Pestaño: Famous chess fanatics

ALMOST every titled player (GMs, IMs etc.) can be considered chess fanatics as they play and study almost every day and a great number rely on the game as their major source of income.

This article is not about them but about famous people who excel in their professions and are world-famous.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

According to hall of famer Bill Wall, William Shakespeare must have been a chess
fanatic. There are some hints in Shakespeare’s works that he was a true chess fa--he made reference to the game almost 70 times in his various plays.

Shakespeare was already known as an avid chess player during his time. There is a painting entitled the “The Chess players” by famous artist Karel Van Mander around 1600, which shows Ben Jonson and Shakespeare playing chess.

Around two decades ago a survey was made by leading historians and scientists on the 100 most influential people. Shakespeare was the only writer honored.

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) is considered by many to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century. He was one of the founders of Dadaism, surrealism, and cubism.

He was so obsessed with chess, he gave up art. His passion for chess was so overwhelming, that on his honeymoon he spent most of the time studying chess problems. After a week of arguments, his enraged bride went downstairs one night and glued all the pieces to the board. Surprisingly, the marriage lasted six months.

In a letter, Marcel wrote “My attention is so completely absorbed by chess, I play day and night and nothing interest me more than finding the right move……I like painting less and less.” A friend said of him “, He needs a good game of chess like a baby needs a bottle.”

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose
to prominence during the latter stages of the French Revolution.

In the Café de la Regence, for 100 years, there was a table with a plaque saying ‘’Napoleon Bonaparte used to play in this table.” What it did not say was that the greatest military tactician, despite being a chess addict, was a mediocre player. His contemporaries said he was too impatient and too given to impetuous attacks.

When he became emperor his opponents became tactful as he was getting a reputation as a bad-tempered loser. He also insisted on the touch move rule but only for his opponents.

After Waterloo, he continued to play almost every day in St Helena on his exile.

Humphrey Bogart (1899 – 1957) was an American actor and is widely regarded as an icon. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema.

He was also probably the strongest chess player of all movie stars . He was obsessed by the game while still very young and during the great depression, when money was hard to come by he made a nice income by hustling up and down Broadway playing chess.

Decades later, when he was already a big star, he still hustled chess in Hollywood but for much larger sums. One of his biographers says he rated his friends on their
ability to play chess and hold liquor. He was adept at both.

Winston Churchill is one of the great-might-have-beens of chess. As a 12-year-old he wrote,” Dear mamma, Do not forget to get the chess for me. I like the board to be red and white….”

By the time he was 21 he was beginning to show signs of addiction. But other important matters occupied the great man and he never fulfilled his early promise and only played chess during his spare time.

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