Home Page arrow Chess Life Online arrow 2011 arrow May arrow Former Chess Life Editor & Author, Larry Parr Dies 1946-2011
Former Chess Life Editor & Author, Larry Parr Dies 1946-2011 Print E-mail
By Al Lawrence   
April 6, 2011
Photo Bruce Helm
Lawrence (Larry) Parr, editor of Chess Life from late 1984 to 1988, died in the early morning hours of April 2 at Subang Jaya Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur, just weeks after his CL cover story and obituary of his longtime friend and collaborator GM Larry Evans reached USCF members. The cause of death was reportedly tuberculosis.

Parr had lived in Malaysia since the 1990s, working for chess benefactor and wealthy businessman Dato Tan Chin Nam, whose autobiography Parr helped write. In U.S. chess circles, Parr may be best-known for his book with Arnold Denker, “The Bobby Fischer I Knew,” and his two-book series with GM Lev Alburt, “Secrets of the Russian Chess Masters.” To some longtime members, however, Parr is still remembered for his controversial “FIDEgate Deep-Throat” Chess Life cover story, and for his skewering verbal ripostes on chess political forums.

Larry with his wife Samboon
Born in Seattle on May 21, 1946, Parr graduated cum laude from the University of Washington with a B.A. in history. He worked for the Reuters news agency from 1978 to 1981.  Cerebral, erudite and armed with a ready wit, Parr was by profession a dedicated journalist and at heart a proud family man who was happiest talking about his wife Samboon, his daughter Christiana, and his son Ian — who were all with him at the end. Those who knew Larry beyond the arena of chess forums found a warm-hearted companion who admired English customs and Asian women, and clung to traditional values. International Arbiter Abd Hamid Majid, nominated by Anatoly Karpov for secretary general of FIDE, and a longtime friend who shared an office and countless meals with Parr, remembers him this way:

“Foremost, he was a full-blooded American. He believed in the freedom of press … he was upright and honest and (heavens!) a kind man. He was thrifty (in everything) and he was sincere in his thoughts. He found it difficult to be flexible in a changing world.”
When Parr took over as Chess Life editor, his magazines departed from the studiously balanced coverage of his predecessor Frank Elley to take a sharp turn toward the contentious. To be fair, Parr’s term of editorship coincided with some of the most disputatious years in chess history, encompassing then-FIDE-president Florencio Campomanes’ infamous stoppage of the 1984-85 Karpov-Kasparov match for the world championship and FIDE’s equally notorious 1987 declaration of journalist Ricardo Calvo as “persona non grata.”

The two editors, very different in their approach to Chess Life, became lifelong pals.

“Even today I count him as one of my best and most valued friends,” Elley wrote. “He introduced my wife Chae and me (through a months-long campaign of trickery, actually) and Larry and I exchanged long holiday letters in which we tried to out-brag each other about our families. He usually won, I think.”

By 1988, USCF and Parr parted ways, and, the same year, Larry became editor-in-chief of the U.S. edition of Glasnost News and Review, working for the influential and well-known Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. Parr, fluent in Russian and passionately anti-communist, had found the ideal outlet for his firebrand advocacy. His friend Lev Alburt, himself one of the rare grandmasters who defected from the Soviet Union, told me, “Larry, through his work with Glasnost magazine, would easily make any reasonable list of the 100 Americans who most contributed to the fall of the old Soviet Union.” Also during this period, Parr worked with others to bring about USCF’s change to a “One Member, One Vote” procedure in its election of Executive Board members.
Photo by Kelly Anson

With the breakup of the USSR, in 1992 Parr looked for new employment, and received an offer from Dato Tan Chin Nam, formerly active in FIDE, to move to Kuala Lumpur. In 1996, Parr won the Chess Journalists of America “Book of the Year” award for his volume with Arnold Denker. (With more than 20 CJA awards of various types, it’s likely Parr collected more of these annual tributes than anyone else.) Although he often talked of moving back to the U.S. over the years, Larry was clearly in his element in the Malaysian capital, ghostwriting autobiographies of wealthy Malay, attending embassy functions with his beautiful wife Samboon and representing Dato Tan at the many chess tournaments the patron sponsors.

Photo by Hairulov

Books by Larry Parr:
The Bobby Fischer I Knew And Other Stories. ISBN 1-84382-080-3
Secrets of the Russian Chess Masters: Fundamentals of the Game, Volume 1. ISBN 0-393-32452-4
Secrets of the Russian Chess Masters: Fundamentals of the Game, Volume 2. ISBN 0-393-32451-6
Pupols: American Master. ISBN 0-938650-31-9
Tan Chin Nam: Never Say I Assume ISBN 983-42884-9-2

Please look for more on Larry Parr in a future issue of Chess Life.


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