Who Would Marry a Chess Master?

Here are some photos of various chess masters and their spouses:

 We'll start with one of the wives (he was married and divorced twice) of the 19th century Dutch polymath - and for our purposes, chess historian - Antonius van der Linde. I couldn't uncover her name.

from the Cleveland Public Library Special Collections

Soaring forward to the middle 20th century, below are photos of Mikhail Tal and his first and third wives. 23 year old Tal married a 19 year old singer/actress, Sallyi (Sally) Landau, in 1959. They divorced in 1970, after 11 years.They had a son, Gera.

Salli singing with Eddie Rosner's jazz band.

Salli on the Riga theater


Tal with Salli Landau on the day of their engagement.

Tal and Salli
Tal and Salli registering their marriage

same as above

Tal and Salli - day of engagement

Then he married another woman, from Tbilisi, whose name eludes me.  According to hearsay, the woman married Tal after a failed relationship. During the honeymoon, her former lover came to their hotel room and the woman returned to Georgia with him. Soon after, Tal married Angelina Petukhov, an employee of "Riga Shakhmaty," who was his wife until his death. They had a daughter Zhanna.

Tal with his third wife, Angelina, and daughter Zhanna.


Anatloy Karpov was twice married.

His first wife, Irina Kuimova

Irina, baby Anatoly, Anatoly

His second wife, Natalia Bulanova


Tigran Petrosian met his future and only wife, Rona Yakovlevna Avinezar, an English teacher and translator, in 1951 and they married the next year.  Rona was always considered the "woman behind the man." They had two sons, Mikhail and Vartan.

Tigran and Rona

Tigran, Rona and Mikhail Petrosian

Rona and Tigran

Like Petrosian, Viktor Korchnoi was married but once. 

Bella Korchnoi from the Icelandic "Morgunblaðið,"  June 20,1981

Bella Korchnoi with Angelina Tal

Mikhail Botvinnik was also monogamous. In 1935, the studious 25 year old Botvinnik married Gayane Anaova Davidovna, a ballerina with the Mariinsky Theater, trained at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, whom he met through her father, an instructor of mathematics. Their daughter, Olga, was born in 1942, during the great war.

Mikhail, Olga and Ganna (Gayane)

Gayane and Mikhail

Bent Larsen with his wife Lizzie in 1965

Boris Spassky was married three times. below is his second wife Larisa.

Boris Spassky shown signing the registry at the Moscow marriage office with his third wife, Marina Stcherbatcheff,  a secretary in the commercial section of the French Embassy.

Paul and Mary (Riives) Keres

Vassily Smyslov with his wife, Nadezhda in 1957

The following are well-known American players and their wives mainly from the first half of the 20th century:

Frank and Carrie Marshall

Herbert Seidman and his wife, Phoebe.
They had 2 sons, Richard and Peter.

Arnold and Nina Denker

Mr. and Mrs Reshevsky
Norma, baby, Sammy Reshevshy

Norma Reshevshy

Reuben and Emma Fine
Reuben Fine, according to his NY "Times" obituary, married 5 times. First to Charlotte Margoshes, ironically, a psychologist (according to the L.A. Times, in 1937). He married Emma Thea Kessing, the daughter of a Dutch publisher, in September of 1937. They divorced in 1944.  In 1946, he married Sonya Lebeaux. Later he married someone else and finally a woman named Marcia. Fine had 3 children, Benjamin, Ellyn and June.


  • 4 years ago


    ChocolateTeaport wrote: "In England you have female chess players marrying and divorcing male chess players multiple times"

    Without naming any names, I've heard of one case of a strong female player having a title application turned down by FIDE, because when she achieved each of the required norms she had a different surname and FIDE refused to believe that it was the same person...

  • 4 years ago


    Interesting article!Thanks.

  • 4 years ago


    Tnx Batgirl ... I guess behind all great men there's a great woman and sometimes more than one. @ NimzoRoy ... awe-inspiring! Gotta love Smyslov! 

  • 4 years ago


    I thank you for the wonderful work, Batgirl. I am always interested in history. I feel that the previous writer's point is ill-taken. He has no statistics- just anecdotal evidence. Certainly Sammy Reschevsky is an exception, and I think, Arthur Bisguier, as well. Of course, they are just anecdotal, too.

  • 4 years ago


    "There is a mistake with Tal's third wife, Angelina, who is marked under the picture as the second one."

    Thanks. I fixed it.

  • 4 years ago


    In England you have female chess players marrying and divorcing male chess players multiple times. Jana Hartson/Miles/Bellin and Susan Arkell/Lalic come to mind, but I am sure there are others. Jana traded down when she dumped Miles, but he was a bit of a nut job by then.

  • 4 years ago


    There is a mistake with Tal's third wife, Angelina, who is marked under the picture as the second one (who was the runaway bride). Also, try to imagine the lovely, fun, colorful conversations over the meals at the Reshevsky household.

    Norma: "Here, Honey, your second cup of tea!"

    Sammy: "But Dear, you spilled it over my rooks, why?"

    Norma: "We need a larger kitchen..."

    It would be nice to see more of this, like Capa, Alekhine...

  • 4 years ago


    Nice for peace and quiet ;)

  • 4 years ago


    I wouldnt marry a chess master but id love to marry a chess queen. Sadly shes taken.bhuhuhu.

  • 4 years ago


    Nice collections

  • 4 years ago


    Here's a few random chess wife anecdotes:

    Spassky explained the failure of his first marriage thusly: "We were like Bishops of opposite colors."

    Smyslov was told by the Soviet authorities he could only be accompanied by one person to the 4th Capablanca Memorial International Chess Tournament (I think) held in Havana, Cuba in 1965. He chose his wife instead of a second. The Soviet chess federation told him to take a second instead because he could always find female companionship in Cuba, but he took his wife anyway and won 1st place ahead of Fischer, in addition to beating him in their game. Go figure...

  • 4 years ago


    so punny

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    The only thing chess players have in common is chess.  

  • 4 years ago


    It would seem from this sample that chess players go from one mate to another more often than the general population.

    They also don't seem to have that manny children, so most of their successful mating seems to be over the board.

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