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Georges Koltanowski
Photograph circa 1975; courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.  
Number of games in database: 415
Years covered: 1921 to 1994

Overall record: +102 -47 =71 (62.5%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 195 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Queen's Pawn Game (65) 
    D05 D04 A46 E00 A40
 Two Knights (39) 
    C55 C56
 Orthodox Defense (21) 
    D51 D63 D50 D62 D52
 Sicilian (17) 
    B20 B22 B60 B32 B27
 Caro-Kann (13) 
    B13 B12 B14 B10 B15
 Nimzo Indian (12) 
    E38 E43 E40 E36 E22
With the Black pieces:
 King's Indian (31) 
    E60 E67 E72 E61 E94
 Philidor's Defense (16) 
 Grunfeld (7) 
    D95 D82 D92 D80 D85
 Queen's Pawn Game (7) 
    A50 D00 D04 A45 A41
 Ruy Lopez (7) 
    C73 C64 C87
 Two Knights (5) 
    C55 C58 C59
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Koltanowski vs M Defosse, 1936 1-0
   Koltanowski vs A Dunkelblum, 1923 1-0
   Koltanowski vs NN, 1946 1-0
   Koltanowski vs K Diller, 1960 1-0
   Koltanowski vs Day, 1960 1-0
   Koltanowski vs J J O'Hanlon, 1937 1-0
   Koltanowski vs J Salazar, 1940 1-0
   Koltanowski vs NN, 1945 1-0
   Koltanowski vs D Saxton, 1940 1-0
   Koltanowski vs W Nolan, 1960 1-0

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   The Hague Olympiad (1928)
   Hastings 1928/29 (1928)
   Hastings 1935/36 (1935)
   Paris Unofficial Olympiad (1924)
   Paris (1929)
   London (1932)
   London Olympiad (1927)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Kolty's Single, Double, & TRIPLE KP Attack by fredthebear
   Kolty's Single, Double, & TRIPLE KP Attack by A1Rajjpuut
   Sicil Defense Richter-Rauzer B60s by fredthebear
   Kolty's Jolt of the QP by fredthebear
   QP Games by Jersey Joe
   Koltanowski 56-board blindfold-simul 1960 /gauer by fredthebear
   1960 Koltanowski 56-board blindfold-simul by gauer
   Dudley's Colle System Classics (Koltanowski c3) by fredthebear
   colle & related systems by gmlisowitz
   Colle & related systems by yiotta
   CapasDumberBro's Colle System by CapasDumberBro

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Georges Koltanowski
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(born Sep-17-1903, died Feb-05-2000, 96 years old) Belgium (federation/nationality United States of America)

[what is this?]

Georges Gustave Koltanowski was born on the 17th of September 1903 in Antwerp, Belgium. He was awarded the IM title in 1950, an honorary GM title in 1988 and became an International Arbiter in 1960. The USCF also gave him the title of "The Dean of American Chess". More than a player, "Kolty" was also an exhibitor, writer, promoter and showman. Occasionally, he edited a column for newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle, Kitchener Record & others in those syndication chains.

His best tournament wins were Antwerp 1932, Barcelona 1934 and Barcelona 1935. He was Belgian Champion in 1923, 1927, 1930 and 1936.

In spite of his over-the-board prowess, "Kolty" was best known for his exploits in simultaneous blindfold play. When his exhibitions were over, as a finale, he would often recite the complete moves of the games without looking at the board.

Among his many notable blindfold demonstrations, one that is particularly noteworthy is his performance in 1937 at Edinburgh Scotland. There, he played 34 games simultaneously without sight of the boards, scoring +24 =10 in thirteen and a half hours, a world record.

Another record-setting exhibition took place on December 4 1960, in San Francisco, California, where Koltanowski played 56 consecutive games blindfolded, with only ten seconds per move. He won fifty and drew six games.

Koltanowski was one of many masters who chose not to return to Europe after the 1939 Olympiad in Argentina, which coincided with the outbreak of World War II. When the Nazis overran Belgium, several of his family members perished in the Holocaust. Koltanowski was in Guatemala at the time and was allowed to immigrate to the United States, due partly because a chess-playing consul in Cuba had been amazed by one of his exhibitions.

He directed the 1947 US Open, the first time the Swiss System was used for that event, and was greatly responsible for popularizing the Swiss System for tournaments in the US. His last International appearances were playing for the US Olympiad team of 1952 and a match against Henri Grob in 1953.

