Robert Byrne, April 20, 1928 – April 12, 2013

4/14/2013 – We are sad to inform you that grandmaster Robert Byrne has died, just days before his 85th birthday, after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease. Byrne beat Bobby Fischer in the 1965 US Championship, which he himself won in 1972. He worked as a university professor, author and long-time New York Times chess columnist. Our eulogy includes video commentary in a tribute by Andrew Martin.

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GM Robert Byrne, April 20, 1928 – April 12, 2013

Robert Eugene Byrne was born on April 20, 1928, was a grandmaster, author and long-time New York Times chess columnist from 1972 to 2006. He won the US Chess Champion in 1972 and represented the United States nine times in Chess Olympiads from 1952 to 1976, winning seven medals. He was a World Chess Championship Candidate in 1974. Byrne worked as a university professor for many years, before becoming a chess professional in the early 1970s.

Robert Byrne and his younger brother Donald grew up in New York City and were among the "Collins Kids", promising young players who benefited from the instruction and encouragement of John W. Collins. Both ultimately became college professors and among the leading chess players in the country. They were part of a talented new generation of young American masters, which also included Larry Evans, Arthur Bisguier, and George Kramer.

In Chess Notes 8033 historian Edward Winter published the above picture of the Byrne brothers. It is a scan of an early photograph published on page 5 of the February 1945 Chess Review. There are other pictures and documents to be found in Mr Winter's eulogy.

Byrne became an International Master based on his results at the 1952 Chess Olympiad at Helsinki (bronze medal on third board). In that same year he graduated from Yale University. He went on to become a professor of philosophy at Indiana University, and his academic career left him little time for chess. He did represent the U.S. in team matches against the Soviet Union at New York 1954 (losing 1.5–2.5 to Alexander Kotov), and Moscow 1955 (losing 0.5–3.5 to Paul Keres). In 1965 Byrne defeated Bobby Fischer in the US Chess Championship (Fischer of course went on to win the championship). Finally, in 1972, Byrne earned the championship himself, tying with two other players, Samuel Reshevsky and Lubomir Kavalek, and then winning a playoff. Lubos Kavalek will be writing a separate eulogy on Monday.

[Event "USA-ch"] [Site "New York"] [Date "1965.??.??"] [Round "8"] [White "Fischer, Robert James"] [Black "Byrne, Robert Eugene"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C04"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "1965.??.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nc6 4. c3 e5 5. exd5 Qxd5 6. Ngf3 exd4 7. Bc4 Qh5 8. O-O Nf6 9. Qe1+ Be7 10. Nxd4 O-O 11. Be2 Bg4 {[#]} 12. Nxc6 $2 Bd6 13. h3 Bxe2 14. Nd4 Bxf1 15. Qxf1 Rfe8 16. N2f3 a6 17. Bg5 Qg6 18. Rd1 Re4 19. Be3 Nd5 20. Bc1 Rae8 21. Nd2 R4e7 22. Nc4 Bf4 23. Nf3 c6 24. Nb6 Bxc1 25. Nxd5 cxd5 26. Rxc1 Re2 27. Rb1 Qc2 28. Rc1 Qxb2 29. Rb1 Qxc3 30. Rxb7 Rxa2 31. Kh2 h6 32. Qb1 Rxf2 33. Qf5 Qxf3 34. Qxf3 Rxf3 35. gxf3 Rd8 36. Rb6 d4 0-1

Robert Byrne died on April 12, 2013 at 84 years old after a long battle with Parkinson's. A memorial service will be on Sat., April 20, at 1 PM at Dorsey Funeral Home, 15 M Wilton Place, Ossining, NY 10562. Attendees are welcome. RSVP to ursula1732@aol.com. You can also send a message to be read aloud.


Read the New York Times article here


A humble tribute to a very memorable grandmaster and gentleman

Our Icelandic friend Einar S. Einarsson sent us some photos of GM Robert Byrne, who participated in five Reykjavik tournaments between 1968 and 1986, apart from covering the Fischer vs. Spassky Match in 1972. "He will always be remembered for his most decourous and academic attitude and fine play," writes Einarsson. "The chess world has lost a lot." Here are the pictures:

Robert Byrne covering the 1972 Spassky-Fischer match for the New York Times

At the Eleventh Reykjavik International in 1984

At the 22nd Chess Olympiad in Haifa, 1976


Andrew Martin: a tribute to Robert Byrne 1928-2013

Robert Byrne the theoretician


Topics Byrne
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