Hort stories: Remembering Tony Miles

by Vlastimil Hort
2/5/2020 – Tony Miles was the first English Grandmaster and in the 1980s one of the best players from the West. In 1980, at a tournament in Skara, he tried 1.e4 a6!? against Anatoly Karpov and defeated the World Champion in a famous game. Vlastimil Hort shares memories of his former teammate, which forces him to recall an frightening incident with "Tom".

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Tony Miles → "It's only me" 

I rarely fail to notice when a striking chess book — such as the one by my colleague and team mate Tony Miles — is published. However, it took a very long time before I finally held Miles' book in my hands.

Book cover

It also took me a long time to realize that the title of the book is an anagram, and that it's title "It's only me" hides the name of Tony Miles. Whether he has used it somewhere, sometime before or whether the editor chose it deliberately I do not know.

The book was published by Batsford Chess in 2003, two years after Tony's death (1955 – 2001).

In this book Geoff Lawton carefully compiled articles written by Miles, his chess columns, notes, and a number of games with his annotations. Leonard Barden wrote the preface.

Unfortunately, I had missed getting a copy of the book when it appeared. Later, when I tried, it was already out of print. The German chess seller Niggemann told me that the last copy had already been sold in 2009. I still wonder why Batsford Chess published only one edition of the book and never reprinted it.

Unfortunately, Tony did not see the resonance his book had all over the world. I feel that it is now up to me to pay a tribute to this self-taught chess player and very creative person.

"Dear Tony, better late than never, isn't it?"

But when, actually, did we meet each other for the first time? Was it in 1975, when we first faced each other over the board? Or was it later? After Robert Hübner had left the club of Cologne-Porz in 1981 to play for Hamburg Wilfried Hilgert, sponsor and manager of Porz, promised to find an adequate replacement. And suddenly Tony Miles with his trademark long blond hairs appeared on the chess scene in Cologne.

Vlastimil Hort (left) and Tony Miles (right) 1981 at a joint simul in Pulheim | Photo source: Pulheimer SC 

The long hairs of Miles inspired Karel Popp to a fine caricature which I published a long time ago in my book Schwarz-Weiße Erzählungen (Tales of Black and White).

Miles caricature

Everybody knows how important the Bermuda triangle is for shipping. Chess triangles are much less known. Player A wins almost every game against B, B has his "victim", but C in turn almost always beats A although all three separate only a few Elo-points. Such a chess triangle were Hort (A), Miles (B) and Ljubojević (C). The astronomical differences in the results of the games we played against each other are really hard to explain.

Miles caricature

Later, when my teammate Tony told me that he had had serious trouble with the revenue service in England, I realized how much he must have welcomed the switch to Germany. An offer in the right moment!

At the age of 15 Tony already hurried all over England with his small suitcase to play one open tournament after the next. Tony was self-taught and continuously improved his game. He was keen to become England's first grandmaster. The reward of 5,000 British pounds that the sponsor, Jim Slater — who had also supported the Fischer — Spassky match, had promised the first English player with a grandmaster title certainly played an important role here! Tony's talent and his outstanding analytical abilities paid off and in 1976 at a tournament in Dubna in Russia he finally became a grandmaster. A new chess star was born in England!

We regularly met at Chess Olympiads and in many open tournaments. In 1983, the British Chess Federation made me a lucrative offer. While Korchnoi and Kasparov were playing the final of the candidates tournament for the right to challenge Karpov for the title, there was to be a side program on the rest days. A match Hort vs Miles over eight games!

After four games the result was a 2:2 tie. Unfortunately, on the evening after the fourth game I suffered the most unpleasant incident of my life...

Wrong time, wrong place!

In all innocence I walked with my "starting fee from Vinkovci 1969", a made to measure fur coat through the streets of London. In the buzz of the city I enjoyed the fresh autumn air and was in high spirits. My hand were buried deep in my pockets while I was walking towards the subway. I wanted to return quickly to my hotel to have a cup of tea and to think in quiet about the games.

But things can change quickly and your dreams can turn into nightmares. Which I had to find out much sooner than I would have liked on the subway station's escalator. A surprising movement, a leap and suddenly someone was standing opposite me. Face to face. A moment later I felt the pressure of a sharp object at my stomach. What to think, to feel and to do in such a situation? The pressure on my stomach became increasingly stronger.

"Yes, I will give you all my money, but please, do not hurt me!" Which caused an unusual response. "It is not money I am after!" My translation wheels were in overdrive… he did not want money, but what did he want? To avoid provoking my unwelcome fellow passenger on the staircase 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...

To be continued...

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer

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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.
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Inspirus18 Inspirus18 2/11/2020 08:13
Very interesting article, as always, by GM Vl. Hort. Yet, I have to correct him: "While Korchnoi and Kasparov were playing the final of the candidates tournament" ?!? In fact, this was the semi-final. Kasparov won (after losing the 1st game with white!) and went on to play Smyslov in the final of the Candidates' cycle.
Hypekiller5000 Hypekiller5000 2/7/2020 07:21
if i'm not mistaken, Miles used the "it's only me" anagram to play on icc. It may even be mentioned in the book.
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