Sore Losers in Chess

The Reverand Arthur Skipworth was a poor loser.  He had the habit of suddenly getting "ill" when he lost a few games, then would petition the tournament committee to return his entry fee due to his poor health.  He dropped out of the BCA London tournament in 1868 after a few losses.  In 1883, he lost his second game to Motimer in the BCA tournament in London, then said he was in ill-health and wanted his deposit money back, which they returned to him.  In 1886, he dropped out of a Nottingham tournament after losing his first 2 games (his first game was adjourned in a lost position, but he would not resign), claiming ill health and asked for his entry fee back.  In 1888, he dropped out of a Bradford tournament after a few losses, claiming illness.  He did that throughout his chess career. (sources: The Chess Monthly, 1887, p. 98 and - Skipworth).

In 1895, Curt von Bardeleben refused to witness his king captured against Steinitz (Steinitz demonstrated a mate in 10 moves) and walked out of the room to lose on time rather than resign.  A combination on the 25th move that would have led to mate was allegedly too much for Bardeleben.  He stood up and silently walked out of the room and didn’t come back.   He lost the game on time after 50 minutes.  Contemporary accounts wrote that  Bardeleben was actually disturbed by the applause during the tournament.  (sources: R.C. Griffith, 'Chess Reminiscenses,' British Chess Magazine, April 1932; Chess Life and Review, Feb 1971, p. 66; Hooper and Whyld, The Oxford Companion to Chess, 2nd edition, p.28; Reinfeld, Great Brilliancy Prize Games of The Chess Masters, p.24; Johnson, White King and Red Queen, p. 62)

In 1895, Tarrasch was a sore loser by blaming the "lassitude from the effects of the sea air" on his losses.  He blamed the climate when he lost in Duesseldorf in 1908 (American Chess Bulletin, vol 5, 1908, p. 207)

In 1904, Frank Marshall defeated David Janowski in a match in Paris.  Janowski acted like a sore loser and wrote to Marshall, “I consider the result of our match far from proving our respective abilities.  On the contrary, as in the great majority of games, I allowed the win or draw to escape me.  I am persuaded that normally I should have won very easily.  I therefore challenge you to a return match on the following conditions – The first winner of 10 games to be declared the winner, draws not to count.  I also offer you the advantage of 4 points; that is to say, my first 4 wins are not to count.  Stakes not to exceed 5,000 francs.” (source: American Chess Bulletin, vol 2, 1905, p. 27)

Lenin was a chess player, but gave it up because he was a sore loser.  Maxim Gorky wrote that Lenin “grew angry when he lost, even sulking rather childishly.” (source: L. Fischer, The Life of Lenin, 1964)

In 1915, a chess automaton was set up at Coney Island.  One sore loser lost to it and was so angry he took out a gun and shot at the automaton.  It killed its hidden operator, which was covered up.  In another incident with Ajeeb, a Westerner emptied his six-shooter into the automaton, hitting the operator in the shoulder. (source: New York Times, January 1929)

One lady who lost the the Ajeeb automaton was so enraged that they stuck a hatpin into the automaton, stabbing its operator in the mouth." (source: Time magazine, Feb 4, 1929)

In 1918, Aron Nimzowitsch lost a blitz game in Berlin, and allegedly leapt on the table and shouted, “Gegen diesen Idioten muss ich verlieren!" (Why must I lose to this idiot!) (sources: Reinfeld, The Treasury of Chess Lore, p, 128; Schonberg, Grandmasters of Chess, p. 27)

At Vienna in 1922, Alekhine resigned  in a game against Gruenfeld by throwing the king across the room.  (sources: Reinfeld, The Treasury of Chess Lore, p. 130-131; Schoneberg, Grandmasters of Chess, p. 27)

In 1923, Alekhine smashed all the furniture in his hotel room after losing a game to Rudolf Spielmann. (sources: The Rotarian 1955, vol 86, No. 4, p. 56; Schoneberg, Grandmasters of Chess, p. 27; The New Yorker, 1972)

In 1927 at Kecskemet, Hans Mueller, a poor loser, waited until it was time to seal a move.  Instead of sealing a move, he wrote, 'aufgegeben' (I resign) and never showed up for the adjournemtn. (source: Reinfeld, The Treasury of Chess Lore, p. 130)

In the 1940s Marlon Brando (Bobby Fischer's favorite actor) moved from Illinois to New York and was an average chess player, but poor loser.  Whenever he lost a game of chess, he would knock all the pieces off the board and say, “I’m bored.”

