Jonathan Penrose (1933-2021) –

Jonathan Penrose, a ten-time British champion, grandmaster and correspondence grandmaster who defeated reigning world champion Mikhail Tal at the 1960 Olympics in Leipzig, has died at the age of 88. This was done by. reported The guard.

Penrose was born on October 7, 1933 in Colchester, Essex, in eastern England. As part of a chess family, he learned the game at the age of four. His father was Lionel Sharples Penrose, a professor and noted geneticist who wrote endgame studies.

At the age of 13, Penrose achieved his first major success on the board and became British U18 champion. Two years later he won the championship in London.

Another breakthrough came at the age of 16 at the second Stevenson Memorial in Southsea in April 1950, where he defeated two big names in chess: GMs Efim Bogoljubov and Savielly Tartakower, both white in a Sicilian.

At the Hastings tournament in 1950/51 Penrose defeated the French champion Nicolas Rossolimo. Two years later he took first place in the same tournament together with Harry Golombek, Antonio Medina and Daniel Yanofsky.

In 1952, Penrose represented England for the first time in an Olympiad in Helsinki. He played a total of nine Olympiads for England and often achieved excellent results. He won the silver medal on the first board twice, in Varna in 1962 and in Lugano in 1968. His unbeaten score of 12.5 / 15 in Lugano was second behind then world champion GM Tigran Petrosian.

During this period, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, Penrose was the UK’s leading player, winning the national championship ten times as a record. He became an International Master in 1961 and was definitely of grandmaster strength, although he never achieved the title during his playing career. In 1993, FIDE awarded him the title of Grand Master, after initially rejecting his application to become GM in 1978.

Penrose would most likely have become a grandmaster much earlier if he had focused more on chess than he did. Like the fifth world champion Max Euwe, Penrose always saw himself as an amateur player. He played mostly during the holidays at Middlesex University (and later Enfield College of Technology) where he taught psychology.

Penrose’s victory against Tal at the Leipzig Olympics in 1960, a game that featured the positional pawn sacrifice e4-e5, … d6xe5, f4-f5! in the Benoni. However, it was a game played a few weeks earlier that this pawn had already struck: Kaarle Ojanen had used it to defeat the great GM Paul Keres in a game between Finland and Estonia.

According to veteran chess columnist Leonard Barden, who played it a lot himself, Penrose had studied the Ojanen-Keres game that morning before playing against Tal: “Penrose was so impressed that he decided to drop his normal king pawn opening 1.e4 in favor let the queen’s pawn 1.d4 to provoke Tal Modern Benoni. ” (See also Bardens more detailed story here!)

The game was special for a number of reasons. For starters, it was the first time a British player has defeated a reigning world champion since Joseph Blackburne defeated Emanuel Lasker in 1899. It was also Tal’s first defeat since she became world champion earlier this year, and the only defeat for them Soviet team gold medalist in all their games at this Olympiad.

Penrose Valley, 1960. Courtesy photo British chess news.

What is less well known is that Penrose defeated another world champion at this Olympics. The above-mentioned Euwe was dubbed in a King’s Indian, where Penrose himself played in some sort of tactical Benoni style:

After retiring from competitive chess in the late 1970s, Penrose became very successful as a long-distance player. He achieved the title of correspondence grandmaster and was at some point the top ranked player in the world. He led the British team to victory at the Ninth Correspondence Olympiad (1982-1987).

Penrose was awarded the OBE in 1971 for his services to chess. He left two daughters. He was the brother of Roger Penrose, who received the Nobel Prize in 2020 for his work on black holes and the theory of relativity.

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