Larry Evans

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For the football player, see Larry Evans (American football).
Larry Evans
Full name Larry Melvyn Evans
Country United States
Born March 22, 1932
New York, New York
Died November 15, 2010(2010-11-15) (aged 78)
Reno, Nevada
Title Grandmaster (1957)
Peak rating 2555 (January 1977)

Larry Melvyn Evans (March 22, 1932 – November 15, 2010) was an American chess grandmaster, author, and journalist. He won or shared the U.S. Chess Championship five times and the U.S. Open Chess Championship four times. He wrote a long-running syndicated chess column and wrote or co-wrote more than twenty books on chess.

Chess career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Evans was born in Manhattan on March 22, 1932, and learned much about the game by playing for ten cents an hour on 42nd Street in New York City,[citation needed] quickly becoming a rising star. At age 14, he tied for 4th–5th place in the Marshall Chess Club championship. The next year he won it outright, becoming the youngest Marshall champion at that time. He also finished equal second in the U.S. Junior Championship, which led to an article in the September 1947 issue of Chess Review. At 16, he played in the 1948 U.S. Chess Championship, his first, tying for eighth place at 11½–7½.[1] Evans tied with Arthur Bisguier for first place in the U.S. Junior Chess Championship of 1949. By age 18, he had won a New York State championship as well as a gold medal in the Dubrovnik 1950 Chess Olympiad. In the latter, his 90% score (eight wins and two draws) on sixth board tied with Rabar of Yugoslavia for the best result of the entire Olympiad.[2]

U.S. champion[edit]

Larry Evans (1964)

In 1951, he first won the U.S. Championship, ahead of Samuel Reshevsky, who had tied for 3rd–4th in the 1948 World Championship match-tournament.[3] Evans won his second championship the following year by winning a title match against Herman Steiner.[4] He won the national championship three additional times: in 1961–62, 1967–68,[5] and 1980, the last in a tie with Walter Browne and Larry Christiansen.[6][7][8]


FIDE awarded Evans the titles of International Master (1952) and International Grandmaster (1957). In 1956 the U.S. State Department appointed him a "chess ambassador".

Evans performed well in many U.S. events during the 1960s and 1970s, but his trips abroad to international tournaments were infrequent and less successful. He won the U.S. Open Chess Championship in 1951, 1952, 1954 (he tied with Arturo Pomar but won the title on the tie-break) and tied with Walter Browne in 1971. He also won the first Lone Pine tournament in 1971.[9]

Olympiad successes[edit]

He represented the U.S. in eight Chess Olympiads over a period of twenty-six years, winning gold (1950), silver (1958), and bronze (1976) medals for his play, and participating in team gold (1976) and silver (1966) medals.[10][11][12]

Best international results[edit]

Evans (right) helping Fischer prepare for his World Championship match

His best results on foreign soil included two wins at the Canadian Open Chess Championship, 1956 in Montreal, and 1966 in Kingston, Ontario. He tied for first-second in the 1975 Portimão, Portugal International[13] and for second-third with World Champion Tigran Petrosian, behind Jan Hein Donner, in Venice, 1967.[14] However, his first, and what ultimately proved to be his only, chance in the World Chess Championship cycle ended with a disappointing 14th place (10/23) in the 1964 Amsterdam Interzonal.[15]

Working with Bobby Fischer[edit]

He never entered the world championship cycle again, and concentrated his efforts on assisting his fellow American Bobby Fischer in his quest for the world title. He was Fischer's second for the Candidates matches leading up to the World Chess Championship 1972 against Boris Spassky, though not for the championship match itself, after a disagreement with Fischer.

At his peak in October 1968 he was rated 2631 by the United States Chess Federation.

Chess journalism[edit]

Evans had always been interested in writing as well as playing. By the age of eighteen, he had already published David Bronstein's Best Games of Chess, 1944–1949 and the Vienna International Tournament, 1922. His book New Ideas in Chess was published in 1958, and was later reprinted. He wrote or co-wrote more than 20 books on chess.[16]

He wrote the tenth edition of the important openings treatise Modern Chess Openings (1965), co-authored with editor Walter Korn. He also made a significant contribution to Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games (1969), writing the introductions to each of the games and urging the future World Champion to publish when he had initially been reluctant to do so.[17] Some of Evans's other books are Modern Chess Brilliancies (1970), What's The Best Move (1973), and Test Your Chess I.Q. (2001).

Evans began his career in chess journalism during the 1960s, helping to found the American Chess Quarterly, which ran from 1961–65. He was an editor of Chess Digest during the 1960s and 1970s. For over thirty years, until 2006, he wrote a question-and-answer column for Chess Life, the official publication of the United States Chess Federation (USCF), and has also written for Chess Life Online. His weekly chess column, Evans on Chess, has appeared in more than fifty separate newspapers throughout the United States. He also wrote a column for the World Chess Network.

