The World Chess Hall of Fame presented a preview of Jacqueline Piatigorsky: Patron, Player, Pioneer in its first floor gallery in honor of the 2013 Sinquefield Cup, the first Super GM tournament held in Saint Louis. This exhibition displayed photographs and artifacts related to the Piatigorsky Cup Tournaments of 1963 and 1966.
The inaugural Piatigorsky Cup, held in 1963, was the first international grandmaster (GM) chess tournament to occur in the United States in six years. Organized by Jacqueline Piatigorsky, the event was a double round-robin competition in which each of the competitors played against each other twice. Jacqueline was passionate about chess, declaring it to be “in her blood,” and dedicated much of her life to the game. She rose to the top of the field of American women players, became a major tournament organizer, and founded the Piatigorsky Foundation, a philanthropic chess organization. The second Piatigorsky Cup was held in 1966, and featured an enlarged field of competitors. In the time since the organization of the first Piatigorsky Cup, American interest in chess had increased as a result of Bobby Fischer’s rise to prominence. Both tournaments included members of the U.S. and World Chess Halls of Fame.
This preview exhibition of Jacqueline Piatigorsky: Patron, Player, Pioneer, which explored the legacy of the Piatigorsky Cups, was assembled in honor of the Sinquefield Cup tournament. The Sinquefield Cup, like the Piatigorsky Cup, has attracted the best American and international players for an exciting competition. This show featured photographs of the competitions taken by Otto Rothschild and Art Zeller, two commercial photographers, for chess publications and the tournament book, as well as photgraphs taken by Phil Bath for a Sports Illustrated article about the Piatigorsky Cup. The full exhibition, which was on view from October 25, 2013 - April 18, 2014, explored Jacqueline’s playing career and activities as a chess benefactor through the Piatigorsky Foundation.
GM Pal Benko, United States — U.S. Chess Hall of Fame (1993)
GM Svetozar Gligoric, Yugoslavia
GM Paul Keres, Soviet Union — World Chess Hall of Fame (2014)
GM Miguel Najdorf, Argentina
GM Fridrik Olafsson, Iceland
GM Oscar Panno, Argentina
GM Tigran Petrosian, Soviet Union — World Chess Hall of Fame (2003)
GM Samuel Reshevsky, United States — U.S. Chess Hall of Fame (1986)
GM Jan Hein Donner, Netherlands
GM Bobby Fischer, United States — U.S. Chess Hall of Fame (1986); World Chess Hall of Fame (2001)
GM Boris Ivkov, Yugoslavia
GM Bent Larsen, Denmark
GM Miguel Najdorf, Argentina
GM Tigran Petrosian, Soviet Union — World Chess Hall of Fame (2003)
GM Lajos Portisch, Hungary
GM Samuel Reshevsky, United States - U.S. Chess Hall of Fame (1986)
GM Boris Spassky, Soviet Union - World Chess Hall of Fame (2003)
GM Wolfgang Unzicker, West Germany
GM Isaac Kashdan, U.S. Chess Hall of Fame (1986), was the tournament director for both competitions.
About the Curator
Emily Allred, Assistant Curator, World Chess Hall of Fame
Emily Allred is Assistant Curator at the World Chess Hall of Fame. Prior to working at the WCHOF, she was the Research Assistant in the American Art Department at the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Researcher and Collections Manager for the John and Susan Horseman Collection. Emily has contributed to publications for the two institutions. She has a Master of Arts in History and Museum Studies from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Communications from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
All artifacts in this exhibition are part of the Collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame, gifts of the family of Jacqueline Piatigorsky.
The World Chess Hall of Fame acknowledges Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, whose support has made this exhibition possible.
Special thanks to Jephta Drachman, Joram Piatigorsky, Evan Drachman, IM John Donaldson, Tony Rich, Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Laura Gorman, Susan Bowser, and GM-elect Daniel Naroditsky.
Artifacts Featured in the Exhibition Preview
This photograph, which portrays a smiling Jacqueline with her husband, Gregor Piatigorsky, was featured in the tournament program for the 1963 Piatigorsky Cup. The photo may have been taken at the 1961 match between Bobby Fischer and Samuel Reshevsky, one of the first chess events that Jacqueline helped to organize.
