GM Larry Melvyn Evans (1932 – 2010)

11/17/2010 – On November 15, 2010, at approximately 3 p.m., five-time US Champion Larry Evans died at Washoe Hospital in Reno, Nevada, from complications following a gall bladder operation over two weeks ago. He is survived by his wife, painter Ingrid Evans, and two stepsons. GM Evans is arguably the most versatile figure in American chess history. Eulogy.

Larry Melvyn Evans (March 22, 1932 – November 15, 2010)

Larry Evans was an American chess grandmaster and journalist. He won or shared the US Chess Championship five times and the US Open Chess Championship four times.

Evans was born in Manhattan on March 22, 1932, and learned much about the game by playing for ten cents an hour on 42nd Street. At age 14, he tied for fourth-fifth place in the Marshall Chess Club championship. The next year he won it outright, becoming the youngest Marshall champion until that time. He also finished equal second in the U.S. Junior Championship, which led to an article in the September 1947 issue of Chess Review. At 16, he played in the 1948 US Championship, his first, tying for eighth place. Evans tied with Arthur Bisguier for first place in the U.S. Junior Chess Championship of 1949. By age 18, he had won a New York State championship as well as a gold medal in the Dubrovnik Chess Olympiad of 1950.

In 1951, Evans first won the US Championship, ahead of Samuel Reshevsky, who had tied for third-fourth in the 1948 World Championship match-tournament. Evans won his second championship the following year by winning a title match against Herman Steiner. He won the national championship thrice more – 1961-62, 1967-68 and 1980, the last in a tie with Walter Browne and Larry Christiansen. At his peak in October 1968 he was rated 2631 by the United States Chess Federation.

Evans' first, and what ultimately proved to be his only, chance in the World Chess Championship cycle ended with a disappointing 14th place (10/23) in the 1964 Amsterdam Interzonal. He never entered the world championship cycle again, and concentrated his efforts on assisting his fellow American Bobby Fischer in his quest for the world title. He was Fischer's second for the Candidates matches leading up to the World Chess Championship 1972 against Boris Spassky, though not for the championship match itself, after a disagreement with Fischer.

Chess journalism

Evans had always been interested in writing as well as playing. By the age of eighteen, he had already published David Bronstein's Best Games of Chess 1944-1949, and the Vienna International Tournament, 1922. His book New Ideas in Chess was published in 1958, and was later reprinted. Over the years he has written or co-written more than 20 books on chess. He also made a significant contribution to Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games (1969), writing the introductions to each of the games and urging the future World Champion to publish when he had initially been reluctant to do so.


Evans helping Fischer prepare for his World Championship match

Evans began his career in chess journalism during the 1960s, helping to found the American Chess Quarterly, which ran from 1961-65. He was an editor of Chess Digest during the 1960s and 1970s. For over thirty years, until 2006, he wrote a question-and-answer column for Chess Life, the official publication of the United States Chess Federation (USCF), and has also written for Chess Life Online. His weekly chess column, Evans on Chess, has appeared in more than fifty separate newspapers throughout the United States.

Evans has also commentated on some of the most important matches for Time magazine and ABC's Wide World of Sports, including the 1972 Fischer versus Spassky match, the 1993 PCA world title battle between Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short and the Braingames world chess championship match between Vladimir Kramnik and Garry Kasparov in 2000.

Fascinating, intriguing, and controversial, the dean of American chess tells the never-before-told machinations and stories of world championship chess and what really goes on behind the scenes of the game at its highest level. If you think that chess and marbles are the only games free from politics, you can scratch that idea. These 101 entertaining dispatches from the front deal with the crazy world of chess ranging from politics, Fischermania (and Fischer's paranoid antics), the real deal behind the Deep Blue supercomputer that beat Kasparov, to just plain gossip and fun. Larry Evans was an American Grandmaster who was a close confidant of the late Bobby Fischer and wrote the most widely syndicated weekly chess column in the USA.

A reader, Knight Rider, writes in Amazon: I grew up dining on 'Evans on Chess' once a month in Chess Life. GM Evans would answer questions, comment on games and then, unlike any other chess writer, he'd pull away the curtain and expose us to the other side of chess. The politial side! The shady dealings, scandals, conspiracies, backroom politics and fascinating tidbits were revealed like no other chess writer before him! "This Crazy World of Chess" is a banquet of 101 articles, from Fischer to Karpov, Kasparov to Kramnik, and Chaplin to Bogart.

In this connection we remember that six years ago, when the legendary Ray Charles "hit the road", we were able to track down a game played by the singer and chess fan. It was against Larry Evans and quoted in a 2002 issue of Chess Life. It would be fair to say that Larry gave Charles a relatively easy ride, though the latter's perceptiveness is never in doubt.

Ray Charles-Larry Evans
Chess Life Interview, Reno 2002, Four Knights
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6. More popular here is 2...Nf6, leading often to the Vienna Gambit, which was made popular by Steinitz but first played by Staunton. 3. Nf3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bc5 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Qe2 O-O 8.Be3 Bxe3 9.Qxe3 Re8 10.f3 d5.

Evans is threatening to fork the white knight and the queen. Charles plays 11.Qd3, saying "I can't let you attack two pieces by pushing your pawn again". Evans is surprised and says, "You saw that?" Ray Charles: "Aw, c'mon man. I play bad – but not that bad!" 11...a5 12.O-O-O Ba6 13.Qd2 Bxf1 14.Rhxf1 dxe4 15.Qxd8 Raxd8 16.Rxd8 Rxd8

17.Rd1? One exchange too many from Charles. This cheap mate threat – combined with his seeming eagerness to simplify the game as much as possible – leaves Evans with a more than comfortable endgame. The natural 17. fxe4 would have made more sense. 17...Rxd1+ 18.Kxd1 exf3 19.gxf3 Kf8 20.Kc1? It is hard to see the reasoning behind this move. Kd2 stakes a claim on the centre far quicker. 20...Ke7 21.Kd2 Ke6 22.Ke3 Nd5+ 23.Kd4 Nxc3 24.Kxc3 Kd5 0-1.

Is Black's position completely won here? 25.b4 certainly complicates matters; 25...axb4 gives White a passed pawn and 25...a4 leaves an unclear position after 26.Kb2 Kc4 27.Ka3 Kb5 28.c4+. Similarly, it looks pretty drawish after 25.Kb3 Kc5 26.Ka4 Kb6 etc. However White probably wins on the kingside with 25.Kb3 g5! and with 25.b4 a4 26.Kb2 Kc4 27.Ka3 g5!

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