Thursday, November 17, 2011

Unusual chess stories

Here are some unusual stories that I picked up from the net that will surely enchant most lovers of chess trivia. It shows how extensive the game is to everyday life.

In 1794, Thomas Paine (1737-1809), author of The Rights of Man and Common Sense, was arrested in Paris for favoring the exile of King Louis XVI rather than his execution. Paine was scheduled to be guillotined, but his wife intervened . She frequented the Café de la Regence where Robespierre frequented and defeated him in a game of chess. Robespierre challenged her again and promised to grant any wish if she won again. She again won and asked that her husband’s life be spared. Thomas Paine then was released from prison. "Common Sense" was so influential that John Adams said, "Without the pen of the author of 'Common Sense,' the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”
In 1866, William Henry Russ (1833-1866) shot his adopted daughter four times in the head after he proposed marriage when she turned 21, and she rejected him. He then jumped into a river to drown himself. He was arrested, but died 10 days later, lacking the will to live. The woman survived. He was a leading American compiler of chess problems in the 19th century who wrote under the name W. R. Henry. His book, American Chess Nuts, was published in 1868.
Joseph Blackburne nicknamed "The Black Death", dominated British chess during the latter part of the 19th century. He was arrested as a French spy for sending chess moves in the mail. The British government thought they were coded secrets.
In 1932, Norman Tweed Whitaker (1890-1975), who became an International Master at the late age of 75, was arrested for attempted extortion in a scheme to swindle $104,000 from a wealthy heiress by claiming to be in contact with the Lindbergh kidnappers. He was a lawyer but was disbarred for his criminal offenses. He served time in Alcatraz and was a friend of Al Capone there.
Prolific bank robber Willie Sutton (1901-1980) who stole an estimated $2 million, and eventually spent more than half of his adult life in prison, was arrested by the FBI. At the time, Sutton was reading How to Think Ahead in Chess by I.A. Horowitz. Sutton claimed that he robbed banks "because that's where the money is."
In 1964, chess master Raymond Weinstein was arrested for murder after he killed an 83-year old man in a nursing home with a razor. He was judged mentally ill and was confined to Ward’s Island for the mentally ill. Weinstein defeated many top American players, including Samuel Reshevsky and Pal Benko. He never defeated Bobby Fischer, although he drew one game of four with him (in the 1959-60 US Championship).
Ludek Pachman (1924-2003) was a Czechoslovak-German chess grandmaster, writer, and political activist. In 1972, after being imprisoned and tortured almost to death by the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, he was allowed to emigrate to West Germany. He lived the remainder of his life there, and resumed his chess career with considerable success, including winning the West German Championship in 1978 and playing in the Interzonal in 1976.
In March 1952, Pal Benko, who is now 83 years old, was arrested and imprisoned for 16 months in a Hungarian concentration camp for trying to escape from East Berlin and defect to the West. He was accused of being an American spy. He is famous for the Benko Gambit and Benko Opening (g3) which he introduced at the 1962 Candidates Tournament, defeating Bobby Fischer and Mikhail Tal with it. He was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1993.,

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