Robert Eugene Byrne (April 20, 1928 – April 12, 2013) was an American chess Grandmaster and chess author. He won the U.S. Championship in 1972, and was a World Chess Championship Candidate in 1974. Byrne represented the United States nine times in Chess Olympiads from 1952 to 1976 and won seven medals. He was the chess columnist from 1972 to 2006 for the New York Times, which ran his final column (a recounting of his 1952 victory over David Bronstein) on November 12, 2006. (Source: Wikipedia)
Robert Byrne, Chess Grandmaster, Dies at 84
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: April 13, 2013
Robert Byrne, an international grandmaster and United States chess champion who, as the chess columnist for The New York Times, analyzed top-flight matches from 1972 through 2006, the eras of Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, died on Friday at his home in Ossining, N.Y. He was 84.
The cause was Parkinson’s disease, said Joyce Dopkeen, a friend.
A prodigy as a young player, Mr. Byrne was nonetheless a latecomer to the professional game. He had a career as a philosophy professor, teaching at Indiana University through most of the 1950s, and did not become a full-time chess player until he was in his 40s, by which age most top players are beyond their peak skills.
Known as a cagey, patient player who favored flank attacks and solid structural defense, avoided pawn weaknesses and was especially strong in the endgame, Mr. Byrne, as an amateur, represented the United States with distinction in international competitions. But before he turned professional in the late 1960s, perhaps his most notable game was a loss to Fischer in the 1963-4 United States Championships, an annual invitation-only gathering of the nation’s strongest players.
Fischer won the tournament that year with an 11-0 record, the only time in more than 100 years of the event that anyone finished without a loss or a draw, and his game with Mr. Byrne was his closest call. Indeed, the game was widely seen to be tilting in Mr. Byrne’s favor, and its grandmaster analysts had just suggested that Fischer resign, when Mr. Byrne discovered that Fischer had engineered a brilliantly disguised trap for him and that he had fallen into it. When Mr. Byrne, instead of Fischer, resigned, spectators were shocked.
“Fischer’s conclusion was so neat and so profound” that the analysts, great players themselves, failed to see it, said the chess teacher and writer Bruce Pandolfini, who was at the match. “Byrne, to his credit, recognized it. So one of his great losses is part of chess history.”
Mr. Byrne won his game with Fischer in the 1965-6 United States Championship, though Fischer was the eventual champion. Finally, in 1972, he earned the championship himself, tying with two other players, Samuel Reshevsky and Lubomir Kavalek, and then winning a playoff.
Full article in the NY Times here.
Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar