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George Koltanowski

by Bill Wall

On September 17, 1903, George

(Georges) "Kolty" Gustaf
Koltanowski was born into a Polish
Jewish family. He was born at No. 2
Loos Street, Antwerp, Belgium. His
father was a diamond cutter and
diamond broker for Diamond
Bourse, the largest diamond
exchange in the world.

George was the youngest of six

brothers and one sister. Bill Wall

Kolty's first love was stamp

collection. Over the years, he
collected thousands of stamps.

In August 1914, the Germans Chess is a game

invaded Belgium. Koltanowski's which reflects
George Koltanowski whole family left Antwerp and most honor on
1903—2000 walked 12 hours north (about 30 human wit. —
miles) to the Netherlands with all of Voltaire
their belongings in a cart. They then
went by boat to London where they
had relatives. Koltanowski learned
English during his time in London.

In 1915, Kolty got a splinter in his

leg, which led to blood poisoning.
Doctors discussed amputating both
of his legs. He was confined to bed
for two years and had 14 operations,
but it saved his legs. It was this
period that Koltanowski developed
his memory. He later applied it to
blindfold chess.

In late 1917, upon return from

England to Antwerp after World
War I, he took up chess at age 14,
being taught by his father. It took 10
days for George to finally beat his
father and brothers, Jack and Harry,
in chess. However, in a brief speech
in Berkeley, he said that he lost at
least 100 games before he won his
first game. (source: Chapin, "The
Dean's Gambit," San Francisco
Examiner and Chronicle, Aug 28,
1983, p. 28)

In 1918, he joined the Antwerp

Chess Club (Cercle des Echecs
d'Anvers). He was introduced to the
chess club by a Catholic nun named
Sister Margaretha. Players at the
Antwerp Chess Club included
Emanuel Sapira (1900-1943), Arthur
Dunkelblum (1906-1979), Isidor
Censer (1898-1973) , Perlmutter,
and Izzy Schernetzky.

In 1919, his father took George

down to the diamond merchants
place in Antwerp to play chess. By
now, George was able to beat
everyone he played chess with in

In 1920, he went with a chessplayer

friend to Ghent University where he
witnessed the Serbian player Branco
Tchabritch play two chess games
blindfolded. From that, it inspired
Kolty to try and play blindfold
chess. (source: In the Dark,
Koltanowski, 1995, p. 27)

In 1920, at age 17, he joined the

Jewish sporting club, Le Cercle
Maccabi in Antwerp.

In 1921, Koltanowski became

champion of Antwerp.

On March 13, 1921, Kolty played

his first game of blindfold chess in
Ghent, against M. Branco
Tchachbritch (Charevitch). It was
drawn in 33 moves.

On April 13, 1921, Kolty gave his

first simultaneous blindfold
exhibition in Ghent, playing two of
his brothers (Jack and Harry), and
winning both games. A week later,
he was playing 3 opponents
blindfold at one of the Antwerp
chess clubs. Unfortunately, he lost
all 3 games and swore he would
never play another blindfold game

In May, 1921, the Antwerp Chess

Club (Le Cercle des Echecs
d'Anvers) organized a blindfold
tournament. Koltanowski tried to
play three games (against Sapira,
Dunkelblum, and Autfenne), but lost
all his games and could not play a
blindfold game. The rest of the chess
club members teased him about this.
So Koltanowski decided to do
something about it. He went home
and cut a board in four sections. He
studied the four smaller boards, and
then knew the whole board. After
two weeks of studying how to play
blindfold chess, he returned to the
chess club and beat 6 players
blindfolded in three hours.

Months later, after some practice, he

was able to play 6 opponents at once

In 1921, he played Frédéric Lazard

(1883-1948), a strong French player,
in a match in Antwerp. Koltanowski
won the match with 3 wins, 1 loss,
and 1 draw.

In November 1921, he played in the

first Belgian Chess Championship,
held in Brussels. It was won by Dr.
Nicholas Borochovitz. Edgar Colle
(1897-1932) took 2nd, followed by
Horowitz. Koltanowski took 4th.

In 1922, Koltanowski was able to

play 16 games blindfolded.

In March, 1922, he and Emanuel

Sapira played against Alexander
Alekhine in a simultaneous display
at the Antwerp Chess Club and lost.
The next day, Koltanowski played
Alekhine in another display given by
Alekhine, and Koltanowski drew.

In July-August, 1922, Kolty in the

15th British Chess Federation
Congress Major Open (not the
Master Tourney) in London, but
took 11th out of 12 places. He won
3, lost 7, and drew 1.

In September, 1922, Kolty took 2nd

place, behind Edgar Colle, in the
2nd Belgian championship, held in
Antwerp. Colle and Sapira tied for

In 1923, he played 16 simultaneous

blindfold games, establishing a new
Belgian record.

In 1923, he was the champion of his

chess club, the Cercle Maccabi, in
Antwerp. His club won the club
championship of Belgium in 1923,
with Koltanowski playing Board 1.
His club won the club championship
of Belgium in 1923, 1925, 1926, and

In May 1923, George Koltanowski

won the 3rd Belgian championship,
held in Ghent. He scored 5 out of 6.

