Aleksander Wojtkiewicz, a chess grandmaster originally from Latvia who
won or tied for first in the five tournaments in which he played in the
last month of his life, died Friday, July 14, 2006, in Baltimore,
Maryland, at the age of 43.
The cause was internal bleeding, said Amber Berglund, his companion.
Mr. Wojtkiewicz (pronounced wo-jo-KEV-ich) was born in Riga, Latvia, on
January 15, 1963, to a Polish father and a Russian mother. He learned
to play from his father, who was a good player, and by the time he was
15 he was among the most promising players of his generation in the
Soviet Union. Alexander Shabalov, another grandmaster from Riga, said
that Mr. Wojtkiewicz might have been the best of a group that included
Jaan Ehlvest, Valery Salov and Andrei Sokolov.
While those players were among the top 100 players in the world, and in
the cases of Mr. Ehlvest and Mr. Salov, among the top 20, Mr.
Wojtkiewicz never had the same success.
Mr. Shabalov said that Mr. Wojtkiewicz's development might have been
stunted by what happened when he was younger. When he turned 18 he was
drafted into the Soviet Army, like all men of his age. To avoid
service, Mr. Shabalov said, Mr. Wojtkiewicz spent the next four years
on the run and was unable to play in tournaments or to train properly.
In the end, Mr. Shabalov said, Mr. Wojtkiewicz tired of being a
fugitive and surrendered. He was imprisoned for a year and a half.
After he was released, he was allowed to emigrate to Poland. He began
to play competitive chess again and became a grandmaster, winning the
Polish championship twice.
In the late 1990's, he immigrated to the United States, where he
became one of the most successful, and active, tournament players in
the country, finishing atop the annual chess grand prix rankings for
six consecutive years. In the two weeks before he died, he tied for
first place with eight other grandmasters in the World Open, the
biggest tournament of the year, and he tied for first with an
international master in the Columbus Open in Ohio.
Mr. Wojtkiewicz never married; he had a son, Yosef, with Laima
Domarkaite, a Lithuanian, Ms. Berglund said. He is also survived by his
mother, Tamara Wojtkiewicz.
NY Times -- DYLAN LOEB McCLAIN
That's a weird pronunciation, especially the "jo" syllable. You'd think it
would be "voyt-KAY-vich." I can understand a Polish-American whose family
has been here for generations using a mangled, inaccurate pronunciation of
the surname, but a guy who actually came over from Europe? I'm wondering if
the pronunciation was botched by the writer.