He was President of the USCF from 1975 to 1978.

(1) Wikipedia article: George Koltanowski

 page 1 of 17; games 1-25 of 416  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Tchabritch vs Koltanowski ½-½331921Blindfold simul, 2bC25 Vienna
2. E Sapira vs Koltanowski 0-1391921ch?C48 Four Knights
3. Koltanowski vs Colle 1-0301922BEL-chA03 Bird's Opening
4. A Dunkelblum vs Koltanowski  0-1381922Belgium chC64 Ruy Lopez, Classical
5. Colle vs Koltanowski 0-1711923BEL-chE60 King's Indian Defense
6. Koltanowski vs Colle  1-0501923BEL-chA10 English
7. Koltanowski vs V Soultanbeieff 1-0261923BEL-chC49 Four Knights
8. Koltanowski vs Colle 1-0411923rapid playA01 Nimzovich-Larsen Attack
9. Koltanowski vs A Dunkelblum 1-0151923AntwerpB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
10. Duchamp vs Koltanowski 0-1301923BrusselsD85 Grunfeld
11. Koltanowski vs Colle ½-½291923National Interclub ChampionshipA01 Nimzovich-Larsen Attack
12. Koltanowski vs Schmidt  1-0301924SimulA43 Old Benoni
13. Koltanowski vs A Dunkelblum 1-0271924Blindfold simul, 10bC55 Two Knights Defense
14. Koltanowski vs S Takacs  ½-½531924MeranoD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
15. Colle vs Koltanowski 0-1401924MeranoD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
16. S Rosselli del Turco vs Koltanowski  1-0241924MeranoB10 Caro-Kann
17. Rubinstein vs Koltanowski 1-0311924MeranoD15 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
18. Koltanowski vs A Selezniev  ½-½411924MeranoC25 Vienna
19. Gruenfeld vs Koltanowski  1-0311924MeranoA41 Queen's Pawn Game (with ...d6)
20. G Patay vs Koltanowski  0-1521924MeranoA40 Queen's Pawn Game
21. Spielmann vs Koltanowski 1-0441924MeranoB13 Caro-Kann, Exchange
22. Koltanowski vs Opocensky  ½-½251924MeranoB13 Caro-Kann, Exchange
23. Koltanowski vs L Steiner  0-1271924MeranoD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
24. Euwe vs Koltanowski 1-0411924BEL-NEDD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
25. J Schulz Sr vs Koltanowski  ½-½641924Paris Unofficial OlympiadC41 Philidor Defense
 page 1 of 17; games 1-25 of 416  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Koltanowski wins | Koltanowski loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 5 OF 5 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Sep-17-13  Abdel Irada: <HeMateMe: George is no longer with us, though I'm sure he'd be willing to play the whole site at blindfold chess, were it technically possible.>

What, you've never heard of a seance?

(To save time, we can summon Kolty and Zaphod Beeblebrox IV simultaneously.)

Sep-17-13  Nosnibor: The casual game played against Love in 1949 deserves a mention. Good old Koltanowski did a favour for Dr.Ezra Love who within 12 months of this game died from tuberculosis.This game was played by correspondence and Dr Ezra who was not a strong player wanted to beat his father,Ezra Love Senior and therefore came to an arrangement with Kolty for him to make the moves on his behalf while masquerading as the player competing against his father.He had never beaten his father before.In July 1949 just before the end of the game he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and transferred to Sunny Acres TB Sanitorium in Providence R.I.At that point he broke the news to his father and told him that in reality he was playing a master and not his son.On the 11th February 1852 Ezra Love Senior wrote to Koltanowski as follows:-" Dear Koltanowski On your move 21 RxB! you are,after such a long wait receving two resignations...My son passed away... and I too am lost...Thanks for a splendid gameand for giving my son his first victory over his dad.It made him happy.Sincerely yours.Ezra Love Sr."(Source BCM PAGES122/123,1951)
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: R.I.P. Koltanowski.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: Back in 1952, Kolty hosted a chess program on radio station KPFA of Berkeley, California, commencing each Friday night at 9.00 pm. He played a game against the station's listeners, and then analysed the game in future broadcasts. Would anyone know for how long this program ran on KPFA?
Jul-24-14  diagonal:
<George Koltanowski: Father of Northern California Chess>
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: R.I.P. blindfold chess legend, Georges Koltanowski.
Sep-17-14  docbenway: Koltanowski was an official at a Paul Masson Winery Chess Tournament in the early 1970s and was drawn to a table where 2 guys were playing Las Vegas Chess and slamming the plastic container so hard into the table it seems they would soon drive it right through. He watched for a few moments and bent forward to quietly say, "Gentlemen, maybe somebody would like to play after you." They corrected in mid stream but he was already gone.
Sep-17-14  parisattack: <GrahamClayton: Back in 1952, Kolty hosted a chess program on radio station KPFA of Berkeley, California, commencing each Friday night at 9.00 pm. He played a game against the station's listeners, and then analysed the game in future broadcasts. Would anyone know for how long this program ran on KPFA?>

