Archive for the ‘Wojtkiewicz’ Category

One View on Why Chess Players Have Difficulties in Relationships

July 14, 2007

Today marks the first anniversary of Aleksander Wojtkiewicz’s death, at the age or 43.  The Polish-American grandmaster lived in Baltimore and won his last five chess tournaments, including the prestigious World Open, played just a few days before he died of complications of alcoholism.  He was one of the most active and vibrant participants in the weekend tournament circuit in the United States.  

I have blogged here before about some of the funny stories that have been told about him. When I interviewed him for King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game, I appreciated his honesty on the subject of cheating in chess and on other topics that weren’t always flattering to himself or other professional players.  “The longer you play chess, the more self-centered you become,” he told me. “It’s necessary in chess to put yourself first.  It’s easy to forget that anyone else exists.  That attitude doesn’t work in the rest of life.  That’s why few of us chess players can hold marriages.”


Copy Editing Confidential

May 19, 2007

I’ve been poring over (it’s poring not pouring, right?) a type-set proof of King’s Gambit: A Father, a Son, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game in search of annoying typos. 


Gremlins are inevitable in a work of 150,000 words (yes, I have a lot to say!) but I’m hell-bent on reducing them to a minimum.  I’ve had nightmares ever since a well-intentioned copy-editor  inexplicably changed Veselin Topalov’s first name, which I had corretly spelled, to Vaselin.  Now maybe Vaseline is an apt nickname for a grandmaster who is as oily as petroleum jelly (after being down two games in last year’s world-championship match, the slippery Bulgarian tried to distract the chess world from his pathetic 0-2 score by charging his opponent with going to the bathroom too frequently and consulting a chess-playing computer while on the privy).   

Now Vaseline does figure in King’s Gambit, but not as someone’s first name.  In Chapter 8, “I’m Not the World’s Biggest Geek,”  I describe the late Alexander Wojtkiewicz, who was perhaps the most active grandmaster on the U.S. weekend tournament circuit.

“In a chess world full of oversized characters, Wojtkiewicz was still a stand-out.  He was equal part hustler and naïf, and the stories about him were endless and amusing.  Like the time he wondered unknowingly into a gay bar with a male friend and a woman.  At some point the woman had a nose bleed and Wojt got the attention of the place when he anxiously and loudly asked the bartender for Vaseline, an old Polish remedy for her affliction.  There was also the time that he was staying with friends in Chicago, disappeared for a weekend without telling them, and returned with no explanation, as if he had just stepped out to buy a paper, except that he was now on crutches.”