From https://achievement.org/achiever/demis-hassabis-ph-d/ :
Demis Hassabis, the eldest of three, was born in London on July 27, 1976, to a Greek Cypriot father and a Chinese Singaporean mother.
(Originally his surname was spelt Hassapis and his brother George retained this spelling.)
“Demis Hassabis was born in London, England. He is of both Greek and Chinese ancestry; his father came from Cyprus, his mother from Singapore. Demis and his family moved frequently as his father pursued a variety of business and creative ventures.
Demis was four years old when he saw his father and an uncle playing chess and asked them to teach him the game. He took to it quickly and was soon beating both of them. He showed a precocious aptitude for all games employing logic and strategy. ”
When 13 (in 1989) Demis achieved a FIDE rating of 2300 which, at the time, was the second highest rating for his age. First highest was Judit Polgar.
Demis was SCCU Under-18 champion in 1989 and was presented with the “old Trophy” according to the SCCU report.
Demis was a Candidate Master and brother of George Hassapis.
Demis started off with Hampstead Junior Chess Club.
He then played for Barnet Knights, Queens College College Union and Finchley chess clubs.
According to Tryfon Gavriel :
Demis wrote a hit computer game called “The theme park”, that was at the top of the charts for six months and sold than more 3.5 million copies. He also did quite well in the 1997 Mind Sports Olympiad.
Hassabis returned to academia to obtain his PhD in cognitive neuroscience from University College London (UCL) in 2009 supervised by Eleanor Maguire. He sought to find inspiration in the human brain for new AI algorithms.
Danny Gormally wrote (in March 2014) this :
“Demis Hassapis is a former chess prodigy who recently sold his company to Google for £400 million. Demonstrating that if you have the brainpower to be good at chess, you are far better off putting that intelligence to use in some other activity where you might actually get rewarded. Then in fairness, even most strong chess players aren’t as bright as Demis.”
In May 2021 Demis was cited by Dominic Cummings in his evidence to the Commons Heath, and Science and Technology committees as having played an important contribution to managing and understanding the PHE and NHS data during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.
“Professional Chess Player. A native of Croydon, England, Gilbert became the youngest person ever to win the Women’s World Chess Federation Master Title.
A talented chess player since the age of 8, she also won the Women’s World Amateur Championship when she represented England in 1999 at the age of 11.
In a career that spanned over seven years she played in over 153 matches in such events as the Gibtelcom Chess Festival, the 7th European Championship, Ilsan 1st, 37th Chess Olympiad, Hastings Chess Congress, Hastings Master Op, Coventry Op, and the Gausdal Byggern Masters.
On July 26, 2006, while in Pardubice, Czech Republic, to play in the Czech Open, she mysteriously fell to her death from the balcony of her room on the eighth floor of the Hotel Labe. Gilbert was only 19 years old.”
(Curiously both Felice and Gaige state Julian was born in Saint Asaph in Wales.)
Harry Golombek wrote this about Julian in a 1980 Dataday chess diary :
“I think that the first time I saw Julian Hodgson in play was some four years ago in a London tournament. Upon my arrival Leonard Barden told him that he must now be careful how he played as Golombek was watching.
“Who”, enquired the twelve-year old Julian, “is Golombek?”
I felt grateful at the time that he did not say who or what is Golombek but I tell this story chiefly to show the cheerful insouciance with which Master Hodgson treated all comers whether chess masters or chess rabbits.
Julian astonishing maturity as a player has been impressive ever since at the age of ten, he won the Southern Counties Under 14 Championships in 1973. Since then he has acquired a host of such championships culminating in the British Under-21 Championship in 1977.
Perhaps his most remarkable performance so far has been his equal 3rd in a strong challengers section at Hastings where he scored 7.5 out of 10. 1977 was a good year for him and here, from the Lloyds Bank Silver Jubilee Tournament of that year is his fine win over a strong opponent :
Here is his entry (written by Richard W O’Brien) in British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983, Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson) :
“Following a series of excellent results Julian, at the tender age of 11, became the second youngest ever to play in an international tournament when he took part in the London Chess Club International Invitation tournament in September 1974. Only Reshevsky had been younger. Julian’s first opponent was Michael Woodhams, an Australian international who had just scored 15.5/18 in the recent Olympiad (Nice)
The following year he became the youngest player ever to win the London Amateur Championship. A year later he reached a grading of 200 (BCF), only Reshevsky, Pomar, Karpov and Kasparov had done so at an earlier age.
