Posts Tagged ‘Jim Thibault’

The Short Life of Billy Adam

October 6, 2007

William (Billy) Adam was a Syracuse, NY (the same neck of the woods as now-Norwegian GM Jon Tisdall) master whose life only lasted from 1963 to 1982. He came from a large family – many sisters (not sure if any brothers). It was shocking when I saw his obituary at such a young age (only 19). When I heard about his death from Joel Benjamin’s dad, Alan, I thought it was a practical joke – too implausible to be true. To demonstrate the power of the Internet World Wide Web on modern society, (the ‘converse’ power to forget older news), Bill’s life (which ended pre-Web, 1982) is not to be found in any source I was able to uncover via Google. Readers?

Apparently according to the following letter Jon Schroer and I were planning a Chess Life eulogy but nothing came of that (click to enlarge).


Billy was a big natural talent. We had some adventures – for example he convinced me to save money and sleep under the chess tables in the Philadelphia World Open – a plan foiled by security guard flashlights at about 3:30 am (we were flushed into the bus terminal).   Billy rushed onto a bus that was idling with a sign in the front that said “Pittsburgh”.  I got him off that bus! And, in New York City, we even convinced IM John Watson to party with us one time. No small feat. Billy was a friendly kid with lots of energy.

The last few years of his life he spent as a student at SUNY Stony Brook, NY and he had mostly withdrawn from competitive chess, which was actually a big loss for chess.

Parallels with Peter Winston

One thing he had in common with Peter Winston:

Charlie Hertan writes in Chess Life magazine, “in November, 1977, when Peter had a miserable 0-9 result. He seemed a little off-kilter and baffled, as we all were, but I guess we chalked it up to his rustiness and terrible form at the time”. A strange coincidence, Billy Adam too had a baffling 0-and-something result in a US Junior. This included a dump where Billy played into Fool’s mate (the TD forfeited him, wisely). We can safely say that 0-and-something results from strong juniors are a clear signal for mental health intervention. If we had such intervention in either the Winston or the Adam case, they would probably be with us today.

I would like readers to chip in here with Billy Adam memories. I will hunt a game I played with him (he won in a Keres Attack, Philadelphia 1979) and post it here.

For now, I will simply relate that 1. e4 c5 2. d3 Nc6 3. f4 with the idea of g3, Bg2, Nb1-d2, Ng1-e2, was named by Billy as the “Billiam Attack.” Note the strange position of the white knights. He would keep flipping the knights with Nd2-f3, and, after a f4-f5, also get in the fearsome Ne2-f4.

Here’s a National HS Blog I found (‘A History of the National High School Chess Championship’, by Steve Immitt) that mentions a notable performance by 14-year-old Billy Adam.

Cleveland, OH 1977: The Ninth National High School returned to Cleveland, with 494 players. In the past 8 years, only once did either the top-rated player or a Master finish first (Larry Christiansen did both in 1973). The winner has usually been an Expert, as no one under 2000 has ever won (1976 was the only time it was won by a player ranked lower than 7th at the start). There is, however, an old National High School tradition of the “Cinderella A-Player,” an unknown player who has the tournament of his life only to fade at the end. This curious custom started at the first National High School in 1969, when Paul Jacklyn needed a last-round draw to win on tiebreak, but lost to John Watson. Nick Ocipoff was 6-0 when he blundered a winning position to jettison the title the following year. Peter Radomskyj had defeated the top-rated player to go 6-0 before losing to Christiansen in 1971. In 1976, Jake Meskin was 6-0 before he lost to Rich Kaner. Every time, the player who defeated the “Cinderella A-Player” went on the win the tournament himself. This year, 14-year old Bill Adam of Syracuse, NY was cast as Cinderella. Top-rated Yasser Seirawan (2364) was upset in round 3 by Chris Richmond (1809) of Burlington, VT, throwing open the path to the championship to Adam. After upsetting 2nd-rated Steve Odendahl (2217) he needed but a last-round draw on Board One with 6th-ranked Jim Thibault (2134) of Salem, MA. Jim sacrificed a piece for a crushing attack. Adam defended doggedly, only to be outplayed in the endgame. Thibault’s victory gave him 7 points and the best tiebreaks to capture the championship. Once again, the clock had struck twelve for Cinderella.

Some players that may be able to chip in with Billy memories: Jon Tisdall, Charlie Hertan, Jon Schroer, … (others?).

Breaking Billy Adam News

Breaking news from the ICC cyber universe, Oct 11, 2007: Firebug tells you: Billy Adams actually played in several tournaments in Rochester NY around that time. I may have a few games but definately Ron Lohrman may have some he played against Dr Marchand Stay Tuned!!!