Jacqueline Piatigorsky’s interest in chess was not only limited to playing, organizing competitions, and philanthropic efforts—she and her husband also collected antique chess sets. A similar photo of Jacqueline with her collection accompanies a Sports Illustrated article about the Piatigorsky Cup. Titled “In Chess Piatigorsky Is Tops,” the article states that Jacqueline had spent around $60,000 on the tournament, which would equal over $400,000 today. It also recounts how she first became interested in chess, and the behavior of the players at the tournament.
In the foreground, the two Soviet competitors Tigran Petrosian and Paul Keres play, while the Argentinian Oscar Panno can be seen seated in the background during his game against his fellow countryman Miguel Najdorf. Petrosian and Keres fought to a draw in their opening game.
The first round of the 1963 Piatigorsky Cup pitted the three pairs of competitors from the same nations against each other so that they would not meet in the final stage of the tournament. This is a long established practice in major events to protect compatriots from potential allegations of collusion. American players Pal Benko and Samuel Reshevsky, were also paired. Rounding out the field, Svetozar Gligoric and Fridrik Olafsson, the only representatives of their respective countries (Yugoslavia and Iceland), also faced off at the beginning of the strongest tournament held on American soil since the New York 1924 chess tournament.
When asked by a reporter why he chose to participate in the Piatigorsky Cup, Tigran Petrosian responded, “Keres and I came to Los Angeles because, like every chessplayer [sic], we enjoy playing chess. The better the opposition, the better I like it, and the Piatigorsky Cup promises to be one of the best international events. All seven opponents are hard and good players.”
“This game was played in the tenth round when my position in the tournament was far from brilliant,” stated Tigran Petrosian in First Piatigorsky Cup: International Grandmaster Chess Tournament in the United States (1963). He won this critical game and played strongly the rest of the way to finish the tournament in a tie for first with Paul Keres. Tigran Petrosian’s strong defenses earned him the nickname of the “Iron Tiger.”
Made in Switzerland, this clock was a favorite of United States Chess Federation (USCF) tournament players during the 1950s and 1960s. Though this one belonged to Jacqueline Piatigorsky, the same style of clock was used by the players in the 1963 Piatigorsky Cup Tournament, as can be seen in the photographs of Paul Keres and Tigran Petrosian on view in this exhibition.
Paul Keres said of his experiences in the Piatigorsky Cup: “It is always easy to explain or to alibi losses, but my opponents played very well and I think that I may have lost these games without any illness. Playing in the First Piatigorsky Cup Tournament and sharing top place with the World Champion is a wonderful experience. I enjoyed not only the fighting chess, but especially the friendly atmosphere and the extremely well-organized event. Many fine and famous players will win and have their names engraved upon this Cup in years to come. I am deeply happy to share this honor with the winners to follow.”
The most important game of the tournament for Paul Keres, this contest ended with his victory over Pal Benko. Keres needed to win to have a chance to catch up with Tigran Petrosian, who was leading him by half a point going into the last round. At the halfway point of competition, Svetozar Gligoric had been tied with Keres and Miguel Najdorf for first. However, by this point in the event, Gligoric and Najdorf had slipped down in the standings, while Petrosian’s strong play led him to the top spot.
Paul Keres and Tigran Petrosian prepare for their game, as the other competitors, seated in the background, watch from the back of the stage. In addition to offering the two Soviet players a spirited competition, the Piatigorsky Cup Tournament afforded them a chance to enjoy American culture. In his book co-written by International Master Jeremy Silman, Pal Benko: My Life, Games, and Compositions, Pal Benko stated that Petrosian and Keres had hoped to visit Disneyland during their stay in the United States. However, the Soviet Premier, Nikita Khruschev was also in the country at the time, and had been denied free entry to the park. The two players abandoned their plans to visit in order to avoid upsetting Soviet officials.
