Bill Hook (1925–2010)

by ChessBase
5/27/2010 – He was a wonderful artist and the kindest of men. Bill Hook played the top board for the British Virgin Islands team at 17 Chess Olympiads. In 1970 in Siegen, Germany, he used his beloved queen maneuver against Bobby Fischer and easily equalized the game. Bill Hook died on May 10, in his home in Silver Spring, Maryland. He would have turned 85 tomorrow. Eulogy by GM Lubomir Kavalek.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Bill Hook (1925–2010)

Bill Hook – a painter, photographer, chess master, gambler and author – died on May 10, 2010, in his home in Silver Spring, Maryland, just three weeks shy of his 85th birthday. His book "Hooked on Chess" spans a good part of the last century and gives us a glimpse into the scene in and around the New York chess clubs of the 1950's, describing the various personalities and the atmosphere with wit and humor. The vignettes include chess encounters with array of players, from down-and-out homeless souls to the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Marcel Duchamp, and of course, Bobby Fischer.

"Meeting Bill Hook – an unassuming, friendly man – one would not suspect that his life was driven by an all-consuming passion for art, chess and gambling. Sometimes singly, sometimes in combination, often blending all three.

From the inauspicious beginning, Bill’s chess career developed into a life-long pursuit. Bill competed in 17 chess Olympiads, playing mostly on the top board for the British Virgin Islands. In 1980 he won the gold medal for the best overall individual performance and the position from his final game appeared on an official British Virgin Island postage stamp.

As an artist he captured chess life and chess players – from street hustlers to world champions – in his early paintings and in countless photographs.

The book is a valuable record of a slice of chess life in the U.S. and on the international scene and is written by someone with a great love of the royal game and an abiding sense of fair-play. A good read, a colorful document, and an admirable life." – Lubos Kavalek in the Foreword of Bill Hook’s book "Hooked on Chess – A Memoir."

Bill Hook is survived by his wife, Mimi Hook, his long-time companion and friend of chess communities in New York, Washington, D.C. and British Virgin Islands. She was the BVI team captain and organized the fabulous chess picnics in the BVI.

GM Lubomir Kavalek

Lubos Kavalek – distracted by a whale

From a report filed in April 2005

On March 13, on a bright, sunny Sunday morning, the past and future members of the British Virgin Islands Olympiad team crossed the Sir Francis Drake Channel from the main island of Tortola to Cooper Island to attend their annual picnic. As soon as they arrived at the residence of Bill and Mimi Hook, they rushed towards the chessboards and played almost till sunset. They were interrupted once when the lunch and the traditional picnic cake were served, but even then chess was part of their conversation. Was Kasparov retiring too soon from professional competition? Could he have saved the pawn endgame with Topalov? What about Bobby Fischer moving to Iceland? Is the Najdorf Sicilian the way to go against 1.e4? How do we get more children to play the game? What will be our team line-up for the Olympiad in Turin? They find most of the answers on the Internet, including, they said.

Bill Hook played for the British Virgin Islands at most Olympiads since about 1966.

Chess players were always welcomed at the Hook’s residence and chess was a big part of their lives. Mimi was the BVI team captain at the Olympiads in Bled in 2002 and in Calvià in 2004. Bill was the BVI’s team top player for many years. At the Malta Olympiad in 1980 he won the individual gold medal for the best overall result. A position from his final game against the Kenyan Salfudin Kanani (after 14.e5 in Mega 2005, game # 334,516) made it to the official BVI postage.

Hook,William (2210) – Kanani,Saifudin [A45]
La Valetta ol (Men) La Valetta (14), 06.12.1980

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 c5 3.d5 Qb6 4.Nc3 d6 5.e4 Nbd7 6.Rb1 a6 7.a4 h6 8.Be3 Qb4 9.f3 Ne5 10.Bd2 Qb6 11.f4 Ng6 12.Bd3 Bg4 13.Qc1 Bd7 14.e5

14...dxe5 15.Bxg6 fxg6 16.fxe5 0-0-0 17.exf6 exf6 18.Nge2 Bg4 19.Be3 Bxe2 20.Kxe2 Qb4 21.Re1 Bd6 22.h3 g5 23.Kf1 g4 24.hxg4 h5 25.g5 h4 26.Bf2 h3 27.gxh3 Rxh3 28.Re4 Qa5 29.Qd1 f5 30.Rh4 Rxh4 31.Bxh4 Qb4 32.Bf2 Qf4 33.Qh5 g6 34.Qh4 Qd2 35.Re1 Bf4 36.Rd1 Bxg5 37.Rxd2 Bxh4 1-0. [Click to replay]

Bill could have won the individual gold medal already in Haifa in 1976 had he not played in the last round. A win against Percy Ramirez of Bolivia would also have clinched it, but Bill only drew and the gold went to Jan Timman.

