This tribute to Tony Miles was written a week or two after Tony
had passed away.
It was by far the most popular item I ever posted.
By popular I mean it was the one item that generated the most
favorable response. Honestly I received hundreds of e-mails
saying how much people appreciated it.
At one time, before the old site went down, if you typed in
Geoff Chandler in any search engine it took you straight to
my piece on Tony Miles. It was the top hit.
I was so disappointed in the obituaries I was reading about Tony.
I wanted to answer them. I was angry, sad, stunned and frustrated.
So here is the whole piece again. I have made a few changes,
mostly correcting a couple of silly spelling mistakes.
I removed the bit where a Miles & Rueben ploy encouraged me to play
a low trick against Mark Condie.
It was rather long and I'm not too proud of myself.
(I won a game in an Edinburgh '10 week play as many games as you can' tournament
but I deliberately did not put the result up on the scoreboard.
On the last day,It would appear that Mark won by ½ a point but I added my win at
midnight when Mark had gone home. So I won it by ½ a point.)
That is the much shortened version.
I've added a wee joke from the original.
This was prompted by the anagram Tony Miles (It's Only Me) which
was aptly chosen for title of Geoff Lawton's excellent book on Tony.
I found an anagram of 'Tony Miles - Raymond Keene'
Tony Miles 1955 - 2001
"I just play the little wooden things."
The sad unexpected news that Tony Miles had passed away came as quite a shock.
I never played Tony and we spoke (I spoke) only a brief few words at Teeside in 1973
and in Edinburgh 1985.
But I cannot let his passing go by without this thank you.
Before deciding to do this piece I read all the dozen or so obituaries that were posted
at various sites throughout the web.
Words can be so cold and heartless. It cannot be easy writing an obituary for someone
you knew personally. Especially if your only writing skill is annotating Chess games.
This is not a slight at them but the dialog seems to have been copied from a fact sheet
and then copied by everyone else.
This is not an obituary. It is a thank you to someone whose art gave me pleasure.
These are personal memories from me revolving around Tony Miles.
How his one note to a game was instrumental to me falling in love with Chess.
How I used him to impress a girlfriend.
How I was going to refute one of his games to become famous.
How one of his losses affected the way I thought about another player and improved my play.
I will touch on some Tony Miles moments that affected
me personally through him and his games.
Teeside 1973, The CHESS Festival.
I was in the Army and an Army Chess Champion.
I was the star waiting to be discovered.
I was playing in my first proper tournament,((I made 1½ from 5).
Tony was playing in the World Junior Championship and making his first major
appearance in the International arena.
I had become friendly with a girl competitor and we started going out with each other.
One day as we were making our way to the playing hall when I spotted Tony walking
As he passed I said "Good Luck Tony."
He nodded and walked on.
The girl gripped my arm with both hands, her eyes alive with excitement.
"You know Tony Miles?"
12 Years later, 1985. I run a Games shop and with the British Championship taking
place in Edinburgh I struck up a deal with B.H.Wood for loads of sets, boards
and clocks etc.etc.
I was at Murrayfield finalising the deal and had just bade
B.H farewell and made my way to the exit.
As I approached the door Tony entered the building.
I could not resist it...
"Good Luck Tony." I said.
A small polite nod of acknowledgement and on he went.
There were more people coming in so I stood back to allow them to enter.
In the glass reflection I could see that Tony had for a brief moment turned
around to give me a second glance.
I recounted this tale a few days later to Ian Mullen who was helping with
the tournament bulletin.
"Do you think he remembered me from Teeside 1973?" I asked.
"No" replied Spike, "He's was probably thinking...who was that idiot?"
The Miles Super Move
As I said in 1973 I was playing in my first tournament in Britain, at Teeside in an
event that ran along side the Junior World Championship.
In between moves I would wander into the Junior playing area to look at the games.
One game of Tony's caught my interest and I pulled out my pocket set and copied
down the position.
I went back to my board, made a move and went back to the Junior event.
