The Byrne Brothers
Robert Eugene Byrne was born in Brooklyn on April 20, 1928. His father was Frank Byrne. His mother was Elizabeth Cattalier Byrne.
Donald Byrne was born in Brooklyn on June 12, 1930.
The Byrne brothers lived with their mother in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. Their parents had separated in 1931.
In 1936, at the age of 8, Robert Byrne was inspired to learn chess after seeing chess players in the local park in New York. His first teacher was Miss Kassin, a teacher at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Donald Byrne also learned how to play chess in 1936 at the age of 6.
In the 1940s, Robert Byrne’s IQ was tested; it was in the genius category. In school, his marks were higher in mathematics than in any other subject. Donald Byrne’s IQ was measured at 190 when he was 13 (source: Collins – My Seven Chess Prodigies).
In 1942, Robert and Donald Byrne met Jack Collins, who soon became their coach and members of the Hawthorne Chess Club.
In 1943, Robert and Donald Byrne took up correspondence chess. They were active in correspondence chess tournaments for several years. Robert was the stronger correspondence player.
In 1943, the Byrne brothers volunteered for the “Chess for Veterans” program by playing chess with wounded veterans at the Halloran Hospital in Staten Island.
At home, when Robert lost a game of chess to his younger brother Donald, he would throw the chessboard off the table.
Robert’s first chess book was Modern Chess Openings, 6th edition. He began to read and study chess three to four hours a day at home. He spent three months reading Basic Chess Endings by Reuben Fine.
In 1944, both Byrne brothers joined the Manhattan Chess Club and both played in the Manhattan Chess Club championship in 1944-45 (won by Albert Pinkus). Robert Bryne was able to draw with U.S. champion Arnold Denker, draw master Alexander Kevitz and defeat master Max Pavey in the 1944-45 Manhattan Chess Club championship.
In 1944, Robert Byrne won the Manhattan Chess Club Junior Masters championship. Donald Byrne also participated in that event.
In 1945, Robert and Donald Byrne were the top players of their high school, Brooklyn Technical High School, which had over 200 members.
In June 1945, Donald Byrne qualified for the 4th U.S. Speed championship (10 seconds a move) in New York, but took 10-11th place in the finals (won by Reuben Fine). Robert Byrne took 2nd place in his finals, ahead of Edward Lasker, Herbert Seidman and Arthur Bisguier.
In June-July 1945, Robert Byrne played in the 7th annual Ventnor City Invitational tournament (won by Weaver Adams) and took 8th place with a score of 4 out of 9. Bryne, as White, beat Weaver Adams in their individual game, a King’s Gambit Declined. It was Weaver’s only loss. Byrne won the best-played game prize for his victory over Adams.
In August 1945, Robert Byrne took 2nd place in the New York State Championship, won by George Kramer (age 16). Donald Byrne took 5th place. Robert Byrne won the New York State Speed championship. Donald Byrne tied for 2nd with George Koltanowski.
In November 1945, both Byrne brothers played in the Manhattan Chess Club championship (won by Kevitz). Donald Byrne defeated Arnold Denker in the first round. Robert Byrne took 5th place and Donald Byrne tied for 6th-9th place.
In 1945-46, Brooklyn Tech High School, led by the Bryne brothers, won the New York City’s Interscholastic Chess League with a perfect 6-0 score.
In 1946, Donald Byrne, age 16, tied for 4th-5th place, with Olaf Ulvestad, at the 47th US Open, held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The event was won by Herman Steiner. Robert Byrne tied for 1st-2nd with George Kramer in the Premier Reserves section at the U.S. Open.
In September 1946, Robert Byrne won the New England chess championship, which was held in Hartford, Connecticut. He scored 7.5 out of 8.
In 1946, Donald Byrne took 6th-7th place in the 5th US Speed Championship, won by Juan Gonzales.
In late 1946, Robert Byrne attended Yale and played on Board 1 for its chess team. He tied for 1st with Walter Shipman in the 1946-47 US Intercollegiate championship.
In 1947, Donald Byrne was member of the Manhattan Chess Club which defeated the Marshall Chess Club in the New York Metropolitan Chess League championship. Donald beat Ted Dunst in their individual game.
In 1947, Robert Byrne was at Yale and won the US Intercollegiate championship and the Intercollegiate Speed championship.
In June 1947, Donald Byrne beat former world champion Max Euwe in a simultaneous exhibition held in Brooklyn.
In July 1947, Donald Byrne traveled to Havana, Cuba to play in an international tournament. He took 2nd place, ahead of Edward Lasker. The event was won by Gilberto Garcia.
In September 1947, Donald Byrne took 11th-18th in the New York State championship, won by Albert Pinkus. Donald Byrne won New York’s first speed championship with a 6-1 score.
