Walter Browne dies in his sleep at 66

by Frederic Friedel
6/25/2015 – GM Walter Browne, born in Australia, was a six-time US Champion and eleven time winner of the National Open. He won the American Open seven times, the World Open three times, and the US Open Championship twice. On Wednesday night, after a tournament, a simul and a poker session in Las Vegas, Browne passed away suddenly. The chess world is shocked and saddened by this loss.

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The Las Vegas International Chess Festival news page reports:

GM Browne had just finished playing in our 50th Anniversary National Open. He tied for 9th-15th. He played a 25 board simultaneous exhibition here at the Las Vegas International Chess Festival. He also taught at our chess camp and gave a lecture series. After the Chess Festival, Browne stayed the night at the home of his life-long friend, Ron Gross, who reported to us that Walter died suddenly in his sleep. We are shocked and saddened by this sudden loss.

Walter was a good man, a great friend, and a mentor to generations of players. He will be sorely missed, yet his games, his brilliance, his generosity, and his explorations of the games, as well as his presence will live on. Farewell Walter. We will remember you. Rest in Peace.

Walter Shawn Browne was born in Sydney, Australia, on January 10, 1949 of a US American father and an Australian mother. The family moved to New York when he was three, and Walter moved to California when he was 24. At the age of seventeen he won the U.S. Junior Championship, and at twenty the Australian Championship (for a time he represented both countries). That year, 1969, he represented Australia at the Asian Zonal tournament in Singapore, earning the International Master title – which earned him an invitation to an international grandmaster tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There, he gained the grandmaster title by tying for second through fourth places, with Bruno Parma and Arthur Bisguier, behind reigning World Champion Boris Spassky.

Walter Browne playing for Australia in 1972

Walter Browne played first board for Australia at the 1970 and 1972 Chess Olympiads, before switching to representing the United States in 1974.

After his switch to the USCF in 1974

U.S. Championships, Interzonals, Olympiads

Browne won the U.S. Chess Championship six times. His victories were at Chicago 1974 (with 9½/13), Oberlin 1975 (8½/13), Mentor 1977 (9/13), Greenville 1980 (7½/12), South Bend 1981 (9/14) and 1983 (9/13). He qualified for three Interzonal tournaments, but never came close to qualification for the Candidates. At the Manila Interzonal 1976, Browne scored 8½/19 for 15th place. At the Las Palmas Interzonal 1982, he placed last of 14 contestants with 3/13. Finally, at the Taxco Interzonal 1985, he scored 6½/15 for a tied 9–13th place.

In six appearances Browne performed well at the Chess Olympiads. He represented Australia twice and the United States four times, winning a total of five medals, all bronze. He scored 55½/86 (+40 -15 =31), for 64.5 percent:

Siegen 1970 Australia board 1 14/19 (+10 –1 =8)  
Skopje 1972 Australia board 1 17½/22 (+15 –2 =5) board bronze
Nice 1974 United States board 3 10½/17 (+7 –3 =7) team bronze
Buenos Aires 1978 United States board 2 4½/9 (+3 –3 =3) team bronze
Lucerne 1982 United States board 1 5½/10 (+4 –3 =3) team bronze
Thessaloniki 1984 United States board 4 3½/9 (+1 –3 =5) team bronze

Other tournaments

Browne was a dominant presence in American chess in the 1970s and 1980s. Aside from the above results he won the National Open eleven times, the American Open seven times, the World Open three times, and the U.S. Open Chess Championship twice (1971 and 1972).

Browne also enjoyed many international successes from the early 1970s into the mid-1980s. His international firsts include Venice 1971, Wijk aan Zee 1974, Winnipeg 1974 (Pan American Championship), Lone Pine 1974, Mannheim 1975, Reykjavík 1978, Wijk aan Zee 1980, Chile 1981, Indonesia 1982 (shared with Ron Henley in a 26-player round-robin tournament), the 1983 New York Open, Gjovik 1983, and Naestved 1985.

Browne was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2003. He won the U.S. Senior Open in June 2005. In 2012 he published an autobiography and collection of his best games, The Stress of Chess ... and its Infinite Finesse.

Playing style

Browne tended to spend a lot of his allotted time during the opening moves and early middlegame; consequently he often wound up in time trouble. This sometimes led to mistakes, even though Browne played reasonably well in time trouble; and good play during this phase could unsettle his opponents. A world-class speed chess player, Browne in 1988 formed the World Blitz Chess Association, but it ended in 2004 after encountering financial troubles.

