Aleksander Wojtkiewicz, 43, high-ranking chess player

July 20, 2006|By JACQUES KELLY | JACQUES KELLY,SUN REPORTER

Aleksander "Wojo" Wojtkiewicz, an internationally ranked chess player who won a chess scholarship to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and had played on its championship team, died of an intestinal hemorrhage Friday at St. Agnes Hospital. The Halethorpe resident was 43.

Born in Riga, Latvia, he moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., about 10 years ago and to Maryland in 2002 after being recruited by UMBC.

"He was quite a figure in the chess community throughout the United States," said Peter Gunst, an attorney and part-owner of Fells Point Chess. "He was a world-class grandmaster and a brilliant teacher."

Friends said Mr. Wojtkiewicz would analyze several recent tournament games on Monday evenings at the Aliceanna Street gathering spot for local chess players. Hardcore chess players would typically attend the sessions to hear him discuss important games in depth.

"He helped us understand the theory of the game." Mr. Gunst said yesterday.

Friends said Mr. Wojtkiewicz was a protege of world chess champion Mikhail Tal and rose in Russian chess circles until the late 1980s, when he was imprisoned by Soviet authorities for resisting military service. He subsequently moved to Poland, where he was once considered that country's best chess player.

"The Polish Grandmaster Alex Wojtkiewicz is a true ironman of chess," says a description of Mr. Wojtkiewicz on the Web site of the New York Masters Chess Club. "He truly loves to play and can play in an event in Las Vegas one day and have no problem flying to Europe the next day to play an event that evening."

Mr. Wojtkiewicz lost his modern languages scholarship and left UMBC in 2003 after his grade-point average fell below 3.0 while he was competing in numerous national chess tournaments, friends said.

"He spoke several languages, and it was dream to become an author," said Alan Sherman, director of UMBC's chess program. "He was always helpful in going over the games of other team members. He was a strong team player."

A memorial service was held Monday.

Survivors include his companion, Amber Berglund, a writer, photographer and artist; a son, Yosef Wojtkiewicz of Lithuania; and his mother, Tamara Wojtkiewicz of Riga.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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