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Topic: Grandmaster Criminal....the story of Bloodgood
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kloosterveenNetherlands flag
The Life and Legend of Claude Frizzel Bloodgood III.

"confusion now hath made his masterpiece"
(Macbeth, Scene III, Shakespeare)

On August 4, 2001 Bloodgood died in Powhaton Prison, Virginia, at the age of 77. In 1996 Claude Bloodgood, already over 70 years, was at a certain moment behind Gata Kamsby, the second on the United States Chess Federation rating list.

He was born in 1924 as Klaus Frizzel Bluttgutt III in La Paz, Mexico. His father, a german spy, teached him chess when he was 5 years old. Claude learned playing the game amazingly well in no-time.

In 1941, he was sent secretly to Germany, where, at the Navy Academy in Kiel, he got a spy training. As a chess genious, he played against the chess lovers, Canaris, Rommel and Himmler.
Soon he joined the Nazi-Party and became "Leutnant", and served as submarine post-carrier. He brought several secret messages to his father in the USA. On his last trip in 1945, near the US coast, the submarine failed, and sunk. Many comrades draw, others got captured. Bloodgood was the only one, who escaped.

As Germany was about to loose the war, Bloodgood decided not to return to Germany, but stayed under his new name in the States. He worked on fancy fairs for a living.

In 1954, he joined the US Navy. When he was in hospital, he met a group of filmstars, who came to cheer-up the braves. One of them, Humphrey Bogart, saw Bloodgood playing chess, and they played a couple of games. Later Bloodgood also played with Gary Cooper, David Niven, James Mason and Charly Chaplin. He was even married for a while, with film- and musical star Kathryn Grayson.

kloosterveenNetherlands flag
"Tournament Record 1957 - 1961"

During this period, Bloodgood was a very active, and succesful participant in the chess tournaments scene of Virginia. Hislist od OTB victories isimpressive;

Virginia Open (1957 1958)
Norfolk Open (1958 1959 1960 1961)
Norfolk Chess Club Championship (1958 1959 1960 1961)
Norfolk USO Invitational, 36 of 60
Camp Elmore Championship (1957)
FMF Lant Championship (1957)
Oceano NAS Open (1957)

As if this weren`t enough, Bloodgood went in for correspondence chess as well, again racking up some nice wins. By 1958 he`s involved with CC to the point being a key organizer of the All-Service Postal Chess Club Tournament for that year.

kloosterveenNetherlands flag
On his way to jail.

Although we lack much in the way of details, as is often the case with Bloodgood, by the early 1960`s he had evidently, entered into a criminal lifestyle -- and his efforts here certainly, cannot be deemed succesfull. From 1962 - 1969, Bloodgood was almost continiously in prison, for many commited crimes, such as robbery, fourth degree burglary and for forgery.

The 1968 forgery charge was brought up against him by his own mother, Margaret Bloodgood, he would claim, that she was only his step-mother.
Just prier to the time in question, Bloodgood`s father had died, leaving his son a mere 100 dollars. Bloodgood felt there was much more money due him, and that somebody, his step-mother, had cheated him of it. In the midst of the 1968 forgery trial, in full rage, and before the entire courtroom, Bloodgood threatened to kill his accuser, Margaret Bloodgood, if he were convited.

He was convicted, and served one year. Shortly after his release, Margaret Bloodgood was found brutally murdered. Claude Bloodgood was, naturally, the prime suspect, and was soon arrested. Under intense police interrogation, Bloodgood confessed the crime.

The prosecuting attorney, Franklin A Swartz, discribed the case against Bloodgood as "absolutely overwhelming". The jury not only agreed, but did so in less then one hour deliberation. Further, due to the violence of the murder, and the relationship of the defendant to the slain, they recommended the death penalty be imposed. Virginia at the time used the electric chair. The judge concurred.
Claude Frizzel Bloodgood III was sentenced to imprisonment in the maximum security Powhatan Correctional Facility until death by electrocution.

kloosterveenNetherlands flag
Prison Record 1961 - 2001

Bloodgood`s time as a death-row inmate was. however, far from idle.
First, there were legal appeals, various and interminable, to be investigated and filed.
Second, seeing as postal costs for condembed prisoners were footed by the state, Bloodgood seized the loophole therein and began, what can only be termed a truly monumental correspondence chess career. Within weeks, sacks of mail, literally, began arriving for prisoner no.99432. By mid 1970, Bloodgood was juggling out some 2000 games at the same time.
(somehow, he reminds me at aQueen Alice player)


It was also during this extremely uncertain period, the writ of execution could have been signed at any time, that Bloodgood began hiswork as a chess writer. Starting with brief analyses of some of his more interesting CC efforts, Bloodgood would soon have entire articles in various chess publications. In late 1970 his first book "The Tactical Grob" was published.

