Who Would Marry a Chess Master?

Here are some photos of various chess masters and their spouses:

 We'll start with one of the wives (he was married and divorced twice) of the 19th century Dutch polymath - and for our purposes, chess historian - Antonius van der Linde. I couldn't uncover her name.

from the Cleveland Public Library Special Collections

Soaring forward to the middle 20th century, below are photos of Mikhail Tal and his first and third wives. 23 year old Tal married a 19 year old singer/actress, Sallyi (Sally) Landau, in 1959. They divorced in 1970, after 11 years.They had a son, Gera.

Salli singing with Eddie Rosner's jazz band.

Salli on the Riga theater


Tal with Salli Landau on the day of their engagement.

Tal and Salli
Tal and Salli registering their marriage

same as above

Tal and Salli - day of engagement

Then he married another woman, from Tbilisi, whose name eludes me.  According to hearsay, the woman married Tal after a failed relationship. During the honeymoon, her former lover came to their hotel room and the woman returned to Georgia with him. Soon after, Tal married Angelina Petukhov, an employee of "Riga Shakhmaty," who was his wife until his death. They had a daughter Zhanna.

Tal with his third wife, Angelina, and daughter Zhanna.


Anatloy Karpov was twice married.

His first wife, Irina Kuimova

Irina, baby Anatoly, Anatoly

His second wife, Natalia Bulanova


Tigran Petrosian met his future and only wife, Rona Yakovlevna Avinezar, an English teacher and translator, in 1951 and they married the next year.  Rona was always considered the "woman behind the man." They had two sons, Mikhail and Vartan.

Tigran and Rona

Tigran, Rona and Mikhail Petrosian

Rona and Tigran

Like Petrosian, Viktor Korchnoi was married but once. 

Bella Korchnoi from the Icelandic "Morgunblaðið,"  June 20,1981

Bella Korchnoi with Angelina Tal

Mikhail Botvinnik was also monogamous. In 1935, the studious 25 year old Botvinnik married Gayane Anaova Davidovna, a ballerina with the Mariinsky Theater, trained at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, whom he met through her father, an instructor of mathematics. Their daughter, Olga, was born in 1942, during the great war.

Mikhail, Olga and Ganna (Gayane)

Gayane and Mikhail

Bent Larsen with his wife Lizzie in 1965

Boris Spassky was married three times. below is his second wife Larisa.

Boris Spassky shown signing the registry at the Moscow marriage office with his third wife, Marina Stcherbatcheff,  a secretary in the commercial section of the French Embassy.

Paul and Mary (Riives) Keres

Vassily Smyslov with his wife, Nadezhda in 1957

The following are well-known American players and their wives mainly from the first half of the 20th century:

Frank and Carrie Marshall

Herbert Seidman and his wife, Phoebe.
They had 2 sons, Richard and Peter.

Arnold and Nina Denker

Mr. and Mrs Reshevsky
Norma, baby, Sammy Reshevshy

Norma Reshevshy

Reuben and Emma Fine
Reuben Fine, according to his NY "Times" obituary, married 5 times. First to Charlotte Margoshes, ironically, a psychologist (according to the L.A. Times, in 1937). He married Emma Thea Kessing, the daughter of a Dutch publisher, in September of 1937. They divorced in 1944.  In 1946, he married Sonya Lebeaux. Later he married someone else and finally a woman named Marcia. Fine had 3 children, Benjamin, Ellyn and June.


  • 16 mesi fa


    Recently Karpov gave an interview which briefly touched on his personal life. About his first wife, he said "It's hard to be the wife of a world chess champion, and Irina was unable to take the pressure. At first she accompanied me on my trips, but after our son was born she spent more time at home." He also said that she remarried almost immediately, to "someone completely unrelated to chess."

  • 4 anni fa

    FM Boorchess

    Very cool article.

  • 4 anni fa


    Very interesting...i`ve nothing know about Tal`s private life...and i didn`t know Sally...:)

  • 4 anni fa


    You thank them for those facts but don't thank me for pointing out evidence of a time travelling alien?  Surprised

  • 4 anni fa


    Thanks for the info on Petrosian and Korchnoi!

  • 4 anni fa


    Rona Petrosian knew almost nothing about chess, but she watched as many games of his as she could anyway; she said that she could tell from his body language whether he had a good position. She also once faked a migraine after he suffered a tough loss to take his mind off the game.

  • 4 anni fa


    Viktor Korchnoi has been married at least twice. Although he remained married to Bella for many years after his defection in the Netherlands, by the time he played in the 1977 candidates' matches he was traveling with a Dutch-Austrian woman named Petra Leeuwerik, who was officially his "secretary". After he finally succeeded in getting his wife and son out of the USSR, he divorced Bella and married Petra.

  • 4 anni fa


    Mark Taimanov and his ~40 years younger wife. Yeah buddy. http://www.chessbase.com/news/2006/taimanov27.jpg

  • 4 anni fa


    Where there's a king there is a queen.

  • 4 anni fa


    I don't see Spassky in that picture where they're signing the registry.  It's obviously the Doctor.  Compare the hair.

    Must have been on one of his trips to Soviet Russia.

  • 4 anni fa


    Karpov's wife ftw!! :)

  • 4 anni fa


    Wow, Nice collection.. 

  • 4 anni fa


    Thank you.  Quite a compliment considering you have the best chess history blog on the net.  If you ever want to recycle or write a new article on California chess history, I'd love to post it on ChessDryad.

  • 4 anni fa


    Lithuanian WGM Viktoria Cmilyte was married to GM Shirov.They have two sons if i am not mistaken.

  • 4 anni fa


    Great blog as always with interesting photos.

  • 4 anni fa


    Two Grandmasters family : GM Pia Cramling and GM Manuel Bellon and their daughter 
  • 4 anni fa


    I would like to add some pictures of GM Vishwanathan Anand & his beautiful wife Aruna :- 


  • 4 anni fa


    Great article on an overlooked subject; I would note that children of chess players also turn out to be quite interesting. My one additional note is that the Dubuque Chess Journal of April 1873, page 137, says that vd Linde is married to a woman named Elvira, who the journal calls one of the first lady players of the age, and game 195 and 196 in that issue gives 2 of her games. Of course, I don't know whether Elvira is the wife in the picture

  • 4 anni fa


    Wow.  I thought 38 photos might be enough!

    btw, let me say, Mr. Lawless, that I, like many, appreciate all the work you do compiling and preserving the memories of California chess.

  • 4 anni fa


    You forgot to mention Leah, George Koltanowski's second wife!

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