In 1950, Walter Bjornson of Vancouver was cut with a knife by his opponent during a chess game, leaving a 4 inch gash in his forearm.  His opponent, a sore loser, attacked Walter after losing a game. (source: Chess Review, 1951. p. 38)

In 1954, Fedor Dus-Chotimirsky took a move back that would have lost the game to David Bronstein in Moscow.  Fedor siad, "Hey, I just made a bad move and now I am changing it to a good one.  To hell with the rules.  this is chess!" (source: Bronstein, 200 Open Games, p. 9)

In 1959, a Soviet scientist killed another Soviet scientist at a Soviet research station in Vostok, Antarctica after a chess game argument.  The losing player got so mad, he killed his opponent with an axe.  After the incident, the Soviets banned chess at their Antarctic stations. (sources: The Antarctic Legal Regime, p. 67; Terra Incognita: Travels in Antactica; The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antactica)

In June 1960, an American sailor, Michael George, got into a fight at a Greenwich Village bar, Chumley's, when a spectator criticized the sailor’s chess game after he lost.  The sailor struck the spectator (Clinton Curtis) with a broken beer bottle, which cut his jugular vein.  The sailor was eventually acquitted of murder and charged with accidental death instead. (source: New York Times, June 2, 1960)

In 1969, Danny Kopec, who later became an International Master, lost a game to a person he beat in his first tournament.  In a temper tantrum, he threw all his chess sets and magazines down an incinerator. (source: Kopec's blog)

In 1974, I directed a chess tournament in Agana, Guam.  In the first round, a 13-year old boy checkmated an older man in about 15 moves after 10 minutes of play.  The man, a poor loser, took his arm and swept off all the plastic pieces onto the floor, disturbing everyone else, and walking out.  He never returned. (source: Bill Wall; tournament results appeared in Chess Life & Review, Oct, 1974, p. 666)

In 1979, Patrick McKenna, a prisoner in Nevada, strangled his Las Vegas cellmate, Jack J. Nobles, after an argument over a chess game in which he lost.  At age 63, he has been on death row for over 30 years.  He was denied the latest in a long line of appeals. (sources: Crime & Capital Punishment blog; The Pacific Reporter, 1986, p. 616)

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union banned cosmonauts from playing chess in space with each other (they can play against ground control personnel) after a fist fight once broke out between cosmonauts after one of the cosmonauts lost his game to the other cosmonaut.

In 1987, I was playing in the final round in Las Vegas at the National Open against a poor sportsman and sore loser.  He showed up at the board 1/2 hour late, refused to shake hands, complained that I started his clock (legal) without making a move first, then said, "Good luck.  You are going to need it."  When I was about to queen a pawn, he left the tournament room, but stayed by the door, wishing the clock would run out, then returned, poured a cup of ice on my board and pieces, then stormed out. (source Bill Wall, Wall-Stehr, National Open, Rd 5, Mar 15, 1987).

GM Eduard Gufeld was a nice guy in person, but was a poor loser in chess.  When he lost, he refused to shake hands and occasionally insulted his opponents with remarks like, "He plays like a first category player," or "I will not shake the hand of a friend of a traitor to the Motherland."

In 1992, Robert Bryan of England shot Matthew Hay over a chess game.  Bryan had ‘had enough’ after losing to Hay and was jailed for 10 years after admitting attempting to murder Mr. Hay by shooting him in the neck with a shotgun. (source: The Independent, Dec 9, 1992)

In 1994, Martin Wirth of Fort Collins, Colorado, shot to death Vernie Cox after the two argued over a chess game.  Cox died of two gunshot wounds to the chest.  Witnesses said that Wirth had lost a chess game with Cox, knocked over the chess board and some furniture, then began to argue with his opponent.  Wirth went across the street to his home and returned with a gun and shot Cox to death. (source: Boulder Daily Camera, Aug 16, 1994)

