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Marshall Blitz in Memory of Robert Byrne Print E-mail
By Bryan Quick   
December 17, 2013
On December 10th the New York chess community gathered at the Marshall Chess Club to celebrate the life and career of the late Grandmaster Robert Byrne.  The great American master past away this April, days before his 85th birthday.  

A former United States Chess Champion, GM Byrne’s distinguished chess career included an appearance in the 1974 Candidates tournament, nine Chess Olympiads (winning seven medals), and induction into the Chess Hall of Fame in 1994.  In addition to his status as an elite master, GM Byrne served as the chess columnist for the New York Times from 1972 – 2006.  He was also a professor of Philosophy at the University of Indiana before devoting himself to chess fulltime.

Despite rainy winter weather, more than 60 chess players gathered to make this a festive and memorable night.  The evening commenced with a memorial reception hosted by Marshall Chess Club President Stuart Chagrin and president over by the club’s President Emeritus Dr. Frank Brady.  GM Byrne’s widow Maria, who sponsored the event, and his good friends GM Joel and Phyllis Benjamin remembered the late Grandmasters in moving remarks.  Their stories provided an honest glimpse into Robert Byrne the man, beyond his brilliant chess games.  One thing was certain: GM Byrne was truly loved.  He was a dear friend to the top chess players of his day.  This was an impressive feet given the history of, lets just say gamesmanship, that existed at the top level when he was playing (contrary to the cordial nature of today’s players).  Between matches he would even play tennis with his rivals.  Most of all he enjoyed telling colorful stories.  All of which were a bit to colorful to be retold at the memorial or in this article!

GM Benjamin spoke of Robert Byrne the mentor, who offered him the only advice that has ever stuck: “Put your pieces in the right places… and you wont get into time trouble!”  This anecdote was a fitting transition into the nine-round blitz tournament that followed the speeches.  Nine Grandmasters and numerous other strong players slugged it out in the three-minute games that followed.  The action was closely contested going into the last round, with GM’s Benjamin, Alexander Stripunsky, Leonid Yudasin, and the newly minted GM Irina Krush all in contention.  In the end Stripunsky and Yudasin shared first place with scores of 7/9, while Krush and Benjamin finished with 6.5/9.  Please refer to MSA for complete rated results.

The Marshall Chess Club hosts over 300 tournaments each year, and on any given night you can find a swath of intensity radiating from its deathly quiet competition rooms.  However, the grand hall had a very special feeling on this night.  It was very alive, very spirited.  Everyone was having great fun in a way you might sometimes forget if you’ve been playing this game since a distant childhood.  However, on this night, we were reminded that chess gives us the gift of community as much as anything else.

Nothing could have been more fitting to celebrate the life of a man who always seemed to understand this. 

Look for a CLO report soon on the Marshall Chess Club Championship. 

August - Chess Life Online 2014

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