Tony Miles

Tony Miles

Infobox chess player
playername = Tony Miles

birthname = Anthony John Miles
country = GBR
datebirth =birth date|1955|4|23|df=y
placebirth = Birmingham, England
datedeath = death date and age|2001|11|12|1955|4|23|df=y
placedeath =
title = Grandmaster
worldchampion =
womensworldchampion =
rating =
peakrating =2635 (01.01.1996)

Anthony John Miles (23 April 1955 in Edgbaston, Birmingham – 12 November 2001 in Harborne, Birmingham) was an English chess Grandmaster.


Early start in chess

Miles was born in Edgbaston in Birmingham, and he learned the game of chess at an early age. In 1968 he won the British under-14 championship, and in 1973 won the silver medal at the World Junior Chess Championship at Teesside, his first important event against international competition. He won the title the following year in Manila.

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

Career highlights

In 1976, Miles became the first ever Grandmaster born in the United Kingdom, narrowly beating Raymond Keene to the accolade. (William Hartston came close to beating them both to it in the early 1970s, and naturalised German-born Jacques Mieses was awarded the GM title in 1950; Keith Richardson was awarded the GM title for correspondence chess earlier in the 1970s.) For this achievement, Miles won a £5,000 prize.

Miles had a string of good results in the late 1970s and 1980s, and his success is considered to be one of the most important factors in the explosion in the number of strong British players around that time—shortly after Miles became a GM, Keene, John Nunn, Jon Speelman and a number of others followed him. Miles won games against a number of former World Chess Champions, including Vassily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, and Boris Spassky.

Most famously, 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 St. George Defence. (It is often said that Miles learnt this line from weird-openings enthusiast Michael Basman, though in his book "Play the St. George", Basman asserts there is no truth to this). 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.

Miles won the British Championship just once, in 1982 when the event was held in Torquay. His prime time as a chess player was in the middle of the eighties. In the January 1984 Elo rating list, 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 out of the Interzonal stages into the Candidates' series, and was eventually surpassed by fellow Englishman Nigel Short, the first British Candidate in 1985.

Against Garry Kasparov, on the other hand, 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" (some sources alternatively quote Miles as having the opinion that Kasparov had 22 or 27 eyes).

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.

Miles tied for first in the 1999 Continental Open in Los Angeles with Alexander Beliavsky, Lubomir Ftacnik, and Suat Atalik. Another good result later in his career was at the knock-out PCA Intel Rapid Chess Grand Prix in London in 1995, where he knocked out Vladimir Kramnik in the first round and Loek van Wely in the second. (He was eventually knocked out in the semi-final by another English player, Michael Adams.) 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. His final two games before his death were short draws in the Four Nations Chess League. Miles played in an extraordinary number of chess events during his career, including many arduous weekend tournaments.

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


Miles suffered from diabetes and a post mortem found that this contributed to his death by heart failure in 2001. His body was found at his home in Harborne, Birmingham, after a friend called on him to take him to a bridge club. He was cremated at Lodge Hill Crematorium in Selly Oak on 23 November. There was a moment of silence before the seventh round of the European Team Championships in León in Spain in his memory.


Miles was in many ways a controversial figure. Once, in the last round of a tournament (Luton, UK, 1975), with Miles needing a draw for first place, and his opponent, Stewart Reuben wanting a draw for a high placing, he agreed a draw without playing any moves. The arbiter decided to give both players no points for this non-game; the players claimed this "game" had been played often, when players pre-arranged a draw - this was the only time it had been scored correctly, rather than playing out some anodyne non-moves. This sparked a hefty amount of correspondence in British chess journals.

Miles also 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 then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher about the matter. He was subsequently hospitalised for two months.

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?"] . Other victims of his published attacks were Woman Grandmaster Martha Fierro and Indian Chess Organizer Umar Koya. His review of Eric Schiller's book "Unorthodox Chess Openings" (Cardoza Publishing, 1998) which appeared in "Kingpin" consisted of just two words: "Utter crap".

ee also

* Threefold repetition#Incorrect claims a game between Miles and Karpov

Further reading

*Geoff Lawton (compiler), "Tony Miles: "It's Only Me" (an anagram of Miles' name) (Batsford, 2003) - mainly articles by Miles and games annotated by him, with a small number of tributes from other writers

External links

* [ Obituary from The Week in Chess]
* [ Article from The Week in Chess]
* [ Obituary at the British Chess Federation site]
* [,,4298492-103684,00.html Obituary in the "Guardian"]
* [ Personal reminiscenses from Geoff Chandler]
* [ "Has Karpov Lost his Marbles?"] - a short article by Miles
* [ Two of Miles' book reviews]
* [ Miles' finger-notes at the Internet Chess Club, where he often played]
* [ Karpov vs Miles Multimedia annotated game]

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