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Jacqueline Rebecca Louise, Mrs Gregor Piatigorsky, (née de Rothschild) (1911-2012)

Jacqueline Rebecca Louise de Rothschild was born in Paris on 6 November 1911, third child of Edouard de Rothschild (1868-1949) and Germaine Alice née Halphen (1884-1975). She became an America chess and tennis champion, author, sculptor, arts patron, philanthropist, and chess organizer and patron.

She was born in Paris and was raised at the Château de Ferrières with her brother Guy and sister Bethsabée.  Aged 19 she married publisher Robert Calmann-Levy (1899-1982), but this ended after five years in 1935, and two years later she married the renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976). Their daughter Jephta was born in France in 1937. Together they fled to America in the wake of the Nazi invasion, eventually settling in Los Angeles in 1949.  Their son Joram was born in 1940.

Jacqueline’s passion for chess led to her accomplishments as a chessplayer including a bronze medal in the first Women's Olympiad in 1957, in which she represented the United States.  She played in several U.S. Women's Championships, finishing a half-point out of first in 1965.  In 1955, she became the organizer of what became known as the Steiner Club.  She is perhaps best remembered for the Piatigorsky Cup tournaments held in Los Angeles in 1963 and 1966.  Participants included world champions Petrosian, Spassky, and Fischer.  She oversaw all the details of these events, even personally designing the Cup.  These two tournaments did much to enhance the stature of chess in the US and generated still-popular tournament books.

Her philanthropic efforts included chess programs for underprivileged and disabled students in Los Angeles schools, and paying expenses to national competitions for local teams, and sponsoring the U.S. Junior Invitational for several years in the late 1960s and early 70s. Retiring as a player in the late 70s, Jacqueline increasingly focused on tennis (winning several national championships) and sculpting; along with her rewarding ruminations on aging, Growing as We Age.  In 1988 she also published an autobiography, Jump in the Waves: A Memoir, a copy of which is in the Reading Room. Jacqueline died on 15 July 2012.

The Rothschild Archive London does not hold any private papers of the Piatigorskys. The Archive holds a few published works by members of the family.  

Jacqueline, Mrs Gregor Piatigorsky, chess photographs, c.1960

000/733, 2 items

Two undated black and white photographs of Jacqueline Piatigorsky playing chess with Lina Grumette. The location is believed to be a tournament of the Hollywood Chess group, or Lina Grumette's West Hollywood 'Chess Set' club (n.d., but estimated c.1960).

Jacqueline Piatigorsky and her family moved to Los Angeles in 1949, where her husband taught at the University of Southern California. Starting out her chess career in America, Jacqueline started playing correspondence chess but shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, she met Herman Steiner and joined his Hollywood Chess Group. With his help, her skills grew exponentially.  Overcoming her timidity, she entered tournaments and Steiner convinced her to enter the 1951 U.S. Women's Championship. She soon became a name to be reckoned with, becoming the organiser of what became known as the Steiner Club in 1955. She won a bronze medal in the first Women's Olympiad in 1957, in which she represented the United States. She played in several U.S. Women's Championships, finishing a half-point out of first in 1965. She is perhaps best remembered for the Piatigorsky Cup tournaments held in Los Angeles in 1963 and 1966. Retiring as a player in the late 1970s, Jacqueline increasingly focused on tennis and sculpting.

Lina Grumette (1908-1988) was a German born American chess promoter in Southern California who participated in several U.S. Women's Championships, and for many years ran a club in her West Hollywood home called The Chess Set, a gathering place for tournament players and other chess celebrities. In the 1960s, she assisted her close friend Jacqueline Piatigorsky with the organization and running of the two Piatigorsky Super-Grandmaster Round-Robins. She is best remembered as the ‘adoptive mother’ to Bobby Fischer; she encouraged Fischer to seek the championship from Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky and accompanied him to Iceland for the match. 

