Hort stories: Wrong place wrong time

by Vlastimil Hort
2/6/2020 – Amid memories of Tony Miles, Vlastimil Hort shares an unpleasant memory: "To avoid provoking an unwelcome fellow passenger on the escalator I carefully left my hands in my pockets. And then I finally saw what he had in his hand and was pressing against my body… a bayonet! Dear God..." Plus, Tony Miles in an unusual position (pictured) in Tilburg 1985. | Photo: Persbureau van Eindhoven

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.


"It is not money I am after!"

(Continued from part 1...) He did not want money, but what did he want?...

Dear God, take this cup away from me, were my first thoughts. In such situations you just promise everything. The escalator went up, higher and higher, in seconds, yet the people around us noticed nothing. I had cold sweat on my brow but my thoughts were still wandering to my chess colleagues. I tried to imagine them in this precarious situation and almost had to laugh.

My threatening fellow passenger had long blond hair, just like Tony Miles, though he probably did not play chess. I also noticed two cheap golden earrings but most marked was the smell of cheap perfume.

The escalator was already approaching its destination — something had to happen. My grey cells were working like in an exciting game of chess. I gathered all my courage, overcame my disgust and decided to take a great risk. "Oh yes, I'm like you. I live nearby in the Westhotel. We can stay together the whole night in my room!" Spot on!

"All right, please call me Tom but do not cheat me!" It was a serious warning. But why did he pick me of all people? Did I have such an attraction to the male sex?

man with knife

We left the subway and crossed a dark park towards the hotel. Tom became impatient and began to grope me with his free hand — where, I'll spare my readers.

The short way to the hotel seemed endless. I forced myself to think logically. Where would I have the best chance of freeing myself from Tom without physical harm? First of all, the sharp blade must go. After all, my life was at stake! The reception in the hotel lobby — I knew that offered the best opportunity. I had to attract the attention of the staff.

When we arrived, I loudly asked for a wrong room number. The receptionist gave me the room key that I had demanded with English serenity and politeness — one that belonged to another guest. Had he noticed? Apparently not.

With a "Good evening, Sir" he bid me farewell. No help in sight!

Now was definitely time for action! I was still quite athletic in those days and could manage eight metres at shot put. A rapid turn, and — boom! — with the room key in my hand I aimed at his chin. Bull's eye, the blow had found its goal, Tom lay unconscious on the floor!

The employees behind the reception were finally awake. But, oh dear, three men jumped on me and overpowered me. The police didn't take long to arrive. Tom was still lying on the floor, probably in the realm of his unfulfilled erotic dreams.

Luckily, he was still holding the sharp knife in his hand — the evidence of my innocence.

Czech passportI was the first to be questioned, and I think the English policemen saw a Czech passport for the first time in their lives. Anyway, they stared at the document in disbelief. With the letter of invitation of the English chess organizers I was able to explain why I stayed in the hotel.

And then the liberation! Tom was well-known to the police for his unusual attacks. Afterwards, the bobbies were very helpful and advised me to change hotels.

But my peace was gone and the whole night I lay awake... I couldn't get "call me Tom, but please don't cheat me" out of my mind. How could I continue the match with Tony? When I sat down at the chess board the next day, I was still shaking all over.

Tony must have sensed that something unusual had happened. "That is London for you, Vlastimil" was his brief, laconic commentary. He was fair. "We can choose to make our match interesting as a show." An offer for which I was very grateful.

I love being a spectator at Christopher Street Day, but I hate sexual assaults.

Tony left us and the chess scene way too soon

A pity! He was the first English Grandmaster and, for me, also the strongest English grandmaster in his day. Thanks to him chess was more appreciated in England and the interest in the game exploded. He became a role model for a young chess generation that admired him and was inspired by him.

What can be said about Miles' difficult relationships with Raymond Keene and Nigel Short? It's still a mystery to me. Each of the three actors has and certainly had his own version of the differences. For an outsider it is therefore very difficult to form an opinion.

But one thing is clear: Tony conceded his number one position in England only very reluctantly to Short. And his idea that Raymond Keene wanted to kill him is certainly not the product of a healthy soul. Was it the beginning of his paranoia?

His general condition deteriorated noticeably. As a result, he no longer had much success in chess and his Elo rating declined.

At the Biel Open in 1993, he made a very sad impression. One day, I saw him sitting all alone at the table in the big dining room. In front of him was a tray with untouched food. In short intervals he changed places at the table. On one side he spoke with a deep bass voice, on the other side he answered himself with a high soprano voice.

I wonder what was going through his head. The scenes of his marriage? He certainly needed psychiatric help.

During his peak Tony won many strong international open tournaments. Oddly enough, things did not go so well in the Interzonals. Geurt Gjissen, the well-known international arbiter, reminded me that in Tilburg 1985, Miles had shared first place with Hübner and Korchnoi.

