(Investigator 17, 1991 March)


In 1961 top US chess lady Lisa Lane, 24, quit chess in the middle of a tournament because she fell in love. Steinitz, a world champion last century, claimed he played chess with God and won! Alekhine, world champion during the 1930s, wrote anti Jewish chess articles for the Nazis. Robert Fischer, world champion in 1972, belonged to a sect that taught Jesus would return in the 1970s. Korchnoi, a contender for the world title around 1980 used gurus to hex Karpov his opponent who in turn enlisted a parapsychologist!

One chess champion of the 1920s used to stand on his head during tournaments to ease the tension and another threw chess pieces off the board when he lost. Rubinstein, among the world's top two or three players around 1911, later constantly fought off an imaginary fly that bothered him at tournaments. John Huss, a Bohemian religious reformer, sought God's forgiveness for wasting time on chess. The "Amazing Kreskin", a supposed psychic mind-reader, once played chess blindfolded without being told the moves of his opponents!

I'm a little strange too. I enter the occasional chess tournament to lose weight. It works for me because tournament games often last four hours or more and therefore cut across normal meal times.

The concentration also suppresses the appetite for hours afterwards.


On December 28 I paid $60 to enter the Adsteam-Lidums International Tournament an 11-round event that would span 2 weeks at Hotel Adelaide in North Adelaide.

The tournament attracted 166 players – mostly local ones but also from Indonesia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Yugoslavia, Latvia, Germany, England, Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.

Besides myself another reader of Investigator took part, David Balazs.


Over 15,000 books on chess have been published – the first in 1290 A.D. – more than for any other sport!

The first 20 moves for both white and black have been estimated to have 169,518,289,100,544,000,000,000,000,000 variations. In 1985 the U.S. computer chess champion, a program called Hitech, could examine 30 million positions in 3 minutes – a hopelessly small number in comparison!

Every tournament player has a rating, indicating how good at the game he is, which is calculated from his results against other rated players.

An A-grade interclub player in Adelaide would have a rating of 1600 or higher. A "Master" would be rated at about 2,200 or more; an International Master at 2,400; a Grandmaster 2,500; and the recent World Champions at over 2,700.

My own rating was a mere 1693 which made me no threat at all to the chess masters expected at the Adsteam-Lidums Tournament. However, I didn't mind losing $60 if I could lose a few kilos as well.


John Huss (1369-1415) explained his problem with chess as follows:

"You know how, before my priesthood (which grieveth me now), I have delighted to play oftimes at chess, and have neglected my time, and have unhappily provoked both myself and others to anger by that play. Where fore, besides others of my innumerable faults, for this also I desire you to invocate the mercy of the Lord, and he will pardon me."
In 1414 John Huss attended a Church Council under a guarantee of safe conduct from the Holy Roman Emperor. He was imprisoned and burned at the stake.


Steinitz (1836-1900) lost the World Championship in 1894 to Lasker (1868-1941). At that stage his health and mind were already breaking down and he lived in an institution. His winning streak against God was apparently one of the symptoms of this breakdown. The moves of these games with God were never made public.

Rubinstein's (1882-1961) "fly" first bothered him when he failed to qualify for the play-off of the top five at the great St. Petersburg (now Leningrad) tournament of 1914. He met Jaques Mieses (a chess master and chess journalist) aboard a train after the tournament. Said Rubinstein: "I am first going to Munich. I have heard of Professor…and am going to see him… It's only because of the fly."

Rubinstein entered tournaments until 1931 – always chasing away the fly that no one could see. By the late 1920s he would also leave the board every few moves, head for a corner, and have lively arguments with himself.


Many of the greatest chess players were Jews or part Jew. Robert Fischer's mother is Jewish. Kasparov (b. 1963), the current World Champion, is the son of a Jewish engineer.

Dr. Alekhine (1892-1946), the World Champion of the 1930s, became a "pawn" of the Nazis and wrote vehement anti Jewish articles in 1941. He complained of "A united front of purely destructive Jewish chess tactics" and of "Jewish defensive thinking" which "has dug its own grave" – and so on.

Alekhine's articles cited Jewish masters – Steinitz, Janowski (1868-1927), Lasker, Rubinstein, Mieses, Spielmann (1883-1942), Nimzowitsch (1886-1935), Capablanca (1888-1942), Reti (1889-1929), Flohr (b.1908), Botvinnik (b.1911), Reshevsky (b.1911) and Fine (b.1914).

Nowadays belief in racial superiority whether Jew, German, White, African, etc, has been refuted by science. A major historical work – 680 pages crammed with details – is The Legacy Of Malthus (1976) by Allan Chase.


Robert (Bobby) James Fischer (b.1943) learned to play chess at six, became the U.S. Junior Champ in 1956 and then made it his goal to become World Champ.

Harper's magazine (January 1962) quoted young Mr Fischer on his plans after achieving the world crown: "Then I'll build. me a house. I don't know where but it won't be in Greenwich Village. They're all dirty, filthy animals down there. Maybe I'll build it in Hongkong. Everybody who's been there says it's great. Art Linkletter said so on radio. And they've got suits there, beauties, for only twenty dollars… I got strong ideas about my house. I'm going to hire the best architect and have him build it in the shape of a rook."

In 1963 Fischer joined The Worldwide Church of God which was founded and managed by Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986). This was an apocalyptic, tithe paying, sabbath-keeping cult that opposed medical treatment, made many specific prophecies for the period 1972-1978 none of which came true, and claimed to be the sole repository of genuine Christianity.

Saturday Sabbath keeping often brought Fischer into conflict with tournament officials over playing schedules. In 1967, for example, he withdrew from the selection process for challenging the World Champion – when he was ahead – because some of his games fell on Saturdays and the organizers refused to reschedule them.