The picnic

Cooper Island, where the picnic took place, is one of the nearly 40 BVI islands (two of those are now owned by Virgin Atlantic's Richard Branson). Its Manchioneel Bay (on picture) is a popular overnight place for nearly 50 sailing boats. Celebrities like former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite like to sail here. Not many houses were there in the early 1960s when the Hooks first arrived here. These days you can stay at the Cooper Island Beach Club.

The past and future members of the BVI Olympiad team arriving for the annual picnic on Cooper Island from the main island of Tortola (in the background). From left: Bill Hook, Anna Durante, Simon Potter, former BVI deputy governor Elton Georges, Kairon Durante (Anna's son), Bengt Nygren, Maurice Lettsome, Henry Pickering and Art Christopher.

Bill and Mimi Hook's house on Cooper Island (view from the water) is only a short hike away. Or you can use a local transportation….

Bill Hook, the only taxi driver on Cooper Island, with Henry Pickering as passenger. The “taxi” is a golf cart, helpful to bring groceries, luggage and people up the hill. Golf is not played here, though.

It is still quiet on the Hook's house terrace before the chess storm comes.

Another view from the terrace. Behind the sail boat is Salt Island, home of retired fishermen. In 1979 they owned the only telephone in the nearby area and it played a major role in setting up the historic tournament in Montreal. The phone was placed in a shed that also sheltered chickens. I negotiated the final agreement with the mayor’s office from there. The 1979 Montreal event began the era of elite tournaments that later continued in Tilburg and Linares.

Let’s get serious and have fun! The chess picnic officially starts

...or a piece of cake.

The picnic is over – going home to Tortola on Bengt Nygren's boat

Sun sets over the Sir Francis Drake Channel

Lubomir Kavalek, 66, international grandmaster since 1965; several times U.S. and Czechoslovakian champion and winner of numerous international all-play-all tournaments; one of only three U.S. players ever rated in the world's top ten (the other two are Bobby Fischer and Gata Kamsky) since FIDE introduced the rating system in 1971. Played in nine Olympiads (three times on the top board, twice on the second board for the U.S. team), collecting one gold and five bronze medals. A successful coaching career includes working with Bobby Fischer (Reykjavik 1972), Yasser Seirawan, Robert Hübner and Nigel Short. Organized (and also played in) the elite tournament in Montreal in 1979. As the Executive Director of the Grandmasters Association he organized the first World Cup series (1988-89). As a journalist Kavalek has covered all the most important events in the last forty years. He was editor-in-chief of the RHM Press chess publishing house in New York (1973-1986). Since 1986 he wrote for the Washington Post, where he had a highly acclaimed weekly column. Since this week Lubos has a new chess column at the Huffington Post.

Looking back

Susan Grumer visited Cooper Island and took part in the traditional picnic together with the U.S. Virgin Islands team in 1977. She sent us memories from her historic experience.

The chess picnic of 1977 was a special event. For the occasion some member of the US Virgin Islands Olympic Chess team sailed over from St. Croix to join in the festivities. Although they only traveled 40 miles, the trip took 12 hours because there was no wind. The lasagna and beer stayed fresh in the cooler during the long voyage.

Approaching Cooper Island, the one seasick passenger fully recovered

Large sailing vessels cannot fit in the shallow water near the Hook’s dock. The Cruzans reached shore by dinghy or swimming. Bengt Nygren's speed boat had no trouble parking next to the new extended dock this year.

Playing chess in 1977. On the left is the late Carlos Downing, a big supporter of
BVI chess and the editor-in-chief of the local weekly "The Island Sun."

Bill Hook (left) in the “main event” vs FM Craig Van Tilbury. Craig played for the US Virgin Islands till 1990. In 1994 USVI didn’t send a team. Craig was invited to play with the British Virgin Islands team. He has played with them ever since. The USVI team stayed two days, so they could enjoy other aspects of this chess paradise.

Bill Hook at the 1976 Haifa Olympiad, where he missed the individual gold medal by a hair. He is playing against the late Larrie Abraham of the U.S.V.I. Next to Bill is the BVI deputy governor Elton Georges.

Sailing in the calm waters of the Caribbean – GM Lubos Kavalek sports a white cap

This last picture is of Lubos Kavalek at the 1972 Olympiad in Skopje, playing
the top board for the U.S. team.

Read also: "Chess Master Reflects on a Life of Queens and Rooks"

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register