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List of chess-related deaths

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Chess and death are often linked in works of fiction. The game of chess is a war game in origin, and death is implicit in its soldier pawns and knights and royalty. Fiction writers appear to enjoy returning the danger to the simplified, safer representation of murderous battle.

As with most games that have a long history, chess (WP) has been associated with a number of anecdotes, and some relate to games that have resulted in the death of one of the players involved. The reliability of many of these anecdotes is suspect, but some appear to be based on fact.


In fiction Edit

Parody Edit

In 1994, the supermarket tabloid newspaper Wikipedia:Weekly World News featured a story about a chess player named "Nikolai Titov" whose head exploded during the Moscow Candidate Masters' Chess Championships due to the condition 'Hyper-Cerebral Electrosis'.[2] The same newspaper also had run the story of Nikolai Gudkov being electrocuted by his opponent after winning against a chess computer in 1989.[3]

Chess-related deathsEdit

Pre 20th CenturyEdit

Rice and chessboard problem Edit

Main article: Wheat and chessboard problem

This is one variation of a famous, and likely apocryphal, story of the origin of chess:

The King of Hind commissioned a peasant or minister to create a Wikipedia:strategy game of surpassing quality. Pleased with the result, the king asked the inventor to name his price. The inventor gave the king a choice, his own weight in gold, or, the king could put one grain of rice on the first square of the board, two on the second, 4 on the third, and keep on doubling the number of grains for every one of the 64 squares. The king hastily chose the second option. Somewhere around square 32, he came to a realization that there was not enough rice in the kingdom. Upon realizing that he could not possibly pay the debt, the king chose to kill the inventor.

The first half of the chessboard would have represented some 100 tonnes of rice, while the second half would have required 1.2 trillion Wikipedia:tons (Wikipedia:short scale),[4] a value roughly comparable to the combined mass of all life on Earth.[5]

Earl UlfEdit

King Canute (Template:Circa) of Wikipedia:Denmark, England and Wikipedia:Norway, is said to have ordered an earl killed after a disagreement about a chess game. By one account, the king made an illegal move that angered Earl Ulf, who knocked over the board and stormed off, after which the king sent someone to kill him.[6][7]

Bavarian princeEdit

Possibly the anecdote with the most supporting evidence is given in the book Wikipedia:Chess or the King's game (1616) by Augustus, Duke of Wikipedia:Lüneburg, who claimed to have obtained it from an old Bavarian Chronicle, then in the library of Wikipedia:Marcus Welsor but now lost. The anecdote states that Okarius (also spelled Okar or Otkar), the prince of Wikipedia:Bavaria, had a son of great promise residing at the Court of King Pippin. One day Pippin's son was playing chess with the young Prince of Bavaria, and became so enraged at repeatedly losing that he hit the prince on the temple with one of his rooks and killed him on the spot. This anecdote is repeated in another Bavarian Chronicle, and in a work by Wikipedia:Metellus of Tegernsee about Saint Quirin and other documents refer to his death while at Pippin's court.

20th Century Edit

1959 Antarctica killing Edit

After losing a chess game, a Russian at a Soviet Antarctic base murdered a colleague with an axe. Following this, the Soviet authorities prohibited cosmonauts from playing chess.[8][9]

Patrick McKenna 1980 Edit

According to the appeal court in the case of Nevada prisoner Patrick McKenna, "In March 1980, appellant Patrick Charles McKenna was convicted of one count of first degree murder for the killing of Jack Nobles on January 6, 1979, while both were incarcerated in the Clark County Detention Center. After lockdown that day, Nobles and two other inmates were confined in a cell with appellant. Appellant and Nobles argued, after which appellant choked Nobles to death. One inmate testified that appellant and Nobles argued about a chess game and that appellant choked Nobles when Nobles was in bed. Another inmate testified that appellant and Nobles argued about sex and that appellant shoved Nobles against the bunk and choked him so that Nobles' knees buckled and he dropped to the ground. After a penalty hearing, the jury returned a verdict of death."[10]

21st Century Edit

Michael Steward Edit

In October 2009, Iowa City resident David Christian killed neighbor Michael Steward after the two got into a fight over a chess game. Christian was sentenced to ten years in prison as part of a plea bargain.[11][12]

"Chessboard killer" Edit

Wikipedia:Alexander Pichushkin, a Russian serial killer, once said he wanted to murder 64 people, the same number as squares on a chessboard – leading to the nickname "chessboard killer."

Tom O'Gorman Edit

Tom O'Gorman of Castleknock, Dublin, Ireland was murdered by a Sicilian lodger in his home during a game of chess on January 12, 2014. Due to a dispute over a move, the Italian killed O'Gorman with a kitchen knife and dumbbell, allegedly cutting open his chest cavity and ingesting his lung. After the murder, the Sicilian confessed to the crime and was taken into custody.[13]

See also Edit

References Edit

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