The medium is the message, and Kolty appears to have used them all successfully. I have an old LP record "Koltanowski Teaches Chess - Part 1 - My Approach to the Game." It is quite a hoot, as they say in the midwest.

Sep-17-14  Lighthorse: In the late 1960s, they had a TV program on PBS here in NY with him that I watched faithfully called "Koltanowski on Chess." I still remember he had one lesson on how to do blindfold chess. I tried his method, but never could master it. I also remember his comment that they banned blindfold chess in the USSR, but didn't they realize that imagining moves over a chessboard is almost the same thing?
Sep-17-14  Lighthorse: Although I lost my notes long ago from the Koltanowski TV show, I did memorize this one great problem he showed. Here it is for posterity:

Initial position:

click for larger view

White to play and mate with the c2 pawn without capturing any of the black pawns or allowing them to move.

Here is the solution:
1.Qd1 Kh8 2.Qa1 Kg8 3.Ng3 Kh8 4.Ng2 Kg8 5.Ne2 Kh8 6.Ne1 Kg8 7.Nc1 Kh8 8.Rf8+ Kg7 9.R6f7+ Kh6 10.Rh8+ Kg5 11.Bh4+ Kg4 12.Bf5+ Kf4 13.Ncd3+ Ke3 14.Qb2 Kd2 15.Kf2 Kd1 16.Kf3 Kd2 17.Ra7 Kd1 18.Ra6 Kd2 19.Bg4 Kd1 20.Kg2+ Kd2

click for larger view

21.c4+ Ke3 22.Qc1+ Ke4 23.Bf3+ Kf5 24.Qg5+ Ke6 25.Bg4+ Kf7 26.Bh5+ Ke6 27.Rh6+ Kd7 28.Qd8+ Kc6 29.c5

click for larger view

29...Kb7 30.Qa8+ Kc7 31.Bd8+ Kd7 32.c6#

click for larger view

Sep-25-14  parisattack: Very nice puzzle <Lighthorse>! Thanks for sharing.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: A comment from Koltanowski's report on the 1969 US Open ("Chess Life & Review", November 1969, p.438):

<"A number of players, including a former U.S. Champion, do not resign but just get up and leave the room, allowing their time to run out. And they call themselves "masters!">

Inquiring minds want to know who the U.S. Champion was. If Koltanowski meant somebody at the tournament, it would have been either Arthur Bisguier or Arnold Denker. Had he been speaking in general, he could also have meant Sanuel Reshevsky, Larry Evans, or Robert Fischer.

I have a suspect or two, but facts would be better.

Aug-30-15  TheFocus: Blindfold chess, huh?

I never could see it.

Aug-30-15  TheFocus: <Had he been speaking in general, he could also have meant Sanuel Reshevsky, Larry Evans, or Robert Fischer.>

Not Fischer. He only lost two games by running out of time.

And Fischer wasn't playing in U.S. Opens by 1969.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: No, we can be sure it wasn't Fischer. In the first place, it would have been widely commented upon and become general knowledge.

And in the second place, it would have become the fashion.

Aug-30-15  NeverAgain: And in the third place, you can hardly expect to be taken seriously if you start citing Koltanowski as a reliable source.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: Yes, Koltanowski was never one to let facts stand in the way of a good story. But this sounds more like the complaint of an aggrieved tournament official, or perhaps an older man disgusted with the morals of the young generation.

And, in any event, it must be better to look into the statement rather than rejecting it outright simply because Koltanowski said it.

