneously. (see simultaneous).

Bloodgood, Claude (1937- )
Author of The Tactical Grob. Once the 29th highest USCF ranked OTB player in the country, he was sentenced to death for killing his mother. While on death row, he played over 1200 postal games. The postage was paid by the State of Virginia. He was scheduled for execution 6 times, but received a reprieve on all occasions. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and the state stopped paying postage. He was allowed to play in OTB chess tournaments, accompanied by a guard. In one event, he escaped for several weeks after he and another chessplayer overpowered the guard. When he was recaptured after several weeks at large, his correspondence privelege was taken away from him at Virginia State Penitentiary.

Blumenfeld, Boris (1884-1947)
Born in Volkovisk, Russia who invented the Blumenfeld Counter Gambit. He became a student of chess psychology and received a doctorate for a thesis on the nature of blunders in chess. He died in Moscow in 1947.

Bobotsov, Milko (1931- )
First Bulgarian to be awarded the title of International Grandmaster (1961).

Bogart, Humphrey (1899-1957)
Before becoming a movie star, Humphrey Bogart hustled strangers at 5-minute chess for 50 cents a game in chess parlors in New York Times Square. In 1943 the FBI prevented him from playing postal chess, thinking the chess notation were secret codes. He was a USCF tournament director and active in the California State Chess Association. He once drew a game against Reshevsky in a simultaneous exhibition. He made 75 films and chess appears in several of his movies. He and his wife, Lauren Bacall, appeared on the cover of CHESS REVIEW in 1945 playing chess with Charles Boyer.

Bogoljubov, Efim (1889-1952)
Once spent over two hours over his 24th move against Steiner, Berlin 1928, and then chose a move that lost a piece. His most famous statement was "When I'm White I win because I'm White. When I'm Black I win because I'm Bogoljubov." He died in Triberg, Germany after concluding a simultaneous chess exhibition.

Boi, Paolo (1528-1598)
One of the leading players of the 16th century. In 1549 he defeated Pope Paul III in a chess match. The Pope offered to make him cardinal which he refused. In 1574 he defeated Ruy Lopez at the court of King Phillip II of Spain. The King showered him with great rewards including an official appointment in Sicily that paid 500 crowns a year. In 1576 he was taken prisoner and sold as a slave to a Turk. He played chess for his master that brought in a lot of money. He later gained his freedom back. He was poisoned, probably by jealous rivals, in Naples in 1598.

Bolbochan, Julio (1920-1996) Argentine Grandmaster who received the title in 1977 at the age of 57. He won the Argentina championship in 1946 and 1948. His brother Jacobo (1906-1984) won the Argentina championship in 1932 and 1933, and became an International Master in 1965 at the age of 59.

Book, chess
The oldest European book on chess is "Juegos Axedrez, dados y tablas," written in the 13th century. The first hardback book dealing with chess, Dass Goldin Spil, was published in Augsburg in 1472. The first chess book printed in Russia was a translation of Benjamin Franklin's Morals of Chess, published in St. Peterburg in 1791. The title was Pravila dlia Shashechnoi Igry (Rules for the Game of Chess). However, the title used the word for checkers instead of the word for chess (shakmatnoi).

The first book to explain chess strategy was L'Analyze des Eschecs, by Philidor in 1749. It went through more than 100 editions in ten languages. The first chess book published in America was Chess Made Easy by James Humphreys, printed in Philadelphia in 1802. This was just a reprint of Philidor's book published in 1796. The first original American book was The Elements of Chess, published in Boston in 1805. The first chess book entirely devoted to the analysis of a single opening, Analysis of the Muzio Gambit by Kassin and Cochrane, was published in India in 1829. A book was published in German with the title, Advice to Spectators at Chess Tournaments. All the pages were blank except the last. On the last page were two words, Halt's Maul, keep your mouth shut. The first book review was CHESS by Twiss in 1787.

Book play
A tournament was held in London with the positions of the knights and bishops reversed, in order to avoid book play. This was in 1868.

In 1993, a person was shot and killed while playing a chess game in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the first to die from sniper fire while playing chess.

