Belgian born George Koltanowski was a professional chess player who set a Guinness Record by playing 56 chess matches simulataneously while blind-folded (he won fifty while the remaining six were a draw). Koltanowski, or "Kolty" as he was known, was born in Antwerp in 1903 to a Jewish family of Polish origin. Beginning at the age of 14, Kolty became a professional chess player by the age of 21.
Although most of Kolty’s family perished in the Holocaust, he himself was by chance visiting South America on a chess tour when the war broke out. Eventually, through a series of chance occurrences, he was granted a U.S. Visa in 1940. He met his wife in 1944, and the couple settled in San Francisco soon thereafter.
Although he is not remembered for his actual tournament performances, Kolty did manage to make his living entirely through the game of chess. Whether it be through books, speaking engagements or sensational displays, Kolty was certainly the game's greatest ambassador.
He died of congestive heart failure in 2000, at the age of 96.