Sunday, December 25, 2011

Death at the Board

Image credit: Bergman's The Seventh Seal
There are many stories of chess players dying at  the board, but not too many confirmed instances. Raphael (who asked his last name be withheld) had emailed me that his grandfather, the Jewish player Benno Puder, had died playing chess. From his email (my translation): 
My grandfather, Benno Puder, was a chess enthusiast and player. My mother believes he was the senior champion of Switzerland, but I have found no formal proof. Here is a link to a tournament in his memory [a junior blitz tournament -- A. P.] in Basel. 
In Passover 1995 family and friends, as usual, rented an hotel in the French Alps for the holiday. That year it was in Aix Le Bains. One day my grandfather played with a grandchild -- not actually a grandchild, but the grandson of a couple he saved during the [second world] war and smuggled from France to Switzerland, and since then the family histories are intertwined. After he hasn't moved for a while, Samuel said, "grandpa -- your turn!", and then noticed his head is slumped on the board..."
I emailed the Swiss Chess Federation to see if they know anything about Puder's senior championship, and will also check Jeremy Gaige's indispensable sources when I get home. But if any reader knows anything I would be grateful. I add that the in passim note in Raphael's email about how Puder saved people from near-certain death, risking his own life, during WWII tells us more about the man than his chess career does!

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