Home Page arrow Chess Life Online arrow US Champion John Grefe Dies at 66
US Champion John Grefe Dies at 66 Print E-mail
December 24, 2013
John Grefe, Photo Burt Hochberg
International Master and US Champion, John Alan Grefe, died on Sunday, December 22nd in San Francisco of kidney cancer at the age of 66. Grefe was born on September 6, 1947 in Hoboken, New Jersey. He tied for first in the 1973 US Chess Championship with Lubomir Kavalek.

Grefe is fondly remembered by many prominent members of the American chess community, several of whom shared their thoughts with CLO.

Dr. Anthony Saidy told CLO, “ When Grefe won the US Championship in 1973, he did it before computers. He analyzed deeply the Najdorf Variation, and brilliantly defeated its No. 1 student in the western world, Browne.”


Six-time US Champion GM Walter Browne, a friend of and collaborator with Grefe called him: “A person of rare moral fiber whom I will miss. He was my 2nd at the 1976 Manila Interzonal and we exchanged invaluable analysis over the years. In the 1990's he analyzed dozens of  top level international games in Blitz Chess. His help in the analysis of 19 games in my recent book was a wonderful contribution.”
Grefe & Edmar Mednis, Photo Jerry Bibuild

Dr. Steven Dowd remarked, “With Grefe's passing we have only Stuart Rachels left as an IM that won the US Championship, and it’s interesting that both men also gave up competitive chess at their peaks.” Dowd said he was reminded of Grefe most often through his book, “The Chess Tactician’s Handbook”, where he quoted Grefe on a win vs. Arnold Denker in Lone Pine.


"I had White and the game began 1. e4 c6 (the tactician's nemesis) 2. d3 d5 3 . Nd2 Qc7 I had actually been toying with this line in my pre-tournament preparation and couldn't resist the temptation to play the gambit idea I had come up with. 4. f4?!! It's probably completely unsound, but not totally ridiculous. After the further 4. .. Qxf4 5. Ngf3 Nf6 6. Nb3 Qc7 7. e5 I won rather easily and was awarded the prize for best-played game of Round One."

Feel free to share your memories of Grefe as a comment to this article and check back for updates.