In October, 1923, George

Koltanowski won the 1st National
Belgium Cup ("the Cygne") in
Brussels. Emanuel Sapira took 2nd
and Marcel Duchamp of France took
3rd. Koltanowski defeated Duchamp
in their encounter. (source:

Marcel Duchamp — George

Koltanowski, Brussels (3), 1923
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5
Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.f4 c5
8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Bxd7+ Nxd7 10.e5
cxd4 11.cxd4 0-0 12.Nf3 e6 13.0-0
Nb6 14.Ba3 Re8 15.Qb3 Bf8
16.Rfc1 Bxa3 17.Qxa3 Qd7 18.Rc2
Rec8 19.Rac1 Rxc2 20.Rxc2 Nd5
21.Qc1 a5 22.g4 Nb4 23.Rc7 Qd5
24.Qe3? [24.Kg2 Nxa2 (24...Qxa2+
25.Kg3) 25.Qd2] 24...Qxa2 25.f5??
[25.Rxb7] 25...exf5 [25...Nd5!]
26.gxf5?? [26.Rxb7] 26...Qb1+
[26...Nd5!] 27.Rc1? [27.Kf2]
27...Qxf5 28.Ng5 Nd5 29.Qg3 Nf4
30.Qh4 Qxg5+ [30...Qxg5+ 31.Qxg5
Nh3+] 0—1

In late 1923, Koltanowski was

conscripted in the Belgian army. His
platoon was part of the Belgium
Hospital Service. He served time in
Namur, The Netherlands. His
military captain, who was also the
president of the local chess club,
encouraged him to take time off for
chess. He got a furlough to play in
the international tournament in
Merano, Italy.

In February 1924, Koltanowski,

Belgian champion, visited and
played in his first international
tournament in Meran (Merano),
Italy. He was planning to play in one
of the reserve sections. However, the
organizers asked him to play in the
master section, to replace an invited
player who had not shown up. Kolty
took 11th place with 3 wins, 6
losses, and 4 draws. His only major
win was against Edgar Colle and he
drew with Siegbert Tarrasch. He lost
to the top 4 players. Ernest
Gruenfeld took 1st place, followed
by Spielmann and Rubinstein.

On June 7, 1924, he played Board 1

in a match Belgium vs. The
Netherlands. He lost on Board 1
against Max Euwe. The event was
held in Brussels. The Netherlands
won the event.

In July 1924, he played Board 2 for

Belgium in the unofficial Paris
Chess Olympiad (called the Team
Chess Tournament), which
coincided with the 8th Summer
Olympic Games in Paris. He tied for
4th-7th for best individual score. He
won 3 games, drew 3 games, and
lost 2 games in the Consolation Cup.
Belgium took 9th place. Kolty was
also involved in the original
formation of FIDE, the World Chess
In 1924, Kolty played 20 opponents
blindfolded simultaneously at
Namur, Belgium, while still in the

In 1924, Kolty's platoon was

transferred near Duisberg, Germany
as part of the Belgian Hospital

Koltanowski did not play in the

1924 Belgium championship, held in
September in Brussels, because he
was away in the Belgium army.
Edgar Colle won it that year.

In 1925, he played a match against

EdgarColle in Antwerp, but lost the
match (4 losses, 3 draws).

On October 11, 1925, he played

Board 2 in a match Belgium vs. The
Netherlands, held in The Hague. He
won his game against Adolf Olland
(1867-1933). The match was drawn
with the score of 5-5.

In November, 1925, he played a

match with Edgar Colle. He lost the
match with 0 wins, 4 losses, and 3

In September, 1926, he played in a

master tournament in Spa, Belgium.
He took 9th place. The event was
won by Friedrich Saemisch (1896-

In November, 1926, he played Board

1 in a match Belgium vs. The
Netherlands, held in Brussels. He
lost to Max Euwe. The Netherlands
won the match by the score of 7-3.
In 1926-1927, he won the Major
Tourney section (not the Premier
Tourney) at the 7th Hastings
Christmas Congress. The Premier
Section was won by Savielly

In July 1927, he played Board 1 for

Belgium in the first official Chess
Olympiad (called the Tournament of
Nations), held in London. He scored
56.7% with 4 wins, 9 draws, and 2
losses. Belgium tied for 14th-15th

In September 1927, he won the 7th

Belgian chess championship, held in

In 1927, he won a master

tournament in Antwerp.

In 1927-1928, he tied for 1st in the

Major Open — Section A at the 8th
Hastings Christmas tourney.

In July 1928, he tied for first in the

Major Open section of the 21st
British Chess Federation
championship, held in Tenby.

In July-August 1928, he played

Board 2 for Belgium in the 2nd
Chess Olympiad, held at The Hague.
He scored 59.4% with 7 wins, 5
draws, and 4 losses.

In 1928-1929, he took 4th place in

the Premier section of the 9th
Hastings Christmas Congress.

In 1929, he played a 10-board

blindfolded exhibition in Antwerp.
In February 1929, he took 2nd place
in the 7th Belgian championship,
held in Ghent. The event was won
by Edgar Colle.

In April, 1929, Kolty was part of a

foreign team (that also included
Capablanca, Menchik, Rubinstein,
and Maroczy) that played against a
British team at Ramsgate. (source:
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 11,

In June, 1929, he took 8th-9th place

in an international tournament in
Paris, won by Dr. Savielly
Tartakower. Marcel Duchamp
defeated George Koltanowski in 15
moves in the Tourneoi d'Echecs in

George Koltanowski - Marcel

Duchamp, Paris (8), 1929 1.d4 Nf6
2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4 b6 5.f4 Bb7
6.Bd3 Nbd7 7.Nf3 e5 8.d5 g6 9.0-0
exf4 10.Bxf4 Bg7 11.e5 dxe5
12.Nxe5 0-0 13.Qd2 [13.Nf3]
13...Nxd5 14.Nxd7? [14.Nxg6 hxg6
15.cxd5] 14...Nxf4 15.Nxf8??
[15.Be4] 15...Bd4+ [15...Bd4+
16.Kh1 (16.Rf2 Nxd3) 16...Bxg2+]

In July-August, 1929, he played at

Ramsgate. He took 4th-5th place.
Jose Capablanca won the event.

