Many people love it, many think it’s boring, and it’s hard to watch if you don’t pay attention. Baseball?…No, chess.
I don’t know how many kids are playing chess nowadays with all the computer games, though you can play chess on the computer, but chess is a great, inexpensive game. For some, it is a passion.
I remember when I was a kid how big the chess match was between American Bobby Fischer and the Russian Boris Spassky in 1972. The Cold War was still being waged and this was a propaganda coup for the victor.
Fischer won the match which was played in Iceland. Spassky said: “Bobby was like a fish in my hands… a fish that I always thought I was going to land but one which always escaped my grasp.”
Paul Morphy was the first U.S. chess champion. He became the unofficial world champion when he defeated Adolf Anderssen of Germany in December 1858 in Paris. Morphy biographer Philip Sergeant said, “Above everything, Morphy was an artist; and the best way to enjoy an artist is not to dissect him.”
Other great players from the past are Jose’ Capablanca from Cuba, world champion from 1921 to 1927; Dr. Alexander Alekhine from Russia, who defeated Capablanca in 1927 in Buenos Aires, and Russian Mikhail Botvinnik, world champion from 1948 to 1957.
The current world champion is Viswanathan Anand from India. India is also where some chess historians believe the game originated. Although chess is dominated by men, Judit Polgar, a 15-year old Jewish girl from Hungary, achieved the title of grandmaster in 1991. At the time, she was the youngest person ever to earn that title.
Interestingly, about 50 percent of the world champions have been Jewish according to New York Magazine’s Oct. 24, 2005 issue.
Vera Menchik became the first women’s world champion in 1927. Born in Moscow to an English mother and a Czech father, she moved to England in 1921. Unfortunately, in June of 1944 a German V-1 rocket destroyed her London home killing Vera, her mother and her sister, Olga, who was also a tournament chess player.
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– GM Susan Polgar