Chess Trivia

chess trivia

Unsung But Not Forgotten:  Isidor Gunsberg is the only player who played in a World Championship match prior to World War 2 who has never had an anthology of their best games published. Gunsberg lost his match to Wilhelm Steinitz in 1890/91.

Drawn By Sleep:  During the 1937 Chess Olympiad Dutch player Salo Landua fell asleep at the board after making his 11th move against Belgian player Arthur Dunkelblum.  Dunkelblum sportingly shook Landau by the arm to wake him up, and suggested a draw, which Landau immediately accepted.

Austrian Morphy:  When Wilhelm Steinitz started playing internationally in the 1860’s, he was known as the “Austrian Morphy” because of his brilliant tactical play.  Here is a nice example:  Steinitz – Meden, London 1865, Remove White Knight on b1,  1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0 gxf3 6.Qxf3 Qf6 7.e5 Qxe5 8.Bxf7+ Kxf7 9.d4 Qxd4+ 10.Be3 Qf6 11.Qh5+ Qg6 12.Rxf4+ Nf6 13.Rxf6+ Kxf6 14.Bd4+ Kf7 15.Rf1+ Kg8 16.Qe5 Bg7 17.Qd5+ Qe6 18.Qg5 Qh6 19.Qd8+ Bf8 20.Qe8 1-0 (20…. Qg7 21.Bxg7 Kxg7 22.Qe5+ and now it’s mate in two.)

Austrian Waltz:  Austrian GM Heinrich Wolf (1875-1943) had an unusual international chess career.  His 17 tournaments were spread over 2 separate periods: 1900-08 and 1922-23.

Olympiad Past:  The Swiss system was first used for the Olympiads at the 1976 Haifa, Israel, tournament, as the number of competing countries made it impossible to use the previous group system.

Olympiad Present:  The 2002 Olympiad in Bled, Slovenia, featured the unusual occurrence of 2 members of the same family playing for 2 different teams.  The Hungarian women’s team featured WGM Szidonia Vajda, while her brother, IM Levente Vajda played for the Romanian men’s team.  Thanks to Gabor Gyuricza of Budapest for this trivia!

Swiss USSR Champ:  There were only 2 occasions when the USSR chess championship final was run using the Swiss system.  The 35th USSR championship (Kharkov, 1967) was held as a Swiss tournament with 126 players, rather than a “closed” round-robin tournament.  The “experiment” was not a success, as the Swiss format was not employed again until  the 58th and last championship (Moscow, 1991).

Capa Never the Champ:  Jose Raul Capablanca’s only appearance in the Cuban championship was when he played in the 1901 tournament.  He finished 4th, 4 points behind winner Juan Corzo.  Capablanca defeated Corzo in a match, but the Cuban title was determined by an annual tournament, and not by match play.

Multi-Tasker:  Dutchman Joop van Oosterom, who is best known for organizing the Melody Amber tournaments in Monaco, is also a top class correspondence chess player.  He recently finished =2nd with 11/15 in the final of the 15th ICCF World Correspondence Chess Championship.

Multi-Taskers:  English players Jonathan Mestel and John Nunn not only have an OTB Grandmaster title, but also have a International Problem Solving Master title as well.

Chairman of the Board:  English GM Julian Hodgson was unhappy with the chairs provided for the 2000 British championships, so he brought along his own armchair, which he used for the whole tournament.

Ageless:  Vasily Smysov is the oldest player to have qualified for a World Championship Candidates match.  He finished second in the 1982 Palma Interzonal tournament at the age of 61, and went on to reach the World Championship semi-final stage.

Championship Focus:  Between 1886 and 1894, Wilhelm Steinitz did not compete in a single international tournament.  His only international chess during that period were several matches for the World Championship title (1886 Zukertort; 1889 Chigorin; 1890-91 Gunsberg; 1892 Chigorin; 1894 Lasker).

Championship White Out:  When the 6th American Chess Congress was held in New York in 1889, Wilhelm Steinitz agreed to play the winner of the tournament in a match for the World Champion Title.  The Congress resulted in a tie for first between the Russian player Mikhail Tchigorin and the little-known American Max Weiss.  Amazingly, Weiss declined the opportunity to play Steinitz in a World Championship match, and he never again got as close to the World Championship.

Super “K’s”:  Every World Championship match between 1894 and 1999 featured a player who had a “k” in their surname.  The 1894 match was between Steinitz and Lasker, while the 1999 match was between Akopian and Khalifman.  In 2000, the Anand versus Shirov match broke the sequence.

A “K” On Display:  The National Museum of Sports in Havana, Cuba has on display the table, board, pieces and chairs used during the 1921 World Championship match between Jose Capablanca and Emanuel Lasker.

Championship Match Rules:  In 1922, Jose Capablanca proposed a set of rules for any future world championship matches. They became known as the London rules. They were:

  1. The first player to win 6 games would win the match.
  2. Playing sessions would be limited to 5 hours duration.
  3. Time limit to be 40 moves in 2.5 hours.
  4. Champion must defend his title within one year of receiving a challenge from a recognized master.
  5. The champion to decide the date of the match.
  6. The champion is not obliged to accept a challenge for a purse of less than $10,000, of which 20% is paid to the title holder, with the remaining purse being divided, 60% going to the winner of the match, and 40% to the loser.
  7. The highest purse bid must be accepted.

The “London Rules” were signed by Alekhine, Bogulyobuv, Maroczy, Reti, Rubinstein, Tartakower and Vidmar.

A Prophylactic Move:  The Australian men’s and women’s teams for the Bled Olympiad (2002) secured a sponsorship deal with the Australian pharmaceutical company Ansell.  Part of the deal was to help the company promote their “Checkmate” brand condoms.

Championship Dominance:  Emanuel Lasker played in 24 matches between 1889 and 1921 (eight of them for the World Championship) remaining undefeated until the final match, the 1921 title match against Jose Capablanca.

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