A great historian passes

7/20/2003 – Kenneth Whyld was one of the great chess historians, co-author of the illustrious Oxford Companion to Chess and columnist of the British Chess Magazine for 25 years. This "wonderful person with the mind and sense of humour of a man half his age" (Sarah Hurst) passed away unexpectedly last week at the age of 77. More...

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Ken Whyld
6th March 1926 – 11th July 2003

Kenneth Whyld was a world-famous chess historian who co-authored the Oxford Companion to Chess. This 1984 work was written with the late David Hooper and revised ten years ago. It remains the standard work of reference on chess history.

Whyld was a strong amateur player who won the Nottinghamshire county championship and took part in the British Championship in 1956. He was a chess columnist of the British Chess Magazine since 1978. BCM Editor John Saunders writes:

"Although Ken and I had been in regular contact as columnist and editor for over four years, we met in the flesh only once – two weeks ago at the party to launch the 'Art of Chess' exhibition, when he came down to London for the day from his home in Lincolnshire. The photo, showing Ken enjoying a flute of champagne, was taken on that occasion. As well as being hugely knowledgeable about chess, Ken was a very warm, down-to-earth and generous man, with a gently teasing sense of humour. It was a privilege and honour to have known him and worked with him."

In The Telegraph Malcolm Pein writes: "Whyld was Britain's foremost chess historian. Over the years he must have answered thousands of questions from other historians, authors, journalists and members of the public by phone, mail and email and gave of his time willingly. As a fellow historian noted: 'a light has gone out in the chess world'. He was working on many new publishing projects when he died and is an irreplaceable loss to us all."

In the Chess Cafe Sarah Hurst wrote: "Ken Whyld was a wonderful person with the mind – and sense of humour – of a man half his age. I will never forget the phrase "a dirty mind is a perpetual feast", which was his response to the odd-shaped whistling shrimp on the cover of my first book. Ken was famous for knowing everything about chess, and indeed his knowledge was encyclopedic, but most people do not realise that he knew everything about most other things, too! During our late-night chats at his farmhouse in Lincolnshire, between sifting through his photographs of Alekhine and historic gamescores, he would meander on to topics such as Grand Prix racing, the film "Trainspotting", and the plight of the Palestinians. He approached every subject with the same ready wit, the same compassion, and the same love of facts. In my opinion he was the greatest chess historian in the world, and he managed to achieve that status along with a successful career in the business world, a great deal of foreign travel, and a slightly less harmonious family life. Nevertheless, he remarried recently, proving once again that he had a seemingly endless supply of energy and passion. Ken never wasted a minute. His was an example to emulate."

Ken Whyld's works included:

  • The Collected Games of Emanuel Lasker, 1998
  • The Oxford Companion to Chess, 2nd Edition 1993
  • Alekhine – Nazi Articles (3rd ed.) 2002
  • Chess Columns – A List – 2002
  • Guinness Chess The Records, 1986
  • First Chess Olympiad London,1927 1993
  • Fake Automata in Chess 1994
  • Plus hundreds of articles, essays and other contributions to magazines and online forums.

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