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Jonathan Rowson

Full name Jonathan Rowson
Country Scotland
Born 18 April 1977
Title Grandmaster
Peak rating 2599 (July 2005, Oct 2005, Jan 2006, July 2007)

Jonathan Rowson (born 18 April 1977 in Aberdeen) is a Scottish chess Grandmaster and also a chess author.


He made his Scotland debut for the national Primary School team in the match against England in 1988. At this time he attended Skene Square Primary School, though he later attended Aberdeen Grammar School where a Maths teacher, Mr Michael Wilson, organised and encouraged the school team. Although in 1988 he was not the best player in his age-group at the time, his progress was rapid and he began competing on the world stage in 1991, winning a silver medal in the European Under 18 Championship in 1995 (behind Robert Kempiński of Poland).

After taking a year out to study chess in the wake of this success, he went to Keble College, Oxford University where he earned a first class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Rowson has an interest in Eastern thought and, following a year at Harvard, completed a PhD thesis on Wisdom at Bristol University, supervised by Guy Claxton.

He came second in the European Under 20 Championship in 1997 and achieved his third and final Grandmaster norm (and with it the title) in the 1999 Scottish Chess Championship. He went on to win the event again in 2001 and 2004, completing a rare double when he went on to become the 2004 British Champion. He successfully defended his British title in 2005 and again in 2006. He also won the 2000 Canadian Open Chess Championship and tied for first with Vasilios Kotronias in the Hastings International Chess Congress in 2003/04.

Dr Jonathan Rowson is Director of the Social Brain Centre at the RSA. After degrees spanning a range of social science disciplines from Oxford and Harvard, Jonathan’s Doctoral research at the University of Bristol featured an analysis of the challenge of overcoming the psycho-social constraints that prevent people becoming ‘wiser’. He writes for The Guardian’s Behavioural Insights Blog, was formerly a columnist for the Herald newspaper, has authored three books.

Chess strength

Rowson's peak rating of 2599 was achieved in July 2005, when he was ranked number 139 in the world. In addition to winning the British Championship in three consecutive years, Rowson's best results include sharing first at The World Open in Philadelphia in 2002, at the Hastings Premier in 2003/4, and outright first at the Capo D'Orso open in Sardinia in 2008.

On the November 2009 FIDE list, he has an Elo rating of 2579, making him Scotland's number one.


Rowson has written numerous magazine articles and three books on the game:

Notable games