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Friday, August 16, 2013

Hugh Meyers

      Hugh Myers (1930-2008) was primarily known as an opening theoretician who was an exponent of unorthodox openings. From 1979 to 1996 he intermittently edited and published The Myers Openings Bulletin, offering deeply researched openings articles (no opening seemed too offbeat to be considered), historical features, book reviews and commentary.
      Myers made a particular study of the Nimzovich Defence (1 e4 Nc6) and wrote several monographs on it. Some of his earlier works were New Strategy in the Chess Openings, Reversed King Pawns: Mengarini’s Opening and Exploring the Chess Opening. In 2002 he published a 239 page autobiography, A Chess Explorer, that included 130 of his games, and reminiscences. Concerning Bobby Fischer he wrote, “He won the U.S. Championship for the first time on 7 January 1958, clinching it with a short last-round draw against Abe Turner. It was a snowy evening. I was one of the few people he would listen to (Probably because he respected my taste in openings! I don’t think he knew anyone else who owned and loved a 1956 Russian openings book by Lipnitsky, as we both did). So I was the only person to escort Fischer and his mother to the subway station. He was celebrating by throwing snowballs at passing buses! I got him to stop that, telling him he wouldn’t want to see his name in the morning papers both for winning the championship and for getting arrested.’”
      In 1985 he disputed the termination of the 1984-85 world championship match between Karpov and Kasparov which lead to his becoming acquainted with Florencio Campomanes and he worked to ensure the Filipino’s re-election as FIDE President in 1986. Myers argued that the decision to stop the match and start afresh was in Kasparov's interest, since he had been trailing and would have needed three more victories to win the match, while Karpov needed only one. Chess historian Edward Winter later wrote, "This reasoning, originally voiced by hardly anyone except ... Myers, is now gaining ground." Myers also asserted that Kasparov’s statements, which suggested that Campomanes had terminated the match at Karpov’s behest and over Kasparov’s opposition, were duplicitous. In 1986, Campomanes hired Myers to write the bulletins at the Chess Olympiad later that year in Dubai, and to work for Campomanes' reelection as FIDE President. Campomanes' opponent was Lincoln Lucena, whose running mate was Raymond Keene, a candidate for General Secretary of FIDE. Myers wrote a series of ten bulletins for distribution to national chess federations, entitled F.I.D.E. Facts, that criticized Keene, as well as Lucena supporters such as Kasparov and David Levy. Myers also created a cartoon that portrayed Lucena as a marionette controlled by Keene and Levy. Just before the election, Lucena withdrew, ensuring Campomanes' victory. Myers took credit for Campomanes' reelection, writing, "It could be reasonably argued that Campomanes was either a good guy or a bad guy, but I'm proud that discovering the truth and telling it proved that his opponents were worse."
      Meyers was plagued by illness and other personal problems which lead to his playing less and less often, concentrating instead on writing whenever his health and other circumstances permitted. In January, 1997 Meyers had a heart attack. Heart trouble had been a problem for several years, but this one was the worst and he had three more attacks that year, all requiring paramedics and emergency ambulance rides. In November of 1997 he was finally persuaded to have a quadruple bypass operation. It was successful but he wasn't mentally or physically able to work for some time, but by late 1998, thanks to cardiac rehabilitation, he was again in good shape, and that continued. However, the result was that he was financially wiped out, living hand to mouth.
      He regularly used black setups with white, often adding an extra move. For example, 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. a3. He is best known for his Myers’ Defense: 1 g3 g5 and 1 c4 g5.
      Myers won or tied for first in the state championships of Illinois (1951), Wisconsin (1955), Missouri (1962), and Iowa (1983), as well as the USCF Region VIII (Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Nebraska) championship (1983). He played first board for the Dominican Republic in the 1968 and 1976 Chess Olympiads.
      Myers was born in Decatur, Illinois and learned to play chess from Lasker's Manual of Chess. After his father brought home the December 1943 issue of Chess Review, Myers began visiting the Decatur Chess Club weekly and in 1946, he played in his first tournament, finishing second in the Decatur high school championship. Myers majored in history and political science at Millikin University, graduating in 1951. In 1950–52, he won the Decatur city championship three years in a row by lopsided scores, scoring 14.5 out of 16 possible points, 15 out of 16, and a perfect 14 out of 14, respectively.
      In 1951, Myers tied for first in the Illinois championship with Kimball Nedved and John Tums, each scoring 6 out of 7 but Nedved won on tiebreaks. Myers challenged Nedved to a match, which Myers won in 1952 with 3.5 out of 4. Myers won the 1955 Wisconsin state championship with 6.5 out of 7. In 1962, Myers won the Missouri Open championship on tiebreak over Ivan Theodorovich of Toronto, each scoring 5 out of 6.
    From 1965 to 1968, Myers was the top-rated player in the Dominican Republic. He played first board for its national chess team at the Chess Olympiads at Lugano 1968 (scoring 4 wins, 5 draws, and 6 losses) and Haifa 1976 (scoring 3 wins, 3 draws, and 5 losses). In 1983, Myers tied for first in the Iowa State Championship and later that year, he also tied for first in the USCF Region VIII (Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Nebraska) championship.
      Myers achieved an rating of 2350 while living in the Dominican Republic and in the U.S. his held a master’s rating for many years. Myers died in Davenport, Iowa three days before Christmas in on 2008, a month short of his seventy-ninth birthday.

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