Anthony John Miles 23rd April 1955 - 12th November 2001

by Mark Crowther

The death of Tony Miles at the age of 46 has come as a great shock to British chess. Anthony John Miles was born on the 23rd April 1955 in Birmingham, England. He made rapid progress as a junior winning the British Under-14 title in 1968 and the Under-21 title in 1971. On his debut in the British Championships in 1972 he scored 50%. 1973 saw Miles advance even further finishing 4th= behind Bisguier, Browne and Szabo at the Lone Pine tournament in the US. At home he won the Birmingham international ahead of Adorjan and Bisguier. He then finished second in the World Junior Championships in Teeside behind Alexander Beliavsky who he beat.

By this time he was nominally a student at Sheffield University studying maths, however he used his time more productively to further his chess career. Miles won the World Junior Championships of 1974 in Manila by a margin of 1.5 points (and with it earned the IM title) securing the title with a smashing win against Alexander Kochyev in the penultimate round.

Kochyev,A - Miles,A [B76]
Wch U20 Manila, 1974
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.g4 e6 10.Ndb5 d5 11.Bc5 a6 12.Bxf8 Kxf8 13.exd5 exd5 14.Na3 b5 15.Nd1 b4 16.Nb1 Bxg4 17.Bg2 Qe7+ 18.Qe3 Ne4 19.fxe4 Bxd1 20.Nd2 Bxc2 21.Rc1 d4 22.Qh3 d3 23.0-0 Kg8 24.e5 Rd8 25.e6 fxe6 26.Rce1 Nd4 27.Kh1 Nf5 28.Re4 Qg5 29.Nf3 Qh6 30.Rh4 Qe3 31.Rxb4 d2 32.Nxd2 Qxh3 33.Bxh3 Rxd2 34.Re1 Bf8 35.Rb8 Kf7 36.Rb7+ Be7 37.Bf1 Ba4 38.Rb6 Bd6 39.Re2 Rd1 40.Kg2 Bb5 41.Rf2 Bc5 42.Rb7+ Kf6 43.Bxb5 axb5 44.Re2 Rg1+ 45.Kh3 g5 46.Rg2 Rd1 0-1

At this stage he set his sights on the 5000 prize offered by Jim Slater in 1971 to the first over-the-board GM in the UK. It had been assumed that either Ray Keene or Bill Hartston would claim this prize (indeed Hartston turned down a draw against Uhlmann in the penultimate round of Hastings 1972-3 and lost a game that would have secured the GM title) but it turned out to be Miles.

Miles produced his first GM norm by winning the Category VIII London tournament in October 1975 ahead of Timman, Adorjan and Sax. He scored his second and final norm in February 1976 in Dubna in the USSR scoring 9/15 in an event with amongst others Gipslis, Tseshkovsky, Suetin, Savon and Kholmov. Miles' achievement seemed to aid others in British chess as in the next five years Keene, Stean, Nunn, Mestel and Speelman were to follow him to the GM title.

Miles himself wasn't prepared to rest on his achievement. In the next couple of years he scored his first major tournament wins 1st= Amsterdam
1976 (with Korchnoi ahead of Sax, Farago, Velimirovic and Szabo amongst others) and Amsterdam (+7=7-1 ahead of Hulak, Liberzon and Kavalek) and Biel (+8=6-1 ahead of Panno, Ulf Andersson) in 1977.

Miles had established himself as a steady top 40 player. In the next 10 years he remained there with peak performances inside the top 20. Although never a consistant achiever at the highest level he had a number of great individual tournament results.

Miles was never a World Championship Candidate but he played four times in Interzonals in Riga 1979 scoring 9/17, Tunis 1985 around 50%, Zagreb 1987 6.5/16 and Manilla 1990 6.5/13 and he played once in the new format FIDE knockout event in 1999 when he was eliminated by rasenkow in the second round after a speed playoff.

1980 saw Miles play tournaments in Las Palmas (+6=5 1st equal with Geller and Petrosian) and Vrbas (+4=6-1 ahead of Petrosian). It was also in this year that he became the first British player since Blackburn to defeat a reigning World Chess Champion when he beat Karpov in the first round of the European Team Championships with black using an incredibly provocative opening (1.e4 a6?! 2. d4 b5) which he dubbed the Birmingham Defence after his home town. Its choice was probably more to do with a loss of faith in his opening repertoire against Karpov who administered many fearful drubbings to Miles.

