GM Edmar Mednis, 1937 – 2002

2/15/2002 – We have learned that the well-known American GM Edmar Mednis died on February 13, 2002, at the age of 64. Mednis was born in Riga, Latvia in 1937 but lived in the United States since 1950, where he worked as a professional chess player and author. His most famous deed: to beat Bobby Fischer with the black pieces in the 1962-63 US Championship. More

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Edmar Mednis, 1937–2002

We have learned today that the well-known American GM Edmar Mednis suddenly died at 64 of cardiac arrest during a bout of pneumonia on February 13, 2002 at his home in Woodside, Queens, New York.

Mednis was born in Riga, Latvia in 1937. His family came to the United States in 1950, where Mednis was educated as a chemical engineer. Initially he worked as stock market investor, but in the end he became a professional chess player, joining the generation that brought the U.S. Robert and Donald Byrne, Arthur Bisguier, William Lombardy and Larry Evans.

In 1980 he was awarded the GM title. The author of this obituary remembers him fondly from his very entertaining Saturday mornings TV sessions with Shelby Lyman and Jimmy Sherwin in the 80s, and from some enlightening endgame sessions with the computer.

Mednis was a frequent participant in the U.S. championship, his best result was a tie for third place in 1961-2. In the 1962-3 event he was the first player to defeat Bobby Fischer in a U.S. Championship (Fischer later cited his difficulties in coming from behind to win the tournament after this loss as the reason he boycotted subsequent U.S. Championships because they were too short)."I have been asked innumerable times how it felt to receive Fischer's handshake," Mednis said. "Well, it sure felt great to defeat Fischer, but I must admit that I didn't get Bobby's handshake nor, for that matter, any other direct communication from him. What happened was the following: Next time we were together was for Round 4, and before the games for that round started, Fischer went up to the referee, Hans Kmoch, and told him that he was resigning the adjourned game against me. Mr. Kmoch then came over to me and informed me, 'Mr. Fischer has resigned.'"

The overall score between the two was +5 =1 –1 in favour of Fischer (with two blitz games also going to the mercurial world champion). But this did not stop Mednis from writing his best-known book, "How to beat Bobby Fischer", which reached a wide readership. This intriguing collection features comprehensive text-and-diagram analyses of 61 of Fischer’s losing games. Highlights include "the losing moment," the move at which each game was beyond saving. It is available for $8.95 at Amazon.

Edmar Mednis was also an endgame expert who understood the importance of using the computer at a very early date (see example below). His column, Practical Endgames, was one of Chess Life magazine's most popular columns for decades and published a popular book, Practical Endgame Lessons (later revised as Rate Your Endgame). He described his instructional philosophy as follows: "My teaching and writing experience has convinced me that the most effective teaching method is the clear exposition of general principles, followed by incessant repetition of these principles as they occur in actual play."

A recent book is The King in the Opening by Edmar Mednis, Chess Enterprises (Pa) 1998, 100 pages, £6.50. It contains highly pertinent games and positions from GM Edmar Mednis's notebooks on the subject of attacking and defending kings at the start of the game. The book provides plenty of useful tips on when to castle (and when not to), whether to accept sacrifices and forced king marches.

A nice write-up of Practical Middlegame Tips by GM Edmar Mednis (1998 Cadogan), including a chatty description of his chess career by Paul Kollar is to be found here.


Q + RP Vs, Q Endgames:
Accepted Theory and Latest Developments

By Edmar Mednis

In an article in the February-March 1981 issue of CHESS I discussed the important developments up to then for the Q + RP vs. Q endgame .. Of all the Q + P vs. Q endgames, the case with a RP is the most important one for the practical player. This is because it is the one that occurs most frequently and the reason for this is also quite understandable: the RP is the pawn least likely to have been exchanged off in earlier play.

In the above article I made the recommendation that a major chess computer program be used to do the work in analyzing the Q + P vs. Q endgame. The small number of pieces remaining on the board. makes this endgame quite analyzable for the programs with lots of "brute force". On the other hand, the extreme tediousness of such endgames makes them very unpleasant for a human analyst.

In 1985 my wish was answered: the former World Champion computer chess program BELLE spent the better half of its time that year in undertaking a definitive study of this endgame. In the process BELLE has generated a "truckload" of information. Unfortunately, the very extensivness of it makes the gob of a human in tackling it still very hard.

Because I had published work on the Q + RP vs. Q endgame, I decided to take advantage of BELLE's "expertise" and calculating ability in this area. I selected the six endgames from recent tournament play that seemed to me to be the most important ones theoretically and asked BELLE to comment on them, thus providing both evaluations and analysis to us humans.

This article is based on the results from BELLE's work. I am greatly indebted to Ken Thompson, the chief "brain" behind BELLE and to International Master Mike Valvo for their help and cooperation in fulfilling my request and explaining BELLE's "thinking". An important aspect of the latter is that because of its 1985 work, BELLE has developed an extensive database of positions which are won and drawn. Because it believes in playing "objective chess" BELLE refuses to play out for a win those positions which, according to its program, are theoretical draws. Therefore for such positions we can not learn what the best winning tries are.

My method will consist of presenting the endgames as BELLE sees them. I will explain why the moves played are good and bad and will compare BELLLE's conclusions with those of noted human analysts. As will be seen, the humans are wrong a lot. The reason is that – as I indicated earlier – this is the most difficult endgame for us to analyze. Implicit in my presentation is my belief that there is no reason to doubt BELLE's analysis. I will discuss here two of the endgames: first where the humans play the worst and then the best played one. At the end of the column I will summarize the major results from the study of all six of the endgames.

You can view an example of an early Mednis article containing endgame analysis with Belle, togerther with his famous black win against Bobby Fischer on our Java replay board here.



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