Hungarian chess grandmaster Lilienthal dies at 99

Mon May 10, 2010 1:12pm EDT
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By Sandor Peto

BUDAPEST (Reuters Life!) - Andor Lilienthal, the oldest chess grandmaster in the world who beat half of the world champions of the 20th century, has died at the age of 99, the Hungarian Chess Association (HCA) said Monday.

After a long life which made him a legend of world chess, he died Saturday in Budapest, the Hungarian capital which also gave the Polgar sisters to world chess and one of whose landmarks is chess being played in the historic Szechenyi bath.

Silver medalist with Hungary at the chess Olympiad in 1937, Soviet champion in 1940, Lilienthal rivaled world champions for decades, knew all the top players and has been known by all.

"He was an infinitely good man, perhaps that's why he lived so long," HCA President Peter Kunos said. "He played against all the world champions in his active period."

And he beat them. Emanuel Lasker, Jose Raul Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov all lost games against Lilienthal.

He was born in Moscow to Hungarian Jewish parents, but lived in Hungary from the age of two in a poor family.

The love of chess and hunger together made the child Lilienthal learn the game as he wrote in his book "My life is chess," which has been translated into several languages.

"When I fell in love with chess, I would have given my last penny so as to learn it. Later I played because, as we the young said "I needed the dough," he wrote. "I went from cafe to cafe. I lived from one day to the other, for chess and from chess."   Continued...