Karpov,A (2725) - Miles,A (2545) [B00]
EU-chT Skara Skara (1), 1980
1.e4 a6 2.d4 b5 3.Nf3 Bb7 4.Bd3 Nf6 5.Qe2 e6 6.a4 c5 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.Nbd2 b4 9.e5 Nd5 10.Ne4 Be7 11.0-0 Nc6 12.Bd2 Qc7 13.c4 bxc3 14.Nxc3 Nxc3 15.Bxc3 Nb4 16.Bxb4 Bxb4 17.Rac1 Qb6 18.Be4 0-0 19.Ng5 h6 20.Bh7+ Kh8 21.Bb1 Be7 22.Ne4 Rac8 23.Qd3 Rxc1 24.Rxc1 Qxb2 25.Re1 Qxe5 26.Qxd7 Bb4 27.Re3 Qd5 28.Qxd5 Bxd5 29.Nc3 Rc8 30.Ne2 g5 31.h4 Kg7 32.hxg5 hxg5 33.Bd3 a5 34.Rg3 Kf6 35.Rg4 Bd6 36.Kf1 Be5 37.Ke1 Rh8 38.f4 gxf4 39.Nxf4 Bc6 40.Ne2 Rh1+ 41.Kd2 Rh2 42.g3 Bf3 43.Rg8 Rg2 44.Ke1 Bxe2 45.Bxe2 Rxg3 46.Ra8 Bc7 0-1

In 1981 Miles finished first equal in the Baden-Baden tournament with +6=7 with Ribli and ahead of Korchnoi. In the same year he took 2nd place in the Porz tournament behind Tal.

1982 saw him win his only British Chess Championship. He won the event which took place in Torquay with a score of 9/11 a point clear of Jon
Speelman. For a player who was England's top player for a decade it seems strange that he only won the title once.

Miles,A (2630) - Spassky,B (2565) [E12]
Montilla/Moriles Montilla (2), 1978
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 b6 3.c4 e6 4.Bf4 Bb7 5.e3 Be7 6.h3 0-0 7.Nc3 d5 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Bd3 c5 10.0-0 Nc6 11.Ne5 c4 12.Bc2 a6 13.g4 b5 14.g5 Ne8 15.Qg4 g6 16.Rad1 Ng7 17.h4 Bb4 18.Nd7 Bc8 19.Nxd5 Kh8 20.N5f6 Ra7 21.d5 Ne7 22.Be5 Rxd7 23.h5 Rxd5 24.Qf4 Rxd1 25.Rxd1 Qa5 26.Ne8 f6 27.gxf6 Kg8 28.Nxg7 1-0

In 1983 he finished 1st= with John Nunn in the Biel Category 10 event. 1984 saw him finish 2nd= behind Karpov in a Category 13 event in Oslo, he had a small plus score for the Rest of the World against the Soviets (three draws against Jussupow and one win against Romanishin). At the Category 14 Tilburg event (where he had already enjoy success finishing 2nd in 1977 and 3rd= the following year) he took clear first ahead of Huebner, Tukmakov, Ribli and Beliavsky to score what was probably the best result of his career.

When he returned to Tilburg in 1985 he finished first equal with Huebner and Korchnoi with 8.5/14 in the Category 15 event. He injured his back during the event and the organisers allowed him to play stretched out on his stomach on a hospital massage table. This annoyed some of his opponents a great deal who protested. He did the double over Korchnoi (who he had never beaten before) and Ljubojevic during the event.

1986 saw him finish 2nd= behind Ribli in the Dortmund tournament, he was half a point clear of the fast improving Nigel Short. He also played a strange match against Garry Kasparov in Basel who needed the practice between title matches against Karpov. Kasparov won 5.5-0.5 but Miles
certainly missed opportunities. 1986 and 1987 were also the years that Nigel Short definitely took over as England's number one player.