Evans also commentated on some of the most important matches for Time magazine and ABC's Wide World of Sports, including the 1972 Fischer versus Spassky match, the 1993 PCA world title battle between Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short and the Braingames world chess championship match between Vladimir Kramnik and Kasparov in 2000.

Evans also contributed a large amount of tutorial and other content to the Chessmaster computer game series, most notably an endgame quiz and annotations of classic chess games. His contributions to chess writing and journalism earned him many awards, including the USCF's Chess Journalist of the Year award in 2000.[citation needed] He was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1994.

Criticism of writings[edit]

Larry Evans was a prolific and popular author, and had a lengthy career. Criticism of his writings can be found in the reviews of his books and also in articles in which he was the subject. He was considered a "rarity"[18] in that he was not only the U.S. champion five times, but also that he "wrote widely" on the game, and his contribution to the tenth edition of Modern Chess Openings[19] is credited for helping the book known as the "chess player’s bible."[18][20]

Book critic, Stephen B. Dowd, reviewing the tournament book Vienna 1922 by Evans, remarked that it was his "unabashed honesty that endeared Evans to his fans," and that "Evans always gave straight-shooting answers in those days, never coddling his readers and always instructing them."[21]

Book reviewers note Evans's significant contributions to Bobby Fischer's book, My 60 Memorable Games, including the introductions to all of the games.[22] This book is considered by some to be one of the most important chess books in history.[23] Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, writing as a book critic in the New York Review of Books, noted that My 60 Memorable Games was one of his "earliest and most treasured chess possessions."[24]

Criticism of his journalistic writings can be found when selections of his columns are gathered together, and published in book form. One reviewer, author and International Master Anthony Saidy, noted that Evans brought to his journalism a "taste for intriguing chess", his personal experience at "the summit of US chess", and "sharp opinions" regarding the politics of chess, which contributed to his "spicy, concise columns"[25]

Author and USCF National Master, Bruce Pandolfini, described Larry Evans's New Ideas in Chess as influential and a "first-rate chess book."[26]

A journalist could not write for nearly forty years [18] without acquiring some antagonists.[27] One example was fellow chess journalist, Edward Winter. Winter scoured Evans writings, and wrote excoriatingly regarding any error he found.[28] Evans responded to Winter by pointing out that Winter’s complaints included decades-old misspellings, or in some cases errors that had already been corrected, and also mistakes that were made in a reader’s question, then attributed to Evans.[29] Also, as IM John Watson points out, Winter is loyal to his "villains", and is "very selective in what he reports about them."[30]

In the year 2000, Winter posted a story asserting that Grandmaster and fellow chess journalist, and three-time United States Chess Champion IGM Yasser Seirawan, published on his "Inside Chess" website a strongly-worded open letter to the FIDE President Kirsan Iljumzhinov. The purpose of this letter, Seirawan wrote, was "to register my despair and disgust over the current plight of FIDE", and also to call upon the "full present FIDE leadership – and you first and foremost as President – resign your posts."[31] According to Winter, Seirawan reviewed the responses to his letter, including that of the "long time rabid critic of FIDE, GM Evans", and asserted that Evans had misrepresented his letter, Seirawan referring to a particular comment said: "Experienced Evans-watchers know that it is the kind of untruth and distortion that is endemic in him."

Former editor of "Chess Life", Larry Parr, responding to Winter, counters many of the claims and counter-claims and also describes the underlying politics that may be fueling the heated exchange between the two journalistic combatants.[32]


On November 15, 2010, Evans died in Reno, Nevada, from complications following gallbladder surgery.[33][34][35]

Selected books[edit]

Selected games[edit]

a b c d e f g h
c8 black king
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
e6 black pawn
b5 white pawn
h5 black queen
f4 black knight
a3 white pawn
c3 white knight
d3 black rook
f3 white pawn
h3 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white queen
g2 white pawn
h2 white king
g1 white rook
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 25.f3

This game, against future grandmaster Abe Yanofsky, was Evans's first victory against a noted player:

Daniel Yanofsky–Larry Evans, U.S. Open 1947;[36] Alekhine Defence (ECO B05)
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.h3 Bxf3 6.Qxf3 dxe5 7.dxe5 e6 8.a3 Nc6 9.Bb5 Qd7 10.c4 Nde7 11.0-0 Qd4 12.Bg5 a6 13.Bxe7 axb5 14.Bxf8 Rxf8 15.cxb5 Nxe5 16.Qe2 0-0-0 17.Nc3 Ng6 18.Rad1 Qe5 19.Qc2 Rxd1 20.Rxd1 Rd8 21.Rc1 Nf4 22.Kh1 Qh5 24.Kh2 Rd3 25.f3 (see diagram) 25...Rxf3! 26.Rd1 Nxh3! 27.gxf3 Nf2+ 28.Kg3 Qh3+ 29.Kf4 Qh2+ 30.Ke3 0–1