In the 1990s, Soviet Grandmaster Semion Dvoirys threw his shoe across a tournament hall in the Netherlands after he lost a game.  He was known to beat his head on the floor with great force when he lost. (source: - the chess games of Semion Dvoirys)

In 1997, when Kasparov lost to IBM’s Deep blue, he stormed off like a sore loser. (source: New York Daily News, May 12, 1997)

In 2000, Laurence Douglas stabbed Craig Williams to death over a chess game in Poughkeepsie, New York.  Williams beat Douglas in a chess game that had a $5 wager.  Williams took a $5 bill from Douglas after the game and Douglas then stabbed Williams 16 times. (source: Associated Press, May 12, 2000)

In 2003, Kasparov lost to Teimour Radjabov by storming away from the board and lost on time rather than resign in a clearly lost position.  He refused to shake hands or do a post game analysis.  Later, Radjabov was awarded the brilliancy prize, but Kasparov walked up on the stage, grabbed the microphone, and launched a 10 minute tirade at the journalists, saying the award was a public insult and humiliation because Radjabov was completely lost in the game. (source: Chessbase News, Mar 11, 2003)

Victor Korchnoi lost to Irina Krush in Gibraltar in 2007 and acted like a sore loser.  He left the playing area without saying anything, but then saw her analyzing the game with a friend.  He went up to Irina and insulted her, saying, “It’s good to know theory, but you should learn how to play chess as well.” (source: Korchnoi-Krush, Gibralter 2007)

In January 2008, Zachary Lucov was playing chess with Dennis Klien in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, when a scuffle broke out after a game.  Lucov, a sore loser, pulled out a gun and Klein was shot in the elbow. Lucov was arrested for aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. (source: Tribune Review, Jan 25, 2008)


In October 2008, David Christian of Iowa City got in a fight with Michael Steward while playing a game of chess at the rooming house where they both lived.  He was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.  Christian choked Steward to death after losing a game of chess. (source: KCRG News, Oct 13, 2009)


In December 2008, a man was so upset in losing a chess match, that he threw his opponent out the window.  It happened in Gloazov, Russian Republic of Udmurtia.  43-year-old Aleksey Valentikhin lost several games to a 60-year-old pensioner neighbor.  He got so mad that Aleksey threw his opponent from his second floor window.  The pensioner broke several bones and later died.  Valentikham was sentenced to 6 years in prison. (source: Susan Polgar blog, April 24, 2009)


In February 2009, a man killed a friend with a sword after he lost a chess game in Alameda, California.  An argument broke out after their game, and the two started wrestling.  Joseph Groom retreated to his bedroom and returned with a sword, which he used to stab Kelly Kjersem once.  Kjersem later died. (sources: Oakland Tribune, Feb 5, 2009; Mercury News, Feb 4, 2009)

On August 11, 2011, two people were stabbed at a Chuy’s Restaurant in Phoenix after police say a person got mad over a game of chess.  Officers at the scene said two people were playing a game, but when one person won the game the other person, a sore loser,  got mad and stabbed the winner twice.  The victim’s friend jumped in and tried to help, but he was also stabbed. (source: ABC, Aug 12, 2011)

On the Internet, many losers blame it on a mouse slip or complain that the winner made some strange moves and must have gotten help.

Many sore losers just let the clock run out once they realize they have lost.







  • 10 days ago


    I love Bronstien idea of thinking of the other person on the side of the board as a partner in creating Chess art rather than an opponent to be beat. Since, taking this attitude, I even get disappointed with a clear blunder by my partner as it spoils the beauty of our shared space. Sore losers have too much identity in winning and not as much in actually playing the game. In any Chess career, you win, you lose and you draw, but the glories of a great combination is timeless no matter what side you are on. 

  • 3 years ago


    Great article! The worst sport i every knew was a friend from high school who everytime he lost would start at the board silently for about a minute then suddenly he would make a scream as he also scattered all the piece from the board. It actually made for a great show and gave me extra incentive to beat him. Away from the chessboard he was one of the nicest people i have ever met.