There was also something else hanging over Tony Miles, the so-called Miles-Keene affair (an article was published in the Sunday Times Colour
supplement in 13th January 1991 outlined it in full). Miles made accusations to the British Chess Federation about Raymond Keene over
payments made by the BCF to Keene for acting as Miles's second at the Turin Internzonal in 1985 (Miles said that Keene had not assisted him). An enquiry took a long time to set up and Miles became increasingly obsessive about it to the extent he was becoming seriously ill. Things came to a head when after midnight on September 28th 1987 he decided that the only solution was to talk to the British Prime-Minister about the affair and in a very agitated state was arrested in Downing Street and eventually hospitalised in Birmingham for two months. The drug treatment that followed meant that for over a year his chess was pretty much unrecognisable.

In this period he left Britain and decided to move to America, he finished last in the 1988 US Championships.

He started to get back on track in 1989 picking up rating points with a 50% score in the Category 13 Wijk aan Zee tournament and scoring 8.5/15 in the US Championships. He was 3rd= behind Karpov and Andersson in the Biel 1990 tournament with 7.5/14. In 1991 he was now to be found competing in the Australian Championships in Melbourne but this proved to be a short lived adventure. He was soon to make himself available to play for England again. Miles scored a steady result in the Biel 1992 tournament with 7/14 which was enough for clear third in this 8 player Category 16 event. He played his first games for England in the European Team Championships however he only scored 50%. He finished the year with a 4th= position in the Category 14 Groningen tournament. He was 2nd= behind Speelman in the strong Lloyds Bank tournament of 1993.

In 1994 he was 1st= with Van Wely and Zapata in the Category 10 Capablanca Memorial, the following year at the same event he did even better taking clear first in 1995 with 10.5/13 in the Category 11 event. Miles won the Category 13 Benasque event in 1995 with 6.5/9 a point ahead of Ulf Andersson and David Garcia Illundain. Miles pulled off one of the great moments in his chess career during the PCA Intel Rapid Chess Grand Prix. He was drawn against Vladimir Kramnik and in front of a very partisan audience he knocked him out in the first round after a playoff game. Miles progressed all the way to the semi-final only to lose out to Adams.

Miles,A - Kramnik,V [D00]
Rapid London ENG (1.1), 1995
1.d4 d5 2.Bg5 h6 3.Bh4 c6 4.e3 Qb6 5.Qc1 e5 6.c3 exd4 7.cxd4 Be7 8.Bxe7 Nxe7 9.Nc3 Bf5 10.Nf3 Nd7 11.Be2 0-0 12.0-0 Bg4 13.Qc2 Rfe8 14.Rac1 Nf5 15.Bd3 Nd6 16.Nd2 Nf8 17.Na4 Qd8 18.Nc5 Qg5 19.Kh1 Rad8 20.Rce1 Bc8 21.b4 Qf6 22.a3 Ng6 23.Nf3 Bg4 24.Bxg6 Bxf3 25.Bh7+ Kh8 26.Bd3 Re7 27.Be2 Bxe2 28.Qxe2 Rde8 29.Qd3 Nf5 30.Rb1 Nh4 31.Qd1 a6 32.Qg4 Nf5 33.Kg1 Kg8 34.Rfc1 Nd6 35.a4 g6 36.Nd7 Qg7 37.Ne5 h5 38.Qf4 Re6 39.h3 Rf6 40.Qh2 Re7 41.Rc2 g5 42.Rbc1 Rh6 43.Qg3 Ne4 44.Qf3 f6 45.Nxc6 bxc6 46.Rxc6 Qf7 47.Qf5 Kg7 48.Rxa6 Rh8 49.b5 Rd8 50.Rcc6 Red7 51.Re6 Rc7 52.Rac6 Rxc6 53.Rxc6 Nd6 54.Qc2 Rd7 55.b6 Nc4 56.Qb1 Qe7 57.Qb5 g4 58.hxg4 hxg4 59.g3 Nd2 60.Rc8 Qf7 61.Qxd7 1-0

Miles almost qualified from the Linares Zonal in 1995. He had led clearly after nine of eleven rounds. In the last two rounds he lost to Van Wely and Apicella and unfortunately was eliminated in a seven player playoff for four places.

