Jackie P

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The House of Rothschild divided into several lines back in the 19th century, establishing themselves in Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England and France. 

The Baron Albert Salomon von Rothschild was of the Austrian line.  Like many of the Rothschilds, he collected art and race horses, but more germane to this article, he also patronized chess and chess players. He served as president of the Vienna Chess Club for 13 years (1871-1884) and sponsored both Ignatz Kolisch and Max Weiss. Ironically, he was also instrumental in effecting Kolisch's retirement from chess by helping him find a better source of income through investment banking.

The Baron was also a talented player.  Here are two games demonstrating his swashbuckling style:

Baron Albert de Rothschild was born in 1844 and died in 1911.  Another irony.

In 1911, the other famed Rothschild chess angel, Jacqueline Rebecca Louise de Rothschild was born into the French line of the Rothschilds.  A vibrant woman, she will celebrate her centennial on November 6 of this year.

Jacqueline Rothschild had every advantage growing up but despite everything, she asserts she was timid and insecure. She led a secluded childhood, void of friends, dominated by sadistic or uncaring nannies, saddened by parents who would visit her and her siblings for only 15 a day, and claims to have never have been out alone until she became an adult. She went directly from an overprotective, disinterested family into an unsatisfactory marriage to Robert Calmann-Lévy in 1930. 
Although an English nurse had taught her chess when she was  6 years old and convalescing from peridonitis, her early interests centered just as much on tennis and golf.

This is the Chateau de Ferrieres, where Jaqueline grew up.  She said she lived there until she married and had never once seen the kitchen. The grounds boasted tennis courts and a private golf course. It also boasted 9000 acres, a private zoo, lakes, parks, twelve gardeners, five foresters and woods stocked with game for hunting.

Even during her first marriage, Jacqueline was obsessed with the classical pianist Alfred Cortot and followed his appearances throughout Europe. She studied piano seriously, though she never became very proficient.  Within her music circle, she met her future second husband, Gregor Piatigorky, a Russian refugee who would become the world's foremost cellist. Gregor introduced her to the bassoon which she first treated lightly, but at which actually gained some skill.

She had an interesting circle of acquaintances and played chess with such people as Marcel Duchamp and Sergei Prokofiev.  Prokofiev was thought to have been a strong player and, indeed, beat Capablanca once in a simul. He partnered with Mrs. Piatigorsy in bridge and muttered many belittling remarks against his partner during their games. But in chess he and Jacqueine only played two games: the first was a draw and Piatigorky won the second - after which Prokofiev refused to play her again.

Jacqueline and Gregor married in early in 1937 and their daughter Jephta was born about 9 months later. Being Jews, they fled France for the United States when it threatened to fall under Nazi control.  They settled in Elizabethtown, N.Y.

While in New York, Jacqueline developed a love of correspondence chess and this fed her chess appetite until she and her husband moved to California in 1949.  There she met Herman Steiner who encouraged he to enter tournaments. In 1951 she tied for second-last in the U.S. Women's Championship.  However, here is a cute game she played against the Ohio Champion, Willa White Owens.

Feb. 20, 1955 Chess Life:
In recognition of the increasing activity of women in American Chess, with this issue CHESS LIFE inaugurates "Women's Chess Life" - a feature devoted to the exploits, plans and activities of women in chess. Despite her many other duties as Ohio Woman Champion, Secretary of the Ohio Chess Association and housewife, Mrs. Willa White Owen [sic] has been persuaded to conduct this feature as a part of her manifold responsibilities as USCF Vice-President in
charge of the chess program for women.  But a column of chess news is only as good as its support form readers makes it, however competent the writer who conducts it.  Therefore women readers are urged to flock to the support of their own special chess column with news items and comments on the activity for women in their own localities.  Just what are women doing these days?  Write and tell Mrs. Owens.
[I extracted all but one of the games from the US Women's Chamionships from Mrs. Owens Chess Life column. The games from the 1957 Olympiad came from Olympbase.]

The following two games were played at the 1955 U.S. Women's Championship:
Two of the players in the recent U.S. Women's Chess Championship Tournament whose games were most eagerly watched were Mrs. Jacqueline Piatigorsky and Mrs. Irene Vines of New Orleans.  Mrs. Piatigorsky's first round win over Miss Karff, the defending champion, set the tone of excitement that did not abate throughout the tournament. Gone were the days when there were one of two significant rounds and one or two "big games" in a women's tournament. Every round was important and every game significant. - Willa Owens




1955 was also the year that Jacqueline's chess mentor, Herman Steiner, died.  Steiner had a club called the Hollywood Chess Group to which many celebrities belonged, a large proportion of which were women [40 at one point] and among the best women players in the country .  After his untimely death, Jacqueline Piatigorky took over the club that was renamed the Herman Steiner Chess Club in his memory. In 1956 the club hosted the California Women's Championship. Jacqueline came in third, right behind Sonja Graf-Stevenson and Lina Grumette.


