Armed Forces Champ & Brilliant Tactician Emory Tate, 1958-2015


Tate accepting his 2nd Armed Forces Championship title

Brilliant tactician, International Master and 5-time Armed Forces Champion Emory Tate died on October 17, 2015. He was playing at a chess tournament in San Jose, California, the GM Sam Shankland Championship. Emory is remembered by peers and fans for his outlandish attacks and dramatic post-mordem analysis.

As recently as National Chess Day on October 10, 2015, Emory contributed his own analysis to US Chess, on a blindfold exhibition at the Weibel Elementary School in Fremont, California.

An excerpt from that piece, after Emory played 16.Qe4, showed off his colorful approach to the game and to its annotations.

A move played to create confusion!!! Most blindfold players would have a hard time seeing it.  My opponent even stuttered (Qe4?)  Yes.  And the battle continued.   Emory was featured on the earliest days of Chess Life Online for his trips in 2006 and 2007 to the Curacao Chess International, where he revealed his “frozen pawn” idea and executed his usual Grandmaster scalps.

Also see Emory’s famous win over GM Yudasin.

FM Todd Andrews said, “He took me down in the first tournament I ever beat a master, but praised my teenage brain in doing so. While he was no stranger to controversy, he also knew how to encourage. We traveled the Northeast together. We both found ways to hustle up gas money to get to the next event. We got lost and somehow found our way back again. He was always proud of his children. He showed me that a southern boy could go toe-to-toe with the Grandmasters…. Everyone in American chess knew right and well how strong and charismatic he was the entire time he was here. RIP, my ole friend – you are already sorely missed and US tournaments will not see another like you ever come along.” Daniel Parmet wrote of a saying that went around the US chess subculture, “you are not a real chess player if you do not have an Emory Tate story.”

On, GM Maurice Ashley said, “Players like him do not come along every day, every month, every year. He was one in a generation, and he will be thought of, always, with a chuckle and a smile. No doubt he is challenging Tal to some blitz right now. ”

Share your own favorite Emory stories or games in the comments thread, and see FM Mike Klein’s report for more memories and games.


  1. I had long heard of Emory Tate’s reputation, since I began playing tournament chess in 1993. His aggression over the board seemed to be reflected by the intensity of his eyes.
    Once however, I experienced his personal charm, first hand.
    I was an obscure Class-A player when I came to his attention, in the final round of the 1998 Cincinnati Open. He was playing board 1 with a perfect score, while I was at board 2. We both finished with 4½, tied for first with two others. He congratulated me and then thanked me for ‘pulling’ the class-A prize into the winners pot, increasing the amount for each of us. He also complimented my reckless play by generously characterizing me as “a pawn-sacking attacker”. I never had the pleasure of speaking with him again, but on that day he certainly made me feel like one of the “big boys” by finishing 1st while seated next to him. We are all diminished by his sudden loss.
    Wishing Peace to him, and to his beautiful family.

  2. When I think of geniuses I’ve known in my life, Emory is always the first to come to mind. We became friends in the early 90s, as he would come to the Chesterton, Indiana monthly chess tournament and win first place every time. I watched him after the Kasparaov/Short match question why Kasparov didn’t immediately play g4 in a dragon variation. At first I thought he must be crazy, since surely Kasparov had considered and rejected it, until I watched Emory demonstrate against Rebel (then strongest chess software) how g4 won in every variation. It was like watching a mad scientist create Frankenstein. Emory was the real deal–a natural genius. I learned that his secret was he always believed in himself and took nothing at face value. He questioned everything and never for a moment stayed “in the box”. I cried when I saw he passed. The world was much more interesting with him in it. Ross Hubbell

    • Emory Tate was a dear friend of mine. I first met him in 1988 at the Armed Forces Chess Championship. He took clear first along with the Air Force chess team. I ran into him again in Las Vegas and then again in Reno at several chess tournaments. We became very close. I invited him to Ensenada Mexico to play in the 2011 Carnival Chess Tournament along with my Chess student Edward Lewis. Emory took clear first and Edward Lewis also took clear first in the lower section below the open section. I came in clear fourth in the open section. Prior to Emory coming out to California I called him in Alabama and he said ‘Cisco I would love to go , but I have no money to get out to San Diego.” I told him Emory hang on ok I will call you right back. I booked and paid a flight for him and a few days later me and Ed Lewis picked him up at the San Diego Airport. Ed and I drove from the bay area in my 2001 Silverado and I funded the whole trip. Just having him around me was an honor. I was with Emory the last days of his life. We spent the last week together and taught together at the chess event at Weibel Elementary in Fremont California. Emory had no equal in the combination/predator part of his unique style of chess. Seeing him falon the tournament floor and eventually losing his life was so traumatic to me. I along with the whole world have lost a unique chess player. Emory was my friend, my older brother and I miss him very very much. On 6th and 7th of Feb 2016 we will honor him at the Carnival Chess tournament to be held in Ensenada Mexico. ( Casa de Cultura) For more info you can call me at 510-828-6105. Any donations if anyone can help with the tournament will be appreciated. All donations are tax deductible. My email is [email protected]

  3. Very sorry to learn of Emory Tate’s passing. He was an incredibly talented and brilliant player. He was kind to me at a tournament and gave me some good advice.

  4. Greetings!

    …I played Emory in blitz many times earlier on in my USAF career…while stationed at Lackland AFB (approx 1981 or so…)…while he was attending language school (he was learning russian). I think I may have won a few…by my word…he won so many of our games…and yet…his “eloquence” just made the experience so fun (I guess)…he did ramble much on the blitz…I guess the distracting technique…but still, it was fun….he was strong, he was creative, he was REAL….I had no idea he would eventually move on to become a world class IM….

    I wish I know more about some of his struggles later on…I would certainly have invited him to the house for slumber (if needed)….also transportation support…damn…life is short….

    Emory loved chess…he was passionate about living…and CHESS was his life (family too)!!

  5. He was haunting in world tourist conversation around me for more than 50 years …one by one people would people would mention him a shadow. He lived on long distance buses..played right off them. Jude Acers/ New Orleans

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