An important record of the proceedings of the 1963 Piatigorsky Cup, the tournament book contains annotations of games primarily written by Samuel Reshevsky. The other players in the competition contributed notes to their key efforts. It also includes a forward by the tournament’s director, Isaac Kashdan, as well as photographs of the competition’s exciting proceedings.
The program for the first Piatigorsky Cup contains the schedule of events, as well as biographies and photos of each of the players. It also includes the biography of Victor Korchnoi, reigning Soviet champion, who was the alternate for the tournament. When the Piatigorsky Cup was scheduled, the dates for the World Chess Championship Match between Mikhail Botvinnik and Tigran Petrosian were not known. There was a chance Petrosian would not be able to play in Los Angeles because of the potential for the events to overlap. Petrosian was ultimately able to participate, and so Korchnoi did not travel to Los Angeles for the competition.
Edited by Isaac Kashdan, these bulletins recap the action of the tournament and include amusing anecdotes. They were published for each of the rounds; this one was created after the completion of the tournament, and includes the final standings of the players. An earlier bulletin describes how the tournament was interrupted when a celebrity walked into the tournament area. “Most commotion of the tournament to date was caused when Frank Sinatra and Mike Romanoff walked in. Tigran Petrosian temporarily lost his titled as most stared at individual.”
Jacqueline and Gregor Piatigorsky are pictured with the Piatigorsky Cup on the cover of this issue of Chess Review. The cover story honors their organizational efforts, details the play of the tournament, and includes stories about the players in the competition. It notes that both Paul Keres and Samuel Reshevsky suffered from the flu during the course of the event.
Participants in the 1963 Piatigorsky Cup tournament inscribed this copy of the program for Jacqueline Piatigorsky. Many of the competitors maintained warm relationships with her after the conclusion of the tournament and corresponded with her in the following years.
Additionally, the program features images of letters from Pierre Salinger, the press secretary during the administration of President John F. Kennedy; Governor Edmund G. Brown of California; and the Mayor of Los Angeles, Samuel Yorty. These political figures praised the Piatigorsky Cup Tournament and predicted that it would have a positive legacy both in the world of chess and for the United States as a whole.
This photograph of the Piatigorskys standing with the Piatigorsky Cup trophy was featured on the cover of the August 1963 issue of Chess Review and in the 1963 tournament book (both on view in this gallery). In her memoir Jump in the Waves, Jacqueline wrote that her husband, Gregor, had encouraged her to organize the event. Gregor, a native of Russia and a famous cellist, helped obtain the participation of the Soviet players. Gregor once said, “In the world of music, I am known as a cellist. In the world of chess, I am known as the husband of Mrs. Piatigorsky.”
Oscar Panno looks away from the board while Miguel Najdorf analyzes the game. Najdorf scored the first victory of the 1963 tournament with his win over Panno. Najdorf, the oldest competitor, ended the tournament in a tie for third with Fridrik Olafsson, while Panno tied for last place with Pal Benko. Najdorf said that the event was, “one of the most beautifully-organized tournaments of all time.” He further stated that, “The Piatigorskys and Mr. Kashdan have the sincerest thanks of every player.”
Isaac Kashdan, the director of both the 1963 and 1966 Piatigorsky Cups, delivers a speech before the beginning of the 1963 event. In the background, a wall board can be seen which tracked the action of the games for the audience, who gathered on the other side of the ropes.
Surrounded by interested onlookers, Tigran Petrosian and Paul Keres share thoughts about critical moments in their earlier game. Known as the postmortem, this is one of the most beloved institutions in chess. The traditional postgame analysis was especially important in the days before the rise of strong computer engines as it allowed the players to gain a deeper insight into a game’s events.
This charming photograph of Tigran Petrosian signing tournament programs for two women was featured in a August 1963 Chess Review article about the Piatigorsky Cup. Petrosian, like Samuel Reshevsky and Miguel Najdorf, also competed in the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup. A reporter at the latter event noted that while “Bent Larsen and Miguel Najdorf shooed away autograph hunters,” Petrosian happily gave autographs to appreciative fans.
