Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Pope and the Chess Hoax

I've had to do a bit of research on Karol Wojytła lately (Pope John Paul II of blessed memory) for an article I'm writing, and though most of what I've been searching for is related to theater, I was fascinated to find that his name features prominently in a chess world hoax.

At the age of 18 Karol Józef enrolled in the University of Kraków to study philology, Polish language and literature, Russian and Old Church Slavonic. During his lifetime he mastered ten languages, including Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Ukrainian and English. Intensely interested in acting, he performed for an experimental theater troupe during his university days. 
It is from this and the following period that the story has arisen that Karol Wojytła was a chess enthusiast – an avid over-the-board player and a composer of chess problems and puzzles. In fact we have received a large number of letters since his passing, chiding us for not publishing a report on the subject. 
Unfortunately all of our research has failed to bring up credible evidence that the pope was a serious chess player, in spite of the imminent (and eminent) plausibility of the notion. The legend probably emanates from an entry in the third volume of the Quarterly for Chess History, which contains a game allegedly played by Karol Wojytła in 1946...
Here's the account by the Polish chess researcher who got to the bottom of the story. I've seen some claims that the story gained traction by claiming that Karol Wojytła's uncle was the notable Polish chess problem composer Marian Wróbel, but this is certainly not true, and I've found no reputable source that indicates any relationship between the two.

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