Mickey Adams - Mister Evergreen

by Eduard Frey
12/14/2023 – A month after being crowned the new World Senior Champion 50+, Michael "Mickey" Adams wins the traditional London Chess Classic elite tournament outright. Adams has been a leading English player for more than three decades, consistently achieving outstanding results and being a formidable and reliable team player. A former child prodigy, Mickey won his first British Championship title (of eight to date) in 1989 and his most recent this year. The reigning British Champion (2023) and reigning World Senior Champion (2023) is truly Mister Evergreen! ChessBase congratulates the winner of the LCC 2023 by taking a brief look at a remarkable career and personality. | Photo: Adams at the Chennai Olympiad 2022 | Photo: FIDE

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Time flies

At the London Chess Classic 2023, where the total of decided games outnumbered the draws (thanks to Mateusz Bartel who after four wins and four losses only drew his last-round-game), anything could happen, but finally everything worked out for Adams.

Several of his opponents, talented youngsters as Tabatabaei (who is almost 23), Niemann (20), Gukesh D. (18), and rising IM Shreyas Royal (turning 15 years next month), are less than half his age!

In the tournament Adams was always first or shared first, but in the end he won the nine-round top tournament as sole first without a loss though he was close to defeat in round six against French GM Jules Moussard (28).

Adams won the Cambridge International Open back in February this year, and is now ending the year 2023 in great style with an outright victory at the London Chess Classic. In-between these achievements, Adams also played in the Seniors, earning the silver medal with England’s team (together with John Emms, Glenn Flear, Keith Arkell and Nigel Davies) behind the USA at the World Senior Team Chess Championship 2023, and taking the individual gold medal at the World Senior Chess Championship 2023.

Currently, Adams is the only chess player on international circuit participating in both adult and senior competitions on highest level!

England’s long-time serving number one player

Adams was born in Truro, Cornwall on 17 November 1971. Talented from a young age, in 1979, when having just turned 8, he won the Cornwall U10 Championship. By 1980, his chess talent had been recognised by the Britisch Chess Federation, and he received high-level coaching from former European Junior Champion Shaun Taulbut and coaching from local chess master Michael Prettejohn.

In early 1981, at age of nine, he entered the Cornwall (County) Under-9 Championship and won it. At the same event, he also won the Under-13, Under-15 and Under-18 Championships. For one day, the latter two contests clashed and he had to play them simultaneously, commuting between different rooms, some thirty metres apart.

Adams' early endeavours were already beginning to pay dividends at the British Championship of 1987, where he gained his final IM norm and took the best junior prize. He proceeded to win the full Championship title in 1989, just seventeen years old. In 1989, he also got the GM title, he then was the world’s youngest living grandmaster!

Michael Adams won the National Championship again in 1997, jointly with Matthew Sadler. After a lengthy break from the event, with his international commitments taking precedence, Adams returned to claim further titles in 2010, 2011, 2016, 2018, 2019, and this year.

The Cornishman defied the years again when he outpaced several much younger rivals to capture his eighth British title in July 2023 with an unbeaten six wins and three draws at De Montfort University, Leicester.

By the early 1990s, Adams was establishing himself as one of the world’s leading players and he spent many years in the world’s top ten, coming agonisingly close to winning the FIDE World Championship in 2004, only to lose a rapid play-off in the final.

Renowned for his positional prowess, Adams is sometimes known as ‘the Spider’ on account of his ability to run opponents out of active possibilities. He is also an author, most recently of the very original and instructive book, «Think like a Super GM» with co-author Philip Hurtado. Adams is normally one of the most active players on the tournament circuit.

Away from chess he is a keen runner, as well as a Tottenham Hotspur and cricket fan.

A young Michael Adams | Photo: britishchessnews.com

Major tournament victories

Among his many achievements, perhaps his greatest tournament successes are his victories in Dos Hermanas in 1999, unbeaten clear first (ahead of Kramnik, then Topalov, Illescas, Gelfand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Svidler, Judit Polgar, and Anand, who was joint last, ten players), and much later in Dortmund in 2013, unbeaten clear first (again ahead of Kramnik as runner-up, then Leko, Naiditsch, Andreikin, Meier, Caruana, Wang Hao, Khenkin and Fridman, ten players. Caruana was no. 3 in the world, Kramnik no. 4, Wang Hao no. 15, Adams no. 17, Leko no. 18 in the July 2013 Elo list).

The 10th and jubilee Torneo de Dos Hermanas in Spain, held in April 1999, was very strong and a saw a lot of chess celebrity! Five top ten, nine top twenty and one Spanish player took part. The participants were (in order of FIDE Elo rating) Viswanathan Anand (No. 2 in the world), Vladimir Kramnik (No. 3), Michael Adams (No. 7), Peter Svidler (No. 9), Anatoly Karpov (No. 10), Veselin Topalov (No. 11), Boris Gelfand (No. 14), Judit Polgar (No. 18), Viktor Korchnoi (No. 19) and Spanish favourite Miguel Illescas-Cordoba (No. 105= in the FIDE Elo rating list). Shooting star Alexander Morozevich (No. 5) fell ill shortly before the start and had to be replaced by Gelfand at the last minute.

Will Adams become a new Korchnoi in terms of longevity? Only time will tell!

Viktor Korchnoi (born 1931), then 68 years old, at least 20 to 45 years older than all the others, still in the top twenty of the FIDE Elo ranking (both half-yearly lists from 1999), won against Judit Polgar (born 1976), the youngest participant, but lost to Gelfand and Adams, just missing a level score. Local hero Illescas-Cordoba did well, arriving with a plus as the lowest rated player in the field and beating Karpov, who scored 50%. Top seed Anand ended up tenth and last on tie-break and was the only player without a win.

