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In Memory of GM Walter Browne: January 10, 1949 – June 24, 2015

By Davide Nastasio

On June 24th, I spent most of the day waiting for the results of a tournament to be published. But from time to time, when I was checking my Facebook, I found out  the following sad news: Ron Gross, a friend of GM Walter Browne, and a master level chess player, was hosting Browne at his house. GM Browne was taking a nap, but when the time to wake him up came, he couldn’t be awakened. He died in his sleep.

Browne was born in Australia, but immigrated to the US. Like Danish Grandmaster Bent Larsen, he was a brilliant tactician. In fact, in 1976 he was among the top 20 players in the world.

From an article from Sport Illustrated in the 70s, we can see how strong was his will to win. In 60 days, he traveled around 40 of the 50 states, and played 2000 simul games!

Another interesting achievement was to create the World Blitz Chess Association (WBCA) in 1988, and there was also a magazine. I remember that while waiting between rounds at the Atlanta Chess Center, I found some of those old magazines, and it was quite interesting to see how GMs were able to play high-level games within 5 minutes.

About a week ago GM Wesley So was bragging that he finished a simul on 30 boards in an hour and a half–lightning speed, likely thanks to his Flash t-shirt! Well, in 1971, while in Australia, GM Browne finished a 29-board simul in 45 minutes; some of the games were 50 to 60 moves long!

Since I never had the pleasure of knowing him, I’d like to remember GM Browne through some of his most memorable games, and some anecdotes told to me by some of his friends or acquaintances.

There are many anecdotes about GM Browne. For example, during the super-tournament in Milan, Italy, 1975,  he was often seen with his head down and legs up, a classic yoga pose, during tournament games.

This is one of his wins in that tournament where Browne neutralizes the Master of Attack, and enters a won endgame:

Walter_Browne_1974b

Here we can see Browne in action against another of the best players in the world, and today one of the most known game commentators. Notice the beautiful queen sacrifice:

Often we ask a GM what was his favorite chess book. Like every GM he had many, but I noticed he mentioned in several instances that he memorized “Botvinnik 100 games.” A nice little book by Dover, still in descriptive notation.

botvinnik_100_selected_games

GM Browne, also had his own site, where he would comment on some of his best games, and teach about some important chess themes. In the following game we can see the power of the Good Knight vs the Bad Bishop:

GM Seirawan remembers the fierce competitiveness of GM Browne in the following game, which was the last round played in the tournament. In that time Korchnoi was the second strongest player in the world:

But of course, GM Browne also played brilliant games against minor GMs, like the incredibly resourceful GM Ashley, the promoter of the Million dollar tournament!

This is one of the last games Browne played, just 4 days before his death:

I’d like to share this last game, because to me it shows why chess is a sport, and a very hard one. Chess is a battle of wills, a fight to the last man standing.

This game comes from the book GM Browne wrote. One should consider buying this book, because it is exciting, full of life, and loaded with chess stories. About the game, let me first explain that it comes from another historical period, a period in which one could adjourn the game after 40 moves, analyze all night long, and then play in the morning. In this case, this game was adjourned 4 times! But this game speaks loudly about GM Browne, as well as his opponent, who is likely the greatest chess player who ever lived: Bobby Fischer. For this game they were playing in front of an audience of 3000 spectators. Yes, Fischer was the real show attracting the crowds. At this point in the tournament Fischer had a 2-point advantage over the rest of the competition, and as you can see in this game, he went till the end trying to win! The result is a draw, but the endless hours of fight show what the fabric of the human soul is made of!

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