Grandmaster Andor Lilienthal dies at 99

5/8/2010 – Just three days after his 99th birthday the world's oldest grandmaster has passed away. Andor Lilienthal was born in Moscow but spent most of his life in Hungary. In his long career he recorded wins against Emanuel Lasker, José Raúl Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe, Mikhail Botvinnik and Vasily Smyslov, as well as players like Tartakower, Najdorf, Bronstein and Taimanov. In memoriam.

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Andor Arnoldovich Lilienthal, 1911 – 2010

Can you imagine someone saying: “I have beaten Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine”. Actually saying it today, the year 2008? But Andor Lilienthal, who three days ago celebrated his 99th birthday, was the oldest living grandmaster. In his long career he had recorded wins against Emanuel Lasker, José Raúl Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine (in three of four blitz games), Max Euwe, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, as well as players like Tartakower, Najdorf, Bronstein and Taimanov. You don't believe us?

Lilienthal,Andor - Capablanca,Jose Raul [E24]
Hastings 3435 Hastings (5), 01.01.1935
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 b6 6.f3 d5 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 Ba6 9.e4 Bxc4 10.Bxc4 dxc4 11.Qa4+ Qd7 12.Qxc4 Qc6 13.Qd3 Nbd7 14.Ne2 Rd8 15.0-0 a5 16.Qc2 Qc4 17.f4 Rc8 18.f5 e5 19.dxe5 Qxe4

20.exf6 Qxc2 21.fxg7 Rg8 22.Nd4 Qe4 23.Rae1 Nc5 24.Rxe4+ Nxe4 25.Re1 Rxg7 26.Rxe4+ 1-0.

This game is very famous. Lilienthal used to relate: "Wherever I went on an exhibition tour, both in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, chess players and fans always asked me to show them how I sacrificed the queen against the great Cuban. When Bobby Fischer noticed Lilienthal in the audience at his 1992 return match against Boris Spassky, Fischer greeted him with the remark "Pawn e5 takes f6!" Here are some more of Lilienthal's memorable games...

Lilienthal was born in Moscow on May 5, 1911 to Hungarian Jewish parents. He moved to Hungary at age two. He played for Hungary in three Chess Olympiads, 1933, 1935, and 1937. Emigrating to the Soviet Union in 1935, he became a Soviet citizen in 1939. Lilienthal played in the USSR Chess Championship eight times, with his best result being a first place tie with Igor Bondarevsky in 1940. He qualified for the Candidates' Tournament once, in 1948.

From 1951 until 1960 he was Tigran Petrosian's trainer. Lilienthal began a friendship with Vasily Smyslov in 1938, and was Smyslov's second in his world championship matches against Botvinnik. He retired from tournament play in 1965 and returned to Hungary in 1976.


Three Lilienthal books (scans provided by Edward Winter). The Hungarian autobiography was published by Sport, Budapest in 1985, and the German translation came from Verlag Harri Deutsch (Thun, Frankfurt/Main) in 1988. The other book, Lilienthal's Hundred Best Games edited by George Négyesi, was published by Caissa Chess Books, Kecskemét in 2001.

Some further historical pictures of Andor Lilienthal from the selection presented in Edward Winter's Chess Notes Archives (see C.N. 6569):

In Chess Explorations 30 Edward Winter quoted a chess-related poem, ‘Chess Players’, on pages 120-124 of Blood of Things (New York, 1920). It is especially intriguing for two apparently prescient references to a player named Lilienthal. Here, for example, are the last few lines of the poem:

"At that time, of course, Andor Lilienthal (born 1911) was unknown to the chess world," writes Winter. The portrait of Lilienthal below comes from opposite page 32 of El Ajedrez Español, October 1934:


Lilienthal in the past five years


At the Cap d'Agde tournament of 2003 Andor Lilienthal was one of the special guests


Age difference 72 years: Lilienthal with FIDE champ Ruslan Ponomariov in 2003


With wife Olga on his 94th birthday in 2005


This is how the 94-year-old got around Budapest


Andor in his Toyota Yaris


Lilienthal in his home in 2008


His work desk


With Slobodan Adzic, who supplied most of these pictures


To the end – always animated when talking about chess

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