Tony Miles

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Tony Miles
Tony Miles in 1976
Country England
Peak rating2635 (01.01.1996)
The England team at the Dubai Chess Olympiad, 1986. From the front: Speelman, Short, Nunn and Miles.

Tony Miles (Anthony John Miles, 23 April 1955 – 12 November 2001) was an English chess Grandmaster.

World Junior Champion[change | change source]

In 1973 Miles won the silver medal at the World Junior Chess Championship at Teesside, his first important event against international competition. He won the title next year in Manila.

Miles entered the University of Sheffield to study mathematics, but dropped out to concentrate on chess.

Career highlights[change | change source]

In 1976, Miles became the first ever FIDE Grandmaster born in the United Kingdom, narrowly beating Raymond Keene to the title. Other English players had been acknowledged as true Grandmasters in the past. Howard Staunton, the 19th century World Champion, was obviously a grandmaster. Joseph Blackburne was also regularly described as a grandmaster. Naturalised German-born Jacques Mieses was awarded the GM title in 1950; and Jonathan Penrose was awarded the title retrospectively. For his achievement, Miles won a £5,000 prize.

Miles had a string of good results in the late 1970s and 1980s, and his success was a factor in the growth of strong British players shortly after Miles became a GM. Miles won games against a number of former World Chess Champions, including Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, and Boris Spassky. In 1980 at the European Team Championship in Skara, he beat reigning world champion Anatoly Karpov with black using the extremely unorthodox opening 1. e4 a6!?, the so-called English Defence. Miles beat Karpov again three years later in Bath in a game that was part of the BBC's Mastergame series, but it was never shown on television due to a technicians' strike. However, over their careers, Karpov won most of the other encounters.

Miles won the British Chess Championship only once, in 1982. His prime time as a chess player was in the middle of the eighties. In the January 1984 FIDE rating system, he ranked #18 in the world with a rating of 2599. One of his best (and most controversial) results was his win at the Tilburg tournament in 1984. The following year, he tied for first there with Robert Hübner and Viktor Korchnoi, playing several of his games while lying face-down on a table, having injured his back.

Playing on top board for England, Miles helped his team to an all-time best silver medal at the 1986 Chess Olympiad in Dubai. But he was never able to qualify for the Candidates' series for the world title, and was overtaken by fellow Englishman Nigel Short in 1985.

Against Garry Kasparov Miles had little success, not winning a game against him, and losing a 1986 match in Basel against him by the overwhelming score of 5.5–0.5. Following this encounter, Miles described Kasparov as a "monster with a thousand eyes who sees all".

After he was hospitalized because of a mental breakdown in late 1987, Miles moved to the United States. He finished last in the 1988 US Championship, but continued to play there and had some good results. In 1991, he played in the Championship of Australia, but he eventually moved back to England, and began to represent his home country again. He was equal first at the very strong Cappelle-la-Grande Open in 1994, 1995 and 1997. He also won the Capablanca Memorial in Cuba three times (1995, 1996, and 1999). His last tournament victory was the 2001 Canadian Open Chess Championship in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Miles played in the 2001 British Championship, but withdrew before the final round, apparently because of ill-health.

The Miles Variation (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.Bf4) in the Queen's Indian Defence is named after him.

Death[change | change source]

In his later years, Miles became grossly overweight, and suffered from diabetes. A post mortem found that this contributed to his death by heart failure.

Personality[change | change source]

Miles was in many ways a controversial figure. He had his disagreements with chess authorities and with his fellow English players, particularly Keene and Short. Miles made accusations regarding payments that Keene had received from the British Chess Federation for acting as his second (assistant) in the 1985 Interzonal tournament in Tunis. Miles became rather obsessed with the affair, eventually suffering a mental breakdown over it. He was arrested in September 1987 in Downing Street, apparently under the belief that he had to speak to the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher about the matter. He was subsequently hospitalised for two months. Writing in the Daily Telegraph in November 2003, Nigel Short claimed that "Tony was insanely jealous of my success, and his inability to accept that he was no longer Britain's number one was an indication of, if not a trigger for, his descent into madness".[1]

Miles was also noted for his acerbic wit. He often attacked chess personalities in published articles. He attacked former World Champion Anatoly Karpov in an article entitled "Has Karpov lost his marbles?" Archived 2009-09-11 at the Wayback Machine.[2]

Notable game[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. The Sunday chess column, 30 November 2003
  2. The point being that Karpov as a child had collected marbles, which are round, coloured glass stones.

Further reading[change | change source]

  • Geoff Lawton (compiler) 2003. Tony Miles: It's only me (an anagram of Miles' name) Batsford, London. Mainly articles by Miles and games annotated by him, with a few tributes from other writers
  • Raymond Keene 2006. Tony Miles: England's chess gladiator. Hardinge Simpole, London. ISBN 1-84382-176-1, 100 annotated games, and commentary.

Other websites[change | change source]