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Twisted Minds: “The Chessboard Killer”





In 2007, chess was linked to a very graphic and heinous topic. It was when the world was introduced to Alexander Pichushkin also known as the chessboard killer or the Bitsa Maniac.

Bitsa Park is one of the largest natural parks in Moscow, and it covers an area of 18 square kilometers. It was a place where people frequently took strolls and played chess. But it hid a grizzly secret. It was the operating grounds of a bestial serial killer who was dubbed as ‘The Bitsa Maniac’.

However, when he was caught, a shocking discovery was made and a new dubbing was attributed to this ruthless killer. They found that the latter kept a chessboard and filled each square with a victim log. That’s how he kept count of his murder victims. Just prior to his arrest, he had already filled 61 squares out of the 64 squares of the chessboard.

Alexander Pichushkin was born on April 9th, 1974. He grew up in Moscow with his mom, his stepfather, and his half-sister in a two-bedroom apartment, a six-minute walk away from the north end of Bitsa Park. He had a regular childhood. It was said that he had been a sociable child until an unfortunate accident took place. At age 4, he fell backward off the swing, which hit him hard square in the head when it swung back. He wasn’t taken to a hospital, nor was he professionally checked for any injuries. At such a young age, the skull, still not fully developed, cannot provide full protection for the brain. 

That’s why the experts speculated that his frontal cortex could’ve been damaged at that incident. Such damage can cause poor impulse control and aggressive tendencies. It was the turning point in Alexander’s life; he became so angry and aggressive. Alexander wasn’t doing well in school. He was a victim of daily taunting and unremitting bullying. He didn’t have friends. He was a lonely bird, straying from the flock. 

He transferred to a school in the hopes of finding a better environment, and he moved in with his granddad. His grandpa took him in and tried to provide for him all the unmitigated care and love he needed. He kept encouraging him to do extracurricular activities, and that’s when chess came into the picture. He would take Alex to Bitsa Park and teach him how to play chess. Alex caught on quickly and became excellent at it. He found chess a gateway to release his built-up aggression and anger.

Alex’s world crumbled when he experienced his first-ever loss. His grandpa passed away when he was 15. He had to move back with his mom, thus going back to his old school where he previously struggled with bullying. To cope with his grief and underlying sadness, he started to drown his anger in vodka. Although he kept on playing chess, he only played when he was drunk. He thought he was good at chess only when he was intoxicated. 

His aggressiveness was obtrusive; he would record himself threatening children at the park, save the tapes and watch them later to relish over the feelings of dominance and power he felt at those moments. When that no longer satisfied him, he decided to up his game, and the twisted idea of killing someone settled inside his head.

When he reached the age of 18, he confided in a friend named Michael that he was planning to murder someone. His friend tagged alongside Alex in his search for his first potential victim. But throughout this hunt for prey, Michael wasn’t taking Alexander seriously, which infuriated the latter, so he decided to kill Michael. He pushed him down and then bashed his head against the concrete. He later described the feeling of this murder by saying:” Your first murder is like your first love. You will never forget it.”

The investigation into Michael’s death went cold, and no one has ever suspected Alex. He committed his second crime in the same year. But the case was ruled as a suicide. Alexander, then, went on a prolonged hiatus for 9 years. In 2001, he decided to bring his hiatus to an end. In the span of 8 weeks, he proceeded to murder 10 people. He would tell the person he was playing chess with that he lost his dog, and then he would ask them to go make a tribute at his dog’s grave. After luring them to a secluded place, he would kill them and dispose of the body in the sewers at the park. In the following months, there were 5 more victims who fell prey to his tactics.

Once, he lured a woman named Maria into the park. After attacking her and throwing her in the sewers, he left thinking he had just disposed of another victim, but what he didn’t know was that Maria wasn’t dead. She slowly gathered her energy and managed to climb out. She went to the hospital and spoke to the police. But the police told her not to push it and that they didn’t want to do the extra work. They asked her to retract her statement, and they would turn a blind eye towards the fact that she was an illegal immigrant. So she kept quiet.

There was also another survivor, a 13-year-old boy who headed straight to police after escaping from the grasps of Alexander, but they sent him back pretending he reeked of alcohol. A week later, the boy met Alexander in the Metro station. Terrified, he headed to some police officers and told them about the aggression, but they brushed him off and sent him home.

By mid-2005, the victim count was up to 40 people. Alexander stopped disposing of the bodies and began leaving them out in the open. “The fact that the victims disappeared has no longer been able to satisfy me. I needed more emotions” The Bitsa Maniac later stated. By Christmas of 2005, police discovered 7 mutilated bodies with severe injuries to the head and a vodka bottle stuck to their skulls. It was only then that the investigation was taken seriously, especially that one of the victims was a police officer himself.

On June 13, 2006, Alexander took his coworker, a woman named Marina, to the park for a picnic. Marina left a note at home saying she was at the park with a coworker named Alexander and left his phone number. When they were at the park, she told him about that. He contemplated a lot whether he should kill her or not. But despite his internal conflicts, he made Marina his final victim.

When her body was discovered, police found a metro ticket in her pocket. After checking the CCTV at the metro station, they saw Marina and Alexander heading towards the park together. Further investigation led police to the discovery of the note left in her apartment. Two days later, an arrest warrant was issued and Alexander Pichushkin was brought into custody.

