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Friday, December 3, 2021

Chess - Maniacs


As Vishy Anand slugs it out with Magnus Carlsen in the Fide World Chess Championship at Chennai, Monojit Lahiri takes you through a historical journey of Grand Master who went cuckoo en route their hitting the top slot!
MONOJIT LAHIRI | New Delhi, November 15, 2013 17:16
Tags : Vishvanath Anand’s | Chess | Alexander Alekhine | Joseph Blachburne |

Chess is a battle of guile, wits, strategy, planning, anticipation – everything must be on full play. This can some times take its toll on the brain. And while world chess champion Vishvanath Anand's brilliant March into the future continues, there are many – alas - who can’t take the pressures and end up flipping their lid!

Stand by for the Grand Masters who check–mated the world with their maniacal moves.

Here goes...

Considered by many to have been the greatest player in history, American Paul Murphy retired from the game after only eighteen months’ tournament play. He was twenty one. So hard did Paul put his foot down, he even refused to speak about the game. His inner creative force in his warning years of life as a paranoid recluse, found expression in arranging women’s shoes in a semi-circle in his room, or prancing around in his verandah gaily singing in French “ the little king will go away unbashed”. Obviously, this sound of music could not go on indefinitely. At the age of 47, his Gaelic ditty was forever stilled. Life checkmated him in the greatest game of all. He died in his bathtub. Apoplexy.


Next in line was the acknowledged “father” of modern chess – Wilhelm Stenitz (World Champion 1886-1894). A mathematician, he suffered from the savage misconception that he could make a telephone call without either a telephone wire or receiver. As if that wasn’t enough, Wilhelm thought that he could move chess pieces at will by emitting electrical current! But the one that took the crockery was his firm belief that he was in close contact with God with whom in a showdown chess match, he offered a pawn handicap as his first move! Again, like his glorious predecessor, this kind of chess would not go on indefinitely. He died a charity patient in 1900.


Another outstanding exponent of the game was Alexander Alekhine (World Champion 1927-1935; 1937-1946). A soviet expatriate, Alekhine was also one of the finest exponents of unadulterated arrogance. Renowned for his slashing attacks, this Nazi collaborator once wrote a series of article condemning the Jews for “corrupting the purity of chess!” But his greatest moment was at the polish border. Histrionics reached new hysteria when right eye-brow raised, voice suitably modulated, he declared “I am Alekhine, chess champion of the world! I have cat named chess. I do not need a passport!” This crazy man also wooed bravado like a vindictive spectre. In his books, he is said to have dramatically tampered with scores, to make his own game look more brilliant. A great boozer, a much-married man (five times) he is said to have once turned up at an exhibition and urinated on the floor. Obviously this kind of urinating couldn’t go on forever. In 1946, destitute and clutching pocket chess set, he left God’s green world.


Then came the “Spoilt Sports.”


British Master Joseph Blachburne, furious at having lost a game to Wilhelm Steinitz, (reportedly) acted strongly on creative license. Grabbing hold of the father of chess, Blachburne scooped him out of his chair hurled him out of the window! The smashing, dashing, Cuban World Champion Jose Capablance (1921-27) was another changed man at the “receiving end”. Before losing in a match at Havana, Capablance demanded that the organizers clear the room of all spectators! In this dubious list of chess pagals, was also world (arrogance) champion, Alexander Alekhine. After snatching the title from Capablance, Alekhine not only refused to replay, but would storm out of the room, furious when so much as the Cuban’s name was mentioned! The nuttiest of them all was Lativia Nimzovich, who after losing a match, screamed with child-like simplicity while jumping on the table – “Why I must lose to this idiot.”


Gamesmanship of a somewhat “shady” nature was also not unknown in this great game of wiles. Much before the era of the “time-clock”, delaying in this great game of wiles was a given. Now a little time is understandable, but when someone writes a couple of chapters waiting for his opponent’s next move, it can be bit much! And that’s exactly what a British Chess player did in 1851. The name of the book: History of Civilization in England!


Crossing brains with world champion Emanuel Lasker, Steintiz was once rumoured to have slurped a glass of Lemonade so noisily, that Lasker perforce, moved several tables away! But Lasker himself was no saint – according to his victims. One of the greatest reasons for their doom was Lasker’s “foul-smelling” cigar. Almost unanimously they declared their effect as “stunning”! But the greatest sting of ‘em all was U.S. Grandmaster Paul Benko pitted against U.S.S.R.’s Mikhail Tal. A former World Champion – accused of trying to hypnotize rivals with his “laser like” gaze – Benko wore sunglasses throughout the game! Sorry baby, no risk!

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017