Death of Chessplayers

  • billwall
  • | May 25, 2007

On January 2, 2005, Grandmaster Arnold Denker died at the age of 90 of brain cancer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.   He was less than two months from his 91st birthday.  I knew him for many years.

A few chess masters have made it to age 90 or longer.  Hungarian master Gyorgy Negyesy (1893-1992) died just short of his 99th birthday.  He was the longest-lived chess master.

Grandmaster George Koltanowski died at the age of 96 of heart failure in San Francisco.  Another good friend of mine.

International Master Edward Lasker died at the age of 95.

Postal International Master Walter Muir died at the age of 94.  He was still playing postal chess at the time of his death.

Hermann Helms, chess author and editor, died at the age of 93.

Grandmaster Arthur Dake lived to age 90 and died in his sleep in Portland, Oregon.

Heart attack seems the most common cause among chess masters.  Those who died of a heart attack include Adolf Anderssen (age 60), Vladimir Bagirov (age 64), Joseph Blackburne (age 82), Efim Bogoljubov (age 63), Gyula Breyer (age 28), Jose Capablanca (age 53), Max Euwe (age 80), Paul Keres (age 59), Emanuel Lasker (age 72), Paul Leonhardt (age 57), Frank Marshall (age 67), Miguel Najdorf (age 87), Cecil Purdy of Australia (age 73), Sammy Reshevsky (age 80), Gideon Stahlberg (59), Howard  Staunton (age 64), Leonid Stein (only age 38), Herman Steiner (age 50), and Alexei Suetin (age 74),  Vladimir Simagin (age 49), Johann Zukertort (age 44),

Bagirov, Bogoljubov, Capablanca, Ed Edmondson, Forry Laucks, Leonhardt, Marshall, Purdy, Simagin, Stahlberg, Steiner, Suetin, and  Zukertort all died while playing chess or just finishing a chess game.

Cancer killed Argentine Grandmaster Gerardo Barbero (age 40), Philippine Grandmaster Rosendo Balinas (age 57), Mikhail Botvinnik (age 83), Ricardo Calvo (age 59), Efim Geller (age 73), Tigran Petrosian (age 55), Karl Robatsch (age 71),  Daniel Yanofsky (age 74), Claude Bloodgood (age 64).

Stroke killed Louis de la Bordonnias (age 45), Aivars Gipslis (age 63), Eduard Gufeld (age 66), Paul Morphy (age 47).

Pneumonia killed Edmar Mednis (age 64), Aaron Nimzovich (age 48), and Carl Schlechter (age 44).

Some masters died of accidental death.  Grandmaster Georgy Agzamov of Russia died in 1986 at the age of 32 after he fell between some rocks at a beach and died.

Alexander Alekhine died at the age of 53 from a piece of choked meat.

Janos Flesch died in a car wreck at the age of 50.  So did Cuban Grandmaster Guillermo Garcia.  He was 36.

World's women chess champion Vera Menchik, and her sister, died during a German bombing raid (V2 rocket) on London in 1944.

Julius Perlis, a strong master, died in 1913 at the age of 33 from a fall on a mountain in the Alps.

Pierre St. Amant died after falling from a carriage in 1872.  He was 72.

Frederick Yates died from a gas leak in his house.  So did Hungarian International Master Arpad Vajda.

International Master Nicholas Rossolimo fell down a flight of stairs in New York and died.  He was 65.

Some masters have committed suicide.  Curt von Bardeleben jumped to his death from his boarding home. He was 63.   Karen Grigorian jumped to his death.  He was 42.  Grandmaster Lemit Oll also jumped to his death from his 4th story apartment.  He was 35.  Alvis Vitolins also jumped to his death.  He was 59.

George Mackenzie took an overdose of morphine.  He was 54.  Hans Minckwitz threw himself in front of a train.  He was 58.

Harry Pillsbury died of syphillis.  He was 33.

Mikhail Chigorin (age 57) and Tony Miles (age 46) died of diabetes.

Edward Colle died after an operation for an ulcer.  He was 34.

Nikolai Grigoriev died from appendicitis.  He was 43.

Alexander Zaitsev died after an operation on his leg.  He was 36.

Mikhail Tal died of kidney failure.  He was 55.


  • 7 years ago


    Absent from the list was Polish American GM Alexander Woitkiewicz who died just a couple of years ago from intestinal problems associated with his heavy drinking.  Also, I think there was also this talented teenage lady who died (presumably from suicide) just a few years ago - 2 years ago I think. Nonetheless, the research is profound and admirable.....Thanks Bill!

  • 7 years ago


    LOL! Maybe the opponents playing chess against the grandmasters were like " Hello?"

  • 8 years ago


    What a great study...You do pull the best. The most interesting deaths to me was that of Stein and Pillsbury. So young and talented. What a waste to the chess world. And all the masters that died playing chess....WOW!

  • 9 years ago


    I did a study of life expectancy on famous chess players a few years ago and it came to 62.9 years.  I have a bigger list to compare now, and will re-do it.
  • 9 years ago


    I wonder what the average life expectancy is, of professional chess players.
  • 10 years ago


    This was quite interesting!
  • 10 years ago


    this made me throw up a few minutes ago!! *covers mouth with hand* *throws up again*
  • 10 years ago


    A rather morbid subject, but quite interesting nonetheless!
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