Saturday, 6 December 2008

Bob Wade

Bob Wade's death, at the age of 87, has produced plenty of response in the world of chess. He was universally liked and always extremely generous with his time and knowledge.

ChessBase carries a worthy tribute, as do several other sites.

I met Bob several times over a number of years.

The first meeting was in 1988 when he came up to Teesside for a coaching course. Over a period of two days, he gave a Masterclass in various aspects of coaching and I was delighted when he awarded me the title of British Chess Federation Junior Coach.

I was able to ask him many questions about his games and chess career, all of which he was more than willing to answer. Naturally, a lot of my questions regarded his meetings with the likes of Fischer and Korchnoy.

The following year, we met again; this time in London, behind the scenes at the 1989 Candidates’ Matches. I admitted to being a little bit overawed, being in a room packed with so many Grandmasters and other chess celebrities. Bob took the time to take me around the room and introduced me to a whole gallery of chess stars, including Grandmasters Short, Speelman, Timman and many others. Bob must have a hundred and one things to do but he still made sure he helped me out.

Afterwards, he asked if I had some spare time and he took me on a mini-tour of London bookshops, including the Batsford offices and Caissa at Grays-in-the-Mews.

I asked him how many chess books he owned and he said he had no idea at all and that counting would be retrograde step anyway. He came out of one bookshop with a couple of volumes on ‘Go’; he mentioned in passing that his collection of books on that game was very large too.

As we walked the streets of London, I quizzed him about his contact with Fischer. He was undoubtedly still in touch with the 11 th World Champion but had to be little bit careful how much he said. He did tell me that when Fischer needed him, contact was made ‘in a round about sort of way’ and that there had been plans for Fischer and Spassky to play a match in, of all places, South Africa. The plans had fallen through (this was still three years before the 1992 ‘World Championship’ match).

Our perambulations concluded and I had to catch a bus back to Victoria. Understanding the queue system, I started off by allowing other people on first, but Bob was adamant that I had to pursue more of an initiative and he physically pushed me through the uncoordinated mob and I flew onto the bus like a cork from a bottle.

We met a few more times after that, always in London. I remember us travelling by tube on the way back from one of the Kasparov - Kramnik games in 2000. He pulled some chess magazines from his voluminous pockets and showed me some great examples of three-piece attacks, which he said juniors found difficult to produce in their own games.

Our final encounter was at the 2008 Staunton Memorial tournament. He was clearly very tired after one of his losses and I’m not sure he recognised me at first. Nevertheless, he recovered his spirits quickly and we chatted about his experiences against the younger generation.

I had written to him shortly before his death to invite to take part in my series of interviews for CHESS Magazine. I was confidently awaiting a positive response when the news of his death suddenly appeared online.

He has gone but will not be forgotten.

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