Jonathan Penrose

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Jonathan Penrose
Jonathan Penrose, Schacholympiade Leipzig, 1960.jpg
Penrose at the 1960 Chess Olympiad
Country England
Born7 October 1933 (1933-10-07) (age 88)
Colchester, England
FIDE rating2405 (December 2021)

Jonathan Penrose, OBE (born 7 October 1933) is an English chess player, who holds the titles Grandmaster (1993) and International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster (1983). He won the British Chess Championship ten times between 1958 and 1969.

Early years[edit]

Penrose was born in Colchester. Learning the game at age four, he was a member of Hampstead Chess Club at twelve and British Boys (Under 18) Champion at just fourteen years of age. Chess was played by the entire Penrose family. His father was a composer of endgame studies and a strong player, as was his older brother Oliver.

By the age of seventeen, he was already acknowledged as a top prospect for British chess. Playing Hastings for the first time in 1950/51, he beat the French champion Nicolas Rossolimo and at Southsea in 1950, defeated both Efim Bogoljubov and Savielly Tartakower. In 1952/1953 he shared the first place at Hastings with Harry Golombek, Antonio Medina García and Daniel Yanofsky.

Playing career[edit]

Penrose earned the International Master title in 1961 and was the leading British player for several years in the 1960s and early 1970s, surpassing the achievement of Henry Ernest Atkins by winning the British Championship a record number of times. He was widely considered to be of grandmaster strength, but did not achieve the grandmaster title during his active playing career, despite some notable victories. This was mainly due to his choosing to remain amateur and placing his lecturing as a first priority. As a consequence, he played few international tournaments and frequently turned down invitations to prestigious tournaments such as Hastings. Nevertheless, FIDE made him an honorary grandmaster in 1993.[1][2]

He competed in eight Chess Olympiads between 1952 and 1962, then at the Olympiads of 1968 and 1970, frequently posting excellent scores, including +9−1=7 in 1962 (Varna), and +10−0=5 in 1968 (Lugano). On both of these occasions, he won an individual silver medal on first board; in 1968, his score was bettered only by the World Champion, Tigran Petrosian.

Penrose-Tal, Leipzig (1960): final position

At the Leipzig 1960 Olympiad, he defeated then-World Champion Mikhail Tal with the white pieces in a Modern Benoni:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.Bd3 Bg7 8.Nge2 O-O 9.O-O a6 10.a4 Qc7 11.h3 Nbd7 12.f4 Re8 13.Ng3 c4 14.Bc2 Nc5 15.Qf3 Nfd7 16.Be3 b5 17.axb5 Rb8 18.Qf2 axb5 19.e5 dxe5 20.f5 Bb7 21.Rad1 Ba8 22.Nce4 Na4 23.Bxa4 bxa4 24.fxg6 fxg6 25.Qf7+ Kh8 26.Nc5 Qa7 27.Qxd7 Qxd7 28.Nxd7 Rxb2 29.Nb6 Rb3 30.Nxc4 Rd8 31.d6 Rc3 32.Rc1 Rxc1 33.Rxc1 Bd5 34.Nb6 Bb3 35.Ne4 h6 36.d7 Bf8 37.Rc8 Be7 38.Bc5 Bh4 39.g3 1–0.Game Jonathan Penrose vs Mikhail Tal (1960) on

This victory made Penrose the first British player to beat a reigning world champion since Joseph Henry Blackburne defeated Emanuel Lasker in 1899.[3]

Correspondence chess[edit]

Penrose suffered from nerves, and he collapsed at the 1970 Olympiad in the midst of a tense game. Consequently, he moved on to correspondence chess, where he was successful, earning the International Master (IMC) title in 1980 and the grandmaster (GMC) title in 1983. He led his country to victory in the 9th Correspondence Olympiad (1982–1987).[4]

Personal life[edit]

He is the son of Lionel Penrose, a professor of genetics, the grandson of the physiologist John Beresford Leathes, and brother of Roger Penrose, Oliver Penrose, and Shirley Hodgson. He is a psychologist and university lecturer by profession, with a PhD. Penrose has two daughters from his marriage to Margaret Wood.[citation needed]

He was awarded the OBE in 1971.


  1. ^ "The Penrose Family: Scientists and Chess Players". Chess News. 2020-10-08. Retrieved 2021-07-11.
  2. ^ Jonathan Penrose rating card at FIDE Edit this at Wikidata
  3. ^ Barden, Leonard (26 April 2013). "Michael Adams beats world champion Vishy Anand for second time". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  4. ^ "9th CC Olympiad Final". International Correspondence Chess Federation. Retrieved 25 April 2018.


External links[edit]