  • 4 years ago


    good read, almost funny if some of the stories weren't so tragic.  Who would throw a pensioner out of a window???
    When I lose it's either because I'm outplayed or I make a stupid mistake, I do get angry if it's the latter but not with the opponent, it's my own stupid fault. 

  • 4 years ago


    The game where Alekhine lost to Gruenfeld is according to my book on the Gruenfeld the first game with the Gruenfeld Defence.

  • 4 years ago


    I do not think any top (or non-top as a matter of fact) GMs would appreciate loud applause in the background during their games...

    "At this point (applause), Mr Steinitz (applause, cheering ovation) announced that he (applause and cheering) would present a mate (applause) in 35 moves (applause and endless ovation)."

  • 4 years ago

    NM GargleBlaster

    Von Bardeleben's method of protesting audience applause at Hastings might have been poor sportsmanship, but going from there to calling him a "loser at life" for commiting suicide 29 years later (and 13 years since his last recorded chess game) during the great depression in postwar Germany seems a little crass. I mean, why not while we're at it call Schlechter a "loser" as well for starving to death in 1918 and imply it was the logical sequence of events ever since he yelled at a waiter in 1893 for overcooking a schnitzel?

    Also, and I suspect I'm howling in the wind on this, but both of the OP's anecdotes about Alekhine cite either Reinfeld and/or Schoneberg, two of the most notoriously inaccurate chess "historians" in, well, the history of chess.  This is akin to me claiming Kasparov is an alien from the planet Nimzo Five in the Bogo Cluster of the Chotimirsky Nebula and naming Ilyumzhinov as my source.

  • 4 years ago


    I'm always respectful to my opponents - whether I win or lose my game... sportsmanship is a good quality for chess players to have, don't let a loss get to you - study the game and learn from it, it's actually much more satisfying shaking your opponents hand at the end of the game than throwing a tantrum :)

  • 4 years ago


    Wow, that was certainly an interesting read. Never realized chess could be that dangerous!

  • 4 years ago


    Well chess is just a game, there is no need to lose the temper after loss.
    Everytime I feel I am completely lost, I just resigned.

    Anyway nice article. I will not become like those sore loser!

  • 4 years ago


    "He got crushed in his match with Capablanca, who I think was about twenty years old at the time, ten or eleven years Marshall's junior. He must have taken the loss pretty well, as he subsequently became a real supporter of Capablanca."

    Yes, and it was Marshall that convinced the organizers that Capa should be admitted into the San Sebastian tournament in 1911, which Capa won over a strong field, including a win over sore loser Janowski (who to his credit had a draw in hand but pushed for the win), and a draw against Marshall.

  • 4 years ago


    Wait a minute, billwall! Did you say 2nd floor?! Von Bardeleben jumped from the second floor? You'd think he would have at least jumped from a third or fourth floor window, ya' know just to be sure...... These sore losers certainly are entertaining, but maybe as a counterpoint you could do an article on gracious winners. Frank Marshall might be in this catagory. He got crushed in his match with Capablanca, who I think was about twenty years old at the time, ten or eleven years Marshall's junior. He must have taken the loss pretty well, as he subsequently became a real supporter of Capablanca.  Soltis and Bisguier in American Chess Masters from Morphy to Fischer said "Probably no American champion took more pleasure out of playing chess, as opposed to winning, than did Frank Marshall. He would rather lose the game than lose the chance for brilliancy".

  • 4 years ago


    So wait... A shotgun to the neck results in ATTEMPTED murder?  Matt Hay's a boss.

  • 4 years ago


    Ugh, sore losers are so irksome, they're usually the worst kind of loser. 

  • 4 years ago


    How about chess boards with drawers for duelling pistols?

  • 4 years ago


    I call just letting time run out the" Boredom Gambit"  hoping to bore their opponent to death  it's a game have fun!!

  • 4 years ago


    We've got a sore loser in our club. The guy is an insufferable bore arguing over everything and quite frankly I'm concerned that there might be a new incident to add to your list.

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    and many sore loosers not answer anything if you say exemle thx or gg

  • 4 years ago


    But then you only have to cut the power, nobody gets hurt.

  • 4 years ago


    It's no fun to lose, especially against the computer rated 2000.

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