I first came across Suttles in the dusty pages of the not-particularly-good Batsford Chess Yearbook, which I had picked up for 50p in a second-hand bookshop in Bury St. Edmunds. It featured his remarkable win against Robatsch and although the annotations were sparse and dull, I instantly fell in love with every last aspect of his play: the bravado with which he would fling pawns forward before anything else, his preponderance for placing pieces on the edge of the board, the complete lack of interest in castling he showed and his ability to conjure up unlikely attacks that looked so scary that they worked. It was all at such right angles to traditional wisdom that I figured that this must be the correct way to play chess; certainly, it would be a good way to induce errors. Perhaps the best précis of the Suttlesian spirit came in 1970, when Harry Golombek wrote in The Times of how 'colour is well and truly back in the world of chess'. First he described the world champion to be:
In Bobby Fischer North America possesses a great master who seems to conduct his life in strict accordance with the logical principles to be found in Carroll's Alice through the Looking-glass. Once you accept these principles then everything he does is perfectly logical and yet (or perhaps therefore) he is probably the finest tournament player of our time.
Then he turned to King Duncan, who never exactly adhered to the Dodgson Dicta like Bobby:
On another level, there is the strange Canadian master, Suttles. During a tournament, or away from one for all I know, he never willingly gets up before midday. This treatment of time is on a par with his topsy-turvy methods of play over the board. For him the ideal development of his Kkt is KR3 and similarly KB2 is best for the Qkt. I once thought that, talented player though he undoubtedly is, he handicapped himself very much with these methods; but I no longer believe this. This system of play is employed rather like a red rag to a bull. His opponents, more often hypnotized by these strange procedures, usually succumb to a powerful King-side attack.
Here white played 19.Bd3, a solid enough move that targets the weak g6 square. What he missed, however, was the attractive 19.Rxc6!, which, say Harper and Seirawan, ‘changes the picture completely. At a small cost of material, White can now use b5 for either his a2 knight (via c3) or e2 bishop, and can also play d4-d5, in order to increase his grip on the light squares, while simultaneously embarrassing Black’s a7 queen and eliminating his own weaknesses on d4.’ Is the fact that Suttles could have been undone enough to tarnish his eventual win? Not at all! The true delight of the book lies in the fact that Harper and Seirawan revel in the immanent messiness of chess. 'In the authors' view,' they write, 'the existence of this possibility [19.Rxc6!] enhances rather than detracts from the artistic quality of this game. "Correct" chess is boring - without mistakes chess is a draw, just as without asymmetry the universe itself is lifeless. Suttles was always ready to induce an error by his opponent. But some errors can be so subtle, and missed opportunities so difficult to see, as to elude detection even after the game. Without denying there must be an objective basis for artistry in chess, the fact remains that White did not play 19.Rxc6!' Zinn missed his chance, so yah boo sucks. Suttles, on the other hand, lived to fight another day.
Having played through the first three or four games of Chess on the Edge it was evident that Podolski and I shared with the authors the same basic understanding of the game, viz. that chess is a lottery which you're sometimes able to control. But although philosophical lessons on the nature of chess abound (as well as numerous divergences into military history; Bruce Harper was responsible for the absurdly complicated board game A World At War) there is no pedagogical tone to the book. One game that might have been included in the first volume is Benko - Suttles, 1964. There Suttles fights for a win with black until the very end when a draw was quite achieveable, and then ultimately implodes. However, IM Lawrence Day felt it so representative of the wonders of Suttles' play that he chose it as an illustrative example in Keene's Learn from the Grandmasters. Black confused the position so much - and from such an early stage - that it was only really clear that he was losing after he had resigned.
d) Filipowicz - Suttles, 1964. 15...?
e) Suttles - Schmid, 1975. 1.?
The only thing about which I'm mildly concerned is that with the publication of these splendid volumes we may seem some sort of Suttlesian prole drift. The heroes of chess amateurs such as myself tend to be the genuinely deserving: world champions, for example. But Suttles has been my little secret, and for several years now I have been muddling through the congress circuit by ripping Dunc off wholesale: ...Nh6 is usually more than enough to throw somebody in the ECF 110-140 bracket and gain a few minutes on the clock. Selfish bastard that I am, I almost wish that Chess on the Edge had never been written. As it is, however, they are all now freely available down at Speedy Malc's in Euston Road. Not only that but the first volume, at least, stands up as the most charming chess book ever published, and so I fear it's rather my duty as a reviewer to insist you all pick up a copy. Don't listen to a word of it though, they're talking nonsense.