In his book Modern Chess Brilliances, Evans listed four of his own wins:


  1. ^ William Lombardy and David Daniels, U.S. Championship Chess, David McKay, 1975, pp. 33–36. ISBN 0-679-13042-X.
  2. ^ Árpád Főldeák, Chess Olympiads 1927–1968, Dover Publications, 1979, pp. 181, 183. ISBN 0-486-23733-8.
  3. ^ William Lombardy and David Daniels, U.S. Championship Chess, David McKay, 1975, pp. 37–39. ISBN 0-679-13042-X.
  4. ^ William Lombardy and David Daniels, U.S. Championship Chess, David McKay, 1975, p. 40. ISBN 0-679-13042-X.
  5. ^ Strawberry Open
  6. ^ William Lombardy and David Daniels, U.S. Championship Chess, David McKay, 1975, pp. 54–56, 69–71. ISBN 0-679-13042-X.
  7. ^ Chess Informant, Volume 30, Šahovski Informator, 1981, p. 290.
  8. ^ Larry Christiansen, 1980 U.S. Championship, Chess Enterprises, Inc., 1980, pp. 6, 108. ISBN 0-931462-09-6.
  9. ^ John Grefe and Dennis Waterman, The Best of Lone Pine: The Louis D. Statham Chess Tournaments 1971–1980, R.H.M. Press, 1981, pp. 38, 42. ISBN 0-89058-049-9 ISBN 4-87187-816-3.
  10. ^ Árpád Főldeák, Chess Olympiads 1927–1968, Dover Publications, 1979, pp. 181–83, 198–202, 264–69, 311–15, 358–64, 383–89. ISBN 0-486-23733-8.
  11. ^ R.D. Keene and D.N.L. Levy, Siegen Chess Olympiad, CHESS Ltd., 1970, p. 214.
  12. ^ R.D. Keene and D.N.L. Levy, Haifa Chess Olympiad 1976, The Chess Player, 1977, pp. 63–78. ISBN 0-906042-02-X, ISBN 978-0-906042-02-1
  13. ^ Chess Informant, Šahovski Informator, Volume 20, 1976, p. 263.
  14. ^ Chess Informant, Šahovski Informator, Volume 4, 1968, p. 282.
  15. ^ B.M. Kazic, International Championship Chess: A Complete Record of FIDE Events, 1974, pp. 167–68. ISBN 0-273-07078-9.
  16. ^ Larry Evans, This Crazy World of Chess, Cardoza Publishing, 2007, back cover. ISBN 1-58042-218-7.
  17. ^ Larry Evans, This Crazy World of Chess, Cardoza Publishing, 2007, pp. 20, 29. ISBN 1-58042-218-7.
  18. ^ a b c Nelson, Valerie J. "Larry Evans dies at 78; five-times US chess champion and writer" Los Angeles Times. November 23, 2010
  19. ^ Evans, Lawrence. Korn, Walter. Modern Chess Openings; 10th Edition. Pittman. 1965
  20. ^ De Firmian, Nick. Modern Chess Openings: MCO-15. Random House. 2008. page xi
  21. ^ Dowd, Steven B. "The 1920s Chess Scene".
  22. ^ Donlan, Mark. Chess Cafe
  23. ^ Larry Evans obituary. The Guardian. November 23, 2010
  24. ^ Kasparov, Garry. "Bobby Fischer Defense’’. New York Review of Books. March 10, 2010
  25. ^ Saidy, Anthony. Book review by IM Anthony Saidy This Crazy World of Chess. Susanpolgar blogspot. February 2008.
  26. ^ Pandolfini, Bruce. ChessCafe
  27. ^ Parr, Larry. "Larry Evans Obituary". The Guardian. November 23, 2010 [1]
  28. ^ Edward Winter, "The Facts About Larry Evans" (2001). Retrieved on 2009-01-18.
  29. ^ [2]
  30. ^ Watson, John. "Kings, Commoners, and Knaves; Edward Winter" The Week in Chess. 16 September 1999
  31. ^ Grandmaster Square website
  32. ^ [3]
  33. ^ USCF: Eulogy
  34. ^ Chessbase: Eulogy
  35. ^ McLain, Dylan Loeb (November 17, 2010), Larry Evans, Chess Champ, Dies at 78, The New York Times 
  36. ^ Yanofsky vs. Evans, 1947

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Herman Steiner
United States Chess Champion
Succeeded by
Arthur Bisguier
Preceded by
Bobby Fischer
United States Chess Champion
Succeeded by
Bobby Fischer
Preceded by
Bobby Fischer
United States Chess Champion
Succeeded by
Samuel Reshevsky
Preceded by
Lubomir Kavalek
United States Chess Champion
1980 (with Walter Browne and Larry Christiansen)
Succeeded by
Walter Browne and Yasser Seirawan