Up until the worldwide economic

depression in the late 1920s and
early 1930s, Kolty divided his time
between chess events and the family
business of diamond-cutting. He
soon gave up his career as a
diamond cutter to play chess full

He did not participate in the 8th

Belgium Championship, held in
December, 1929. That event was
won by Edgar Colle.

In 1929-1930, he tied for 1st in the

Premier Reserves section of the 10th
Hastings Christmas tourney.

In January, 1930, he took 5th-6th at

Antwerp. Salo Flohr won the event.

In March, 1930, he won a masters

tournament, held in Brussels.

In September, 1930, he won the 10th

Belgian chess championship, held in

In 1930-1931, he tied for 3rd-4th in

the Premier Reserves section of the
11th Hastings Christmas tourney.

On May 10, 1931, he played 30

boards blindfolded simultaneously
in Antwerp. The event was
organized by the Flemish Chess
Club. He won 20 and drew 10. The
exhibition was against a group of
players drawn from the chess clubs
of Antwerp. The exhibition took
10.5 hours. He broke Richard Reti's
record of 29 games blindfolded,
played in Sao Paulo in 1925. This
record was broken in 1933 when
Alekhine played 32 games
blindfolded in Chicago.

In August 1931, he drew British

master William Winter in a match in
London, winning 1, drawing 1, and
losing 1.

He did not participate in the 10th

Belgium championship, held in
September, 1931. That event was
won by Marcel Barzin.

In 1931-1932, he took 2nd in the

Premier Reserves section of the 12th
Hastings Christmas tourney.

In 1932, he abandoned his diamond

cutting career and a short-lived
women's hat business to become a
full time chess professional.

In February 1932, he took 7th at the

London Congress Masters
Tournament. Koltanowski was to
play in the Premier Reserves
tournament, but was promoted to
play in the Masters tournament when
Edgar Colle was invited, but had to
withdraw at a late stage due to
illness. The event was won by
Alekhine, who also won the most
brilliant game of the tournament in
his win against Koltanowski.

In March, 1932, he won a masters

tournament in Antwerp, ahead of
Salo Flohr.

In 1932, Kolty became the top

Belgian chess player when Edgar
Colle died on April 20, 1932, at the
age of 35.

In April, 1932, he tied for 1st in the

Major "A" section of Easter
Congress in Cambridge, England.

In April, 1932, Kolty played 160

players simultaneously in Antwerp,
winning 135, losing 7, and drawing
18, a world record at the time.
(source: Piqua Daily Call, April 20,

In August, 1932, he took 1st in the

Major Open of the 25th British
Chess Federation championship,
held in London. Vera Menchik took
2nd place. Kolty finished 8-1, with 3
draws, half a point ahead of Vera
Menchik. (source: Brooklyn Daily
Eagle, Sep 29, 1932)

In 1932, Kolty played 20 boards

simultaneously blindfolded in
Hampstead, England, a British
blindfold record.

In 1932, he played 160 boards

simultaneously at Antwerp. He won
136, drew 18, and lost 6.

From October 1932 to September

1933, he edited Chess World in
Antwerp, Belgium. This was the
first English-language magazine
published in a non-English-speaking

By the end of 1932, Koltanowski

was one of the top 40 players in the

In 1932-1933, he took 4th in the

Premier Reserves section of the 13th
Hastings Christmas Congress. The
Premier Section was won by Salo

In January, 1933, he took 2nd at a

tournament in Antwerp, behind
Lajor Steiner.
In 1933, Alekhine broke
Koltanowski's blindfold record of 30
players when Alekhine played 32
players blindfolded at the World's
Fair in Chicago. Alekhine won 19,
drew 9, and lost 4. The exhibition
lasted over 12 hours

In 1933-1934, he tied for 1st in the

Premier Reserves section of the 14th
Hastings Christmas tourney.

In February 1934, he played 6

boards blindfolded in a tandem
exhibition with Alexander Alekhine
at Antwerp. Each board had 4 of the
strongest players from each chess
club in Belgium, for a total of 24
players. In 5 hours, they won 3,
drew 2, and lost one. It was the first
time in the history of chess that two
masters played a tandem blindfold
exhibition without any kind of
consultation. Koltanowski said that
the strain of such an exhibition was
"an inquisition of the brain."

In May-June, 1934, he took 3rd-4th

(shared with Tartakower) at a
tournament in Sitges Beach, Spain,
near Barcelona. The event was won
by Andor Lilienthal, followed by Dr.
Rey, champion of Spain. Spielman
was 5th. (source: Brooklyn Daily
Eagle, July 12, 1934)

In June, 1934, he tied for 1st with

Andor Lilienthal and Savielly
Tartakower at an international
tournament in Barcelona, Spain.

In July 1934, he played 10

opponents blindfolded in Barcelona.
Koltanowski spent a year in
Barcelona as a chess teacher and

In 1934-1935, he tied for 1st in the

Premier Reserves section of the 15th
Hastings Christmas tourney.

In 1935, Kolty became a chess coach

and trainer at the Madrid Athletic
Club in Spain. He left after the
outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

In February 1935, he played an 8-

board simul at Breda, Netherlands.

In June 1935, he tied for 1st with

Salo Flohr at Barcelona.

In June 1935, he took 2nd at Rosas,

a small fishing village near the
French border. The event was won
by Salo Flohr.

In July 1935, he tied for 1st with

Kahn at Mollet, Catalonia, Spain.

In 1935-36, he took 4th place at the

16th Christmas Congress in
Hastings, behind Fine, Flohr, and
Tartakower. Koltanowski won 3,
drew 5, and lost 1 (to Flohr). The
event was held at the St. Leonard's
Chess Club.

