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Nicolas Rossolimo

Nicolas Rossolimo
Rossolimo in 1950
Full nameNikolai Spiridonovich Rossolimo
CountryRussian Empire
United States
BornFebruary 28, 1910
Kiev, Russian Empire (now Ukraine)
DiedJuly 24, 1975 (aged 65)
New York, U.S.
TitleGrandmaster (1953)

Nicolas Rossolimo (Russian: Николай Спиридонович Россоли́мо, romanizedNikolai Spiridonovich Rossolimo; February 28, 1910 – July 24, 1975) was a Russian Empire-born chess player. After acquiring Greek citizenship in 1929, he was able to emigrate that year to France, and was many times chess champion of Paris. In 1952 he emigrated to the United States, and won the 1955 U.S. Open Chess Championship. He was awarded the title of International Grandmaster by FIDE in 1953. Rossolimo was a resident of New York City until his death.

The Rossolimo Variation of the Sicilian Defence bears his name.

Biography and chess career


Nikolai Spiridonovich Rossolimo was born into an upper-middle-class Russian-Greek family in Kiev, then part of the Russian Empire. His father was Spiridon Rossolimo, a Russian painter and portraitist of Greek ancestry, while his mother née Xenia Nikolaevna Skugarevskaya was an aristocratic writer and war correspondent.[1] He was a nephew of the famous Russian neurologist and psychiatrist Grigory Ivanovich Rossolimo. He lived in Moscow during the mid-1920s, and moved to Paris with his Russian mother in 1929.

Having finished second behind former World Champion José Raúl Capablanca in a tournament in Paris in 1938, he won the French Championship in 1948.[2] He was Paris champion a record seven times,[3] and drew two matches in 1948 and 1949 with Savielly Tartakower. In 1955, he won the U.S. Open Championship held in Long Beach, California, on tiebreaks ahead of Samuel Reshevsky. The prize was a new Buick automobile.

Rossolimo played for France in the Chess Olympiads of 1950 and 1972, and for the United States in 1958, 1960, and 1966.[4] FIDE awarded him the International Master title in 1950 and the International Grandmaster title in 1953.

In 1952, he moved to the U.S. with his wife Véra and son Alexander to rejoin his mother and Russian-Greek father in New York. (After moving to the U.S., his first name was often spelled "Nicholas".) In New York, he worked as a waiter, a taxi driver, played the accordion, and worked as a singer and ran a chess studio as well to support himself and his family. The Rossolimo Chess Studio was located in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. It was somewhat like a café that served food and drinks, and also sold chess sets and books, but where members of the public – including famous artists such as Marcel Duchamp – could come and play chess with each other and occasionally play Rossolimo himself for a fee (Rossolimo would play simultaneous chess with many of the patrons).



Rossolimo died of head injuries following a fall down a flight of stairs, just after finishing third in his final event, the 1975 World Open.[5] He was buried in a Russian Orthodox cemetery in New Jersey.[6]

Chess talent

a8 black bishop
c8 black rook
f8 black rook
h8 black king
a7 black pawn
c7 black queen
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
a6 white pawn
b6 black pawn
e6 black knight
f6 white knight
d5 black pawn
e5 white knight
d4 white pawn
g4 white queen
a3 white rook
b2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
e1 white rook
g1 white king
Rossolimo vs. Reissman, position after 22...Kh8

The strongest players Rossolimo defeated were Efim Bogoljubov, David Bronstein, and former World Champion Max Euwe, against whom he had two wins and a lifetime plus score. He also scored draws against four world champions: José Capablanca, Max Euwe, Bobby Fischer, and Vassily Smyslov. According to the site Chessmetrics, which estimates historical ratings of players based on results, his highest ranking was 15th in the world, reached in December 1953.[7][8]

Rossolimo won many brilliancy and "best-game" prizes for his beautiful chess games, and has been called an "artist of chess".[9][10] He has been quoted to have said (here in translation): "What am I supposed to do, trade in my romantic style and become a hunter of points at any price? No, I will not do so. I will fight for the art of chess. I shall not turn into a monster".[11][12][13]

Here is one of Rossolimo's most celebrated brilliancies. Al Horowitz, the late chess columnist for The New York Times, called this game "a brilliancy of astonishing character, elegant and explosive".[14]

