List of chess-related deaths

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As with most games that have a long history, chess has been associated with a number of anecdotes, and some relate to games that have resulted in the murder of one of the players involved. The reliability of many of these anecdotes is suspect, but some appear to be based in fact.


Bavarian prince

Possibly the anecdote with the most supporting evidence is given in the book Chess or the King's game (1616) by Augustus, Duke of Lüneburg, who claimed to have obtained it from an old Bavarian Chronicle, then in the library of Marcus Welsor but now lost. The anecdote states that Okarius (also spelt Okar or Otkar), the prince of Bavaria, had a son of great promise residing at the Court of King Pippin. One day Pippin's son was playing chess with the young Prince of Bavaria, and became so enraged at repeatedly losing that he hit the prince on the temple with one of his rooks and killed him on the spot. This anecdote is repeated in another Bavarian Chronicle, and in a work by Metellus of Tegernsee about Saint Quirin and other documents refer to his death while at Pippin's court.

Earl Ulf

King Canute (c. 9941035) of Denmark, England and Norway, is said by some to have ordered an earl killed after a disagreement about a chess game. By one account, the king made an illegal move that angered Earl Ulf, who knocked over the board and stormed off, after which the king sent someone to kill him.[1]

Murderous origins in Near East

In one likely apocryphal story about the origin of chess, the King of Hind commissioned a peasant or minister to create a strategy game of surpassing quality. Pleased with the result, the king asked the inventor to name his price. The inventor gave the king a choice, his own weight in gold, or, the king could put one grain of rice on the first square of the board, two on the second, 4 on the 3rd, and keep on doubling the number of grains for every one of the 64 squares. The king hastily chose the second option. Somewhere around square 32, he came to a realization that there was not enough rice in the kingdom. Upon realizing that he could not possibly pay the debt, the king chose to kill the inventor.

According to Ray Kurzweil, the first half of the chessboard would have represented some 100,000 kg of rice, while the second half would have required 460 billion tonnes, some six times the mass of all life on Earth.[2]

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