Information and pictures from Wikipedia

An hour-long conversation with Walter Browne

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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Katalin Molnar Katalin Molnar 9/13/2015 07:25
My sincere condolences, Raquel.

Walter, no one ever had such patience to teach me bowling as you did in Manila in 1976. Thank you for your kindness and respectfulness during the following decades every time we met at different chess events. You will be truly missed.

Katalin Molnar, Gerardo Barbero's widow,
Menlo Park, California
Chris McDade Chris McDade 7/3/2015 09:55
It is a sad departing and much too early in my humble estimation. I was somehow lucky enough to achieve a bit of small fame by winning against GM Browne in a simul. It was in May, 1973. Later, I met Gabriel Sanchez in California. He probably doesn't remember me. He was a senior master at the time. I asked him how to improve my game. He said, " just play."
dysanfel dysanfel 6/26/2015 11:42
I played him in 1995-6 at the Pompano Beach Chess club in Florida at a simul. He beat us all.
Marc Weeks Marc Weeks 6/26/2015 07:55
In Berkeley many years ago, Browne was in the midst of a post-mortem, while GM Roman Dzindzichashvili loomed over his shoulder, suggesting moves. Finally, exasperated, Browne said, "When we play Dzindzi's game, we'll play Dzindzi's moves!" At the 1981 U.S. Open in Palo Alto, Browne had just been given the black pieces for the third game in a row. I saw him in the hotel hallway with his wife, who tried to encourage him with "Just concentrate." Browne replied, "Concentrate, my a**!"
Daniel Quigley Daniel Quigley 6/26/2015 05:12
One of my favorite Browne games is this convincing dismantling of Sherzer's King's Indian from 1994. Browne played this game after having lost to Sherzer's KID in their previous encounter two years earlier. Talk about fearless! I still don't understand the basis of Browne's pawn sacrifice on move 28, not to mention the brilliant Queen sacrifice that soon followed, but it sure worked!
Max Marzano Max Marzano 6/26/2015 12:21
Strange for someone seemingly in good health to die suddenly, especially after playing in a tournament, giving a simul, and not to show any sign of anything. They should do an autopsy.
airman airman 6/25/2015 10:35
I only met him once. At the US Open in the 90's in FL. He was a very jittery intense guy. But he was also very genuine. I spoke with him a while at lunch as we just happened to be sitting next to each other. He actually went over my last round game and gave me some helpful comments a couple chess stories.

genghiskhent genghiskhent 6/25/2015 08:27
I remember him well in the 70's. Very intense but beneath that intensity a nice guy. We had one last round draw. He was dissapointed, but a good sport, and analyzed with me. RIP. Jeff Kent
daftarche daftarche 6/25/2015 08:04
thank you for your chess, walter brown. RIP.
Gabriel Sanchez Gabriel Sanchez 6/25/2015 07:17
I saw Browne at countless San Francisco Bay Area chess tournaments in the 70s-90s. He was always very intense at the board, and I enjoyed following his games. When I defeated him at a US Open in the 90s, and he promptly stuck out his hand and resigned gentlemanly, without excuses. I do remember one time when he wore glasses at the board in the 70s, lost to an ordinary master, and thru the glasses away. Browne, DeFirmian, Tarjan, Christiansen. Those were good years and tournaments - Lone Pine, Paul Masson, a lifetime ago.
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 6/25/2015 03:37
very sad news.....probably nonstop chess activity at a high level may be the reason....he is an exponent of sicilian defence /d4 ..... a time trouble addict (or a deliberate act to needle himself....just like grishuk doing now....).... like miles, a colourful personality! i grieve for him.
luishon luishon 6/25/2015 02:14
RIP Mr Walter Browne
I always look after his games when in Los Angeles California
He was our State defender
and he did it well and passionate
and he did it on the Chess board and off the Chess board
RIP Walter Browne
Robert Clark Robert Clark 6/25/2015 01:46
I remember Walter Shawn Browne in BBC's The Master Game in the early 1980s. What an attacking and entertaining player! The game I especially remember was that game he had with Miguel Quinteros where "No one knows what's happening". A real slugfest and full of sacrifices.

Very sad news indeed.
hpaul hpaul 6/25/2015 01:44
Very sad news. Walter Browne was the dominant U.S. player for a long time, and was legendary in California, where I lived. I treasure the one personal contact I had with Browne, when I lost a game to him in a rapid tournament in Sacramento, CA, in the early '90s. Such an incredibly intense player, he didn't take his 1900-rated opponent lightly, but applied his famous power of concentration wholly to the game. I appreciated that sign of respect a lot.