We wish GM Jonathan Speelman all the best on his birthday.
Jonathan Simon Speelman was born on Tuesday, October 2nd, 1956 in Marylebone, London. His mother’s maiden name was Freeman. In March 2002 Jon and Lindsey Thomas were married in Camden, Greater London. They have a non-chess playing son, Lawrence who studied Ancient Languages at The University of Chicago.
Jonathan attended St. Paul’s School, London and then Worcester College, Oxford and read mathematics.
He became an International Master in 1978 (England’s tenth) and a Grandmaster in 1980 (England’s fifth) and achieved a peak FIDE rating of 2645 at the age of 32 in July 1988.
Jon is a Life Member of King’s Head Chess Club and has helped them organise a number of tournaments including the NatWest Young Masters where he has adjudicated the winner of the Best Game Prize.
Currently, Jon plays for Wood Green in Four Nations Chess League and in the London League and maintains an ECF grade of 245.
Jon is the chess correspondent for The Observer and The Independent.
With the white pieces Jon prefers 1.Nf3 and against 1…Nf6 to follow with c4 and d4. Interestingly, if black plays 1…d5 then Jon plays an early king-side fianchetto.
As the second player Jon prefers the Smyslov Caro-Kann, the Nimzo-Indian and Queen’s Indian defences.
His record against contemporary players is impressive:
Nigel Short : +5
Murray Chandler : +4
Jonathan Mestel : +4
John Nunn : +3
James Plaskett : +4
Mark Hebden : +7
Tony Miles : +1
Tony Kosten : +3
Daniel King : +2
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) by Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson:
“Having been asked to contribute an article on myself to this book I have decided to concentrate almost exclusively on my ‘relationship with chess’, but first quickly summarize my life.
Born on 2nd October 1956 I went to a ‘Nursery School’ whose name I forget. Then to Arnold House School followed by St. Paul’s School. I had a ‘Year off’ from January to October, 1976, when I went up to Worcester College, Oxford, where I studied mathematics. In 1977 I left Oxford with a 2nd degree. Since then I have been a professional chess player.
I was taught chess at the age of 6 by my cousin on Boxing Day, 1962. Then as now, I was an inquisitive person and the idea of a ‘complicated and difficult game’ interested me. Sadly my first game of chess ended in checkmate in four moves; but I persevered and soon became more competent.
I have always seen life to some in terms of barriers. There are things which one can do easily and which one finds difficult or almost impossible. For any given task the transition from one state to the other is not as smooth. One builds up energy and finally is able to succeed for the first time. After that the task becomes successively easier: Partly because one is aware that one can succeed.
ln order to illustrate my chess career to date, I shall therefore pick out examples of barriers which I managed to break through.
Until a few Years ago there were few titled players in Great Britain. But recently, thanks largely to a change of emphasis in organisation, several players have broken through to obtain international titles. This is not only because British players have become stronger – which they undoubtedly have – but also because they have received opportunities which were previously denied them.
I first started seriously to contemplate becoming an international master in 1977. Previously, I had of course aspired to this but without really investigating the mechanics of obtaining norms. In August, 1977 England sent a team to the World Student Team Championships in Mexico City. We came third: a year later we were to win the event (though on that occasion it was a World Under 26 Team Championship). On our return there was an invitation tournament in London: the ‘Lloyds Bank Silver Jubilee’. Although I was rather tired after Mexico I decided to play and to my surprise, I obtained an IM norm with a round to spare. It all seemed rather easy. I drew with six strong players including GM Torre and four IM’s and beat three weaker ones.
In December, 1977 I played for the first time in the Annual Grandmaster Tournament at Hastings. I was very pleased to ‘shut up shop’, abandoning any pretensions to an exciting style to score one win, one loss and – wait for it – twelve draws; but 7/14 was sufficient for another international master norm.
These two events left me with twenty three games of norm, one less than the required minimum. Early in 1978 I played in a tournament in London but failed to get my final leg. It was in April that year that I had my next chance at the famous Lone Pine Tournament in California. I have already stressed the importance of barriers. It was in round one of the Lone Pine tournament that I broke through another important one – that of beating a grandmaster.
Nowadays (and here I hear myself sounding like an old man!) the strongest young players (under twenty-six) beat international masters quite regularly and indeed grandmasters from time to time. ‘In my day’ this was not so much the case. Titled foreign players could still come over to pillage weekend tournaments; and succeed much of the time! When one of them lost to homegrown talent it was news.
I first started to play regularly against grandmasters in my first Hastings tournament, which I mentioned previously. Of course, I had played grandmasters before, but at Hastings seven of the fourteen games were against them. I scored there six draws and a loss to the tournament winner, Dzindzihashvili.
In round one of Lone pine I was White against Bent Larsen of Denmark. Given that one is going to beat a strong grandmaster (l hadn’t even beaten a weak one) then White against Larsen is quite a good chance. Although he is an extremely strong player, Larsen loses quite a lot of games to much weaker opponents and wins an enormous number against them as well, with not many draws. I was fortunate in obtaining a nice position from the opening and won a good game. That is one of the games I have chosen.
After beating Larsen the rest of the tournament was rather an anti-climax for me. I drew some games, then lost in successive rounds to Browne and Biyiasas. Needing a win to reach fifty per cent the chance of my final norm, I clawed my way to victory in a dreadful game against a young American P. Whitehead. Two short draws in the final two rounds brought me the title.
