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James Rachels (1941-2003)

James Rachels (1941-2003)

James Rachels

Jim Rachels was a chess organizer, director, player, and, most of all, he was a fan of the gameís beauty. During the 1960s, he labored for hours a day to solve a mate-in-three problem displayed in the window of a Durham, North Carolina cigar shop. When Jim revealed the key move ó Rd4 ó and collected his prize, the storeís owner couldnít believe someone had actually solved it.

Jim learned the moves in Columbus, Georgia, while goofing off at his summer job at the radio station. This was in 1959. He and a friend would play on a set placed in a drawer. That drawer would be quickly shut when the boss came in.

Jim served on the USCF Policy Board and the USCF Ethics Committee during the 80s. In the prickly world of chess politics, he made only friends. Outside of chess, he was a world-famous moral philosopher, his books selling over 200,000 copies in half-a-dozen languages. In 1984 his interests collided briefly when he published a scholarly essay called ďChess as Art: Reflections on Richard Reti.Ē Jim died of cancer on September 5th, still youthful at the age of 62.

Iíll always be grateful for the time and energy my dad spent taking me to tournaments when I was young. Without his support, I would have achieved nothing in chess. Here is an example of the help he gave me:

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 g6 4. d3 Bg7 5. Bd2 e5 6. Be2 Nge7 7. Be3 (Perhaps my dadís timid opening got me overconfident? Thatís no excuse.) 7. ... b6 8. Qd2 0-0 9. h4! d5 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxd5 Qxd5 12. h5 f5 13. Bh6 f4 (Getting nervous) 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. hxg6 hxg6 16. Ng5 Qxg2 17. Bf3 Qxg5 18. Bxc6 Rb8 19. 0-0-0 Qf6 20. Be4 Bf5 21. f3 Bxe4 22. dxe4 Rbd8 23. Qh2 Rh8? Now Jimbo played the crushing 24. Rd7+! accompanied by a benevolent draw offer. If Iíd had any class, I would have refused it and then resigned. Instead, I took it.

There are two charities in Jimís name. To support the James Rachels Visiting Scholar Program, make checks payable to the UAB Philosophy Department Endowment Fund and send to: Department of Philosophy, HB414A, 900 13th St. So., Birmingham, AL 35294-1260. To support the James Rachels Fellowship, make checks payable to the UNC/Chapel Hill Philosophy Department Gift Fund and send to: Ms. Claire Miller, Department of Philosophy, UNC/Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. In each case, you can mention Jim in the memo field. ó Stuart Rachels