In 1947, Donald Byrne took 2nd in the Manhattan Chess Club Junior championship, won by Walter Shipman.
In November 1947, Donald Byrne, representing one of the boards of the Manhattan Chess Club, played in a radio match against the Jockey Club of La Plata, Buenos Aires, but lost his game against M. Luckis. The Argentine team won 6.5 to 3.5.
In 1947, Donald Byrne tied for 2nd, with Larry Evans in the US Speed championship, won by Max Pavey.
In December 1947, Robert Byrne, a student at Yale, won the annual intercollegiate individual championship on tiebreaks. He was awarded the H. Arthur Nabel Memorial Trophy. He also won the collegiate speed championship, scoring a perfect 9-0.
In 1948, Donald Byrne took 2nd place in the Manhattan Chess Club championship. The event was won by Arthur Bisguier.
In 1948, Donald Byrne took 5th place in the Manhattan Chess Club Masters tournament, won by George Kramer.
In November 1948, Robert Byrne won the 7th annual US Speed championship. Donald Byrne took 5th-6th. Donald Byrne won Group A of the qualification round and Robert Byrne won Group B of the qualification round.
In 1949, Robert Byrne won the Manhattan Chess Club Junior Masters’ championship. He only lost one game, to his brother, Donald. Donald Byrne took 2nd place. Robert was then invited to play in the annual Hastings Christmas tournament, but he declined in order to study for final examinations at Yale.
In February 1950, Robert Byrne represented the U.S. in a short wave radio match with Yugoslavia. He drew both his games with Boris Kostich.
In 1950, the first USCF rating list appeared. Donald Byrne was rated 2392. Robert Byrne was rated 2352.
In June 1951, Robert Byrne took 6-7th place in the Maurice Wertheim Memorial, won by Samuel Reshevsky.
In August 1951, Donald Byrne took 4th place in the preliminary division of the 8th U.S. Chess Championship (1 win, 2 draws, 2 losses), but did not qualify for the finals (won by Larry Evans).
In 1951, Robert Byrne was ranked #7 in the US with a rating of 2465. Donald Byrne was ranked #14 in the US, with a rating of 2391.
In 1951-52, Donald Byrne took 2nd place in the 64th Manhattan Chess Club Championship, won by George Kramer.
In 1952, Donald Byrne won the Log Cabin Club championship in West Orange, New Jersey.
In July 1952, Donald Byrne took 3rd-4th in the 53rd US Open, held in Tampa. The event was won by Larry Evans.
In August 1952, Robert Byrne won the bronze medal on board 3 at the 10th chess Olympiad in Helsinki. He won 8, drew 5, and lost 2 games, scoring 70%. He was awarded the International Master title by FIDE that year.
In 1952, Robert Byrne graduated from Yale University.
Robert Byrne represented the United States 9 times in Chess Olympiads from 1952 to 1976, and won 7 medals (1 team gold medal, 3 silver medals, 3 bronze medals).
In 1953, Robert Byrne became a professor of philosophy at Indiana University.
In 1953, Donald Byrne won the 54th U.S. Open Chess Championship, held in Milwaukee. He scored 10.5 out of 13.
In 1953 and 1954, Robert Byrne was the 2nd highest rated player (2601) in the United States, behind Samuel Reshevsky. Donald Byrne was the 4th highest rated player (2544) in the US.
In June 1954, Donald Byrne played on the USA team in the USA vs. USSR radio match. He defeated Yuri Averbakh (3 wins, 1 loss) on board 4. He had the best score of any American. Robert Byrne represented the U.S. in a team match against the USSR on board 6. He lost to Alexander Kotov (losing 1 game and drawing 3). USSR won 20 to 12.
In 1954-55, Donald Byrne played in the 1st Rosenwald Trophy tournament in New York and took 4th place.
In 1955 through 1957, Robert Byrne was the 3rd highest rated player in the USA, behind Reshevsky and Larry Evans.
In April-May 1955, Donald Byrne represented the U.S. in a team match against the USSR at Moscow. He lost to Efim Geller on board 4 (1 win, 3 losses). Robert Byrne played on board 5. He lost to Paul Keres (3 losses and 1 draw).
In August 1955, Donald Byrne took 3rd place at the 56th US Open in Long Beach, scoring 9.5 out of 12. Sammy Reshevsky and Nicholas Rossolimo tied for 1st.
In 1956, Donald Byrne lost to 13-year-old Bobby Fischer in what was called the Game of the Century. The game was played in the Rosenwald tournament in New York.
In 1957, Donald Byrne took 3rd place at the 58th U.S. Open in Cleveland, scoring 9.5 out of 12. Robert Byrne shared 4-7th, scoring 9 out of 12. Bobby Fischer and Arthur Bisguier tied for 1st place. Fischer won on tiebreak.