Rossolimo vs. Paul Reissman, San Juan 1967
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 Bxd2+ 8.Nbxd2 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Qb3 Nce7 11.0-0 c6 12.Rfe1 0-0 13.a4 b6? 14.Ne5 Bb7 15.a5 Rc8 16.Ne4 Qc7 17.a6! Ba8 18.Qh3 Nf4 19.Qg4 Ned5 20.Ra3 Ne6 21.Bxd5 cxd5 22.Nf6+ Kh8 (diagram) 23.Qg6!! Qc2 24.Rh3! 1–0

The Boston Globe wrote: "The truly talented Nicolas Rossolimo played one of the most amazing moves ever in Rossolimo–Reissman: 23.Qg6!!".[15]


a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
g8 black knight
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
e7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
c6 black knight
b5 white bishop
c5 black pawn
e4 white pawn
f3 white knight
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
h1 white rook
Rossolimo Variation. Black will continue with 3...g6, 3...d6, or 3...e6.

One of Rossolimo's more enduring innovations is the variation of the Sicilian Defence which bears his name – the Rossolimo Variation: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 (see diagram). While generally steering clear of the tactical fireworks common to open Sicilians, the Rossolimo Variation offers White some chance of an opening advantage.[16]



Rossolimo wrote two books: Les Echecs au coin du feu, a collection of his studies and endgames with a preface by Savielly Tartakower, published in Paris in 1947; and Rossolimo's Brilliancy Prizes, self-published in New York in 1970. He also made a record of songs in Russian, French, and English, with an album cover designed by Marcel Duchamp and produced by the Kismet Record Company.[17] He is the hero of a chapter in the book, Losing Moses on the Freeway.[18] He also held a brown belt in judo and recorded an album of Russian songs.[19]

Tournaments and matches


The following table gives Rossolimo's placings and scores in a number of major tournaments and matches. (The "Score" column gives the number of points / the total possible. The "+" indicates the number of won games, "−" the number of losses, and "=" the number of draws.)

Year City Tournament +W−L=D Score Place
1931 Paris Paris championship +11−3=2 12/16 3-4
1934 Paris Paris championship +12−0=2 13/14 1
1937 Paris Paris International Exposition 1
1938 Paris International tournament +6−1=3 7½/10 2
1939 Paris International tournament +9−0=5 11½/14 1
1947 Hilversum European Zonal tournament +5−5=3 6½/13 7–8
1948 Paris French championship +5−0=3 6½/8 1
1948 Beverwijk Corus chess tournament +3-2=4 5/9 3–4
1948 Bad Gastein International tournament +12−2=5 14½/19 2–3
1948 Paris Match with Savielly Tartakower +1−1=10 6/12 tie
1948/49 Hastings Hastings International Chess Congress +4−0=5 6½/9 1
1949 Southsea International tournament +8−0=2 9/10 1
1949 Heidelberg International tournament +4−1=4 6/9 2
1949 Trenčianske Teplice International tournament +9−4=6 12/19 4–5
1949 Gijón International tournament +9−0=2 10/11 1
1949 Venice International tournament +8−2=5 10½/15 2
1949 Paris Match with Savielly Tartakower +5−5=0 5/10 tie
1949/50 Hastings Hastings International Chess Congress +6−0=3 7½/9 2
1950 Beverwijk Corus chess tournament +4−1=4 6/9 2–3
1950 Gijón International tournament[20] +7−1=3 8½/11 1
1950 Venice International tournament +7−2=6 10/15 3
1950 Amsterdam International tournament +5−2=12 11/19 8
1950 Mar del Plata Mar del Plata chess tournament +5−3=9 9½/17 8
1950 Dubrovnik 9th Chess Olympiad +7−1=4 9/12 2[21]
1950/51 Hastings Hastings International Chess Congress +5−1=3 6½/9 2–3
1951 Reykjavík International tournament +6−0=3 7½/9 1
1951 Southsea International tournament +6−0=4 8/12 1–2
1951 Bilbao International tournament +9−0=0 9/9 1
1951 A Coruña International tournament 6½/8 1
1951 Vitoria International tournament +6−0=1 6½/7 1
1951 Birmingham Howard Staunton Memorial Tournament +4−2=9 8½/15 5–8
1952 Havana International tournament +9−4=7 12½/20 6
1952 Saarland International tournament 1
1952 New York City Match with Arthur Bisguier +1−0=1 1½–½ won
1953 Milwaukee U.S. Open Chess Championship 3–8
1953 Beverwijk Corus chess tournament +7−0=4 9/11 1
1954 Hollywood Pan American Chess Championship 3–4
1954 New York City U.S. Chess Championship +3−2=8 7/13 6-7
1955 Long Beach U.S. Open Chess Championship 10/12 1
1956 Washington, D.C. Eastern States Open Championship +4−0=3 5½/7 2-5
1957 Tarragona International Tournament +6−1=2 7/9 2
1958 Munich 13th Chess Olympiad +6−1=8 10/15 3[21]
1960 Leipzig 14th Chess Olympiad +2−1=3 3½/6
1965 New York City U.S. Chess Championship 6/11 6
1966 Havana 17th Chess Olympiad +5−1=4 7/10
1967 Washington, D.C. Eastern Open Chess Championship +7−0=2 8/9 1
1967 Puerto Rico Puerto Rico Open +5−0=2 6/7 1
1968 Málaga International tournament 5½/11 6–9
1969 Monte Carlo All-grandmaster tournament 5½/11 7
1969 Vršac International tournament 8½/15 6–8
1972 Skopje 20th Chess Olympiad +7−6=4 9/17
1975 New York City World Open chess tournament +7−1=1 7½/9 3


