Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

John Paul II and Chess

Pope John Paul II has been much in the news lately, and since he has a reputation as a chess aficionado, I thought I'd look up some of his contributions to the game and pass them along.

Browsing the web, I came across a mate in two (scroll to the bottom of the page); a chess analogy (when the pickings are slim, one has to dig deep), and an actual game.

Or so I thought. According to Mike Fox and Richard James's 1993 revised edition of The Even More Complete Chess Addict, pp. 16-17, the game and at least one problem attributed to the Pope were merely hoaxes, perpetrated by an unnamed Frenchman. On the other hand, the late Argentian GM Miguel Najdorf - a native of Poland, like the Pope - insisted that John Paul II did play and actually published a book of problems. On the third hand (why stop at two?), however, a search of Harold van der Heijden's magnificent and nearly comprehensive Study Database showed no entries for Wojtyla.

So, while it would be nice to see the creativity of John Paul II as expressed over the chessboard, it appears that we don't have any trustworthy examples to evaluate. If anyone knows more about the matter, however, their comments are more than welcome!


  • At 2:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In the first edition of Batsford Chess Openings by Kasparov & Keene, there is the footnote to one line suggesting that it was played by the future Pope John Paul II.

    The line is: 1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Bg5 Nbd7! 4. Nf3 h6 5. Bh4 e6 6. e4 g5! (Zartobliwy-Wojtyla, Cracow 1946).

    It does not appear in the second edition!

  • At 3:24 AM, Blogger Dennis Monokroussos said…

    Fox and James mention that footnote - it's part of the since-debunked Frenchman's hoax mentioned in the main post.

    Too bad!

  • At 5:16 PM, Blogger David Glickman said…

    Dennis - Follow the link in this post to two games claimed to be played by the Pope. I can not vouch for their authenticity.


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