Back when I was in high school, I played chess with a group of other students. One of the students would pick on me sometimes. Once, we decided to play and he cornered me into a forced mate in two. Before the threat turned into the final execution however, I swept my arm across the chessboard vehemently, blasting the pieces across the room. Needless to say, he got very mad. I spontaneously kept doing this for a few more games (to my sole entertainment).

Curt von Bardeleben is known as the opponent who never returned. After move 25 in the Battle of Hastings, Steinitz's opponent mysteriously disappeared:

At this point, Steinitz's opponent left the tournament hall and never reappeared. By these offensive means he hoped to deprive Steinitz of 'a piece of immortality', ... - Art of Attack, V. Vukovic. pp 21

What are some of the most unsportsmanlike manners witnessed in over-the-board chess play?

  • 3
    Check position with your iPhone in toilet. – SmallChess May 13 '17 at 23:08
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    For those who care about historical correctness, the true story of the Steinitz vs von Bardeleben encounter can be found here: chesshistory.com/winter/extra/steinitzvonbardeleben.html – Queeg May 14 '17 at 0:11
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    The truth is often stranger than the fiction propagated. – Priyome May 14 '17 at 13:50

Here are some examples of unsporting behaviour I have heard of before:

  • Kicking opponent under the table (from Josh Waitzkin in the Chessmaster tutorials)
  • (Added for interest) Running down the clock in correspondence chess with the aim of waiting for an opponent to die of old age (this shouldn't be a major issue under the ICCF, as games with deceased players are now cancelled or substitutes are called, but they could be misrecorded as a loss on time)
  • Using an iPhone for analysis (hat tip to @SmallChess)

There is a book on the topic. "Underhanded Chess: A Hilarious Handbook of Devious Diversions and Stratagems for Winning at Chess", by Jerry Sohl. It was originally published in the '70s, but apparently has been picked up again by a publisher and is available from on-line booksellers. Bobby Fischer, naturally, gets a lot of ink from the author.

  • Another book is "My Opponent Is Eating a Doughnut: Tall Tales, Legends, Gossip, and Rumors from the World of Tournament Chess" by Tim Just and Wayne Clark. I haven't read it, but it looks like it might have some interesting stories. – itub May 16 '17 at 22:47

"Blackburne made an insulting remark, Steinitz spat towards him – though not necessarily hitting him – and Blackburne smashed him in the face with his fist. It happened at the City of London Chess Club." (Chesshistory.com)

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