In April 1936, he tied for 1st (with

Adrian Conde of Mexico) in the
Premier Reserves A section at the
second annual international
Congress at Margate, England. The
Premiere section was won by Flohr,
ahead of Capablanca.

In July 1936, Kolty left Spain after

the outbreak of the Spanish Civil
War on July 17, 1936. He escaped
from Madrid via the last train to
Valencia, and from there, he took an
English warship to Marseilles.

In 1936, he played an 8-board

blindfold simul in Antwerp. Each
board had two consulting players.

In 1936, he won the Belgian chess

championship, held in Ghent. He
had won it in 1923, 1927, and 1930.
This was his last Belgian

In 1936-37, he played in the Premier

Tournament of the 17th Annual
Hastings Christmas Congress.
Arthur Reynolds, who was one of
the English competitors, withdrew
and his place was taken by
Koltanowski, who was promoted
from the Premier Reserves event.
Alexander Alekhine won the event,
followed by Fine. Koltanowski took
8th out of 10, and drew with
Alekhine. Koltanowski won 1, lost
4, and drew 4. The event was held at
the St. Leonards Chess Club.

In January, 1937, he took 4th at

Birmingham, England. Erich
Eliskasas and Lodewijk Prins took
1st-2nd, followed by William

From January to March, 1937, Kolty

toured England, Scotland, Ireland,
and Wales. In two months he played
nearly 500 chess games, both
blindfold (237 games) and sighted
displays in over 50 different
exhibitions. He set a new British
blindfold record by playing 21
simultaneous blindfold games in the
historic Roman Pump Room at Bath,
winning 14 and drawing 7. (source:
Winnipeg Tribune, April 24, 1937).

In April, 1937, he took 7th at the

Ostend Masters Tournament (4.5-
4.5). That event was won by Paul
Keres, Fine, and Grob. He defeated
Grob and drew against Keres. The
tournament was held at the Kursaal
Casino. This was the first
tournament that two scoresheets
with carbon paper between the two
were used.

In 1937 he tied in a match with

Henri Grob in Zurich. He won 1,
lost 1, and drew 2.

In May, 1937, he went to Dublin,

Ireland to train for the 34-board
simultaneous exhibition to be played
in Edinburgh.

On September 20, 1937,

Koltanowski set the world's
blindfold record in Edinburgh,
Scotland, by playing 34 chess games
simultaneously while blindfolded
(breaking Alekhine's record of 32
simultaneous blindfold games). He
won 24 and drew 10 games in
thirteen and a half hours. When the
exhibition was over, he would recite
the complete moves of the games
without looking at the board. The
exhibition was organized by the
Stockbridge Chess Club in
Edinburgh. One of the players was
the champion of Scotland. Ten other
countries were represented.
Koltanowski was paid 1,000 British
pounds for his effort (equivalent to
$20,000 in today's currency).

In October-November, 1937, Kolty

toured Switzerland. He gave 26
exhibitions (10-board blindfold
exhibitions) in 26 days in 26
different towns and cities. He scored
94% in 260 games.

In 1937-38, he played in the

Hastings Premier Reserves section.
The Premier section was won by

In 1938, Kolty left Belgium to tour

the world and play chess.

In April 1938, he played a 12-board

blindfolded simul at Bussum,

In April 1938, he played in the

Margate Premier Reserves B section
and was the only one undefeated.

In July, 1938, he gave a 10-board

blindfolded simul in Dunkirk.

In September 1938, Koltanowski left

Europe for America.

On Sep 16, 1938, Kolty played his

first chess exhibition in Canada, at
Quebec. Two days later, in
Montreal, he gave his first blindfold
exhibition. He played 15 boards,
winning 11 and drawing 4. It was
sponsored by the Montreal Bell
Telephone Chess Club. During his
tour in Canada, he was interviewed
and asked if his wife played chess.
He said he never plays chess with
his wife. "She is a very poor player.
It is better for the peace of the
family." Kolty said his worst worry
was remembering previous games
while he is playing multiple sets of
games. He has to try and deliberately
forget them, so that they will not
confuse his play at the moment.
(source: Winnipeg Tribune, Oct 1,

From September through October,

1928, he gave blindfold exhibitions
in Quebec, Toronto, Winnipeg,
Milwaukee, Chicago, Peoria,
Detroit, Buffalo, and New York.

On November 2, 1938, Kolty visited

New York City for the first time. He
was a guest at the Marshall Chess
Club and gave a 10-board blindfold
simultaneous exhibition (winning 7,
drawing 2, losing 1), observed by
former world chess champion, Dr.
Emanuel Lasker. (source: Brooklyn
Daily Eagle, Nov 3, 1938)

In December, 1938, he gave an

exhibition at the Faculty Club of
Columbia University.

In February 1939, Kolty gave a 12-

board blindfold simul at the Boston
City Chess Club. Each board had
two players that could consult with
each other. He won 5, drew 6, and
lost 1 (to R. Chauvenet and R.

On March 1, 1939, Kolty gave his

first blindfold exhibition in Havana,
Cuba. He played 8 boards
blindfolded and won all his games.

On March 23, 1939, he gave a 5-

board blindfold exhibition in
Guatemala City.

In April, 1939, he gave a 30-board

exhibition in San Salvador.

In June, 1939, he gave 9 exhibitions

in Mexico City.

In the summer of 1939, he was in

Milwaukee involved in youth chess.

He was supposed to have played for

Belgium in the 1939 Chess
Olympiad in Buenos Aires, but the
Belgium team did not participate.

In early November, 1939,

Koltanowski drew two games
against Charles Bagby in a match
played in San Francisco.