Adams was the clear winner of Dos Hermanas 1999 with 6.0/9, beating three past, present or future undisputed world champions (Karpov, Kramnik and Anand). Unfortunately, the Dos Hermanas series (Kasparov played once in 1996 but failed to win) collapsed soon afterwards and is now virtually forgotten.

Adams had already won Dos Hermanas in 1995 (together with Kamsky and Karpov, but finishing third on tie-break) and again in Dortmund in 1998 (together with Kramnik and Svidler, but finishing second on tie-break).

Adams triumphed at the traditional Tilburg Supertournament in 1992 (then played in a knockout format, beating Gelfand in the final) and won the Gibraltar Masters (Open) in 2010 after a rapid play-off. Adams has also won the Staunton Memorial (twice), the Donner Memorial and the Ruy Lopez Festival, among others.

At the super-strong (30th and anniversary edition) Bosna tournament in Sarajevo in 2000, Adams finished undefeated and tied for second with Shirov with an impressive 8/11, just half a point behind Kasparov and two full points ahead of Morozevich, Topalov, Bareev as fourth to sixth, twelve players including Short and Bacrot, perhaps his best Elo performance ever.

Adams has achieved good results in World Championship tournaments. Several times a candidate for the World Championship, in the 1993-1995 cycle even a double candidate for FIDE and PCA, Adams reached the final in Groningen in 1997 and in Lausanne in 1998 (where lost to Anand in an Armageddon-play-off, who then played Karpov, the direct seed), the semi-finals in 1999 and in 2000.

At the 2004 FIDE Championship Adams reached the final, narrowly losing to Rustam Kasimdzhanov in the tie-break (3½-4½ after two rapid-play tie-breaks, the match having been level at 3-3 after six standard games). In other words: Adams was a FIDE Vice-World Champion during the period when the ultimate title was shared.

Between October 2000 and October 2002 he was the world's no. 4 several times. His peak Elo rating is 2761 Elo, ranked no. 12 in September 2013.

Adams is also an enthusiastic and highly successful rapid and blitz player, and in the 1990s he was especially successful in these time-formats. In 2001, he was the highest ranked player on the then unofficial Elo Rapid list.

Famous game

A stupendous victory by Michael Adams against Veselin Topalov, reigning FIDE World Chess Champion and de-facto number one player of the world, rated at 2801 Elo, ranked behind Kasparov at 2812, who had already retired in Spring 2005 (Topalov becoming the world number one player in April 2006). Adams has always had good results against Topalov and has a substantial plus score against him, though he did rather badly against Kasparov. Superb play by Mickey:

Important team player – Playing every Chess Olympiad since 1990

Adams helped England to team bronze at the 1990 Olympiad and gold at the 1997 European Team Championships in Pula, Croatia. He has anchored the team on top board for more than two decades, including when England won team silver at the 2019 World Team Championship. In 2001 and 2011, Adams won individual gold medals at the European Team Chess Championships.

Over more than three decades Adams has played an impressive number of team events for England. He has played in every Chess Olympiad since 1990 up to and including Chennai in 2022, yet missing from the data on Adams' official website.

Chess is for all ages – From Korchnoi to Keymer

Forty years younger than his opponent: Adams (born 1971) facing Korchnoi (born 1931) a last time, Switzerland beating England at the ETCC in Novi Sad 2009 with three draws and IM Ekström wining against GM Gordon on board four. | Photo: Organiser

More than thirty years older than his opponent: Adams playing Keymer (becoming twenty in 2024) at the Biel Festival 2020. | Photo: Organiser

Quietly chasing the record

The first British Chess Championship (current series) was held in 1904 and since then only Jonathan Penrose (ten titles) and Henry Atkins (nine titles) have won it more often than Adams.

Now that he is so close with eight titles, will Adams try to equal or break the records of Atkins and Penrose?

It would certainly increase interest in the next few British Championships if he did: "The prognosis for a record attempt is favourable," writes the indefatigable Leonard Barden, born in 1929, in the Financial Times.

Miss Marple

Adams lives in Taunton, Somerset, with his wife, actress Tara MacGowran, who has worked in television, film and theatre in the UK, Ireland and the USA. Having also spent several years travelling as a journalist and photographer covering tournament chess with her husband, Tara MacGowran returned to acting as her main career in 2014. During her career, she has played Miss Marple and appeared as Lady Macbeth. Read more: TARA MacGOWRAN

Michael Adams and his wife, Tara MacGowran, plus a friend. Photo: britishchessnews.com

Congratulations to Grandmaster Michael Adams, reigning Champion of England (2023) and reigning Senior World Champion (2023), for winning the traditional world elite London Chess Classic LCC tournament in the same year. The chess community is wondering what will come next!


Michael Adams wins the London Chess Classic

Eduard Frey was born in spring 1967, is an economist (lic. et mag. rer, pol.) and works as a coach in human resources. He learned the game as a child from his father. Chess is a hobby without rating. He has been a frequent visitor to the Biel Chess Festival since 1976, as well as to Lucerne (1982 Olympiad, and the 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997 World Team Championships), and to the international tournaments in Zurich or the Lugano Open series. Frey spoke with many top players; he knew Viktor Korchnoi, Wolfgang Uhlmann and Mark Taimanov more closely.