Jacqueline and Gregor strike joyful poses while standing with the wall board for the game between Fridrik Olafsson and Svetozar Gligoric. The wall clocks for the game hang above, allowing the audience to see the remaining time for the players. According to the rules of the competition, the players were required to make forty moves within two and a half hours, or the tournament director would declare the game a forfeit.
Olafsson and Gligoric had first met in the initial round of the Piatigorsky Cup, when they played to a draw. Though Olafsson had the stronger position, he offered Gligoric a draw because he had only made twenty-two moves in two and a half hours. Gligoric accepted the offer, but in their next encounter he was not so lucky, as Olafsson defeated him. In the next game the two played in the eighth round, Olafsson had better luck, and defeated Gligoric. Olafsson, a lawyer in his native Iceland, was not a professional player. His infrequent tournament appearances contributed to a propensity for time trouble that was in evidence throughout the Piatigorsky Cup.
Among the group of happy celebrants pictured are, on the far left, William Addison (tournament commentator), Pal Benko (tournament participant), and Jacqueline Piatigorsky. Sitting and smiling in the center of the group is tournament participant Fridrik Olafsson of Iceland. At this party, a group of chess aficionados from the Los Angeles area gave Jacqueline a trophy in appreciation of her organization of the tournament.
The reflective quality of the Piatigorsky Cup’s surface is highlighted in this photo, which depicts the happy victors of the tournament with Jacqueline Piatigorsky. Paul Keres and Tigran Petrosian split the prize for first. Keres chose to receive a car, a Rambler Classic 660, instead of the cash prize.
The well-known jewelry and silverware manufacturer Tiffany & Co. manufactured the gleaming sterling silver loving cup, or two-handled vessel, at the center the Piatigorsky Cup trophy. The Cup is flanked by two silver-plated Régence-style chess pieces, a king and a queen. Régence-style chess sets originated in France, where Jacqueline had been born. This trophy was intended for display during the competition. A reduced-size version of the Cup was presented to Boris Spassky after his victory in the 1966 competition, and can be seen in some of the photos included in this exhibition.
As the Piatigorsky Cup tournament was originally planned to be held every two or three years, the front of the trophy has space for the names of future winners. However, Jacqueline stopped organizing the competitions after the 1966 event. In his book Pal Benko: My Life, Games, and Compositions, co-written by International Master Jeremy Silman, Benko suggests that the stress and financial burdens associated with organizing the tournaments may have dissuaded Jacqueline from holding the Piatigorsky Cup again.
Boris Spassky, winner of the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup, poses with the tournament’s sponsors. He is holding a miniature version of the trophy, which he was awarded for his victory. Phil Bath, who photographed this scene, covered the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup Tournament for Sports Illustrated magazine.
The participants in the 1963 Piatigorsky Cup Tournament gather for a photo behind the trophy. From left to right, they are: Pal Benko, Svetozar Gligoric, Fridrik Olafsson, Miguel Najdorf, Tigran Petrosian, Samuel Reshevsky, Paul Keres, and Oscar Panno.
The players in the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup tournament surround Jacqueline Piatigorsky, who is standing at the center in a white dress. Piatigorsky had difficulties securing the participation of the two Soviet players, Boris Spassky and Tigran Petrosian, so she invited more competitors from other nations. Ultimately, they were able to participate, and so she increased the field of participants from eight to ten.
Pictured from left to right: Lajos Portisch, Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, Jan Hein Donner (back), Jacqueline Piatigorsky, Bent Larsen, Miguel Najdorf, Boris Ivkov, Tigran Petrosian, and Wolfgang Unzicker. Samuel Reshevsky is missing from this photograph.
Jacqueline Piatigorsky watches Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in a posed photograph likely taken after their critical round 17 encounter. Phil Bath, a photographer, took this image while reporting on the Piatigorsky Cup for Sports Illustrated. One clue this photo was not taken during the game is that Fischer did not open with Nf3 and g3 against Spassky, but instead played his normal 1. e4.
Boris Spassky, the winner of the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup, writes on his scoresheet, in the photo on the cover of this issue of Chess Life. The article within has a colorful description of the tournament, including one anecdote about a man who was arrested at the tournament’s entrance. Unhappy that the viewing area was already at capacity, he hit National Master (NM) Jerry Hanken, a tournament official. It also described how Jacqueline had created index cards with improvements for a third Piatigorsky Cup Tournament, which ultimately was not realized.
