Sunday 30th November 2008
Bob Wade circa 1998. Photo © John Henderson.
It is with extreme sadness that I have to report that Bob Wade, International Master, arbiter, journalist, coach, organiser, writer, editor, chess archivist, friend to chess and friend to me, died 29th November 2008 at 3am from pneumonia, he had been in the Elisabeth Hospital in Woolwich for three days for complications from a common cold.
Robert Graham Wade was born April 10th 1921 in Dunedin, New Zealand and died in London, England Saturday 29th November 2008.
Bob's influence on the game covered every area imaginable, and made him a true giant of the game. His kindness and generosity will stay with all those who knew him.
His playing career was that of a solid middle ranking professional. He was three time New Zealand Champion, twice British Champion, played in seven Olympiads and one Interzonal (see his Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Wade_(chess_player)) he also played in a lot of tournaments against the world's best, especially in Eastern Europe and Cuba (playing in a number of Capablanca Memorial tournaments). He regarded himself lucky to do so and bemoaned the fact that the top players of today don't play against a wider range of opponents. His last major event was the Staunton Memorial in London in July where he was really set up to lose, even a single draw would have left him with a higher rating, he fought gamely it has to be said. A far better result was achieved in 2006 in the Queenstown Chess Classic where he scored 6/10 including a draw against the winner Murray Chandler. He played a final game for the Athenaeum Chess Club in recent weeks.
It is not really in his playing results however that his influence lies. He used to have the reputation of playing maverick openings. He lived to see a number of these "Wade Variations" make it to use and respectability at the very highest level.
He represented New Zealand and Australia at the FIDE Congress at Paris 1949 and soon became an influential figure within the organisation serving under every FIDE President until Kirsan Iljumzhinov (although his overlap with Alexandre Rueb would have been very short). At the young age of 29 (for an administrator) he was a member of the FIDE committee that first awarded official titles in 1950. 27 players were awarded the title of Grandmaster at that time including all the elite and retired great players such as Akiba Rubinstein and Oldrich Duras. Bob was one of 94 players awarded an IM title at that time (awarded by the FIDE Congress, he didn't sit in arbitration on his own title), a title he refused to trade up to an honorary GM title in later years, the old IM title was worth far more! He chaired the Title and Ratings Committee Meeting in Curitiba, Brazil in 1993. He was disappointed not to be appointed Chairman of the Rules Committee in 1994 and this more or less ended his involvement in FIDE. He was involved in the World Championship cycle as arbiter and administrator from 1950. He was also arbiter for many important FIDE events including Olympiads, many of the strong opens in England, USSR vs the Rest of the World 1984 (the first major event I ever attended) and the 1993 Kasparov vs Short world championship match which was a breakaway match from FIDE. [My thanks to Stewart Reuben for information about his important work for FIDE]
Bob Wade was also a member of the committee that drew up the first official FIDE laws of the game (Bob Wade British Chess Magazine Interview PDF file).
Bob Wade Haifa Olympiad 1976. Photo © Vojin Vujosevic.
Bob was a hugely influential chess coach in the UK. He taught many of our Grandmaster's in their formative years, or helped them with study materials, but he also just taught chess to anyone who was interested and without regard for their potential (Steve Davis the snooker player knew him well having been taught the game as a teenager by him). Without him I don't believe England would have produced so many strong players as it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Bob was Fischer's go to guy. Photo © Mark Crowther
I first met Bob Wade in 1992 before I'd even heard of the internet. Bob was lecturing on the return of Bobby Fischer for the return match against Boris Spassky in Sveti Stefan. Afterwards I showed him my large collection of articles from the Yugoslav press on Fischer. He invited me to visit him and even photocopied a fax from Fischer (which I found when researching this) to him asking him to compile a dossier of Spassky's games. This was a job he'd also done for the match in 1972. At that time he lived in a lovely house in the leafy suburbs of London which he rented. Sadly he lost his place in this house upon the owner moving and lived in a much more humble flat in later years.
At that time not only did Bob have what seemed to be almost every important book ever published, and a huge collection of tournament bulletins but he also received the raw gamescores from many important tournaments which he compiled into bulletins himself and self published. I think the care he took over these often less important tournaments puts to shame the carelessness we have with gamescores and historical records of tournaments in these days of electronic boards even though fixing them would be easy.
Read any book, certainly from the UK, from the 1960s up until the 1990s and it will contain a word of thanks to Bob who would either look things up for the author or invite him round for extensive research. His collection was I think bought and financed in part by Batsford, who he had a close association with, most of it now resides with in the ECF chess library in Hastings.
Bob Wade also wrote numerous books which were high on content. My all time favourite was "Wade and O'Connell" for short, "The Games of Bobby Fischer". Virtually all Fischer's games, some great articles and annotations and fabulous photos. Other books included "Soviet Chess" (just a forgotten masterpiece), "The World Chess Championship" (with Gligoric), "World championship interzonals: Leningrad and Petropolis, 1973", "Playing Chess", "World Chess Championship 1951 by W. Winter, R. G. Wade" and a number of long forgotten opening books and tournament bulletins. He was chess editor for Batsford at the start of its great years.
Over the next few years as I started TWIC Bob helped me get gamescores from all over the world and his phone calls were a regular thing to my house as was the whirring of the fax machine, I never really did wean him off it and onto email. My parents were sad too, as they got to know him well so often did he call my house. He also asked for news for his regular journalism and writing. The fact that he never got a daily column in a major newspaper is a real shame as he was the source of much of the material to other journalists at that time. People have said that his politics (he was a communist) probably cost him in this area. His help and inspiration make him a real godfather to TWIC. I will miss him.
There is a recent book Bob Wade: Tribute to a Chess Master - compiled and edited by Ray Cannon about him. There is an obituary at: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5043, tributes at: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5045 and also http://www.bcmchess.co.uk/ with a very interesting interview.
Press: Malcolm Pein in the Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/3537210/Robert-Wade.html and Leonard Barden in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2008/dec/01/bob-wade-obituary
The details of the funeral are yet to be announced.