I collared some other bystander and showed him on my pocket set how Tony could win
in one super move.
We were a wee bit noisy (not loud) but were soon ushered out of the hall.
My new friend, Mr Bystander, was not pleased.
I was still showing him the Miles super move when my opponent turned up with a
They thought I was getting outside help for my game.
Mr Bystander said "Get him away from me he's just got me thrown out of the gallery."
I showed my opponent the pocket set and he confirmed it was not our game.
I then showed my opponent the Miles super move.
He showed me the super defence, I tried again but he kept beating me.
Back at the board in our game he beat me again.
I've just checked my Database and found the game.
It Dieks v Miles. This position arose with Tony to move.
My move was 1..Rd8 2 Qxd8 Qxe3 and wins.
Don't bother looking it's completely unsound.
Tony played 1...Rc1! 2 Bxf3(what else?) 2...Qg1+ (Now that is a super move). 0-1
My Chess Library
In 1973 I owned one Chess book. Chess Traps and Stratagems by the Rev E.E. Cunnington.
This following picture is my third copy. The original fell to bits years ago.
My Bible. 69 Opening Traps and I had memorised each one.
True!. In Troon 1981 I shared a caravan with Alastair White,
Alan Norris, and Ian Mullen.
They were playing in the Scottish Championship and had with them
an assortment of books.
I was playing in the Open and had this one book. My party piece was to
give one of them the book and get them to tell me a trap number.
I would tell them the opening and give them the moves of the trap.
(I tried to repeat this feat many years later in Sandy Bells.
Alas time has taken it's toll and I struggled to get 50%)
Did it do me any good?
None of them three won the Scottish. I won the Open!
Back in 1973 my library also included a May 1973 CHESS.
It's cover had the advert for the Chess Festival.
It also had two games by Tony, annotated by Tony himself.
(this picture was taken from the same mag).
Tony was annotating his win v Brian Eley. In the following position Tony states...
"When preparing for this game it had been my intention to experiment with the
'Goodman line', 6...Qb6? (see the Sicilian Dragon - Levy) but upon a brisk examination
of the lines I came across one of Levy's more amusing errors."
After 6...Qb6 Levy writes, "Slower positional lines are harmless." then gives the
variation 7 Be2 Nc6 8 Be3 e5 9 fxe5 dx5 10 Nb5 Qxb2 as being OK for Black.
Tony writes. "...Unfortunately he omits to mention that 10 Nxc6 forces immediate resignation."
(In the next edition of his book Levy repairs this variation
and says the original was...
"an after thought with little analysis.")
This was the first time I had seen a variation in an opening book refuted.
And what a refutation! This got me thinking.
"If this Miles kid can spot a flaw upon a brisk examination. He must be a great player.
And (here's the point), how many other flaws are there in opening books?"
What an impression this made on me.
I wanted to refute an opening book but did not have one.
In the same CHESS mag T.D. Harding has an article refuting the Sokolsky (1 b4).
Everyone was doing it!
So I looked again at my traps book and this time I studied them looking for a bust.
Hallelujah! Eureka! No.10 is a dud.
after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Ne7 5.Nxe5 c6 6.Nc4
we get this position.
If Black plays 6...cxb5 then White mates with Nd6.
But Black can play 6...d5 and win a piece.
Black's 4...Ne7 is actually a trap.
If White does not play 6 Nc4 but moves
the Bishop to a4 or c4 then Qa5+ wins the Knight.
It was that moment of discovery, I know it was,
that was the moment I fell in love in Chess.
(a couple of years have passed since I wrote this article,
in July 2005 I was e-mailed by Joel Adolf from Canada.
Joel discovered that 6..d5 is actually a lemon because
6...d5 7 e5! and White does not lose a piece. Check it.
The move is 6...Ng6! which indeed does win a piece.
It's a good job I never saw that in 1974 - I might
have given up Chess then and there.)
Months later at Teeside and it's near the end of the tournament.
By then I realise I'm not a good player and need help.
I spotted Tony browsing by the bookstall, he was with a crowd of people.