Jacqueline, Mrs Gregor Piatigorsky, exhibition catalogues (sculpture), 1976; 1988; 1996; 2004

000/600, 000/1366, 000/2197/2, 6 items

Copies of catalogues of exhibitions of sculpture by Jacqueline, Mrs Gregor Piatigorsky (1911-2012):

  • The Edgardo Acosta Gallery, Beverly Hills (1976);
  • The Heritage Gallery, Los Angeles (1988);
  • The Heritage Gallery, Los Angeles (1996).

Jacqueline, Mrs Gregor Piatigorsky, exhibition catalogues (chess), 2014

000/2197/7, 1 item

Jacqueline Piatigorsky: Patron, Player, Pioneer, exhibition catalogue, World Chess Hall of Fame, 2014.

Jacqueline, Mrs Gregor Piatigorsky, published memoirs, 'Jump in the Waves', 1988

000/2197/3, 1 volume

Jacqueline, Mrs Gregor Piatigorsky (née de Rothschild) (1911-2012): published memoirs. Mrs Piatigorsky published her memoirs in 1988, following the publication in the early 1980s of memoirs by her brother, Baron Guy de Rothschild (1909-2007). The book covers her childhood at the Château de Ferrières, her first marriage (to Robert Calmann-Levy (1899-1982)), her romance with, and subsequent marriage to the cellist Gregor (Grisha) Piatigorsky (1903-1976), her life in the United States, and her chess career, tennis interests and her work as a sculptor.

  • Jump in the Waves: a memoir, Jacqueline Piatigorsky ('A Joan Kahn Book', St. Martin's Press, New York, 1988)

Jaqueline, Mrs Gregor Piatigorsky, published works, 'Jacqueline Piatigorsky - Scupltures', 2004

000/2197/4, 1 volume

Jacqueline Piatigorsky - Scupltures, Jacqueline Piatigorsky, privately published, 2004.

Jacqueline, Mrs Gregor Piatigorsky, memorial order of service, 2012

000/2197/6, 1 item

Jacqueline, Mrs Gregor Piatigorsky (1911-2012): Order of Service for Mrs Piatigorsky's Memorial Service, 2012.

Gregor Piatogorsky, published memoirs, 'Cellist', 1965

000/2197/1, 1 volume

Celist, Gregor Piatigorsky, (Doubleday & Co., 1965). This work is the autobiography of Gregor Piatigorsky (1906-1976), the Ukrainian-born American cellist. As a child, he was taught violin and piano by his father. After seeing and hearing the cello, he was determined to become a cellist and was given his first cello when he was seven. He won a scholarship to the Moscow Conservatory. Aged 13 when the Russian Revolution took place, shortly afterwards he started playing in the Lenin Quartet. At 15, he was hired as the principal cellist for the Bolshoi Theater. The Soviet authorities would not allow him to travel abroad to further his studies, so he smuggled himself and his cello into Poland on a cattle train with a group of artists. He studied briefly in Berlin and Leipzig. In 1929, he first visited the United States. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, in January 1937 he married Jacqueline de Rothschild (1911-2012).

Joram Piatigorsky, published works 'Gene Sharing and Evolution', 2007

000/2197/5, 1 volume

Gene Sharing and Evolution, Joram Piatigorsky, (Harvard University Press, 2007). Joram Piatigorsky is an American molecular biologist and eye researcher at the National Institutes of Health. He is the son of the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky (1906-1976) and the chess player and sculptor Jacqueline Piatigorsky (née de Rothschild) (1911-2012).

Joram Piatigorsky, exhibition catalogues (Inuit art), 2018

000/2550, 1 folder

Published material relating to the Exhibition of the Joram Piatigorsky Collection of Inuit Art, presented by the World Bank Art Programme 7 May-7 June 2018, The World Bank Group, 1818 H Street, MC Building, Washington DC: exhibition notes and postcards. Joram Piatigorsky is a major collector of Inuit Art.  He is the son of the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky (1906-1976) and the chess player and sculptor Jacqueline Piatigorsky (née de Rothschild) (1911-2012).