Some years ago the British Championship really was the Championship of Britain. But in the early seventies there was a decline as several of the strongest players did not enter. In the last two years the decline has been halted and then reversed by the sponsorship of stockbrokers Grievson Grant. In 1979 two of our four Grandmasters, Miles and Nunn, competed in the British Championship at Chester and there were no fewer than six International Masters; indeed Nigel Short succeeded in obtaining his first IM norm there.
I first competed in the British Championship at Brighton in 1972. After a good start, beating Michael Basman in the first round and drawing with Craig Pritchett in the second, I lost to Haygarth in round three. Thereafter, I found it incredibly difficult to win games. My old British Chess Magazine reminds me that I succeeded in winning in round nine, but that was the only one after round one. I finished with 4.5/11.
A year later at Eastbourne I was still finding it hard to win games. Again I finished with 4.5/11. By Clacton, 1974 I had improved. A loss in the last round to the eventual winner Botterill left me a point behind the seven (!) who had to play off for the title.
I competed at Morecambe, 1975 and Portsmouth, 1976, missing only Brighton, 1977 when the students team was in Mexico. By Ayr, 1978 I was probably one of the favourites along with Jonathan Mestel, who ran away with the tournament in Portsmouth,
1976, George Botterill, the defending champion, and some others.
In fact I won at Ayr. I played quite well throughout. ln the last round half a point ahead of Mestel I played a quick draw with Webb but was lucky when Mestel could only draw with Clarke. Of course winning the British was a big breakthrough for me. But I feel that the most important psychological change came in 1974 when I started to discover that it is possible to win games in the British Championship.
Since late 1978 I have made no dramatic breakthrough but have, I believe, almost imperceptibly made the change from a ‘medium’ to a ‘strong’ international master.
I’ve selected three games to go with this article. The one with Larsen I’ve already mentioned. Mihaljcisin-Speelman I like as a game in which I played very actively as Black.
The game against Biyiasis is a good ‘rough and tumble’ not free from errors of course – but wouldn’t that be boring?
To find out more about JSs chess career we suggest you read his autobiography :
which contains many heavily annotated games.
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper & Whyld :
“British Champion in 1978, Speelman played at Mexico City later that year in the English team that won (ahead of the USSR) the world’s first youth teams (under-26) championship.
Two good performances in 1980, as score of +5=5-3 to share fourth place in the category 13 London tournament and a second place (+6=7) at Maribor, brought him the title of International Grandmaster (1980). His subsequent achievements include : Dortmund 1981, first (+5=6) equal with Ftacnik and Kuzmin; Hastings 1981-2, second equal with Smyslov after Kupreichik; and London 1982, category 14, +2=10-1 to share fourth place. An excellent analyst, Speelman has written several books, among them Best Chess Games 1970-1980 (1982).”
From Wikipedia :
A winner of the British Chess Championship in 1978, 1985 and 1986, Speelman has been a regular member of the English team for the Chess Olympiad, an international biennial chess tournament organised by FIDE, the World Chess Federation.
In 1989, he beat Kasparov in a televised speed tournament, and then went on to win the event.
In the April 2007 FIDE list, Speelman had an Elo rating of 2518, making him England’s twelfth-highest-rated active player.
He qualified for two Candidates Tournaments:
In the 1989–1990 cycle, Speelman qualified by placing third in the 1987 interzonal tournament held in Subotica, Yugoslavia. After beating Yasser Seirawan in his first round 4–1, and Nigel Short in the second round 3½–1½, he lost to Jan Timman at the semi-final stage 4½–3½.
In the following 1990–93 championship cycle, he lost 5½–4½ in the first round to Short, the eventual challenger for Garry Kasparov’s crown.
Speelman’s highest ranking in the FIDE Elo rating list was fourth in the world, in January 1989.
He has written a number of books on chess, including several on the endgame, among them Analysing the Endgame (1981), Endgame Preparation (1981) and Batsford Chess Endings (co-author, 1993).
Among his other books are Best Games 1970–1980 (1982), an analysis of nearly fifty of the best games by top players from that decade, and Jon Speelman’s Best Games (1997). Today he is primarily a chess journalist and commentator, being the chess correspondent for The Observer and The Independent and sometimes providing commentary for games on the Internet Chess Club.
Speelman, Jonathan (1981). Analysing the Endgame. Batsford (London, England). 142 pages. ISBN 978-0-7134-1909-2.
Speelman, Jonathan (1981). Endgame Preparation. B.T. Batsford (London, England). 177 pages. ISBN 978-0-7134-4000-3.
Speelman, Jon (1982). Best Chess Games, 1970-80. Allen & Unwin (London, England; Boston, Massachusetts). 328 pages. ISBN 978-0-04-794015-6.
Speelman, Jon; Livshits, August (1988). Test Your Endgame Ability. BT Batsford (London, England). 201 pages. ISBN 0-7134-5567-5
Speelman, Jon (1992). New Ideas in the Caro-Kann Defence. BT Batsford (London, England). 155 pages. ISBN 0-7134-6915-3.
Speelman, Jonathan; Tisdall, Jon; Wade, Bob. (1993). Batsford Chess Endings. B.T. Batsford (London, England). 448 pages. ISBN 978-0-7134-4420-9.
Speelman, Jon (1997). Jon Speelman’s Best Games. B.T. Batsford (London, England). 240 pages. ISBN 978-0-7134-6477-1.
Speelman, Jon (2008). Jon Speelman’s Chess Puzzle Book. Gambit Publications Ltd. 143 pages. ISBN 978-1-904600-96-1.
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