In late November 1939, the

Hollywood Chess Group sponsored
the California State Championship.
The event was won by Philip
Woliston, age 19. 2nd-3rd place
went to Herman Steiner and Harry
Borochow (1898-1993). George
Koltanowski took 4th place.
Koltanowski scored 4.5-3.5. There
were 9 players.

In 1940, Kolty was giving

simultaneous exhibitions in

Koltanowski appeared in the Jan 15,

1940 issue of LIFE magazine
playing 10 simultaneous blindfold
games in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

In late January, 1940, he took 2nd at

a Havana tournament. The event was
won by Isaac Kashdan. Koltanowski
scored 6.5-2.5.

In February, 1940, he took 1st at

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

In March 1940, the United States

Consul in Cuba saw Koltanowski
giving a chess exhibition in Havana
and decided to grant him a U.S.

In 1940, Kolty was admitted to the

United States and moved to
Milwaukee. (source: Brooklyn Daily
Eagle, Sep 26, 1940)

In April, 1940, he gave a blindfold

exhibition in Boston.

On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded

neutral Belgium. Most of
Koltanwoski's family was lost in the

In the summer of 1940, Kolty was a

chess instructor at the Milwaukee
public playgrounds in Wisconsin.
Kids who drew or beat him won a

In September, 1940, he gave

exhibitions in Pennsylvania, Boston,
Massachusetts, Portland, Maine, and
Wilmington, Delaware.

In October, 1940, he played 10

opponents blindfolded in Detroit.

In December, 1940, he gave a

blindfold exhibition in Ventor City,
New Jersey.

By the end of 1940, he signed up

886 new members to the US Chess
Federation (USCF). He was voted
life member to the USCF.

In February, 1941, he gave a

blindfold exhibition in Dallas.

In August, 1941, he took 2nd at the

Great Lakes Tournament in
Milwaukee, behind Erich

In October, 1941, he gave a

blindfold exhibition at the
Washington Chess Divan in
Washington, D.C.

In November, 1941, he gave a

blindfold exhibition in Sacramento.

In December, 1941, he gave an 8-

board blindfold exhibition in New

In March, 1942, he gave a

simultaneous exhibition in Dallas.
He explained the "Swiss System" to
J.C. Thompson, President of the
Texas Chess Association. The Swiss
System was then used by Thompson
in the 1942 Southwest Open, played
in Corpus Christi in September,
1942. That event was a 7-round
Swiss event, won by Bela Rozsa.
There were 27 players.

In April, 1942, he gave an 8-board

blindfold exhibition in Austin,

In 1942, George Koltanowski shared

an office space with Marcel

In June 1942, Marcel Duchamp and

George Koltanowski formed the
Greenwich Village Chess Club.

In October, 1942, he gave a 6-board

blindfold exhibition in Cleveland.
He won all his games.

In November, 1942, he gave an 8-

board blindfold exhibition in

In January 1943, he was employed

as a diamond cutter in Manhattan on
West 36th Street in the garment

In January, 1943, he gave a

blindfold exhibition in Jamestown,
New York.

On January 30, 1943, he gave an 8-

board blindfold exhibition in
Bronxville, New York, winning 6,
losing 1 (to Alfred Pierce), and
drawing 1 (to Rosser Reeves). He
also performed his Knight's Tour.

In February, 1943, he gave blindfold

exhibitions at the Bronx Physicians
Chess Club and at the New World
Chess Club in New York.

In March, 1943, he gave a 6-board

blindfold exhibition at the
Manhattan Chess Club. He won 4
and drew 2.

In 1943, he played 35 boards

simultaneously in Portland, Oregon.
The organizer thought he was going
to play all 35 boards blindfolded.
Koltanowski convinced him
In September, 1943, he introduced
the Swiss System in Pittsburgh at the
5th Annual Pennsylvania State
Chess Federation Championship.
The 6-round event was won by Tom
Gutekunst. There were 31 players.
Koltanowski played most of the
participants in a simultaneous
exhibition at the start of the

In October, 1943, Miguel Najdorf

broke Koltanowski's blindfold
record by playing 40 games
blindfolded in Rosario, Argentina.
He won 36, lost 3, and drew 1. Each
board had 2 players, so he played 80
opponents. It took over 17 hours to

In 1943, Kolty was barred from

playing postal chess or give chess
lessons to students overseas or in
South America. Wartime mail
regulations prevented mailing
abroad any abbreviations,
nicknames, and codes.

On March 10, 1944, George

Koltanowski and Marcel Duchamp
sat down in New York for a game of
chess. Koltanowski won as Black,
and Duchamp presented Kolty a
smoking pipe.

Marcel Duchamp — George

Koltanowski, New York, 1944, 1.d4
Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 Bg7
5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 c5 7.0-0 cxd4
8.exd4 Nc6 9.Bf4 Bg4 10.c5 Ne4
11.Ne5 [11.h3] 11...Bxe2 12.Nxe2?
[12.Nxc6 Bxd1 13.Nxd8 Nxc3
14.bxc3 Be2] 12...Nxe5 13.dxe5
[13.Bxe5 Bxe5 14.dxe5 Nxc5]
13...Nxc5 14.Nd4 Qd7 15.Re1 Rac8
16.Qd2 [16.Rc1] 16...Ne6 [16...Qa4]
17.Rac1 [17.g3] 17...Rxc1 18.Rxc1
Nxf4 19.Qxf4 Rc8 20.Rc3??
[20.Rxc8+ Qxc8 21.g4] 20...Rxc3
21.bxc3 Qc7 22.Nf3 Qxc3 23.h3
Qc4 24.Qg5 [24.Qd2 a6] 24...f6
25.exf6 Bxf6 26.Qe3 d4 27.Qf4
Qxa2 28.Ne5 Qb1+ 29.Kh2 Qf5 0—

In 1944, Kolty met his second wife,

Leah Greenberg of Springfield,
Massachusetts, in New York on a
blind date. She never learned how to
play chess. She once said, "George
is the grandmaster. If he taught me
the game, I'd be just another chess
player." In August, 1944, he was to
give a blindfold exhibition at the
IBM Country Club in Eudicott, New
York during the New York State
Chess Championship. The event was
called off because the U.S.
government told IBM to cancel all
conventions to reduce the burden on
traveling facilities.

