Saturday, May 26, 2007


As far as I know I never met Loki. He never came to Streatham and Brixton chess club, though he lived in Brixton (and, I think, Streatham beforehand) and I asked him several times to come. His real name wasn't Loki - it was a handle on an internet forum. I think I know his real name and the country, Sweden, he was from, but if he'd sat opposite me in a pub I wouldn't have known who he was. We never sat opposite one another at the chessboard: we never played a proper game of chess, though we played a couple of games, winning one apiece, over the internet. It was only through the internet I knew him.

Whenever, on that forum, I'd start a thread about chess he'd be sure to contribute. He loved his chess - and he was a better player than he thought. I think he believed that chess clubs were full of top-notch players who would wipe the floor with somebody like him, who for years had played the game only intermittently and on the internet. I told him differently but I don't think he believed me. He didn't seem to have as high an opinion of himself, in general, as others had of him: a couple of years ago he disappeared from sight for a number of months and it was understood he wasn't well. But he came back and people were very pleased to see him: and it was around then that I started trying to get him down the chess club.

As I said, I never managed it: but not for any waning of his love of chess. He followed the Kramnik v Topalov match with great excitement, his computer program allowing him to keep at least one step ahead of my own tentative (and largely wrong) analyses on the forum we both used. Blunder! he posted as Topalov played 59...f5 in the first game: I remember it well. I went and looked up the thread again, while writing this note: how he enjoyed that match, all the controversy and all the chess. He registered on Playchess to follow the commentary and read the chat: an old player coming back to the game after rediscovering how much he got out of it.

That's what chess clubs are for, I think. For people who want to come back to chess because they remember how much they get out of it. That's one reason why I always wanted to get him down the club. But it can never happen now: from that same forum I learned, just yesterday morning, that on Thursday 17 May Loki died, as the result of an asthma attack. We never knew him.


dutchdefence said...

That's sad.

Let's hope there's chess after death for Loki.

Michelle said...

that was a nice tribute. i'm hoping he was comfortable with his choices, whatever they were.

Jonathan B said...

Thanks for that Justin. Today's post was both touching and uplifting.

I should also add it is most enjoyable to read a piece on the death of a chess player that doesn't contain the words, "... and then I shagged his girlfriend."

Ryan Emmett said...

A thought-provoking post. The internet can bring us together and yet we usually never meet and know each other just by our screen-names.

Jonathan b - ouch - great comment! Nigel Short deserves a lot a brickbats for that column on Tony Miles.