Fischer finally did become World Champion in 1972. His prize was $134,000. In an interview in 1977 he confirmed having tithed a total of $94,000 to Armstrong. Said Fischer:

"Really, my story is no different than that of any other jerk that was sucked into the organization. I had some personal problems, and I started listening to a lot of radio ministers. I listened every Sunday all day, flipping the dial up and back… And then I heard Mr. Armstrong, and I said, 'Ah, God has finally shown me the one, I guess. This guy really has power, authority.'

…I got a whole bunch of literature from Armstrong. I felt guilty after awhile about getting so much… And then later on I sent them maybe $20. And then I remember in late 1963 I was in some tournament, and I said, 'I'll send the whole tenth.'

...I was really very very foolish, but I thought I was doing what I had to do. You begin not trusting your own judgement, and then you're finished... First, you get conducted in with a nice, sweet program – no money, everything free, free, free. And then you get sucked in, and suddenly a few lies get mixed in. You are told that human nature is wicked and these nice people who gave you all these things wouldn't be lying to you, would they? And then I think once you start distrusting your own mind, you're finished. From there you get more and more confused.

…Herbert Armstrong claims to be freeing you from the world's churches, freeing you from all the trash you've heard all your life. He's freeing you, and finally you're coming to know the truth that will set you free, free, free, and the next thing you know you are really a zombie. The real proof for me was those false prophecies. Every body has a different way of looking at it, but for me that shows Armstrong is an outright huckster. Like the Bible says, when a prophet makes prophecies that don't come true, then that guy is not of God and you don't have to be afraid of him."
(The Best Of Chess Life And Review Volume 2 pp. 454-457)

Fischer retired from tournament chess. In 1975 he didn't defend his world title even though most experts gave his challenger, Karpov (b.1951), "only the slimmest chance".

Fischer at that time had tooth fillings removed to stop receiving transmissions from the Russian KGB. He also, according to some reports, began distributing anti Jewish pamphlets. This is a definite shift from the Worldwide Church Of God where the Jews are considered central to God's plans for the world.


Alekhine used to get help from an astrologer to select favourable tournaments to play in. Some recent chess masters were even sillier:

In early 1978 Korchnoi (b.1931) and Spassky (b.1937), both Russian defectors to the West, battled for the chance to take on reigning World Champion Karpov.

Trouble began when Korchnoi acquired a five game lead in an 18 game match and then lost four games in a row. Korchnoi's supporters claimed Spassky looked drunk during his victories and this was because he was a medium using hypnotic powers to make Korchnoi play badly!

Korchnoi then hired a parapsychologist to counteract Spassky's alleged powers and went on to win the match.

Six months later when Korchnoi met Karpov in the Philippines the fun continued.

Karpov had with him Vladimir Zoukhara, a Soviet hypnotist/parapsychologist, who fixed Korchnoi with a constant baleful stare. Korchnoi in turn trusted in the prayers and the "evil eye" of two American members of the Ananda Marga, a mystical, sometimes banned, Indian cult. The two orange-robed mystics, named Didi and Dada, were reported as being under indictment for murder! When it became evident that he was losing Korchnoi asked for bullet-proof glass to deflect the emanations of the hypnotist!

In 1981 the two men duelled again this time in Italy. An American yoga teacher and guru, wearing an orange sari, sat in the front row of spectators to hex Karpov. In addition Korchnoi used "arm waving rages" and "evil eye stares".

However, once again Karpov, who had 4,000 chess books with him in his hotel, prevailed!


Harry Kreskin (b.1935) looks like Mr Spock of Star Trek except that his ears are smaller. Kreskin calls himself "the world's foremost mentalist". He reads social security numbers while blindfolded, levitates people and supposedly influences people with mind power.

In March 1979 Kreskin challenged Korchnoi and another chess master to chess. It would be at a major New York hotel in front of 40 spectators and TV news crews. Kreskin would be blindfolded and would not be told the moves of his opponents. Kreskin did not aim to win: "If I can last more than eight moves in each game I would surpass the predictions of experts."

Korchnoi won in 14 moves and the other master in 23 moves. How did Kreskin do it?

A number of university parapsychology centres that seek evidence of paranormal abilities of the human mind have closed down over the years in Europe and America. Recently a parapsychologist at the University of Adelaide also lost his funding for that sort of research. The reason seems to be that nothing concrete was ever established. It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that Kreskin does not possess supernatural abilities either.

What Kreskin does possess is an exceptional ability to pick up and interpret cues from peoples' mannerisms, voice, movements, breathing, gestures, etc. At every move of his two games he stalled, figetted, joked, hovered his hands nervously over the pieces, and touched chess pieces. Kreskin even made illegal moves which he then retracted.

Doubtless such showmanship help him gain information about the positions on the boards. The small sound of the opponent lifting and moving a chess piece might also indicate what had been moved and where to. Perhaps sneezes and coughs according to a code by confederates in the audience helped also.


This completes our survey of some strange aspects of chess and returns us to Adelaide's International Tournament.

It was a staid affair. No obvious "evil eye", flies, end of the worlders, Hindu gurus, parapsychologists, racist statements, mind readers, or prayers.

Everyone seemed as sober as David Balazs who in the middle of one of his games said: "I think I should win. But I don't like making such predictions. It's embarrassing if I predict a win and end up losing."

After the tournament came prize presentation and a banquet of bunny food – peas, beans, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc.

Five chess masters tied for first place including Tony Miles of Britain and Darryl Johansen of Australia.

There were lesser prizes for various rating divisions. My rating of 1693 put me in the group rated between 1550 and 1700. Six of us each scored 6 points and came equal first in this division. My prize was enough to repay my entrance fee and buy two chess books. And yes, I lost three kilos.

(B S)