Alex confessed everything willingly, “The Bitsa Maniac; it’s me.” He then added: “I committed 61 murders. 60 of them are in Bitsa Park. For 14 years, I did what I wanted. I was almost God” Alexander said he was purposefully being sloppy in order to get caught and for him to get credit for his works. He bragged about the murders and found immense pleasure in reenacting the crimes. “For me, life without murder is like life without food for you. I felt like the father of all these people since it was me who opened the door for them to another world, “he said. “ In all cases, I killed for only one reason. I killed in order to live because when you kill, you want to live. «  he also added.

Alexander said he got sexual gratification over it and that “The closer the person is to you, the more pleasant it is to kill them” as he declared. He also blamed the police for not working hard enough and said that he was only caught because he gave himself up. Alexander said his motivation was to beat Andrei Chikatilo’s record. The latter is labeled Russia’s most notorious serial killer with a victim count of 52. 

He wanted to beat this record, thus becoming Russia’s most prolific serial killer himself. That’s why he insisted on being charged with all the murders. Alexander confessed to 63 murders, but he was charged only with 49 because the other murders couldn’t be confirmed. His trial began on the 13th of September 2007, and it lasted 46 days, during which Alex was kept in a glass cage for his own protection. After a three-hour deliberation, the jury came back with a unanimous verdict. 

Alexander Pichushkin was found guilty of 49 counts of murder and 3 attempts of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. However, he shall spend the first fifteen years mandatorily in solitary confinement.


Written by: Sarra Barnoussi and Razki Wassim.

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Ghosts in the Mirror






Deep down the mysterious continent of Asia, laden with centuries upon centuries of legends and stories to tell, lies the land of a thousand dynasties, China. The people of this land are known most for their vast seas of wisdom and spirituality. Their eyes look through the physical and value beauty on the purity of the soul and the mind, as we are going to see in the tears falling from the eyes of Zhong Kui, the King of Ghosts.

Bright minds are the spark of civilization yet no mind can shine brighter than Zhong Kui’s:

The hero of this story was a true genius, had the highest grades in his class, was the favorite of all his teachers, and was the teacher of all his classmates. A man of such talents deserves no less than the highest of honors and positions, and so was his thinking. Zhong Kui chose to apply for the imperial examination, to become an advisor of the king and do his part in the rising of his empire.

People in the imperial palace were astonished by Zhong’s brilliant answers and immediately invited him to assume his new position. The emperor, a pretentious man, all too pompous for the common folk was the type of man that wishes everything to be perfect and all too beautiful. He sat on his golden throne wearing the finest of his silk robes and a crown made of pure jade was resting on his head, waiting for our hero’s presence.

Zhong Kui finally arrived at the doors of the palace and presented himself to the guards who allowed his immediate entry. He could not be happier, but all of his joy sunk to the depths of the earth when he entered the emperor’s courtroom. The king gave the highest shriek when helaid his eyes on Zhong. He felt pure disgust as he looked upon our genius’ misshapen eyes and overgrown ears. He almost puked as he looked at our prodigy’s ragged clothes and dirty hair, and immediately expelled him from the palace vowing to never let something so horrendous sit on his imperial tables.

Zhong Kui wept his eyes dry as he left the presence of the emperor and walked with what he thought was shame until he reached the huge metal doors of the palace. Before leaving, he looked at his reflection on those doors and felt so much anger for the world that birthed him in such a fashion, and with so much rage and sadness building in his heart, he struck his head on the door, once, twice, and thrice, until his blood splattered all over it, and he kept beating on his brow until he fell on the ground dead, another victim of suicide.

Fortunately, his story does not end with his untimely death. As his soul traveled to the underground, it caught the eye of the King of Hell and fascinated by its purity, and sensing the talents of the new arrival. He knew that Zhong Kui was way too special to waste.

He honored him with a greater title than he could ever wish for in the emperor’s palace. He named him King of Ghosts and Hunter of Demons. Zhong was delighted and vowed to do right by his new duty, protecting all humans, including the emperor that caused him nothing but depression.

With plenty to take from between the lines of this tale, we can start with the fact that words are as sharp as swords and they can shred a soul to bits leaving a person broken, never to be repaired. There is no ugly, or hideous, there is only different. 

There are no two humans on this earth that look alike and that’s what makes being human beautiful. It’s okay to have features unlike those you see in the media and pictures of models, for those features are you and nothing is as pretty as your love for yourself. Beauty too can come in so many forms, and to the forces of nature, illustrated in this story by the King of Hell and God of Death, the most natural of all forces, nothing is more important than the beauty of your mind.

Superficiality is killed when the eyes are closed to let the ears hear the magnificent words coming out of your mouth, to understand the purity of your golden ideas, and to feel the true essence of what truly is you beneath the shell that might or might not be attractive by the common definition.

To wrap up the story of a prodigy and his unjust end, I advise each and every one of you to stand in front of a mirror and say that you are beautiful because if you accept it, no sword can scathe your soul. And you are not just beautiful because of what you look like, you are beautiful because of what you feel, because of what you think about when you steer away with your thoughts in public, you are beautiful because of what you love and what you cherish, because of the art that leaks like rainbows from your mind and most importantly, you are beautiful because you wake up and live every day to the fullest despite what the poison you hear from the people in your life.

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