John W. Collins

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John W. Collins
JWC Lombardy Fischer.jpg
Jack Collins (center) with William Lombardy and Bobby Fischer
Full nameJohn William Collins
CountryUnited States
Born(1912-09-23)September 23, 1912
Newburgh, New York, U.S.
DiedDecember 2, 2001(2001-12-02) (aged 89)
TitleUS Corr. Chess Champion (1943)
NY State Chess Champion (1952)

John William Collins (September 23, 1912 – December 2, 2001) was an American chess master, author, and teacher.

Early life[edit]

Collins was born in Newburgh, New York. "His father, John Thomas Collins, was a flutist and piccolo player who was frequently in John Philip Sousa's orchestra. His mother, Carolyn LaSears Collins, was a homemaker."[1] Collins was confined to a wheelchair due to "a birth injury".[2]

When he was in his teens, Collins met Frederick Huhn, the family's 80-year-old German landlord of their home at 69 Hawthorne Street in Brooklyn, NY. Frederick taught Collins how to play chess.[3] From there, Collins started reading chess books, eventually amassing "a library of over six hundred."[4]

The Hawthorne Chess Club[edit]

Collins tried to join the Marshall Chess Club, but found the players to be too strong, and the location too far away for him to travel to. Hence, he started teaching "the other boys on the block"[4] and the Hawthorne Chess Club was founded.[5]

Collins wrote to the local newspapers and "obtained the names and addresses of several high-school teams in the metropolitan area." This led to inter-club matches between Collins' team and the high-school teams, mostly played out of Collins' living room.[5]

Eventually Collins founded the Brooklyn Chess League.[6] He later moved to 91 Lenox Road where the club gradually changed from a chess league to a casual meeting place for chess celebrities to meet. Guests and visitors included Irving Chernev, Hermann Helms, and Irving Riskie.[7]

Chess achievements[edit]

Collins won the 1943 United States Correspondence Championship, defeating Dr. Erich W. Marchand in a final playoff match.[8] Collins won the 1952 New York State Championship, ahead of Max Pavey, Anthony Santasiere, James Sherwin, and Frank Anderson.[8] He won the Marshall Chess Club championship in 1953 and was soon thereafter ranked number 17 in the country.[9] Collins was a renowned chess teacher.[10]

Teaching and mentorship[edit]

There has been a long-held belief that Collins was Fischer's teacher and coach, as well as a teacher and coach for William Lombardy, Robert Byrne, Donald Byrne, Raymond Weinstein, Salvatore Matera, and Lewis Cohen.[1][11][12][13] Some have gone as far as to call Collins "the Yoda of American chess",[14] while others refer to Collins as Fischer's "mentor", not his teacher or coach.[15][16][17][18] Collins himself states he did not teach Bobby Fischer,[19] Robert Byrne,[20] William Lombardy,[21] or Donald Byrne,[22] yet taught Raymond Weinstein,[23] Sal Matera,[24] and Lewis Cohen.[25]

Lombardy says of Collins as a chess teacher and coach:[26]

Jack Collins was not in any way capable of teaching me, the Byrne Brothers, Raymond Weinstein, let alone Bobby Fischer. All had entered his home in friendship and were already superior masters, far past the ability of Collins to impart anything but trivial knowledge...I cannot imagine even today that anyone could consider that Collins had the strength of knowledge to coach the champion that Bobby already was by the time he reached Collins apartment! Somehow the myth of Collins' professional skills persists. Back then because Collins was in a wheelchair, I did not desire to burst his bubble... [but that] with my misplaced sympathy for Collins gone, I attempt to correct and inform.


  • My Seven Chess Prodigies. ISBN 4871879623. (1975)
  • Maxims of Chess. ISBN 0-679-14403-X. (1978)
  • Modern Chess Openings. ASIN B000LF0NMO. Ninth Edition, Edited by Walter Korn and John W. Collins (1957)


  1. ^ a b Mcclain, Dylan Loeb (2001-12-04). "John W. Collins, 89, Dies; Was Fischer's Chess Tutor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
  2. ^ Collins 1974, p. 19.
  3. ^ Collins 1974, p. 20.
  4. ^ a b Collins 1974, p. 22.
  5. ^ a b Collins 1974, p. 23.
  6. ^ Collins 1974, p. 27.
  7. ^ Collins 1974, p. 29.
  8. ^ a b Collins 1974, p. 30.
  9. ^ Collins 1974, p. 31.
  10. ^ Brady (2011), p. 5.
  11. ^ Brady 1973, p. 12.
  12. ^ Brady, 2011, p. 50
  13. ^ "'He taught Bobby Fischer to play chess'" is the way I am sometimes publicly and privately introduced.Collins 1974, p. 47.
  14. ^ Brady 2011, p. 249.
  15. ^ Collins was Bobby Fischer's "mentor". Edmonds & Eidinow 2004, pp. 6, 30, and 221.
  16. ^ Collins was Fischer's "mentor". Donaldson & Tangborn 1999, p. 27.
  17. ^ "Collins was my friend and mentor but not my teacher". Lombardy 2011, p. 24.
  18. ^ "Fischer was also extremely fortunate in having John W. (Jack) Collins, a chess master, who was a friend, guide, and mentor to him during his early formative years". Bisguier in Wade & O'Connell 1973, p. 44.
  19. ^ "Collins, for his part, said that he never "taught" Bobby in the strictest sense," and that Fischer "knew before instructed." Collins 1974, pp. 48–49. Quoted in Brady 2011, p. 52.
  20. ^ "I did not give Bob any formal lessons." Collins 1974, p. 102.
  21. ^ "I never actually gave Bill any lessons." Collins 1974, p. 137.
  22. ^ "Don never had any lessons from me or anybody else." Collins 1974, p. 171.
  23. ^ Collins 1974, p. 201.
  24. ^ Collins 1974, p. 243.
  25. ^ Collins 1974, p. 282.
  26. ^ Lombardy 2011, p. 219, and 28.