By now he was at St. Paul’s School, which was in the process of becoming one of the strongest chess playing schools in the country. In 1977 he shared first place with WN Watson (also St. Paul’s) in the British U21 Championship. Progress was however not as fast as had at one time been anticipated
It was at Ramsgate, late in 1980 before his first IM norm. A month later he finished second in the Hastings Challenger. Other good results followed in 1981. First he was selected for the Glorney Cup and shortly afterwards did well to come fourteenth in the British Championship (Morecambe). He represented England in the World Youth Team championships scoring 4/6. His second IM norm followed when he shared fifth place at Manchester in the same year. Good results in weekend congresses meant that he finished fourth in the Leigh Grand Prix. The year had finished with Julian needing a draw in the last round at Ramsgate to get his title. He lost and was to wait another 12 months to achieve his final norm.
When the final norm came it arrived out of the blue. With a score of 2.5/5 at Lewisham in November 1982 the chances seemed remote, 3.5/4 was required against a strong field and it even seemed doubtful whether he could actually play those he needed to play. He scored 2.5/3 and now had to play Jon Tisdall, who still had a chance of winning the tournament.
Julian finished second equal in the tournament behind Jim Plaskett who had beaten him earlier.
The next six weeks saw Julian come equal first in the Pergamon sponsored British Lightning championship, a highly creditable sixth in the Nightflight International at Brighton (equivalent to an IM rating) and second place yet again in the Hastings Challengers.
Earlier in 1983 he scored 6.5/9 at Lugano, probably Europe’s strongest ever Swiss (Swiss !) tournament, losing narrowly to Jan Timman.
He left Leicester University after just one year preferring to concentrate on chess.
He plays fairly regularly for Streatham & Brixton Chess Club which encouraged juniors for several years. Daniel King is another junior who also played frequently for Streatham. ”
This is what was written about Julian prior to the 1979 Spassky vs the BCF Junior Squad simultaneous display : “St Paul’s and Shepherds Bush. Rating 210. Standard London Amateur Champion at age 12, 1975.
Standard London under-18 champion, 1976. British under-21 co-champion, 1977. Youngest ever to beat two grandmasters in successive games, 1978.”
Aside from more formal achievements, he developed a sharp, relentless, attacking style of play and against lesser opponents this frequently resulted in devastating quick wins, earning him the epithet “Grandmaster of Disaster”.
Hodgson’s greatest legacy as a chess player may however lie in his resurrection of an almost forgotten opening system. The Trompowsky Attack (1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5) had floundered in the doldrums for many years, prior to his adoption and development of the opening. In interviews, he reveals that this was born out of laziness and a reluctance to learn established chess opening theory. It soon became his weapon of choice with the white pieces, leading to a surprising popularisation of the system, the spawning of a whole generation of devotees and ironically, a number of theoretical guides, containing a high quota of Hodgson’s own games and analysis. Indeed, his expert treatment of the system once prompted fellow grandmaster Joe Gallagher to write that it should be renamed the Hodgson–Trompowsky Attack, a view shared by many other masters. A chess journalist once wrote that Hodgson put the ‘romp’ into Trompowsky.
A related, but more obscure version of the system (1.d4 d5 2.Bg5), has been dubbed by some the Hodgson Attack and by others the Pseudo-Trompowsky or Queen’s Bishop Attack.
English study composer and author, International Judge of Chess Compositions (1959), Computer systems analyst.
In 1965 he founded EG, a quarterly publication which became the world’s first and only long-running magazine devoted wholly to studies.
His Test Tube Chess (1972), the best English language guide to the art of studies., was revised and republished as The Chess Endgame Study (1981).
Studies are commonly classified by means of the GBR code of which he was co-inventor.”
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :
“FIDE Judge of Endgame Studies. Born on 25th July 1929. Founder of the Chess Endgame Study Circle in London in March 1965.and its quarterly magazine EG, the first and only publication exclusively devoted to the composed chess ending. Roycroft who is a computer systems analyst and lives in London, has composed about 20 endgame studies.”
We remember Sir George Alan Thomas who died on July 23rd, 1972
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :
“British international master, born in Constantinople (previously Byzantium and currently Istanbul : Ed.) His mother (Lady Edith Margaret Thomas : Ed) was one of the strongest English women players, winner of the first Ladies tournament at Hastings 1895.
(Ed : his father was Sir George Sydney Meade Thomas)
Thomas was an all-round athlete who excelled at tennis, hockey and badminton as well as chess. He captained the English badminton team and was All England Badminton Singles champion from 1920 to 1923.”
Here is an excellent article (albeit stating GT was a Grandmaster and was president of the British Chest Federation!) from the National Badminton Museum.
