Alexander Pichushkin: The Chessboard Killer
Driven by a bizarre sexual urge and the thirst for power and attention, The Chessboard Killer threw Moscow into a fit of fear after his multi-year killing spree. Capitalizing on the transition of government in Russia and the lack of accountability in law enforcement, Pichuskin’s crimes went largely unnoticed for over five years, until his desire to gain credit for the vicious murders ultimately did him in.
Born: April 9th, 1974
Died: Still alive today
M.O.: Lured vulnerable, lonely people into Bitsevsky Park on the premise of sharing a drink, bashed their heads in, and disposed of their bodies in the sewer.
Signature: Marking off boxes on his chessboard after his kills, inspiring his nickname “The Chessboard Killer.” Also known as the Bitsevsky Park Maniac.
Victim Count: Claimed to have killed over 60; 48 verified kills and 3 more attempted murders
Best known for: Attempting to kill more people than the infamous Russian killer, Andrei Chikatilo – also known as the Rostov Ripper – who was convicted of killing 53 people. Pichushkin was disappointed when the courts only credited him with 48 murders.
“In all cases I killed only for one reason. I killed in order to live. For me, life without killing is like life without food for you.”
“I felt like the father of these people, since it was I who opened the door for them to another world.”
With an unquenchable thirst for blood, The Chessboard Killer wreaked havoc on Moscow, killing at least 48 people in the early 2000’s. Unlike most serial killers we’ve covered, Alexander Pichushkin did not experience abuse in his childhood, making his heinous crimes even more incomprehensible to the public. What made this man any different from the rest of us, and why did it take so long to stop him?
Pichushkin did have one experience that may have caused a drastic change in his brain chemistry; while young Alexander innocently played on the swing set one afternoon, he accidentally fell and was smacked hard in the forehead by the swing. With no money to go to the doctor, his mother Natasha assumed he was just fine; what she didn’t know was that the frontal lobe is a very sensitive part of the brain, that largely directs personality and emotional perception and expression. Damage to your frontal lobe, especially when it is still in development, can cause changes in the production of dopamine: a neurotransmitter that aids in stimulating the feelings of happiness and other emotions. Research shows that people who experience frontal lobe trauma tend to have trouble controlling their emotions, and are more likely to lash out aggressively. Looking back, many have said that soon after that day, Alexander Pichushkin started developing much more aggressive tendencies.What had started as an innocent day in the park, ended with a nasty bump on the head and a potential serial killer.
With no father figure to guide him, Pichushkin started getting picked on in school for being a slow learner, and so his mother Natasha moved him to a school for children with learning disabilities. Feeling out of place and unworthy, Pichushkin’s grandfather finally stepped up to the plate and took Alexander under his wing. In an attempt to give Pichushkin a healthy outlet outside of school, his grandfather started bringing him to Bitsevsky Park to play chess everyday.
The game quickly became Pichushkin’s obsession. Winning gave him his first ever taste of how it felt to dominate others, as he was so used to ridicule. Once he felt the rush of adrenaline that accompanied a win, paired with his existing aggressive tendencies, things began to change.
The subsequent loss of the only two beings he ever loved marked the end of his innocence; when Pichushkin experienced a succession of deaths in his early teen years, first with the passing of his grandfather, followed by his beloved dog, his future as a killer became set in stone. At the young age of 18, with nothing and no one left to keep him in check, Pichushkin’s anger and bloodlust finally culminated in his first kill of a schoolmate and friend.
For reasons unknown, Pichushkin took a 9 year hiatus from killing, living a seemingly normal and quiet life, going to school and working in a market. But eventually he exploded again. After studying the American self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Pichushkin devised his method of killing; he would observe the crowd outside Bitsevsky Park, single out the loneliest and most vulnerable person, and lure them deep into the park. With each victim, he proposed they take a walk to his dead dog’s grave and share a toast; once the victim was lured into his trap, they were done for. All but two of them, to be exact.
There were two times that Pichushkin’s murders did not go as planned, and both times the escaped victims went to the police, but were ignored. This only gave Puchushkin more of a thrill, when he eventually reveled in the memories of feeling powerful and eluding the police. After years of killing though, Pichushkin’s craving for infamy took over, and he grew sloppy and much more aggressive. The Chessboard Killer began leaving the bodies out in public, drawing attention to his killing spree and almost challenging law enforcement to finally catch him.
Finally, in 2006, Pichushkin was caught for the murder of Marina Moskalyeva when she left a note for her son, explaining where she went and who she was with. Upon interrogation, Pichushkin was forthright in sharing the details of his murderous history. Lead investigator Andrei Suprunenko explained, “All maniacs want to talk. It made him feel important. I told him I admired him, and he liked that, and then he opened up. It was very important for Pichuskin that people think he was a hero, so I made him feel like a hero.”
Like all other serial killers, his “heroics” were short-lived. After being charged with 48 counts of murder, 12 less than he claimed, Alexander Pichushkin was sentenced to life in prison, where he will remain for the rest of his days, lonely and forgotten.