  1. ^ Globe Trotter, "Дневник 1899–1906", New York: Rausen Bros., 1951.
  2. ^ (Retrieved 12/29/16)
  3. ^ (Retrieved 12/29/16)
  4. ^ OlimpBase Men's Chess Olympiads Nicolas Rossolimo
  5. ^ Nicholas Rossolimo: 1910–1975. Requiem for a Grand Master, by Jerry Kantor // The Village Voice – Aug 25, 1975.
  6. ^ Pal Benko (October 1975). "Nicolas Rossolimo 1910-1975". Chess Life and Review. XXX (10). New York: 647.
  7. ^ "Career ratings for: Rossolimo, Nicolas", Chessmetrics, (Retrieved 9/25/13).
  8. ^ "All active players as of December 31, 1953", Chessmetrics, (Retrieved 9/25/13).
  9. ^ Авербах Ю. "Художник шахмат. К 100-летию Николая Россолимо" // 64 – Шахматное обозрение, № 10, 2010. (Translation of reference: "Artist of Chess. On the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nicolas Rossolimo", by Yuri Lvovich Averbakh – Shakhmatnoye Obozrenie, 64 (chess magazine), № 10, October 2010.)
  10. ^ Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff, "Chess Notes", The Boston Globe, 7 November 2011, page G15.
  11. ^ Alex Anil, [1] (Retrieved 6/24/13). The original quote in Russian reads in part: "Я буду сражаться за искусство шахмат. Я не превращусь в монстра," Николай Россолимо.
  12. ^ Nicolas Rossolimo Documentary, "Rossolimo: Chess Artist", written by Jessica Fischer, narrated by Richard Dewoskin,, (Retrieved 2/8/16).
  13. ^ Jessica Fischer, "Rossolimo: Chess Artist", videos 1/2 and 2/2, YouTube, (Retrieved 2/8/16).
  14. ^ Al Horowitz, "Chess: An Offer of a Queen Leads To a Brilliant White Victory". The New York Times, 12 June 1967.
  15. ^ Harold Dondis and Chris Chase, "Chess Notes", The Boston Globe, 23 June 2015, page B5.
  16. ^ Victor Bologan, The Rossolimo Sicilian: A Powerful Anti-Sicilian that Avoids Tons of Theory, New In Chess, 2011, ISBN 978-90-5691-345-8, 256 pp.
  17. ^ Nicolas Rossolimo – Russian Songs, Kismet Hi-Fi Recordings, vol. KR-5.
  18. ^ Chris Hedges, Losing Moses on the Freeway, Chapter IX. Free Press, Simon & Schuster Inc., 2005.
  19. ^ "Nicolas Rossolimo Dies", Chess Life & Review, vol. XXX, no. 9, p. 571, September 1975
  20. ^ Mendez, Pedro; Mendez, Luis (2019). The Gijon International Chess Tournaments. McFarland. pp. 117–132. ISBN 9781476676593.
  21. ^ a b Individual standing
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Nicolas Rossolimo
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