Friday, July 3, 2015

Pestaño: Walter Browne: chess and poker legend

Friday, July 03, 2015
WALTER Browne may not be a household name, but he is a rock star and a legend in the world of chess and poker. He died in his sleep a few days ago and passed away as the reigning US senior champion.
Walter was not only one of the most dominant players in the 70s and 80s when my interest in chess was at its highest, but was also a professional poker player.
As most of my friends know, my time is equally divided between chess and poker.
He was the most dominant US player after the Bobby Fischer era, having won his first national championship in 1974 and five more by 1983. For five decades, Browne managed to balance twin careers in chess and poker. Sometimes, he even played poker and chess in the same weekend.
Only Fischer and Sammy Reshevsky have won more American titles. Browne also captured the US Junior Championship in 1971. He won most of the prestigious Swiss events, including two US Opens, seven American Opens, and three World Opens. He won more Swiss tournaments than any other American player. He also won Wijk aan Zee in 1974 and 1980.
Browne was also a true poker professional. He supported himself, aside from chess, by playing cash-games poker across the country. His tournament résumé is also impressive. According to the Card Player database, “He has earned more than $280,000 on the tournament circuit, with six WSOP cashes and four WSOP final tables — including a second-place finish in the 2007 $2,500 Horse event for $131,445.”
Famous instructor and historian Bruce Pandolfini says, “Walter was a truly remarkable chess player and a great game player in general. He could play any game well. Scrabble, backgammon, poker, you name it. I remember the first time I ever saw him, he was just starting to make his mark on the New York chess scene. I didn’t know who he was, but here was this 14-year-old phenom destroying a local 2400 player at speed chess with such assuredness and composure, I wondered who the heck is that kid. I soon found out. Walter certainly put his permanent stamp on the history of the game we all love. What a talent.”
Yasser Seirawan also rememembers Walter, “I was playing in the group among top grandmasters in Wijk aan Zee, including Walter. I was often with him; we’d take walks together, we’d be talking about the tournament. We were quite close. Going into the last round I said, ‘Well, you got a big game tomorrow, Walter, you’re white with Viktor Korchnoi!’ Walter turned it immediately and said, ‘No! He’s the one who’s got a big game!’ Korchnoi was the No. 2 in the world at the time, behind Anatoly Karpov. It was this kind of combativeness that I’ll always remember.”
Norway Chess. Don’t look now but world champion Magnus Carlsen just had the worst result in his career last week. He lost to Veselin Topalov, Viswanathan Anand, Fabiano Caruana and countryman Jon Ludwig Hammer, who is more than 200 Elo points behind him. As a result he lost a massive 23 rating points. Topalov was the winner and went home with $75,000.
Cepca. As part of our chess development program, we donated five chess sets to the Tejero Elementary School last Wednesday.
Present were the school principal Michael Cabase and assistant principal Neri Calago. Also present were the chess coaches of the school--Rufa Buendia and Tita Riego--and close to a 100 students.
After a short program, members Jun Olis, Ruel Hortelano, Therese dela Torre and president Jerry Maratas played simul chess with 20 students. There was one winner, Blessy Anne Hortelano, and all the players were given cash prizes.
Also present was IM Kimkim Yap.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 03, 2015.

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