I had already bought two books at the beginning of the week.
'200 Miniatures' by J du Mont and 'More Miniatures' by J du Mont.
(J du Mont revised and re-wrote my Rev Cunnington book, it said so on the cover.
I was a J du Mont fan.)
I approached the bookstall and asked if anyone could recommend a couple of books to
improve one's play.
I did not know him then, but it was Stewart Rueben who suddenly grabbed books at random
and started dumping them on me.
"You'll need this...and this...and this...and this."
So I stood there playing along holding about 20 books whilst the whole stall had a laugh.
Now I really did not need this. It was my first real tournament. My ego had been
splattered and plastered on the tournament board for all to see.
Nobody seemed interested in my refutation of Cunnington's trap. I was barred from the
analysis room for suggesting bad moves, (another story for another day).
I had been asked to leave the spectators gallery for being noisy and I had been
accused of cheating.
Back to the bookstall. I was putting the books back when Tony ended the joke by picking up
Alekhine's Games II and said to one of his friends "It's in here you see Alekhine smashing
Someone said something about food and they all disappeared.
I picked up the Alekhine book, suddenly Stewart Rueben was back.
"Sorry about that." he said, "If you are going to get that,you'll need this and this."
I ended up buying Alekhine I & II and Fischer's 60 "
I still have them and they are now well read.
Thanks for that Tony (and Stewart, thanks for not suggesting a book on endings).
Remember the Miles v Reuben no move Draw?
Tony and Stewart had decided to share their winnings by
agreeing a no move draw at some tournament whose name and place escapes me.
Anyway the miffed controller decided to give each player nil points as no moves had been played.
This unleashed a torrent of letters to CHESS with people agreeing or disagreeing with the controller's decision.
It did not take much in those days to start a flood.
I can recall Raymond Keene once gave a simultaneous display and 'took a move back!'
Well you would have thought he had just murdered his mum.
This was shocking, disgraceful, cheating...
Then simul victims from all over the country started writing in.
Karpov did it.
Botvinik did it, Larsen and Tukmakov did it.
You will be happy to know to that Capablanca never did it.
And Keene, apparently, he had been taking moves back from all over the place.
This brings me on nicely to...
This excellent book and of course everyone knows
'It's Only Me' is an anagram of Tony Miles.
But what could it have been called if this book had been
written by Tony Miles and Raymond Keene?
'It's Only Me - Near Me Donkey.'
Keene v Miles
In 1975 the race was on between Tony and Raymond Keene as to who would
be Britain's first GM. and pick up the £6000 Slater prize.
From what I can recall most players I knew wanted it to be Tony.
Tony was aggressive, adventurous, flamboyant. Keene was stodgy.
By the end of the year neither player had achieved their final GM norm but there was Hastings to come and both players had entered.
They met and this position was reached with White (Keene) to play.
It was published in a newspaper and I had a go at solving it.
I soon spotted the Bishop and Knight sac on g6 but kept finding defences.
I dug out my board and pieces, set up the position and tried for about 15 minutes
without moving the pieces about.
No joy. When the Queen goes to c2 or d3 then Ne5 defends everything.
It was only when I played the double sac on the board 1 Nxg6 hxg6 2 Bxg6 fxg6
that I suddenly realised b1 was available. 3 Qb1 and Qxg6+ cannot be prevented.
In the original position I could not visualize the vacated b1.
I know this position made an impression on me because it made me realise that I was
not as clever as I thought I was and Keene was not just a stodge merchant.
How could Tony Miles lose to Raymond Keene?
In 1976 my library had grown by quite a bit so I easily managed
to get my hands on some of Raymond Keene's games.
Actually he was quite tactical player in his day
and has some fine wins to his credit.
Through him I discovered the strength of active stodge.
Before that I was a Morphy man (1 e4 Nf3 Bc4) and actually avoided
playing over anything with a fianchetto.
This is true, 70% of my Fischer's 60 was at that time was unread.