“Thomas won the British chess championship twice, in 1923 and 1934 and represented England in the Olympiads of 1927 where he tied with Norman Hansen for the best score – 80% on board 3, 1930, 1931, 1935, 1937 and 1939.
In international tournaments his greatest successes were 1st at Spa (ahead of Tartakower) and =1st at Hastings 1934/5 (tied with Euwe and Flohr, ahead of Capablanca and Botvinnik).
He was known for his keen sense of sportsmanship and for his ability to encourage and inspire younger players. He served for many years on the BCF Junior selection committee and was for a time Games Editor of the British Chess Magazine. FIDE awarded him the titles of international master (1950) and International Judge (1952). (article by Ray Keene)”
Thomas with the White pieces was predominantly a Ruy Lopez devotee.
With the Black pieces against 1.e4 he defended the Lopez and the Queen’s Gambit Declined was his favourite versus 1.d4
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1972 and 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :
“International Master (1950), International Judge (1952) and British Champion in 1923 and 1934. All England Badminton Singles Champion, All England Badminton Doubles Champion, Wimbledon tennis player and county hockey player.
Sir George Thomas was born in Constantinople on 14th June 1881. His mother, Lady Thomas, won the first ever ladies’ tournament, which was held in conjunction with the Hastings International Chess Tournament of 1895.
He learned the moves at the age of 4, and as a boy met many of the world’s leading players, including Steinitz, Lasker, Tchigorin and Pillsbury, in his mother’s drawing-room.
Apart from serving as a subaltern in the Army during the 1914-1918 war, Sir George has devoted his life to sport. He played tennis at Wimbledon, played hockey for Hampshire, captained the English Badminton team and was All England Badminton Singles Champion from 1920-1923 and doubles champion nine times.
Sir George played chess for England regularly from 1910 to 1939. He played for the British Chess Federation in the Chess Olympiads of 1927,1930, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937 and 1939, and captained the team which withdrew from the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939 on the out-break of war.
His first appearance in the British Championship was in he came 2nd. He also came 2nd in 192l and in 1923 won the first time, thus becoming British Chess Champion and Badminton Champion in the same year.
Sir George’s best performance was at Hastings 1934-1935, when he came =1st. In the last round he needed only a draw against R. P. Michell to come lst, ahead of Euwe, Capablanca, Flohr and Lilienthal, but he lost and had to be content with sharing lst prize with Euwe and Flohr.
During his career he has beaten Capablanca, Botvinnik (in consecutive rounds at Hastings 1934-35), Flohr and and drawn with Nimzowitsch, Rubinstein and Capablanca. He been noted for his sportsmanship and for his interest in and encouragement of young players.
Since his retirement until the last few years, Sir George continued to attend tournaments as a spectator.
He is the author of The Art of Badminton, published in 1923.
He died on 23rd July 1972 in a London nursing home.”
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper & Whyld :
“English player. International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1952), British champion 1923 and 1934. His mother, who taught him chess, was winner of one of the first women’s tournaments, Hastings 1895, He played in more than 80 tournaments and achieved his best result at Hastings 1934-5 (about category 9), when he scored +6-1—2 to share first prize with Euwe and Flohr ahead of Botvinnik and Capablanca. Thomas played in seven Olympiads from 1927 to 1939, and in the first the highest percentage score was made by him ( + 9=6) and the Dane Holgar Norman-Hansen (1899- ) (+11=2—2). A leading English player for more than 25 years, Thomas fought many battles at the famous City of London club, winning 16 of the annual championships from 1913-14 to 1938-9. In his sixty-ninth year he gave up competitive chess when, after a hard game, ‘the board and men began to swim before my eyes,’ He continued his active interest in junior events and his visits, now as a spectator, to chess events.
A man of few words, imperturbable, of fine manners. Sir George Thomas was respected throughout the chess world for his sportsmanship and impartiality, and his opinion was often sought when disputes arose between players. The inheritor of both a baronetcy and private means, he
devoted his life to games and sports. Besides his chess he was a keen hockey player, a competitor in international lawn tennis (reaching the last eight at Wimbledon on one occasion), and winner of about 90 badminton titles, notably the All-England men’s singles championship which he won four times, from 1920 to 1923.”
Bill Hartston wrote this in “On the Knight Shift”, Chapter 20 of the The Chess Player’s Bedside Book (Batsford, 1975) :
“In the days when chess was perhaps a more noble pastime, one of England’s leading players was the Baronet, Sir George Thomas. A true gentleman and sportsman, he considered it rather unprincipled to analyse adjourned games before their resumption and could only be persuaded to look at his own positions after being assured that his opponents were certainly taking full advantage of the adjournment in this manner.”
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