Miguel Najdorf, Lajos Portisch, Bent Larsen, and Boris Ivkov watch Bobby Fischer and Wolfgang Unzicker analyze games at a party held at the Piatigorsky home in Los Angeles. This issue of Chess Life features an article about the tournament drawn from the text of the competition’s bulletins.
Both of the Piatigorsky Cups had daily bulletins edited by Isaac Kashdan, which offered color and light annotations to the games. Copies of the bulletins were available for purchase, and chess enthusiasts from around the world purchased them. These issues of the bulletins recount the final two rounds of the tournament, which include Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky’s drawn game. The two players’ scoresheets for this game are also on view in this exhibition.
Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky started the Piatigorsky Cup well, and after five rounds were tied for first with Lajos Portisch. However, disaster then struck for Fischer, who lost his next three games to fall two and a half points behind Spassky. Things looked bleak, but in the second half of the tournament he mounted a tremendous comeback, winning four games in a row in rounds ten through thirteen. By round sixteen he had caught Spassky. As brilliant as this performance was, Fischer was still in a near must-win situation in this game as he had black against Tigran Petrosian in the last round, while Spassky had white against Jan Hein Donner, who was at the bottom of the standings.
Born in 1943, Bobby Fischer and his legendary talent will be remembered as long as the game of chess is played. Like Spassky, with whom he would become so intrinsically linked, Fischer was recognized as a great talent at an early age at a time when prodigies were rare. U.S. Champion at fourteen and a Candidate at sixteen, it seemed like Bobby was a lock to break Mikhail Tal’s then record of age twenty-three for the youngest World Champion, but such was not to be. Like Boris Spassky, he spent a long time building his skill before taking the title in 1972 in what became known as the “Match of the Century.” This chess event captured the attention of the world in a way never since duplicated.
In retrospect, it is easy to forget that Fischer’s march to the title was not inevitable. He could have easily been derailed, and indeed before the Second Piatigorsky Cup, he had played few international tournaments following a disastrous performance at the 1962 Candidates Tournament in Curaçao.
As the Piatigorsky Cup started, this long break made Fischer’s supporters nervous. Fischer lost three games in a row in rounds six through eight, but then he mounted one of the greatest comebacks in the history of chess, scoring eight points in ten games against the best players in the world. He finished a close second to Spassky. This result provided a strong boost of confidence for Fischer, perhaps changing chess history.
Born in 1937, Boris Spassky showed great promise at an early age, making a stunning international debut at Bucharest 1953. There he tied for fourth in a strong field at the young age of only 16. A victory in the World Junior Chess Championship in 1955 and qualification to the Candidates tournament the same year suggested Spassky would soon win the title of world champion. However, it took 14 long years before he wore the crown.
Spassky was the most successful player in the world in 1965, having defeated Paul Keres, Efim Geller, and Mikhail Tal in matches. Nevertheless, he narrowly lost his first World Championship match against Tigran Petrosian in the spring of 1966 by the narrowest of margins (+3,=17,-4). He rebounded from this defeat to win the second Piatigorsky Cup, one of the greatest triumphs of his career.
Surprisingly, despite being two of the best players in the world from 1958 onwards, Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky had met over the board only once prior to the Second Piatigorsky Cup. Their first game in the Cup was played in round eight, with Boris tied for first and Bobby reeling after consecutive losses to Bent Larsen and Miguel Najdorf. It was an epic encounter in which Spassky gave a classic demonstration of the superiority of bishop over knight in the endgame.
During their second game the circumstances had changed greatly. Spassky was still in the lead, but Fischer had staged a strong comeback. Fischer had the advantage of the white pieces in what was likely to prove to be the decisive game of the tournament. Spassky had slowed down after a strong start and had only won a single game in rounds nine through sixteen. All momentum pointed in Fischer’s direction, but Spassky was equal to the challenge. His decision to use the Marshall Gambit to counter Fischer’s Ruy Lopez was an inspired choice. Black’s initiative fully compensated for the pawn deficit, and Bobby never got a hint of an advantage.