Feb-21-16  bengalcat47: <docbenway> I'm curious about "Las Vegas Chess." Is this a drinking man's variation of chess, or is there gambling on the game's outcome? Just wondering is all.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: <parisattack>
I have an old LP record "Koltanowski Teaches Chess - Part 1 - My Approach to the Game." It is quite a hoot, as they say in the midwest.

Here is the album cover - was there ever a Volume 2 released?

Jun-04-17  ChessHigherCat: <Lighthorse: White to play and mate with the c2 pawn without capturing any of the black pawns or allowing them to move.>

That's a cool puzzle but you should say "White to mate with the c pawn" (not c2 pawn), because I thought it was necessary to play c2 to c3 or c4 with a discovered check and mate.

Apr-14-18  wordfunph: from Chess Digest Magazine 1971 May by Koltanowski..


In a foreign cafe two excitable gentlemen were playing chess, White giving the odds of Queen's Rook. After some opening moves White played his King from K to QB1.

"One square at a time," explained Black.

"Not at all" retorted White. "I castled Queen's side."

"Castle" cried Black. "Why you haven't a Rook!"

"I give the odds of a Rook," loftily replied the other, "but that doesn't prevent my castling with the ghost of my Rook."

Personally I thought the move if not actually bad, at least innocuous; but White knew its psychological value. His adversary was so nettled at what he termed a low-down trick that, making one mistake after another. He speedily lost. A heated discussion ensued. Just as a free fight seemed inevitable they started a second game, at the same odds. Irregular scarcely describes the opening. After some startling and costly maneuvers.. Black succeeded in playing his Bishop to White's vacant QR square. When, by sheer good luck, he had got it safely away again he leant back in his chair and surveyed the onlookers with undisguised satisfaction.

I ventured to remark that I did not entirely follow his play.

"Ah!" he replied in an audible whisper. "Let him try to castle now. He hasn't even the ghost of a Rook!">

Aug-11-18  JimNorCal: <tjshann>: ... (Kolty) put on an amazing exhibition of memory--he asked members of the audience to name any object, and wrote in the name of each object on a square on a display chessboard. After studying the board for a minute or so, he turned around and asked someone to put a knight on any square (e.g., on "car keys") He then proceeded, blindfold, to do a Knights Tour of the board, naming the object on each square the knight landed on."

I imagine that it would be quite easy to mess up the "tour" and get yourself to the point where you cannot traverse each square once and only once.

Probably Kolty memorized a working sequence, in which the final square was a knight's move away from the initial square. Then, no matter which starting square was chosen, he could just start "in the middle" of his memorized pattern, go to the end of his pattern, wrap around to the initial square in the pattern and finish up the sequence. Regardless of any tricks he came up with to simplify the task, quite an astonishing accomplishment.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Alex Schindler: Wordfunph, thank you for that excerpt! Very entertaining.
Oct-21-20  login:

Georges Koltanowski (kibitz #92)

'.. A chess evangelist, Kolty began using radio in June 1952, ... .'

It soon continues with early 1953 he was already up to his next tasks not mentioning the KPFA job again.

from Duchamp's Pipe: A Chess Romance
by Celia Rabinovitc, 2019

(Some) KPFA Program Folios can be found

E.g. the Nov 2-15 1952 issue ( still lists the show as '9:00 CHESS: George Koltanowski'.

On a broader view 1951-54 were crucial years for VHF radio stations. KPMF was fighting hard for its survival facing technology overhaul and major changes within their broadcasting philosophy.

'Freies Radio in den USA: Die Pacifica-Foundation, 1946-1965', Michaela Hampf, 2010

Happy digging.

Jun-10-21  login:

Chess legend George Koltanowski:

An archive deep dive of record-breaking chess champion and Chronicle columnist

'.. His exemplary memory — aural, not visual — helped him make a living from chess. Nowhere was that skill more apparent than when he played blindfolded. In 1937, he played 34 of Scotland’s best simultaneously while blindfolded, by announcing his moves out loud and organizers doing the same with the opponent’s moves. He won 24 games and tied the rest, an effort that required him to remember the exact position of 1,080 individual pieces on more than 2100 squares. ..'

from San Francisco Chronicle, Bill Van Niekerken (Library Director), 2020

Attached is a gallery of exclusive photographs (e.g. heavy chess ring, San Quentin dining hall, venue looking like the set of 'Loki gets a ticket' etc.).

'Aural memory'

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