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Celebrity Chess Players


There are plenty of famous chess players, in the sense that they are famous for playing chess. However, there are also a number of well-known celebrities who also dabbled in the game - some of whom were quite capable of playing reasonably well. Here's a quick list of a few of the notable celebrities who have also made their mark on the game of chess.

1. Humphrey Bogart

One of the greatest male actors in the history of cinema, Humphrey Bogart is perhaps best known or his starring role in Casablanca. Bogart was also a keen chess player, though, with many sources saying that he was at or near master strength. Bogart even managed to make a draw against Grandmaster Samuel Reshevsky in a 1955 simul.

Bogart was important in the chess community, as well. He served on the Board of Directors for the USCF, played at a chess club in Hollywood, and worked with the California State Chess Association.

2. Howard Stern

The "King of All Media" lists chess among his favorite pastimes, and thanks to his hard work at the game, has actually become a rather strong player in his own right. The shock jock has worked with National Master Dan Heisman (a well known chess writer) for years, and has even played in a handful of USCF-rated games in the New York area, giving him an unpublished rating of 1620.

3. Ray Charles

Ray Charles was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, helping to pioneer what would become soul music. Despite being blind for almost his entire life, Charles was an extraordinarily talented musician - and not a bad chess player, either. While not much is known about Charles' chess career, he was known to play frequently with Willie Nelson. His chess talents only came to the public's light near the end of his career, when he was interviewed by Larry Evans for Chess Life magazine. In a game played between the two, Charles actually played evenly with the accomplished grandmaster for some time before making an error in move order during a capturing sequence, which cost him a pawn and sent him into a losing endgame.

4. Marcel Duchamp

One of the most important artists of the 20th century, Marcel Duchamp is best remembered for his Surrealist and Dadaist works, as well as his influence on prominent art collectors and their tastes.

But Duchamp was also an excellent chess player. In fact, in the 1920 and early 1930s, Duchamp was strong enough to put up an even score in the French championships, and even played for the French team in the Chess Olympiad. While Duchamp was never a threat to become World Chess Champion (and was probably a level below truly being considered a "world class" player), Chessmetrics has him ranked as high as #95 in the world in 1931, meaning this was one celebrity who could truly play the game.

5. Napoleon Bonaparte

Look into any large chess database, and you'll probably find a game or three ascribed to the French Emperor and famed military commander Napoleon Bonaparte. Two of these games have Napoleon defeating amateurs, while the third is a supposed loss against the automaton known as The Turk. Unfortunately, none of these games are widely believed to be genuine, meaning it's likely that we have no surviving games by the military genius.

Given that France was the center of the chess world during Napoleon's lifetime, however, it's no surprise that accounts of his love for chess did survive. According to most sources, Napoleon was a mediocre player; perhaps he was acceptable for an amateur, but he had no particular skill for the game despite his impressive abilities when commanding an army in the field.

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