Botvinnik, Mikhail (1911-1995)
Former world champion (1948-57, 1958-60, 1961-63) who was the only man to win the title three times. He played every world champion of this century and the early trainer of Karpov and Kasparov. He never played a "friendly" or leisure game of chess in his life. He had a PhD (1951) in Electrical Engineering and worked on computer chess programs. He received $5,000 for winning his first world championship.

Boy, The
Nickname of Giovanni Leonardo, a leading player of the 16th century, because of his youthful appearance.

Breyer, Gyula (1894-1921)
Hungarian of Grandmaster strength, he set a new blindfold record of 25 opponents (won 15, drew 7, lost 3) in 1921. He was one of the pioneering leaders of hypermodern chess.

Brilliancy prize
A prize that contains a brilliant combination in a tournament or match. The first brilliancy prize for a tournament, a silver cup, went to Henry Bird for his victory against James Mason in New York in 1876. The first brilliancy of a match game, 300 francs, was awarded to Steinitz against Tchigorin in the 8th world championship game in 1889.

The first British reference to chess is the Latin poem de Shahiludo, written by a Winchester monk.

British Chess Association (BCA)
The first national body to promote chess, founded in 1884. Winston Churchill's father was once the President of the BCA, while Lord Tennyson was the Vice President.

First chess magazine to complete 100 years of continuous publication (1881 to 1981). It began as a monthly chess magazine in 1872 called Huddersfield College Magazine. On January 1, 1881 it became the BRITISH CHESS MAGAZINE.

Bronstein, David (1924- )
Winner of the first Interzonal in 1948 at Saltsjobaden who survivied an assasination attack during the tournament. On the last day Bronstein was playing Tartakover. Suddenly, a Lithuanian made a lunge at Bronstein to kill him. Several spectators grabbed him. He wanted to murder all Russians because he claimed the Russians were responsible for sending his sister to Siberia and murdering her. Bronstein won the game and the Interzonal with a 13.5-5.5 score. First place prize for the first interzonal was $550.

The first brother-sister to tie for first place in a tournament was Harold and Bernadette Reddik in Chicago in 1982.

Browne, Walter (1949- )
Six-time US champion (1974, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1983). He became a Grandmaster in 1970 (representing Australia) and is the founder of the World Blitz Chess Association (WBCA).

Bruce, Rowena M. (1919- )
The only player to have played two world champions in a tournament on the same day. In the Plymouth 1938 tournament she played world woman champion Menchik in the morning and world champion Alekhine in the afternoon for rounds 2 and 3. She has won the British Ladies' Championship 11 times, from 1937 to 1969.

Buckle, Henry (1821-1862)
Winner of the first modern chess tournament, the Divan tourney of 1849. He was a British historian who could speak seven languages and read twelve languages. He died of typhoid fever in Damascus.

Budapest 1950
First Candidates' tournament. Bronstein and Boleslavsky tied for first in this 10 player event. Bronstein later played Boleslavsky in a playoff match to determine the world championship challenger and won. Reshevsky was invited to play but the U.S. government would not grant him a visa to Hungary.

The annual FIDE budgest is $150,000. The annual chess budget of the Russian Chess Federation is $175 million.

Bugojno 1986
First Category 16 tournament ever held, with an average rating of 2628. Karpov was the winner in this Yugoslavian Super-Grandmaster tournament.

Bull fighting
In 1976, during the Palma de Mallorca, Spain chess tournament, Mikhail Tal became the first Russian to oppose a bull in a bull-fighting arena.

German national chess team tournament that started in 1975. Top Grandmasters from around the world have been paid as much as $50,000 to play on a team (14-20 games a season).

Buoncompagno, Giacomo
Duke of Sora and leading patron of chess in the 17th century. He was the illegitimate son of Pope Gregory XIII.

Butrimov, Ivan (1782-1861)
Published the first Russian chess book, in 1821.

Byrne, Robert (1928- )
Philosophy professor who gave up teaching to become a chess professional. He won or tied for first in the US Open in 1960, 1963, and 1966. He received the Grandmaster title in 1964. He won the US Championship in 1972. He finished 3rd at the 1973 Leningrad Interzonal and became only the 3rd American (after Fischer and Benko) to qualify for the Candidates Match.

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