1996 saw Miles win the Category IX Sakthi tournament with 9/11 ahead of Adianto. He completed a hat-trick of Capablanca Memorial (cat 12) wins with a score of 9.5/13, he was second in Malmo (Cat 12) a point behind Korchnoi. However this year he also was last in Biel and Beijing.

1997 saw some steady results in opens and a second place in his favourite Capablanca Memorial tournament. The Category 12 event was won by Peter Leko with 8/11 but Miles' 7/11 was a big result too. In 1997 he also got into a four-way playoff for the British Championships but Adams and Sadler shared first in the end.

In 1998 he was joint 4th, half a point behind the joint winners in the Category 12 Capablanca Memorial. He was 3rd in the British Championships with 8/11 behind Sadler and Short. He played for England in the Elista Olympiad scoring +3=4 in seven games. He also qualified for the FIDE Championships by getting through a playoff after tieing for first in the Escaldes Zonal. There were six World Championship places for eight players and Miles managed to avoid dangerous losses.

In 1999 Miles again played his favourite tournament and won, taking first in the Category 12 Capablanca Memorial with 8.5/13 half a point clear of Bruzon, Becerra and Atalik.

2000 saw his usual round of open events. The Capablanca Memorial was not quite so good to him and he finished in a tie for 5th. Miles played in the Mondariz Zonal tournament and although he got into a playoff for a qualification place the odds were not with him. Miles was chosen for
England in the 2000 Olympiad but could only play in four games before having to return home after receiving news of his father's death.

Miles didn't play that much in 2001. In May he finished joint 6th at the Capablanca Memorial. He then finished on 50% in the strong European
Individual Championships in Ohrid. At the British Championships he started well enough with two wins (Andrew Ledger will go down as his last
tournament win) but he started to look ill and after a string of draws he suffered a bad loss to Gary Lane in round nine and didn't play the final round. Two short draws in the 4NCL were his final games.

Tony Miles represented England on 12 occasions between 1973 and 2000. He was top board for many of his appearances and his determination and
willingness to take on the best proved a tremendous inspiration. His first event was the European Team Championships in Bath in 1973. At the Haifa Olympiad of 1974 he scored 6/8 undefeated. In 1976 in the Buenos Aires Olympiad against tougher opposition he scored 6/12 including a win against Boris Spassky. He played in the European Team Championships in Skara 1980 scoring 4.5/7 including a win against Karpov. At the Malta Olympiad also in 1980 he scored 5/10. At the Lucerne Olympiad of 1982 he scored 7/14. In 1984 he scored 6/14 at the Thessaloniki Olympiad. At the World Team Championships in Lucerne 1985 he scored 5/8. He made further appearances at the European Team Championships in 1992, Moscow Olympiad 1994, Elista Olympiad 1998 and the Istanbul Olympiad of 2000.

In addition to his international tournament appearances (the events mentioned above are but a tiny sample of his better results he had many
good results not mentioned and throughout his career he mixed in more than the occasional poor result) Miles played hundreds of weekend tournaments in Britain and abroad. He was an anti-establishment figure who always had trouble with chess authorities. He was very popular amongst the rank and file players in the UK who knew him from his appearances in weekend swisses. Miles was also a strong force behind the successful Slough team in the 4NCL in recent years.

Tony Miles was above all a tough competitor. At his best he was fearless, prepared to take on anyone. His best wins were usually long and technical only rarely were they spectacular. He had his own repertoire of opening specialities and made contributions to the theory of the Dragon and in later years the Berlin Defence. His aggressive style allowed for obscure tactics but also he had great belief in his endgame abilities to squeeze out points. In his early years he was very strong which allowed him to sit and play for hours. Possibly, his very variable results throughout his career were dependent on how high his energy levels were. Later in life he was diagnosed as being diabetic, this seems to have been responsible for much of his decline.

Bill Hartston credits Miles for changing the attitude of English Chess culture from a rather intellectual persuit of chess truth to one of playing winning chess.

Tony Miles was found dead on Monday 12th November 2001. The post-mortem revealed he died of natural causes - heart failure caused by diabetes. He will be sorely missed.