Sir Patrick Moore, 4 March 1923 – 9 December 2012

1/9/2013 – Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore was an English astronomer, writer, researcher, and host of the world's longest-running television series with the same original presenter, the BBC's The Sky at Night. He was also an avid chess player, and when his death became known during the London Chess Classic the VIP room was filled with stories about his chess career. Here's one by Carl Portman.

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Patrick Moore, 4 March 1923 – 9 December 2012

Sir Patrick Moore CBE, FRS, FRAS was an English amateur astronomer who attained prominent status in that field as a writer, researcher, radio commentator and television presenter. He was a former president of the British Astronomical Association, co-founder and former president of the Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA), author of over 70 books on astronomy, and presenter of the world's longest-running television series with the same original presenter, the BBC's The Sky at Night. As an amateur astronomer, he became known as a specialist in Moon observation and for creating the Caldwell catalogue. Idiosyncrasies such as his rapid diction and monocle made him a popular and instantly recognisable figure on British television. Moore was also a self-taught xylophone, glockenspiel player and pianist, as well as an accomplished composer. He was a former amateur cricketer, golfer and chess player.

Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore was born at Pinner, Middlesex on 4 March 1923. Heart problems meant he spent much of his childhood being educated at home and he became an avid reader. His mother gave him a copy of G.F. Chambers' book, The Story of the Solar System, and this sparked his lifelong passion for astronomy. Sir Patrick had a pacemaker fitted in 2006. Over the last months he fought his way back from many serious spells of illness and continued to work and write at a great rate, but this time his body was too weak to overcome the infection which set in, a few weeks ago. He passed away peacefully at 12:25 on 9 December 2012.

  • Read a full obituary on this BBC News page.
  • There is more, including statements, links and video report on this page.
  • Finally, if you become really interested, there is plenty more from the BBC here.

The Sky at KNIGHT!

Carl Portman remembers Sir Patrick Moore

I first read Sir Patrick Moore’s autobiography at Christmas 2006 and noted within its hallowed pages that he was a chess fan and former active chess player. It seemed to me anyway that he lamented the fact that he no longer played, so as a chess fanatic myself I wrote to him and asked him if he would like to play some chess by correspondence.

I think we were both delighted that he agreed, and we began to play two games simultaneously, each had a white and a black game. Patrick would send his moves not only in the old descriptive notation but on a slip of paper typed up using only his old favourite 1908 Woodstock typewriter. He became very upset with himself for sometimes not being able to write the moves down properly, as can be seen below.

We had several exchanges by post, but there were not too many moves in both as he really had trouble writing and keeping track of the moves, so he invited me down to visit him at his home in Selsey. My wife (then my girlfriend) Susan and I had lunch then out came Patrick’s lovely chess set.


Sir Patrick’s first beloved chess set

He purchased this as his first set from a market in London when he was six or seven years old, somewhere around 1930/31. It was ‘coal black’ when he bought it, and as it was so dirty it cost him four shillings. He used cleaning material and toothbrushes to clean the set. He bought the board in Gibraltar! He was already playing chess at this young age and really wanted the chess set.


Moore v Portman (Selsey 2007)

He said at the start ‘don’t go easy on me’ and I replied that this was chess and to that end I never have any intention of going easy on anyone. Whilst we played, a neighbour brought some fresh strawberries which went down particularly well. Even though I felt it prudent to discuss astronomy Patrick was very keen to discuss chess and what was happening in the chess world. He was a fan of Capablanca.

The game we played was not written down, but we did have a well-fought draw, and I recall the final position.

I shall miss him and his eccentricity very much. He had no comprehension about political correctness at all, yet he never meant any real harm with some of his rather forthright comments. He had a childlike innocence and I fear that we shall probably not see the likes of him again.

I shall finish this article with a quote from his autobiography – which is where our relationship began.

‘Halfway through the trip, Gregory took me to Moscow Station, put me on the train bound for what was then Leningrad, where I was scheduled to address a meeting. The carriage was clean and comfortable (British Railways, please copy!) and was occupied by one Russian, who was smoking a pipe and gave me a welcoming nod. Clearly he was happy to talk, but there were problems. We tried English and French; no good. Suddenly he pulled out a travelling chess set, and invited me to have a game. It did not occur to him that I might not play chess. Luckily I do (I have played for Sussex, and have a reasonably high rating), and we had a most enjoyable three hour battle, ending in an honourable draw. On arrival at Leningrad, we disembarked, shook hands, smiled at each other and parted, never to meet again on this earthly plain. I never did know his name!’

Well you have played your final game Patrick and checkmate has been delivered. Good luck in your first game with Capablanca!

Copyright Portman/ChessBase


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