One of the biggest mysteries in US Chess was the disappearance of Peter Winston (b. March 18, 1958). He was one of the most talented young US players of his day and was a former winner of the US Junior Championship. In his early career Winston was considered to be a talent with nearly the potential of Bobby Fischer.
In 1977 he played in a FIDE rated tournament at Hunter College High School in New York City where he was one of the highest rated players in the tournament but lost all 9 games!
After the event he left the tournament supposedly on his way home but was never seen again. Many have suggested he killed himself but no body was ever found. Winston’s name does not appear on the Social Security Death Index, but that may simply be because his death was never established.
His disappearance controversy because Arpad Elo, the FIDE Ratings Administrator, felt that it was statistically virtually impossible for a rated chess master to lose all of his games and therefore the games must have been thrown. Elo therefore refused to rate the entire tournament, thereby depriving many young players of their new FIDE ratings.
One player claimed that in his next to last tournament he used analysis prepared by GM Anatoly Lein and Winston accused the player’s girlfriend of offering to sleep with him in return for throwing the game. As it turned out Winston totally refuted Lein’s analysis over the board.
U.S> Master and TD, Bill Goichberg, wrote of Winslow’s last event:
It was a 10 player round robin futurity. Calvin Blocker and Dr. Karl Burger tied for first. Peter Winston lost all of his games. His last game was against Sunil Weeramantry. After losing that last game, Winston left to go home, but was never seen again. It is presumed that he killed himself in such a way that his body was never found.
I drove Winston home a number of times during that tournament. He had many favorable positions, but lost them all. His face was puffed up from the effects of drug addiction or its treatment, and he was staying at a drug rehab facility. I think he is probably dead, but if so believe this was drug related and probably not suicide.
Actually prior to his disappearance Winston had several poor tournament results. Charles Hertan, who is a psychotherapist, believes he is one of the last people to see Peter Winston before the disappearance . Hertan speculates that Winston was bi-polar and that led to poor judgment in going out into a really bad snowstorm, after which he was never heard from again. A body was found, so he is presumed dead, but no one knows his ultimate fate. The suicide theory is also plausible because apparently people suffering from bi-polar disease can reach depressive states that are suicidal.
Guess we’ll never know.
Some of his games can be found here:
Chess Games of Peter Winston
Thanks to the lead supplied by "anonymous", here is an update from Charles Hertan’s article in Chess Life:
From Wikipedia.com, the online encyclopedia: "Peter Jonathan Winston was born March 18, 1958, in New York City. He was an American chess player. In 1974, he shared first prize in the U.S. Junior Chess Championship."
"He is most famous for his mysterious disappearance in early 1978. This came several months after poor tournament results. Reportedly, he left his home ... during a severe winter storm, was reported missing, and never seen again. He is presumed dead. Some reports suggest that his disappearance was a suicide."
Charles Hertan, a close friend on Winston, writing in the Chess Life article stated, “I do not have any miracle answers to the Peter Winston mystery, but I can supply much new, and more accurate, information about his life and death.” Hertan and Winston were classmates at New York University in 1977-78 and Hertan believes he, not Bill Goichberg, was the last chess player to see Winston before he disappeared.
Winston’s father died sometime after he (Winston) turned 15 and Hertan stated, “We never discussed this event in much detail, but I … realize(d) what a profound impact this event had on his chess career, and on his later mental health problems…For a time, Winston coped by absorbing himself in chess…we became friends, in the fall of 1977…”
In January, 1978, during a school break, Hertan began to realize Winston was having problems and about a week after receiving a call from Winston, Hertan went to visit Winston at his apartment and stated he found him in a “crazed state… talking rapidly and rather incoherently.” Winston advised Hertan that he was treated for bipolar ("manic-depressive") illness, but had gone off his medication.
At Winston’s insistence, Hertan accompanied him to a race track and when Hertan wanted to go home Winston was unnaturally euphoric, refused to leave and ran off into the crowd, so Hertan left alone.
Some weeks later he got as call form Winston’s mother asking if he knew anything. Winston’s mother said that he had returned to his sister's apartment that night, but the next day had left without his wallet or ID and was never seen again. Hertan stated that while suicide could not be ruled out, there were other possibilities such, “Perhaps he died of exposure, or wandered into an unsafe neighborhood and was murdered. Or maybe in the throes of mental illness, he overdosed on hard drugs…”
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