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Thursday, November 10, 2011

GM James Tarjan

In the 1970’s and 1980’s one of the most exciting US players was Jim Tarjan (born 22 February 1952) of Sherman Oaks, California. At age 17 he was selected to the American team for the 1969 World Students' Olympiad and was a member of the winning American team at Haifa 1970 and was selected again at Graz 1972.

He finished second at an invitational junior tournament at Norwich 1972, with 12/15, behind Gyula Sax. His best results in international tournaments include first at Subotica 1975, first at Vancouver 1976, and first equal at Vršac 1983, along with Predrag Nikolić and Georgy Agzamov. Other good finishes included tied for third at Chicago 1973, tied for fifth at Venice 1974 with 7.5/13; and tied second at Bogotá 1979, with 10.5/14, behind Beliavsky.

Tarjan played in several U.S. Championships during the 1970s and 1980s. He was fourth at El Paso 1973 with 7.5/12. At Oberlin 1975, he tied for sixth with a score of 6.5/13. At Pasadena 1978, which was the Zonal qualifier, he tied for second with 10.5/14, and advanced to the 1979 Riga Interzonal where he scored 8.5/17. Tarjan's last competitive tournament was the 1984 U.S. Championship at Berkeley, where he tied third, scoring 10.5/17. Tarjan earned his IM title in 1974, and his GM title in 1976.

He is a graduate of the University of Southern California and like many of the best US players of the day, gave up chess in 1984 while in his early thirties, in order to pursue a more stable career as a librarian. Tarjan was a player with a very aggressive style but away from the board, he was a very nice person. Tarjan is the brother of the well-known computer scientist, Robert Tarjan.


  1. I don't know if you noticed, but Jim Tarjan has resurfaced, playing in this year's U.S.Open. I don't know how he finished, but he was doing pretty well through the early rounds, including a draw against the top seed. I wonder what drew him out of chess retirement thirty years after his last tournament

  2. I was not aware Tarjan was back! There was a six-way tie for first (Holt, Mulyar, Margvelashvili, Corrales,Nyzhnyk and Shabalov at 7.5–1.5) and Tarjan, along with 8 others, scored 7-2 finishing 10th on tiebreaks. His only loss was to GM Dmitry Gurevich. A complete crosstable can be found here:

  3. Jim recently retired from his librarian job; a loss to his colleagues there, but clearly a gain to the chess world.