Reports | November 17, 2010 18:11

U.S. chess legend Larry Evans dies at 78

Larry Evans dies at 78Grandmaster and chess journalist Larry Evans passed away on Monday, November 15th at Washoe Hospital in Reno, Nevada (USA). As reported by the the United States Chess Federation (USCF), Evans died from complications following a gall bladder operation.

U.S. grandmaster Larry Evans | Photo Wikipedia

Larry Evans was born in Manhattan on March 22, 1932. Already at the age of 14 he tied for fourth-fifth place in the Marshall Chess Club championship. The next year he won it outright, becoming the youngest Marshall champion up until that time. He also finished equal second in the U.S. Junior Championship, which led to an article in the September 1947 issue of Chess Review.

At 17 Evans tied with Arthur Bisguier for first place in the U.S. Junior Chess Championship of 1949. By age 18, he had won a New York State championship as well as a gold medal in the Dubrovnik Chess Olympiad of 1950. In the latter, his 90% score (eight wins and two draws) on sixth board tied with Rabar of Yugoslavia for the best result of the entire Olympiad.

In 1951 Evans first won the U.S. Championship, ahead of Samuel Reshevsky. The following year he won his second championship by winning a title match against Herman Steiner. He won the national championship thrice more - in 1961-62, 1967-68 and 1980, the last in a tie with Walter Browne and Larry Christiansen.

Larry Evans on the cover of Chess Life

Evans on the cover of the September 1951 issue of Chess Life, after winning his first U.S. Championship | Source: Chess Life Online

FIDE awarded Evans the titles of International Master (1952) and International Grandmaster (1957). He played in many events both in the United States and abroad, where his results were less successful. He won the U.S. Open Chess Championship in 1951, 1952, 1954 (he tied with Arturo Pomar but won the title on the tie-break) and tied with Walter Browne in 1971. He also won the first Lone Pine tournament in 1971.

Evans represented the U.S. in eight Chess Olympiads over a period of twenty-six years, winning gold (1950), silver (1958), and bronze (1976) medals for his play, and participating in team gold (1976) and silver (1966) medals. His best results on foreign soil included two wins at the Canadian Open Chess Championship, 1956 in Montreal, and 1966 in Kingston, Ontario. He tied for first-second in the 1975 Portimão, Portugal International and for second-third with World Champion Tigran Petrosian, behind Jan Hein Donner, in Venice, 1967.

My Sixty Memorable GamesFor many years Evans was a good friend of Bobby Fischer, and an important part of Fischer's acclaimed My Sixty Memorable Games was done by Evans: he compiled the analysis, conveyed the text in Fischer's voice and wrote, in excellent style, the sixty introductions to the games.

Evans also assisted Fischer in his quest for the world title. He was his second for the Candidates matches leading up to the World Chess Championship 1972 against Boris Spassky, though not for the championship match itself, after a disagreement with Fischer.

Evans had always been interested in writing as well as playing. By the age of eighteen, he had already published David Bronstein's Best Games of Chess, 1944-1949 and the Vienna International Tournament, 1922. His book New Ideas in Chess was published in 1958, and was later reprinted. Over the years he has written or co-written more than twenty books on chess.

Evans began his career in chess journalism during the 1960s, helping to found the American Chess Quarterly, which ran from 1961-65. He was an editor of Chess Digest during the 1960s and 1970s. For over thirty years, until 2006, he wrote a question-and-answer column for Chess Life, the official publication of the United States Chess Federation (USCF), and has also written for Chess Life Online. His weekly chess column, Evans on Chess, has appeared in more than fifty separate newspapers throughout the United States. He also wrote a column for the World Chess Network.

Evans has also commentated on some of the most important matches for Time magazine and ABC's Wide World of Sports, including the 1972 Fischer versus Spassky match, the 1993 PCA world title battle between Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short and the Braingames world chess championship match between Vladimir Kramnik and Garry Kasparov in 2000.

Read more on Evans on Wikipedia, on which this article was largely based, on TWIC and on Chess Life Online, where Larry Parr wrote an obituary.

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Youssef's picture

RIP for your sincere and useful dedication to the game Larry!

Arne Moll's picture

And who could ever forget his brilliantly accurate description of J.H.Donner ("Interesting, but always wrong")? He will be missed.

Gilgamesh's picture

Rest in peace. Brillinat person and spectacular player!!!

James ( ANGOLA )

Larry Doll's picture

Until 1972 all adult US players (except Fischer) were effectively amatuers; they played tournaments during their vacations, wrote books at night; a few subsisted on tiny pay from Chess Review/Life. To play in Europe, required them to move to Europe. The US championship was effectively also the New York City Championship, too. The span of '51 to '80 suggests his potential had he been able to be a full-time chess professional.
Evans' re-write of MCO (Modern Chess Openings) became the English language chess bible in the mid-60s; without his editing there probably would not have been MSMG. For its first 20 yrs his Chess Life column was the chance for readers to sit monthly beside a GM -- the format was for readers to submit questions,--typical: 'does this move I invented bust the ....variation... and can it therefore be named after me' - to which Evans gave a thoughtful serious reply, or deep analysis of interesting middle game positions, & challenges/cooks to Fine's Basic Chess Endings analysis, also Evans' opinionated comments about dastardly Russians ( his argument that Keres threw games in the 1948 world championship went on for yrs), this was all great stuff in an era when many of us only owned a dozen or so chess books (mainly Dover reprints). Evans was also a contributor to Ken Smith's chess digest enterprise.

chessrobot's picture

What about Evens' 2011 edition of his "New Ideas in Chess?" Will it still be ghost-authored or will the revision be cancelled?

chessrobot's picture
Zomerschaker's picture

Did he invent the Evans Gambit or is that someone else? I always thought it was something from the 19th century

ebutaljib's picture

It is from the 19th century. The Evan's gambit is named after William Evans not after Larry Evans.

chess sets's picture

There are arguments to be made for and against Evans's contributions to the game, but it's inarguable that his passing sees us losing a fine writer and teacher. He was no glory-hound -- not to the extent that cripples so many who excel in any sport or pursuit. In his roles as ambassador and journalist worked for deeper understanding -- which makes him, still, a hugely aspirational figure.
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sundararajan ganesan's picture

Like, Isaac Kashdan, Larry Evans was obsessed with chess as he devoted the best years of his life for the royal game! truly he belongs to the vanishing breed!
oh, 2010, how you have snatched away smyslov, larsen and now larry evans!

Chess champion's picture

A great champion is gone, RIP Larry. 78 years, that's a high score once again, his very last one unfortunately...

john's picture

RIP Larry Evans

I have some of your books, they showed me how tough chess is.

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