In 1958-59, Robert Byrne played in his first U.S. Chess Championship. He placed 9-10th with 4 out of 11. Bobby Fischer won the event.
In 1959-60, Robert Byrne played in his second U.S. Chess Championship. He took 2nd place with 8 out of 11. Bobby Fischer won the event.
In 1960, Robert Byrne won the 61st U.S. Open Chess Championship at St. Louis, scoring 10 out of 12.
In 1960, Robert Byrne took the silver medal on third board at the Chess Olympiad in Leipzig, Germany.
In 1960-61, Robert Byrne took 8-11th place in the U.S. Chess Championship.
In 1961, Robert Byrne took 2nd-5th place at Mar del Plata. The event was won by Miguel Najdorf.
In 1961, Donald Byrne became an associate professor of English at Penn State University. He was invited there to teach and to coach the varsity chess team.
In 1961-62, Robert Byrne took 2md-3rd place in the U.S. Chess Championship, won by Larry Evans.
In 1962, Donald Byrne was awarded the International Master title.
Donald Byrne played for or captained five U.S. Chess Olympiad teams between 1962 and 1972. He represented the USA in three chess Olympiads (1962, 1964, and 1968).
In 1962-63, Robert Byrne took 6th place in the U.S. Chess Championship. The event was won by Bobby Fischer.
In 1963-64, Robert Byrne took 6th place in the U.S. Chess Championship.. Bobby Fischer won the event with a perfect score of 11-0.
In 1964, Robert Byrne took 3rd place in Buenos Aires, behind Paul Keres and Tigran Petrosian.
In 1964, Robert Byrne was awarded the Grandmaster title from FIDE.
In 1965, Robert Byrne tied with Samuel Reshevsky in the National Open, held in Nevada.
In 1965, Robert Byrne tied for 1st with Bill Lombardy at the Western Open on St. Louis.
In 1965-66, Robert Byrne took 2nd-3rd in the U.S. Chess Championship, won by Bobby Fischer. Robert Byrne defeated Fischer in this event.
In 1966, Robert Byrne won the Western Open in Milwaukee.
In 1966, Robert Byrne tied for 1st place with Pal Benko in the U.S. Open, held in Seattle.
In 1966-67, Robert Byrne took 8-10th place in the U.S. Chess Championship, won by Bobby Fischer.
In 1967, Robert Byrne won the Puerto Rico Open.
In 1967, Robert Byrne played in the Sousse Interzonal, but only score 7.5 out of 22.
In 1968, Donald Byrne won the Atlantic Open, held in New York.
In 1969, Donald played in the U.S. Chess Championship, but spent a lot of time grading papers during the tournament.
In 1970. Robert Byrne won the Atlantic Open in New York and the Continental Open.
In November 1970, Robert Byrne won the American Open in Santa Monica.
In 1972, Robert Byrne took 1-3rd in the U.S. Chess Championship after tying with Samuel Reshevsky and Lubomir Kavalek.
In 1972, Robert Byrne went to Reykjavik, Iceland to report on the Fischer-Spassky world championship match.
From October 10, 1972 to November 12, 2006, Robert Byrne was a chess columnist for the New York Times for 34 years.
In 1973, Robert Byrne won the playoff for the 1972 U.S. Chess Championship, in a match against Reshevsky and Kavalek, held in Chicago.
In 1973, Robert Byrne took 3rd place (behind Korchnoi and Karpov) at the Leningrad Interzonal, with 12.5 out of 17 points. He became the 4th American, after Reshevsky, Fischer, and Benko, to qualify for the Candidates Tournament.
In 1974, Robert Byrne was a World Chess Championship Candidate. In January, 1974, he lost his Candidates match to Boris Spassky at San Juan, Puerto Rico (lost 3, drew 1 , won 1).
At the end of 1974, Robert Byrne was the highest rated active player in the US, with a rating of 2618. Bobby Fischer was inactive, with a rating of 2810.
In 1975, Robert Byrne was the 2nd highest rated player in the US, with a rating of 2549. Walter Browne was ranked #1, with a rating of 2594.
On April 8, 1976, Donald Byrne died of complications arising from lupus at the age of 45. He was survived by his wife, Madge, and his son Eli.
In 1976, Robert Byrne took 5-6th place at the Biel Interzonal, missing qualifying the Candidates matches by ½ point.
In 1976 and 1977, Robert Byrne was the highest rated player in the US, with a rating of 2578.
In 1989, Robert Byrne lost to Deep Thought computer.
In 1994, Robert Byrne was inducted in the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame.
In 2002, Donald Byrne was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in Miami (now located in St. Louis).
In 2004, Robert Byrne was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chess Journalists of America.
On April 12, 2012 Robert Byrne died at his home in Ossining, New York from Parkinson’s disease. He was 8 days away from his 85th birthday.
Happy Birthday Robert Byrne. R.I.P.