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Landon Brownell (1989-2009) Print E-mail
By Robby Adamson   
April 22, 2009

The chess world, the Arizona Community, and the Catalina Foothills High School chess family lost an amazing person in Landon Brownell.  Landon was 19 years old and died in a car accident on April 21. Landon grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, and moved along with his family to Tucson, Arizona, at the age of 10. Landon was a very articulate and brilliant kid who mastered whatever he put his mind to. 

I first noticed and became acquainted with Landon and his family when I attended a local scholastic tournament in Tucson. I curiously looked at this kid with glasses wearing a suit and tie to his games. His father, Roger Brownell, once told me that Landon decided one day to wear a suit to a tournament and he kept this up until he joined the high school team in 2005.   He affectionately became known to those outside the Tucson chess community as “that kid with the suit,” and on ICC as “Suitkid.”

Landon and his siblings all played chess. The Brownell family was a staple at the local chess tournaments in Tucson as well as the Foothills Open tournaments run by the Foothills chess club.  Landon is survived by his father, Roger Brownell, and his four siblings, Jonathan Brownell, Bryant Brownell, Caryn Brownell, and Jenny Brownell.

Landon was ranked as a national master (almost reaching 2300) and was the driving force of Catalina Foothills’ three national high school team titles in four years (2005, 2007, and 2008). Landon claimed the ultimate individual honor in winning the 2006 national title in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Landon also won the Arizona high school championship twice.
Landon over the board, Photo Betsy Dynako

Beyond the individual honors however - and most importantly - Landon cared about others and was a dedicated member of the team. As his school coach at Catalina Foothills High School, I witnessed first-hand Landon embracing the team concept, often without prompting by anyone. To prepare for Nationals over the years, Landon and his father, Roger, would invite students from Foothills, regardless of their ability, over to their home on the weekends to play training games with each other. Landon would review the games with his teammates, always in a gentle and constructive manner, regardless of result.

Landon Brownell with the 2007 Championship Catalina Foothills team.
 Photo Steve Goldberg

In his senior year in 2008, Landon put the team first in the last round when he accepted a draw in the last round against a lower rated opponent – of course to help the team.

As talented as Landon was as a chess player, not many people know that he was even a better player in the Eastern game, “Go.” Landon became the first Caucasian to win the National Junior Go championship in 2006. I even remember GM Hikaru Nakamura taking a Go lesson with Landon! Landon also took first place in the US Open 6 Dan.

Chris De Sa, a former teammate of Landon’s, offered the following thoughts:

“Landon was a really great guy who took pride in his work and accomplished great things in everything he did.  He was always very responsible and polite.  He was a really strong chess player, and his presence brought a certain grounding to our team, as it were, and a certain level and type of maturity that was not found among the rest of the team.  I remember how happy we all were when he defeated Alex Lenderman at SuperNationals in 2005, which helped us win the national championships that year, and I also remember how he brought us the news in a nonchalant way, without bragging that he had defeated an international master.  It is that humility and perseverance that I feel characterized Landon most strongly.”


Sean Higgins, also a former teammate of Landon’s, provided his own thoughts:

“While we will all remember Landon for the immense talent and distinctly creative approach he brought to the game we all know and love, we will remember him more as an amazing teammate and friend. On weekends, he would invite our entire team over to his house to play training games while his parents cooked us all lunch. We all grew up with Landon, from his first year in middle school, when he led our team to win the 2003 National K-8 Championship, to his last years in high school, when he led our team to win the 2005, 2007 and 2008 National K-12 Championships. The thing that distinguished Landon from the stars of other scholastic teams was that he truly cared about everyone on his team. He would always take the time to encourage us, motivate us, and renew our focus. Anytime our team needed a leader or just a friend to play blitz games against, Landon stepped up and took the role. I know for a fact that I speak on behalf of our entire team when I say that Landon will be dearly missed and always remembered as an invaluable leader, incredible teammate, and caring friend.”

As a personal note from this author - It is never easy to lose someone you care about, but it is even harder to lose someone who did not have the time to fully live his life. The youth of America are our future and it is so unfair to have tragedies such as this. However, rather than reflect on the tragedy, I hope everyone will remember Landon as a bright, kind, and gentle young man who treated everyone with respect and decency.  My prayers are with Landon and his family. Landon, I will miss you – may you rest in peace.

Please make donations to the Southern Arizona Chess Association (SACA), in memory of Landon Brownell, P.O. Box 42407, Tucson, AZ 85733.

April - Chess Life Online 2009

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