In 1957 Jacqueline took part in the first Women's Chess Olympiad played at Emmens, Netherlands. She had respectable results of 6 wins, 3 draws and 2 loses. In individual games, she beat Merete Haahr (the he Danish Women's Chess Champion in 1952, 1958, 1959, 1962, 1967, 1970  and 1975);  Beth Cassidy of Ireland; R.P Foggie (the 1955 Scottish Women's Chess Champion) twice; Berta Zebinger (the Austrian Women's Champion in 1955 and shared in 1967); Ms. Welter of Luxembourg.  She drew against Miroslawa Litmanowicz (the 1968 Polish Women's Champion-to-be); Éva Karakas (7 time Hungarian Women's Chess Champion); and Antonia Ivanova (6 time Bulgarian Wome's Chess Champion in 1951, 1952, 1954, 1957, 1958 and 1967). She lost to Kveta Eretova of the Czech Republic and to Ursula Altrichter (East German Women's Chess Champion in 1954).

 She and her husband established the Piatigorsky Foundation. This foundation helped sponsor chess in public schools and chess for underpriveledged and disabled children but its primarily purpose was to support the Piatagorsky Cup Tournament.  The first competition under the sponsorship of the Piatigorsky Foundation, however, was the 1961 Fischer-Reshevsky match fiasco. There had been a difficutly in setting up a time for the 12th game (the match was to be 16 games with the first 4 played in NYC, the next 8 played in L.A. (at the Piatigorsky property on Cashio St.   Isaac Kashdan was the director) and the final 4 back in NYC). Reshevsky, as an Orthodox Jew, couldn't play on the Sabbath, so the game was scheduled after sundown, i.e. 9:00 pm.  Only later did Mrs. Piatigorsky realize that starting by at 9 pm, the game wouldn't end until 2 am. which she thought was too late.  The committee rescheduled the game to 1:30 pm the next day, but Mrs. Piatigorsky wanted to see the game she was sponsoring and this start time would conflict with a performance to be give by her husband she was also to attend.  As a compromise, she scheduled the game for 11 am that morning, not understanding Fischer's repugnance to playing in the morning, but not consulting him or Reshevsky either.  The result was Fischer protesting and finally dropping out of the match with Reshevsky being named the winner of the truncated match (in spite of the 5½-5½  going into the disputed game).

1963 saw the first Piatigorsky Cup Tournament. Fischer was invited but demanded a $2000 appearance fee (possibly as compensation for the botched Reshevshy match) but was turned down and, as a result, didn't attend.  Kashdan was the TD for this and the second (which was also the last) Piatigorsky Cup Tournament.  Petrosian and Keres shared first place Najdorf, Panno, Gligoric, Olafsson,Benko and Reshevsky also participated.
Jacqueline wrote,
"Until then, the only way the public could follow the games was by setting up magnetic boards and having youngsters run back and forth, moving pieces on the board to adjust to each new position. It was cumbersome. So I invented a new system with overhead projectors and electric clocks so the public could not only follow the games comfortably, but also the time control."
            See First Piatigorsky for details.

Jacqueline seemed to have really disliked Fischer, but recognizing his standing in the chess world, invited him to the 2nd Piatigorsky Cup Tournament in 1966.  She also seemed to have taken the surprising fact that Fischer accepted as some personal triumph.  "in the Second Piatigorsky Cup, Fischer played under the same conditions as everyone else. I think I was the first person ever to stand up to him." In any event, the tournament was quite exciting with Fischer coming from  last place after a poor start to a clear second place at the end, just a half point behind the winner, Spaasky.
            See Second Piatigorsky for details.

This final game I can't vouch for.  I was given by Sam Sloan on the internet. But I see no reason to doubt its authenticity.

"I started playing chess at a very young age. It was fun and at the same time relaxing and invigorating. But when I reached competition, it became hard. During the four hours of tournament play under time pressure, tension accumulates with no release. At the end of a tournament, exhausted and drained, I thought, 'I am too old for this.' Chess had become too tiring. So what did I do? I switched to tennis. " - Growing as We Age by Jacqueline Piatigorsky 2003

The above quote is from an article written by Mrs. Piatigorsky in which she details her later years as an artist. Actually, she more or less gave up competitive chess, but continued to play tennis competitively into her 90s.  Sculpting, however, dominated her time.

Double Infinity 1983
Some of her work can be seen clicking the photo above
Growing with Age article

  as of 2009, Jacqueline Piatigorsky was still sculpting away. . .

The photograph of Jacqueline Piatigorsky from Sports Illustrated, Sept. 5, 1966