Larry Evans 1932-2010

Five-time United States chess champion Larry Evans died in Reno on Nov. 15. The cause was complications following surgery.

In 1950, Evans played for the United States team in the 1950 Chess Olympiad in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, winning a gold medal. It was the first of eight Olympiads for him.

He moved to Reno almost 40 years ago after discovering an ability to count cards, which gave him an income he never earned from chess—though he was eventually barred from most casinos, where management considers players winning the cardinal sin in gambling. “He had a memory that he built up from chess,” Bobby Fischer biographer Frank Brady told the New York Times last week.

Evans helped train Fischer for his 1972 match in Reykjavik against Boris Spassky, but an argument ended the relationship.

In 1988, grandmaster Ray Keene told chess journalist Larry Parr, “Evans was a world championship caliber player. When Evans was only a 19-year-old without any formal chess training, he won the 1951 U.S. Championship ahead of Sammy Reshevsky, whom many then regarded as the uncrowned world champion.”

But Evans did not compete internationally, instead turning to a role as a chess journalist. He wrote a popular syndicated newspaper column once carried in the Reno Gazette-Journal, wrote 20 books and edited the 10th edition of Modern Chess Openings, known as the chess bible. He was a founder and one-time editor of American Chess Quarterly, and assisted Fischer with the writing of My 60 Memorable Games.

In a tribute posted on the U.S. Chess Federation website last week, Parr wrote, “Like any great journalist who does his job, Larry Evans made rabid enemies along the way. … Although GM Evans never backed down, he also exhibited no personal animosity toward adversaries. Indeed, he could spend pleasant evenings with men, though he disagreed strongly with them. He was ever the solicitous host and the accommodating guest. ‘The Sage of Reno,’ as he became known, was a gentleman.”

“GM Evans [was] arguably the most versatile figure in American chess history,” the website reported after his death.