From December 12, 1944 to January

31, 1945, Marcel Duchamp
organized an "Imagery of Chess"
exhibition at the Marshall Chess
Club and the Julien Levy Gallery
(4th floor at 42 East 57th Street). He
invited artists to redesign the
standard chess sets or create works
that explored the symbolism of
chess. Duchamp designed the
catalog and was the arbiter in a
blindfold match given by George
Koltanowski on 7 boards, played on
January 6, 1945. The seven players
were: Julien Levy, Frederick
Kiesler, Alfred Barr, Vittorio Rieti,
Xanti Schawinsky, Dorothea
Tanning, and Max Ernst. Marcel
Duchamp was his teller who called
out the moves. Kolty won 6 and
drew one (to Kiesler). (source:
"Phonographic Mind," in "Talk of
the Town," The New Yorker, Jan 6,
1945, p. 15-18). Chess Pie No. 3
came out in 1936 as the official
souvenir of the Nottingham 1936
International Tournament. It was
also edited by Watts. All of the
publications were issued to promote
and publicize each event

In January, 1945, he played 8

opponents blindfolded at the
Washington Chess Divan in
Washington, D.C.

During World War II, many of

Kolty's relatives, including his
mother and brother, Harry, died in
the Holocaust.

In October, 1945, he gave a

blindfold exhibition in Akron, Ohio.

In December, 1945, he gave a

blindfold exhibition in Hollywood,

In 1945, Koltanowski played in over

100 chess clubs throughout the
country. (source: Chess Life,
January, 1946)

In February, 1946, he gave an 8-

board blindfold exhibition in

In March, 1946, he had completed

over 90 blindfold exhibitions in
three months around the country.

In April, 1946, he gave 4 blindfold

exhibitions at 8 games each in
Puerto Rico.

In June, 1946, he won a small

tournament in Cuba.

In July, 1946, he played in the 47th

U.S. Open in Pittsburgh, but was
eliminated in the preliminary section
and did not qualify for the finals. He
then withdrew from the tournament.
It was his first and last rated chess
tournament in the USA. The Open
was won by Herman Steiner. There
were 58 players.

In 1946, George Koltanowski

married Leah Greenberg. It was his
second marriage. The best man was
Milton Finkelstein. Koltanowski
then moved to South Dakota.

In September, 1946, he was

directing the South Dakota State

In 1946, Koltanowski edited the

monthly South Dakota State Chess

In October, 1946, he played 8

opponents blindfolded in
Vancouver, British Columbia. He
won 3, drew 3, and lost 2 in 5

In November, 1946, he gave a

blindfold exhibition in Lancaster,

On December 4, 1946, George

Koltanowski gave a 26-board
simultaneous exhibition at the
Germantown, Pennsylvania YMCA
Chess Club. He won 22, and drew 4.
(source: Chess Life, Jan 5, 1947, p.

In December, 1946, he gave

exhibitions in Columbia, South

In January, 1947, he gave a

blindfold exhibition in Buffalo, New

On February 24, 1947, Kolty gave a

blindfold chess exhibition at the
Native Sons Hall in Santa Rosa,

In March, 1947, he gave an 8-board

blindfold exhibition in Milwaukee.

In April, 1947, he was master of

ceremonies at the British Columbia
vs. Washington State annual match
(won by Washington).

In 1947, he moved from New York

to Santa Rosa, California.

In June, 1947, he gave an 8-board

blindfold exhibition at Oak Ridge,

In July, 1947, he was director of the

Milwaukee summer playground
chess program.

In August 1947, he directed the U.S.

Open in Corpus Christi, Texas (won
by Isaac Kashdan), using the Swiss
System for pairings (the Swiss
System was first used for the
preliminary round of the 1946 US
Open because of the large number of
entries). He was greatly responsible
for popularizing the Swiss System
for tournaments in the US. There
were 87 players. Isaac Kashdan won
and received $1,000 as first prize.

In November 1947, Kolty edited the

California Chess News (later to
become Chess Digest) and News of
the Pacific Coast.

In 1948, Kolty had a chess column

in the Santa Rosa (California) Press
Democrat newspaper.

In May, 1948, he played Board 1 for

the North in the North-South
California match, held in
Atascadero. He drew his game as
white with Herman Steiner.

On May 9, 1948, (some sources say

May, 1947) Koltanowski became the
chess columnist for the San
Francisco Chronicle. Initially, it was
a weekly chess column. He later
wrote his chess column every day
for the next 52 years without
interruption until his death in 2000,
publishing an estimated 19,000
columns. His chess column soon
appeared as a syndicated feature in
other papers.

In September, 1948, he directed the

California State Championship, held
in Atascadero. James Cross, age 18,
won the event. It was the first
California Swiss system event.
There were 36 players.

In October, 1948, he played 8

simultaneous blindfold games at the
Orange Chess Club.

In 1949, he was writing a chess

column, called Chess Chats, for the
Sunday edition of The Press
Democrat in Santa Rosa.

In 1949, he helped in the formation

of the California State Chess

In May, 1949, he played Board 1 for

the North in the North-South
California match, held in
Atascadero. He drew his game as
black with Herman Steiner.