The cover of the Piatigorsky Cup Tournament program illustrates the Piatigorsky Cup trophy. Inside are biographies of the tournament participants and a schedule of events.
David Bronstein and Boris Vainstein’s book Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 is commonly held to be the best tournament book of all time, many hold the Second Piatigorsky Cup to be its superior. Originally, Bobby Fischer was intended to be the primary annotator of the book, but he was not interested. While the final product would undoubtedly have been an impressive work, the format ultimately chosen by the tournament’s organizers is equally compelling. Each of the players in the competition annotated their games.
Never before or since has an elite competition been covered in the same way, with both players annotating each game independently of one another. The result is a fascinating work in which readers get two glimpses into what is happening in each game, sometimes with the players contradicting each other. The writers provide insight into the complexity and difficulty of the game. Articles by Isaac Kashdan and Gregor Piatigorsky provide color, while the beautiful black and white photographs memorialize the competition. This book not only has a final crosstable showing the final placement of the contestants, but also a progressive crosstable, a listing of round by round results, and player and opening indices.
The participants in the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup Tournament signed their biography pages in this program for Jacqueline Piatigorsky. They perhaps did this as a gesture of gratitude to Jacqueline for organizing the tournament. Signed programs were popular souvenirs among tournament attendees.
Pictured in this article are Tigran Petrosian, the current World Chess Champion in 1966, and Boris Spassky, the future one, during a game. Spassky had challenged Petrosian, one of the winners of the 1963 Piatigorsky Cup, for the title of World Chess Champion earlier in 1966, but Petrosian defeated him. In 1969, Spassky again challenged him for the title, this time prevailing over Petrosian.
Unlike the rest of the players, the majority of whom annotated all of their games, Bobby Fischer only commented on one game for the tournament book. Later this work appeared as game fifty-four in My 60 Memorable Games, Fischer’s classic book recounting sixty of his games from 1957 to 1967. The marks in red are Fischer’s corrections in his own hand.
This photo was taken during round two of the tournament which was played at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, California, one block from the Pacific Ocean. Tigran Petrosian and Samuel Reshevsky are in the foreground. Jacqueline Piatigorsky believed that holding the tournaments in a more upscale venue would add prestige to the sport. Her meticulous attention to detail included overseeing tasks both large and small. She vacuumed the floors of the tournament room after the hotel staff neglected to, a story that was recounted in many articles about the tournament.
Bent Larsen appears contemplative at the beginning of a game that would become known as a classic. The Dane, Larsen, defeated reigning World Chess Champion Petrosian with a stunning Queen sacrifice (25. Qxg6!).
Behind the players a projection of the game can be seen, a system of displaying games designed by Jacqueline Piatigorsky herself. This method of showing the games was more efficient than the system of using wallboards with wall boys moving the pieces, which had been used in the 1963 tournament.
Bobby Fischer strikes a contemplative pose, supporting his head with his hand, before the beginning of a game. A similar photograph appears in a September 1966 article in Chess Life about the Piatigorsky Cup. The latter photo was later reproduced on the cover of My 60 Memorable Games, Bobby Fischer’s classic book which contains analysis of his games. While Bobby Fischer had gained a reputation in the 1960s for being temperamental, he appeared to enjoy himself during this tournament.
The reigning and future World Chess Champions Tigran Petrosian and Bobby Fischer battled to a draw in round nine of the 1966 tournament. Fischer is analyzing the position after Petrosian’s 20…Nc5, while Petrosian folds his arms and reclines in his chair. The clock above the wall boy shows Petrosian’s elapsed time.
Tigran Petrosian and Boris Spassky clap before the opening round of the tournament. International Master Herman Steiner designed the chess set in front of them, which features unique knights. Players used sets of this style in both the 1963 and 1966 Piatigorsky Cup tournaments. The two rivals had played a 24-game world championship match, which ended a little over a month before the start of the Piatigorsky Cup with the former prevailing 12.5-11.5.