Jacqueline Piatigorsky: Patron, Player, Pioneer

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Through her sponsorship of the legendary Piatigorsky Cup tournaments, creation of the Piatigorsky Foundation, and her representation of the United States in the first Women’s Chess Olympiad, Jacqueline Piatigorsky had a profound influence on twentieth-century American chess. Born to the Rothschild family, Jacqueline developed an early passion for chess, learning the game from a nurse while recovering from a childhood illness.  Jacqueline and her husband, world-renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, immigrated to the United States at the outset of World War ll, ultimately settling in Los Angeles with their young family. Largely self-taught, Jacqueline developed her chess skills in correspondence tournaments. She later met International Master Herman Steiner, who urged her to compete over-the-board. With this encouragement, she quickly rose to the top of the field of American women’s chess. Jacqueline competed in many U.S. Women’s Chess Championships and won a bronze medal on second board in the first Women’s Chess Olympiad, held in Emmen, the Netherlands.

Jacqueline’s love of the game also led her to become one of the most important chess benefactors of the twentieth century. After Steiner’s death in 1955, Jacqueline led the management of his chess club, which became a hub for chess on the West Coast, hosting her first organizational effort, the 1957 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, as well as the famed 1961 match between American grandmasters Bobby Fischer and Samuel Reshevsky, which she co-sponsored. Jacqueline formalized these activities by founding the Piatigorsky Foundation, a visionary institution dedicated to promoting the game in the United States, in 1961. The group sponsored chess efforts both on the local and elite levels, organizing student chess clubs, which were innovations at that time, as well as some of the strongest chess competitions ever held on American soil, the Piatigorsky Cup tournaments. Jacqueline Piatigorsky: Patron, Player, Pioneer presents the story of one of the most important figures in American chess through artifacts donated and lent to the World Chess Hall of Fame by the Piatigorsky family.