In August, 1949, he played 55

games, winning 48 and drawing 7 in
an exhibition in Sonoma.

In October, 1949, he played 24

boards in Los Angeles, winning 21
and drawing 3 (to Nancy Roos,
Morris Gordon, and George Croy).

On December 4, 1949, he played

271 games simultaneously in 12
hours at the Marines Memorial Club
in San Francisco. He won 251, drew
17, and lost 3. He faced 37 players at
a time. The event was sponsored by
the San Francisco Chronicle (the
Chronicle Chess Festival). There
were over 2,000 spectators.

In 1950, he was awarded the

International Master (IM) title, when
the title was first officially
established by FIDE.

In 1951, Kolty conducted a chess

column in Fortnight, a bi-weekly
news magazine in California.

In 1951, he played 50 games of 10-

seconds-a-move blindfold chess,
winning 43, drawing 5, and losing 2
in 9 hours of play in San Francisco.

On Dec 2, 1951, Kolty played 50

boards blindfold (one at a time, 10
seconds a move) in Stockton,
California. He won 43, drew 5, and
lost 2. The exhibition took 8 hours
and 45 minutes.

In March, 1952 Bogart was in San

Francisco for the premier of The
African Queen, and played a game
with George Koltanowski.
Koltanowski played blindfolded and
defeated Bogart in 41 moves.

George Koltanowski—Humphrey
Bogart, San Francisco 1952 1.e4 e6
2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Bd3 Nf6
5.Ne2 Bg4 6.O-O Bd6 7.f3 Be6
8.Bf4 O-O 9.Nd2 Nc6 10.c3 Ne7
11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.f4 c5 13.Nf3 Nf5
14.Qd2 Ne4 15.Qc1 Rac8 16.dxc5
Qxc5+ 17.Ned4 Nxd4 18.Nxd4 Rc7
19.f5 Bd7 20.Bxe4 dxe4 21.Qf4 Re8
22.Rae1 Re5 23.Rxe4 Rxe4 24.Qxe4
Bc6 25.Qe3 Re7 26.Qg3 Re8 27.f6
g6 28.Qh4 h5 29.Re1 Rxe1+
30.Qxe1 Qd6 31.Nxc6 Qxc6 32.Qe7
Qc8 33.h3 Qc6 34.b4 Qxc3 35.Qe8+
Kh7 36.Qxf7+ Kh6 37.Qe7 Qc1+
38.Kf2 Qf4+ 39.Ke2 Qc4+ 40.Kf3
Kg5 41.f7+ 1-0

In 1952, he played two games as

Board 1 reserve for the USA team at
the 10th Chess Olympiad, held in
Helsinki. He drew with Soviet
Grandmaster Alexander Kotov, one
of the strongest players in the world,
and a draw with Hungarian
International Master Tibor Florian.

In 1952, Koltanowski hosted a chess

program on radio station KPFA of
Berkeley, California, commencing
each Friday night at 9 pm. He played
a game against the station's listeners,
and then analyzed the game in future

In January, 1953, he played 12

opponents blindfolded in an
exhibition in Vancouver, British
Columbia. He won 9 and drew three.
He was able to recall every move
made after the exhibition, which
took 5.5 hours.

In March, 1953, he gave an 8-board

blindfold exhibition in Brussels.

In 1953, he played his last match

and tournament game with Henri
Grob in Zurich, Switzerland. Kolty
won 2 and drew 3 games.

In February, 1955, he played 12

opponents blindfolded in
Vancouver, British Columbia.
Koltanowski was 51 at the time.

On May 22, 1955, he played 110

games simultaneously in Los
Angeles. He won 89, drew 17, and
lost 4. It took over 12 hours.

In 1955, he wrote Adventures of a

Chess Master, published by David
McKay Co.

In 1956, he gave a simultaneous

exhibition in New Orleans. One of
the participants was Jude Acers.

In 1956, he directed the US Open in

Oklahoma. Bobby Fischer, the 13-
year-old whiz, after playing his
fourth master opponent in a row
asked me: "When do I get a fish as
an opponent?" So Koltanowski
promptly gave him Fischeimer of

In April, 1957, he gave simultaneous

exhibitions in Toronto. He played 58
players, winning 55, losing 1, and
drawing 2.

In 1957, he brought the U.S. Junior

Championship to San Francisco. The
tournament was won by Bobby
Fischer. Koltanowski directed the

In 1958 and 1959, he gave a

simultaneous exhibition in Denver.

In July-August, 1959, he directed the

60th US Open in Omaha, Nebraska.
The winner was Arthur Bisguier.

In November, 1959, he conducted a

30-board simul in Dayton, Ohio,
winning all 30 games.

In 1960, he was awarded the

International Arbiter title by FIDE.

In 1960, he moved to 1200 Gough

Street, Apartment D-3 in San

On December 4, 1960, at the

Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco,
California, Koltanowski played 56
consecutive games blindfolded, with
only ten seconds per move. He won
fifty and drew six games in 9 hours.
The event was sponsored by the San
Francisco Chronicle. Koltanowski
still holds the record in the Guinness
Book of Records.

In 1962, he played 110 opponents

simultaneously in Los Angeles.

In 1966, he played 26 players

simultaneously in North Hollywood,

In October, 1966, he gave blindfold

chess exhibitions in Hawaii.

In 1967, Koltanowski was the host

of "Koltanowski on Chess," a series
of 20 half-hour television broadcasts
about chess produced by KQED in
San Francisco that aired on public
television across the country, the
first such program of its kind.

