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Raymond Keene

From Academic Kids

Raymond Keene (born 1948) is an influential figure in the chess world off the board, bringing many notable chess events to London. He is also the author of a significant number of chess books, from the splendid treatise on Nimzowitsch titled Aron Nimzowitsch: A Reappraisal, down to a chess book he claims to have "authored over a weekend".

Keene rose to prominence in the chess scene in the late seventies. At that time the UK had no Grandmaster chess players, and its best known player was the highly respected Jonathan Penrose (who famously beat Mikhail Tal). Keene was one of the first group of British players to achieve the necessary norms to become a Grandmaster - being pipped to the post by Tony Miles (Anthony John Miles - deceased 2001) to the title of first British Grandmaster.

Keene's playing style tended toward to strategically original and positional (but no slouch at tactics). Favouring hypermodern openings such as the Modern Defence, he introduced a few interesting novelties. His style of play was strongly influenced by Nimzowitsch, and thus his adoption of Indian-type openings and positions (especially the Nimzo-Indian defence and the King's Indian Defence). As a player, Keene did have a fair share of success in Europe and the local tournament circuit.

However, it is not as a player Keene is well known, but as a chess activist (possibly politician is a more accurate reflection). His great contributions to the organisational side of chess strongly contrast with the mire of politicking and back-biting that overshadowed his successes. His on-going "war" with individuals within the British Chess Federation and past friends seems to make more press headlines.

Keene was the mastermind behind many notable chess events:

  • He was Viktor Korchnoi's second during his World Championship match against Anatoly Karpov in Manila 1978 - the match that brought hypnotism, mirrored glasses and yogurt as headline items in the spy-vs-spy encounter very thematic of the cold war period.
  • He brought Viktor Korchnoi and Garry Kasparov together for the famous 1983 Candidates semi-final match in London. Putting Kasparov back on track to challenge Karpov for the World Title after Kasparov had defaulted the Los Angeles match. This match was a pivotal moment in Kasparov's destiny to be World Champion.
  • He arranged for the first half of the 1985 World Championship return match between Kasparov and Karpov to be played in London. That match finally cemented the 1984 World Championship debacle.
  • After years in the wildnerness outside of FIDE, Keene was the instrumental force behind Brain Games, which organised the Kasparov vs Vladimir Kramnik match which resulted in the former losing his title. His involvement with Brain Games has attracted the attention of Private Eye.


Keene remains the chess correspondent of The Times newspaper, and will probably remain influential in the chess world for the years to come. He has the nickname of "The Penguin" used behind his back, for the two reasons of his immense size and his likeness of Batman's nemesis - coincidentally one of his publishers is Penguin Books.

Raymond Keene is active member of the www.chessgames.com chess database and community.nl:Raymond Keene

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