United States – Inducted 1986
Born in Antwerp, “Kolty” was the Belgian champion four times during the 1920s and 1930s and scored international victories at Antwerp 1932 and Barcelona 1934 and 1935. Unsurpassed as a chess showman and storyteller, he specialized in blindfold chess and other feats of memory, amazing audiences well into his 90s. Tragically, Koltanowski was touring in South America when World War II broke out, and while he managed to attain a U.S. visa, he lost many family members in the Holocaust.
After immigrating, Koltanowski dedicated himself to popularizing chess in the U.S., and his true fame lies in these efforts, for which he was named a “Dean of American Chess.” He performed not only blindfold simultaneous exhibitions, but also gained fame for his Knight’s Tour exercise. An able organizer and administrator, he would direct every U.S. Open between the late 1940s and late 1970s and served as president of the U. S. Chess Federation from 1975 to 1978. Koltanowski was also a popular and beloved writer. As the nation’s only daily chess columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, he penned more than 19,000 columns over 53 years. He also authored a number of books, the most popular of which is Adventures of a Chess Master, which details his time giving blindfold exhibitions.