When a Chess Master Goes Bad… Watch Out

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Mug shot of Norman Tweed Whitaker, chess master and criminal

Boy howdy, when a chess master goes bad, he goes really bad!

Norman Tweed Whitaker (1890-1975), International Master and one of the strongest chess players in 20th century America, can’t quite match murderer and bank robber Claude Bloodgood as a chess whiz who committed crimes, but was still quite the lad when it came to breaking the law.

An auto theft/insurance fraud caper landed him in Leavenworth for two years, but in 1932 Whitaker made national headlines for his involvement in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case. He and a confederate tried to scam the Washington Post by claiming to be in touch with the kidnappers, but came up empty when the baby was found dead; in fact, they had had nothing to do with the kidnapping itself. Sentenced to 15 years in the hoosegow, Whitaker served 18 months, got out on parole, and immediately resumed his career in crime, ending up in several other prisons before he finally gave it up–including Alcatraz, where he struck up a friendship with Al Capone.

In later life Whitaker concentrated on chess, won the rank of International Master, and performed strongly in many major tournaments.

Oh–he was also a lawyer, albeit a disbarred one. A criminal record as long as your arm will do that to you.

But it won’t stop you from running for president. If Norm had only known…

P.S.–So who says chess is dull?

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