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Crawford, John Randolph (04 August 1915–14 February 1976), bridge champion, , born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the son of Andrew Wright Crawford, an architect, and Clotilde (maiden name unknown), became an expert at bridge and other games as a teenager. In 1934 he and Robert McPherran, who was a year younger, became famous, indeed notorious, for imaginative play and psychic, or bluff, bidding. “Don’t you ever make a normal bid?” an official asked Crawford, who was soon known in Philadelphia bridge circles as “the Boy Wonder,” a description given earlier to an equally famous bridge star, ...

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Culbertson, Ely (22 July 1891–27 December 1955), authority on bridge, was born in the village of Poiana di Verbilao, near Ploesti, Romania, the son of Almon Culbertson, an American mining engineer, and Xenia Rogoznaya, the daughter of a Cossack general. He studied at gymnasia in Russia and briefly at Yale (1908), Cornell (1910), the Sorbonne (1913–1914), and the University of Geneva (1915). But he was largely self-educated, with an extensive knowledge of political writings. He was a remarkable linguist, speaking seven languages fluently and able to read six others, including Latin and Greek....

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Bobby Fischer. Chess star of Brooklyn, N.Y., in New York, April 28, 1962. Photograph by John Lent. Associated Press.

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Fischer, Bobby (09 March 1943–17 January 2008), professional chess player and the eleventh official world chess champion, was born Robert James Fischer in Chicago, Illinois, to a single mother, Regina Wender Fischer. Bobby had an older sister, Joan, who was born to Regina, an American citizen of Polish-Jewish heritage, and then-husband Hans Gerhardt Fischer in 1937 while the couple lived in Moscow. In 1939 Regina and daughter Joan returned to the United States via Paris without Hans Gerhardt, who immigrated to Chile. Bobby’s paternity was uncertain. Though Regina had listed Hans Gerhardt Fischer as the father on the birth certificate, it is now strongly believed that Bobby’s father was Paul Felix Nemenyi, a Hungarian immigrant scientist of Jewish faith whom Regina had met in Colorado in the early 1940s....

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Goren, Charles (04 March 1901–03 April 1991), bridge champion who popularized the game in columns and bestselling books, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Jacob and Rebecca Goren, Jewish immigrants from Russia. Rebecca raised Charles and brother Edward, and her husband made a little money as a writer. Charles loved sports, but he realized his athletic limitations and wanted to be a sportswriter....

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Jacoby, Oswald (08 December 1902–27 June 1984), bridge champion and actuary, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Oswald Nathaniel Jacoby, a prosperous attorney, and Edith Sondheim. From them, at the age of ten, he learned the card game that was to make him famous....

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Marshall, Frank James (10 August 1877–09 November 1944), chess player, was born in New York City, the son of Alfred George Marshall, a flour mill salesman, and Sarah Ann Graham. His family moved to Montreal when he was twelve, and at age fifteen Marshall won the Montreal Chess Club Championship. He returned to New York in 1896 and won the Brooklyn Chess Club championship in 1899. Marshall was poorly educated, and while he spoke some French and German, his command of written English was poor. He never attended college....

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Morphy, Paul Charles (22 June 1837–10 July 1884), chess champion, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Alonzo Morphy, a Louisiana Supreme Court justice, and Louise Therese Felicite Thelcide LeCarpentier, composer of operettas. Morphy grew up in a wealthy, prominent family in antebellum New Orleans, receiving private tutoring and a deeply religious training in the Roman Catholic faith. He fit the commonly accepted definition of a child prodigy. By age eight, he had gained mastery in chess over his father and uncle, both recognized club players in the city. He also gained notoriety at that age by defeating General ...

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Pillsbury, Harry Nelson (05 December 1872–17 June 1906), chess player, was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, the son of Luther Bachelder Pillsbury, a high school teacher, and Mary A. Leathe. Learning chess at the relatively late age of sixteen, Pillsbury rose quickly to world-class strength. When world champion ...

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Reshevsky, Samuel Herman (26 November 1909–04 April 1992), chess player, was born Samuel Herman Rzeszewski in Ozierkov, Poland, the son of Jacob Rzeszewski, a linen merchant, and Shaindel Eibeschitz. His year of birth is often incorrectly given as 1911, an inaccuracy brought about by Reshevsky’s parents’ desire to make their child seem even more extraordinary than he was. Often described as the most remarkable child prodigy in the history of chess, Reshevsky learned the game at age four and could play blindfolded by the age of eight. By age nine he was touring the capitals of Europe, giving simultaneous exhibitions in which he (as a master) took on many opponents. During one two-year period, he lost only eight of the 1,500 games he played....

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Steinitz, William (17 May 1836–12 August 1900), chess player, was born Wilhelm Steinitz into a poor Jewish family in Prague, the son of Josef Salamon Steinitz, an iron worker, and Anna Torshová. His parents wanted Steinitz to become a rabbi, and he therefore received a good early education in both religious and general fields, tutored privately by rabbis. Steinitz left home at age nineteen, possibly in part because his mother had died and his father had remarried. After moving first to Strakonici (now in the Czech Republic) in 1855, Steinitz went in 1858 to Vienna, where he entered the Polytechnic Institute to study mathematics. He supported himself by tutoring, working as a tailor, and playing chess for money in cafés. Steinitz completed only the first year of his degree; he spent much of his time playing chess and was soon dismissed for lack of progress and refusal to take exams....

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Von Zedtwitz, Waldemar Konrad Anton Wilhelm Ferdinand (08 May 1896–05 October 1984), bridge champion and lexicographer, was born in Berlin. His father was Moritz Kurt Von Zedtwitz, a German baron with estates in Saxony, whose death in a yachting accident a few months after the birth gave his son the title. The baby had dual citizenship, for his mother was a member of a wealthy Kentucky family, Mary Eliza Breckinridge Caldwell, who died in 1910. Her grandfather was ...