Standings after round 14

Rg. Tit. Name Country Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts.
1 GM Robert Huebner
2576   ½½ 10 ½½ ½½ ½1 ½1 8.5 / 14
2 GM Anthony John Miles
2565   11 11 10 ½½ 8.5 / 14
3 GM Viktor Lvovich Kortschnoj
2499 ½½ 00   ½½ ½1 11 ½1 8.5 / 14
4 GM Ljubomir Ljubojevic
2571 01 00 ½½   ½1 10 ½1 01 7.0 / 14
5 GM Lev Polugaevsky
2585 ½½ 01 ½0 ½0   ½½ 6.0 / 14
6 GM Jan H Timman
2532 ½½ 00 01   ½½ 01 6.0 / 14
7 GM Oleg M Romanishin
2403 ½0 ½0 ½½   6.0 / 14
8 GM Roman Dzindzichashvili
2550 ½0 ½½ ½0 10 ½½ 10   5.5 / 14

The photo of the tournament winner, who played lying down, suffering from back pain, caused a stir — and not only in the chess world.

Miles playing on his stomach

An unusual position (click or tap to enlarge) | Photo: Persbureau van Eindhoven

I was Timman's second in this tournament and was able to follow the unusual events at close range.

Tony had presented a medical report that testified to his severe back pain. Therefore, the tournament doctor allowed him play lying horizontally. A players' meeting was called up to approve this decision. Everyone came, only Robert Hübner was missing. He was the only one who had refused to play his game against Miles in this state.

Diplomacy was needed! Geurt Gjissen decided that the game should be played on the next free day, under the condition that Miles had to sit, but was allowed to walk around. Hübner had Black. The game did not last long and probably both sides were content with a draw.

When I later discussed the incident with Robert, he said he was convinced that Tony only simulated the pain. After all, the night before he happened to see Tony sitting and eating normally in a Chinese restaurant.

Miles and Michael Stean

Tony Miles (sitting) and Michael Stean at the Zonal Tournament 1978 in Amsterdam | Photo: Dutch National Archive

1980 London

Equal first at the Phillips and Drew Tournament in London 1980 (from L to R): Nigel Short, Michael Stean, Viktor Korchnoi, [unknown], Jan Timman, Ulf Andersson, Ljubomir Ljubojevic, Tony Miles and his wife Jana, Jonathan Speelman, Harry Golombek, Florin Gheorghiu, Frank Leonard (Phillips & Drew), Stewart Reuben (organiser) and his mother | Photo: "It's only me"

Miles was the first English chess professional but, though he was happy about the Honorary Master of Arts degree the University of Sheffield – where he had started to study mathematics  – had given him in 1975 in, to quote Lawton, "recognition of his achievements in chess, particularly that of becoming World Junior Champion" in 1974, he did not finish his studies. Did he want to provoke Keene and Short?

His most famous game will probably remain the one against Karpov in 1980 in Skara, Sweden. Miles defeated the World Champion with the extravagant move 1...a6?! and proved that even the "Soviet giants" could be beaten.


Karpov vs Miles, 1980

The sensational win against Karpov with 1...a6 in the 1980 European Team Championship | Photo: "It's only me"

I will always remember Tony very fondly. Above all, his dry, English humour and fair play. We also got along well at soccer. During one chess tournament we played on the rest day, and we were on the same team and gave each other inspired passes.

Tony was certainly not an easy character. And almost 20 years after his death I ask myself whether anyone was close enough to him to know him really well. His second, Bernard Cafferty? William Hartston? Michael Stean? Malcolm Pein? Perhaps his ex-wife — former Czech champion Jana Malypetrová who later was to become Jana Bellin?

With Black Tony played wonderful "pieces of art" in his pet Dragon variation. Could he have spent his last days with Malcolm Pein? Did he only see the sporting aspects of chess?

How and who were you, dear Tony, really? Malcolm Pein assures in his memoirs that his chess idol, "sweet at sleep died, without suffering". Miles died in his favourite city, the city of his birth: Birmingham!

What are 46 years? Today, at 64, you, dear Tony, could still travel from open to open with a small suitcase. Maybe we could even support each other and analyse together. In any case, the grim reaper came too early for you.

Dear Tony, I miss you!

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer
Photo: Reza Hasannia

Hort book cover

More chess stories:

Vlastimil Hort: Meine Schachgeschichten

at Schach Niggemann

Vlastimil Hort was born January 12, 1944, in Kladno, Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s he was one of the world's best players and a World Championship candidate. In 1979 he moved to West Germany where he still lives. Hort is an excellent blindfold player, a prolific author and a popular chess commentator.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register