“It has been said that chess, like love and music, has the power to make men happy and unhappy.”
So wrote Larry Evans, who parlayed his record as one of America’s best professional chess players into a career as a writer whose syndicated chess column ran for more than two decades and reached millions of readers.
Evans, who wrote for insiders as well as for those whose passion for the game had yet to be discovered, died Nov. 15 of complications from gallbladder surgery at a hospital in Reno, Nev. He was 78 and had been one of the country’s foremost interpreters of the human dramas behind the chessboard.
A sparring partner of the American chess phenomenon Bobby Fischer, Evans was also a prodigy. He announced himself as a new chess talent when he was 15, winning the prestigious Marshall Chess Club championship in New York. Four years later, in 1951, he topped one of the best players in the world – Sammy Reshevsky — to win the U.S. Chess Championship.
Evans went on to become an international grandmaster in 1957 and to win four more U.S. Chess Championships, the last in 1980. In mid-life, however, he decided to build a career on writing about chess matches rather than winning them.
“He did what was practical,” said international master Anthony Saidy, who knew and played against Evans. “The trouble in this country, as compared with the Soviet Union, was there was no financial security for chess players. Even the very best could not make a living playing the game.”
Evans authored more than a dozen instructive and technical books, including “New Ideas in Chess” (1958), “Modern Chess Brilliancies” (1970) and the 10th edition of “Modern Chess Openings” (1965).
Beginning in 1971, he also wrote a syndicated column, “Evans on Chess,” which was published in newspapers around the world, including The Washington Post. Tackling subjects such as the shorter-than-average life expectancy of chess masters and the lack of women competing at top levels of the game, he enticed even those readers who had no real interest in chess to consider the possibilities of the game.
In addition to his newspaper column and many books, Evans spent more than three decades writing a question-and-answer column for Chess Life magazine.