I started looking at other players games who were 'unfashionable' and I happened upon
Tarrasch whose dogmatic ideas I had been told to avoid.
Things improved dramatically.
They say you always learn from your losses well this Tony Miles
loss had a lot to do with me vastly improving my play
and furthered my enjoyment of the game.
The 1...a6 Game
In 1980 Craig Pritchett and Danny Kopec were co-writing a book called the 'Best Games
of the Young Grandmasters.'
It was from this source I took the quote about little wooden things and the above
Craig Pritchett did the chapter on Tony and the 1...a6 game had just been played.
I was quite friendly with Danny and was allowed to see the proof of the book before it was
submitted for publication by Bell & Hyman.
Danny & Craig had analysed the critical position after 18...0-0 where it seems White
can play the Greek Gift 19 Bxh7+.
They donate a whole page of analysis, more than any other move in the book, to 19 Bxh7+
but do not come to a clear conclusion. They ended their analysis with...
"...and the complications continue."
I was sure there was a White win. I obtained a print out of the analysis and analysed deep
into the night seeking the concrete winning line.
I was going to be immortal. My name would flash around the world as the guy who found the
win that had eluded the world's best analysts.
At that time the position was being analysed everywhere, most agreed Karpov should have
played the sac because Black has a series of 'only moves' to find.
Everyone concentrated on an immediate 19 Bxh7+. My idea was 19 a5 first and then Bxh7+.
(When I say this position was being analysed 'everywhere', this is not quite true. You see
at the time the Russian press had refused to publish the game in the USSR... They thought
1...a6 against the World Champion was an insult.)
I had to find the win first before someone else stumbled upon my idea.
Around about 3am. I thought I had found the win.
19 a5 deflects the Bishop which in some critical lines comes to e7.
I then found a defence, then another win, then another defence and another win and then...
"Someone else can find it." I was shattered.
I went to bed and remained unknown and mortal.
Before leaving this section I must tell of the impact of 1...a6.
I hold Tony (and Karpov) responsible for all the Black losses that followed.
Every geek from Cornwall to Carlisle was playing 1...a6 in answer to everything.
Hell, I even played it once (a loss).
The trouble was us geeks were not Tony Miles. He was Unique.
My Favourite Miles Game
I've played over hundreds of Tony's games. He was really a great player in the late 70's
early 80's. During that period everything he tried seemed to work.
There are literally dozens of Miles brilliancies to choose from but again I've fallen back
on a Miles moment as my choice.
My favourite is his game v Ligterink in Wilk Aan Zee 1984.
It's one of his few games where I've been able to get inside both players heads.
White sets a trap, Black walks into it, White thinks he has seen that bit
further but Tony shows he has seen it all. The final position is akin to Nimzowitsch's
immortal Zugswang game. Ligterink plays his part by resigning at the correct moment.
This position arose.
Tony is Black and White is daring him to take the Knight on c3. The idea is 1...Qxc3
2 Bd2 .... trapping the Queen.
So Tony spots a wee trick and plays 1...Qxc3 2 Bd2 Nxe4
"OK," thinks White, "...so you have a little trick. But I saw this. I now play 3 Be1 ....
What do you do now?"
Tony replies. "I play 3...0-0!! and what do you do now?"
Look at the position. White cannot do anything to prevent Black from playing
say 4...c5 and allowing the Queen to escape with a Knight in her pocket.
Have a real good look at the position. The more you look the more beautiful it becomes.
The Queen is sitting there on c3 waiting to be captured and White cannot even prepare
to take it.
It's like one of those famous paintings where everytime you look at it you find
Tony must have had all this worked out before grabbing the Knight. Wonderful Chess.
Games like this give me a glowing feeling inside.
It makes you feel happy that you know the game of Chess.
Thank you for everything Tony Miles. We never played and never really met, but you and
your games have certainly had an influence on my life and on my play.
Your games in particular have given me a great deal of pleasure.
My deepest sympathy to your family and friends. I know they will miss you very much.
Geoff Chandler, November 2001