In 1968, he was co-captain, along

with Ed Edmondson, of the USA
team at the 18th Chess Olympiad in

In 1969, he directed the US Open,

held in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In 1969, he directed the Nevada

State Open in Sparks, Nevada.
Before the event started, he played a
chess game with Tina the elephant.

In 1970, he was co-captain, along

with Ed Edmondson, of the USA
team at the Siegen Chess Olympiad.

In 1972, he played 100 boards

simultaneously, winning 97 and
drawing 3.

In 1972, he traveled to the Chess

Olympiad in Skopje, Yugoslavia.

In 1972, he was elected vice

president of the USCF. He served
for 9 years on the USCF policy

In November-December, 1972, he
organized and directed the Church's
Fried Chicken International
tournament in San Antonio.

In 1974, he directed the Canadian

Open in Montreal. It was the first
time he made use of a computer for

In 1974, FIDE awarded George

Koltanowski its Gold Medal to
commemorate his work in having
helped to found FIDE and to pay
tribute to his continuing service to
chess worldwide.

In 1974, he was elected President of

the United States Chess Federation
(USCF) and served until 1978. He
played blindfold chess on a giant,
life-size chessboard.

In 1976, he gave a blindfold

simultaneous exhibition at Moro
Bay, California.

In February, 1979, Kolty set a world

record for playing and beating four
opponents simultaneously blindfold
at the age of 75.

In 1979, the first USCF Koltanowski

Award went to Bill Church,
Jacqueline Piatigorsky, and Louis

In 1979, George Koltanowski

received the USCF Distinguished
Service Award.

In October, 1980, he visited Dayton,

Ohio. He lectured on chess and gave
one of his famous knight tours. I
participated in this as president of
the Ohio Chess Association, and put
the last 4 numbers of my social
security number on the square d4. A
few weeks later, I wrote him a letter
to thank him for his exhibition at the
Dayton Chess Club. I included a
P.S. - What was on d4? He called
me at 7 am (4 am his time) and was
able to recall my social security
number on d4. Koltanowski donated
a Boris Chess Computer to the
Dayton Chess Club as a gift.

In 1981, he created the first Cal

Chess Scholastic Championship.

In 1982, he was made an Honorary

Member of FIDE.

On May 3, 1983, he gave a 53-board

simul for kids at the Oxford Primary
School at Berkeley.

In 1983, at the age of 80, he did a 3-

board, 192 square knight's tour.

In 1983, George Koltanowski, living

in San Francisco, called my house at
7 am (4 am Pacific Time). My wife,
Lois, answered and the voice on the
other side said, "This is George
Koltanowski calling for Bill Wall."
My wife, not believing it was Kolty
and that it was a prank reponded, "If
you are George Koltanowski, I am
Raquel Welch." When I heard that, I
said, "Raquel, give me the phone." It
was George and he was calling
about a chess article I had written for
the Dayton Chess Club Review and
the Ohio Chess Bulletin, and wanted
permission to use it in one of his

In 1986, he was inducted into the

U.S. Chess Federation Hall of Fame
as one of the first inductees.

In 1988, he was awarded the

honorary Grandmaster title by

In 1989, as president of the Palo

Alto Chess Club in Palo Alto,
California, I was able to get Kolty to
come down from San Francisco to
the club to do his famous knight's
tour and lecture about chess. I
visited him many times at his
apartment in San Francisco.

On Feb 5, 2000, Kolty died of

congestive heart failure at a hospital
in San Francisco. He was 96. When
he died, The New York Times
reported that "Mr. Koltanowski is
survived by his wife, Leah, who
never learned to play chess and often
joked that her husband could not
remember to bring bread home from
the grocery." That story was relayed
to me when I visited his apartment in
San Francisco in 1989 and
interviewed him and his wife.

When Kolty died, he had written

more than 19,000 chess columns for
The San Francisco Chronicle. Up to
that time, it was the longest-running
daily chess column in history,
lasting 51 years, 9 months, and 18
days. Leonard Barden began his
daily chess column in London
Evening Standard in June 1956. It
was in print until July 20, 2010 (54
years and 1 month). It has since
continued online, so far reaching
over 62 years. This is now the
longest running daily chess column
in history, and the longest running
daily column ever, in any field of
journalism. (source: the Guardian,
Oct 2016 -

On December 23, 2005, Leah

Koltanowski died, 10 days after her
99th birthday.

Koltanowski spoke eight languages

(French, Flemish, English, German,
Dutch, Spanish, Russian, and
Italian). He played chess, gave
exhibitions, and did the Knight's
Tour in prisons, in schools, on
playgrounds, by mail, on ocean
liners, by telegram, over the phone
and against princes and potentates.

Koltanowski wrote at least 18 books

on chess.

Adventures of a Chess Master 1955

Blindsimultaan 1931
Checkmate! 1998
Checkmate Strategies 1999
Chessnicdotes 1978
Chessnicdotes II 1981
Colle System (1972, 1980, 1984,
George Koltanowski: Blindfold
Chess Genius 1990
George Koltanowski's Chess
Hoe Meester G. Koltanowski Het
Blindsimultaan Veroverde 1931
In the Dark, 1985
Koltanowski's Chess Annual 1955
My Castles in Spain
Practical Chess, 1947
Practical Play of the Max Lange
Attack 1973
Torneo International De Hastings
1935-1936 1936
TV Chess 1968
Vegas Fun Chess 1972


Dorsch,"' George Koltanowski: A

Great Person" California Chess
Journal, Winter 2000 -
George Koltanowski -
George Koltanowski, World Chess
Hall of Fame -
Koltanowski Collection -
Les Cahiers du CREB (Cercle
Royale des Echecs de Bruxelles)
Sloan, Grandmaster George
Koltanowski Dies at age 96 -

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