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Jonathan Penrose

Jonathan Penrose, OBE (born 7 October 1933, in Colchester) is an English chess Grandmaster and International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster (1983) who won the British Chess Championship ten times between 1958 and 1969. He is the son of Lionel Penrose, a world famous professor of genetics, the grandson of the physiologist John Beresford Leathes, and brother of Roger Penrose and Oliver Penrose. He is a psychologist and university lecturer by profession, with a PhD.

Learning the game at age four, he was a member of Hampstead Chess Club at twelve and British Boys (Under 18) Champion at just fourteen years of age. Chess was played by the entire Penrose family. His father was a composer of endgame studies and a strong player, as was older brother Oliver.

By the age of seventeen, he was already acknowledged as a top prospect for British chess. Playing Hastings for the first time in 1950/51, he beat the French champion Nicolas Rossolimo and at Southsea in 1950, defeated both Efim Bogoljubov and Savielly Tartakower.

Penrose earned the International Master title in 1961 and was the leading British player for several years in the 1960s and early 1970s, surpassing the achievement of Henry Ernest Atkins by winning the British Championship a record number of times. He was widely considered to be of grandmaster (GM) strength, if not world class standard, but did not achieve the GM title during his active playing career, despite some notable victories. This was mainly due to his choosing to remain amateur and placing his lecturing as a first priority. In effect, it meant that he played few international tournaments and frequently turned down invitations to prestigious tournaments such as Hastings. In 1993 he was awarded a retrospective honorary grandmaster title by FIDE.

He competed in eight Chess Olympiads between 1952 and 1962, then at the Olympiads of 1968 and 1970, frequently posting excellent scores, including +9−1=7 in 1962 (Varna), and +10−0=5 in 1968 (Lugano). On both of these occasions, he won an individual silver medal on first board; in 1968, his score was bettered only by the World Champion, Tigran Petrosian.

At the Leipzig 1960 Olympiad, he defeated then-World Champion Mikhail Tal with the white pieces in a Modern Benoni:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.Bd3 Bg7 8.Nge2 O-O 9.O-O a6 10.a4 Qc7 11.h3 Nbd7 12.f4 Re8 13.Ng3 c4 14.Bc2 Nc5 15.Qf3 Nfd7 16.Be3 b5 17.axb5 Rb8 18.Qf2 axb5 19.e5 dxe5 20.f5 Bb7 21.Rad1 Ba8 22.Nce4 Na4 23.Bxa4 bxa4 24.fxg6 fxg6 25.Qf7+ Kh8 26.Nc5 Qa7 27.Qxd7 Qxd7 28.Nxd7 Rxb2 29.Nb6 Rb3 30.Nxc4 Rd8 31.d6 Rc3 32.Rc1 Rxc1 33.Rxc1 Bd5 34.Nb6 Bb3 35.Ne4 h6 36.d7 Bf8 37.Rc8 Be7 38.Bc5 Bh4 39.g3 1-0.

This victory made Penrose the first British player to beat a world champion since Joseph Henry Blackburne defeated Emanuel Lasker in 1899.

Penrose suffered from nerves, and he collapsed at the 1970 Olympiad in the midst of a tense game. Consequently, he moved instead to correspondence chess, where he was successful, earning the International Master (IMC) title in 1980 and the grandmaster (GMC) title in 1983. He was the best postal player in 1987-89 and led his country to victory in the 9th Correspondence Olympiad.

Jonathan Penrose was awarded the OBE in 1971. He has two daughters from his marriage to Margaret Wood.