"The Tactical Grob" is universal recognized as a classic work on this minor opening, and further, secures Bloodgood`s reputation as a master player. Really, in many ways, his fine little work is a "model chess book": 1.the author has extensive master-level "playing experience" with the opening, and 2.the exposition, phrose and examples, is lucid, brief and yet incissive.

In 1972 Supreme Court ruling against state-imposed capital punishment,and the Virginia legislature`s election to abide, simultaneously "Saved Bloodgood`s Life", (if a life sentence can be called life), and "Killed Bloodgood`s Correspondence Chess Career"

< Hey, man, the postage for 2000 letters per month will damn near kill you.....>

Now, for a man like Bloodgood, life without chess__ well, that`s cruel and unusual.

Well, what to do?

(to be continued)

kloosterveenNetherlands flag
The VAPEN Gambit

Including his previous convictions, Bloodgood had now spent some seven years within a various Virginia penal institutions. As with any hardcore, habitual offender, of necessity, Bloodgood had learned the ropes, always tricky and dangerous, of surviving behind bars.
Bloodgood had however, taken in more much then this; a hierarchy of contacts, from guards to wardens, had been cultivated.The result was that in so far as a convicted murderer may be trusted by the prison authorities, Bloodgood was.
And a bit more...

This network was absolutely essential to Bloodgood as he set-up the "Virginia Penitentiary Chess Programm", (VAPEN) in 1972.
For the next two years, Powhatan inmates were treated to the opportunity of learning the nuance of the Royal Game, from the author of "The Tactical Grob", possibly playing a game or two, against the master, and competing against each other in prison-tournaments.
The whole thing went so darn well, in fact, there was ever some talk of sending a team of prisoners to an "outside" chess tournament.
Why imagine the good public relations?
"Progressive reform" , and what not!
Of course, arrangements would have to be made.....

Thus, with the flimsy pretent of organizing details for such an event, Bloodgood and another convicted murderer, Lewis Capleaner, were let out on a day-long furlough, in the custody of a single guard, one George Winslow.
"THAT" the two escaped was never disputed,
the point of contention being rather, "WHY?"

The convicts claimed that Winslow had brought them to his house and demanded the pair, to rob a local gambling house__threatining reprisals, once two were back behind bars, if they didn`t.
Talk about a "Zugzwang"!
The chess playing convicts refused, and a violent quarrel ensued; in a panic, and with no plans, and six bucks between the both of them, Bloodgood and Capleaner over-powered Winslow, hand-cuffed him to his bed, and hit the road, incidently stealing the man`s car, and somehow or other, picking up a couple of local floozies along the way.

Winslow gave the short version; The two had escaped!

"Allright Bloodgood, come out with your hands-up, and drop that Pawn!"

Though brief, lasting just a couple of days, the man-hunt was wild, covering nearly all the states of the lower Delta. Once Bloodgood and Capleaner were safety locked-up again, the inevitable combo followed: VAPEN was shut down, a lot of prison officials were fired or retired, and Virginia Corrections were roundly criticized as irresponsible.

kloosterveenNetherlands flag
Long-term Damage Control

During the next 15 years or so, prisoner 99432 was resticted to a very limited range of chesss activities; a handfull of CC games, a few published articles, and whatever OTB opponents found themselves checkmated with him in Powhatan.

However, slowly but steadily, and somewhat miraculously, considering the escape fiasco, Bloodgood again managed to attain to the position of "model prisoner" in the eyes of the keepers. The fellow prisoners known him to be friendly and generous.
In short, everybody likes Claude...

And in a chess game, particularly speed, the man is unbeatable.

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