Eric Schiller Dies at 63: “Will be Remembered for His Love of Chess”

Schiller & PR chief Judy Grossman. Photo by Nigel Eddis.

Eric Schiller, author, coach, organizer and FIDE Master, died on November 3, 2018 of cardiovascular disease, after  long illness. One of the game’s most prolific authors and engaging personalities, Eric’s loss is deeply felt in the chess community. International Master Dr. Anthony Saidy called Schiller, “a unique chess figure, linguist by training, assistant to Kasparov, FIDE master, author of innumerable books, organizer, teacher, of indomitable will and optimism till the end.”

International Master John Donaldson told CLO that he would be sorely missed.

Eric Schiller will be remembered for his love of chess. He was involved in the game in many ways: as a player (FIDE Master), tournament director (International arbiter), organizer (over two dozen norms tournaments as well as the 1983 World Student Team Championship in Chicago and the 1998 US Open in Kona, Hawaii), prolific writer and teacher of thousands of kids. Eric was well-known for his generosity in helping others even in the last decade of his life when he struggled with serious health problems.

Hal Bogner, a close friend of Eric’s, informed the chess community of Schiller’s death. “I’ve lost one of my closest friends ever, of almost 40 years, and I’m sure many here share this loss with his mom and five sisters and brothers. I hope many anecdotes can be shared here, and we can celebrate his great spirit, which he maintained even in the years since his initial losses due to diabetes.”

Left to right: Albert Chow, Schiller, Adam Black, Elliott Winslow, Billy Colias. Photo by Jerome Bibuld.

Hal Bogner also pointed out that as the World Championship begins this week, we can think back to Eric’s contributions to World Championship history in London. He was press chief in 1986 and 1993 and arbiter in the 2000 match between Kramnik and Kasparov.

Eric’s adventurous chess style is evident in this victory over International Master Jonathan Schroer.

Eric, who was born on March 20, 1955, is survived by  his mother, Marlene and all of his five siblings, sisters Wendy, Mary and Elizabeth and brothers James and John.

Among the remembrances on social media was National Master and musician Alex King, who will be expanding on his words for the January edition of Chess Life Magazine: “I will always remember his World Champion Openings (1997), which I bought at a scholastic national tournament in 1999 or 2000 and enjoyed and treasured for years. I think many chessplayers have had a similar guilty pleasure for his books at some point in their development. thanks to Schiller, who wasn’t afraid to love big and fail big for chess.”

Please feel free to share your own memories as a comment.

Comments

  1. What not many people may realize is how amazing Eric was. All those books that he wrote, yet he was dyslexic! As records show his final game was in 2016. Even with his health problems from diabetes he did play in the 2012 Tradewise chess festival in Gibraltar. An amazing person who will be missed by many.

    • Larry, where you got the idea that Eric was dyslexic. I can’t imagine that being the case; he’s one of three people I know whose reading comprehension was so rapid that they literally appeared to swallow technical information almost as quickly as they could turn the pages of many books!

  2. I never felt a need to look at his books, but I remember him as a player. We were contemporaries, and while in high school and college I suffered two shocking upsets at his hands.

    The first, played in the final round of a high school team tournament, provided high drama both on and off the board. It can be viewed on chessgames(dot)com with Eric’s notes. The second (which occurred exactly one year later and had a “lightning-strikes-twice” quality for me) can be replayed here, with my notes: http://view.chessbase.com/cbreader/2018/11/8/Game46109496.html

  3. Eric was an extraordinary man. As a brother and a friend. His love of chess, his intellect, and his love of humanity knew no bounds. His passing was truly heartbreaking. Thank you USCF for your remembrance of someone who will be greatly missed by us all.

  4. I echo my sister’s words in that we are appreciative of this remembrance of Eric. He was at times larger than life, and lived it entirely by his own rules, for better or worse. He was kind to his family. His cousins, Shari and Peter, also mourn his loss as well as his many nieces and nephews most of whom were subject to Eric’s chess instruction at one time or another.

  5. Thank you, US Chess, for this very nice remembrance, and to everyone who is sharing their experiences, here and elsewhere! (Although, I must ask you, Larry, where you got the idea that Eric was dyslexic. I can’t imagine that being the case; he’s one of three people I know whose reading comprehension was so rapid that they literally appeared to swallow technical information almost as quickly as they could turn the pages of many books!)

    Here are several obituaries from abroad that I’ve seen:

    By Canadian Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett – http://www.spraggettonchess.com/eric-schiller-rip

    By England’s leading arbiter, Stewart Reuben, on the English Chess Federation’s web site – http://www.englishchess.org.uk/rip-eric-schiller/

    And from so many wonderful comments on his Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/eric.schiller2 I’d like to take the liberty of reposting just a tiny number of the Facebook comments here, from some of the US Chess communities most respected members:

    By GM Joel Benjamin: Most people knew little about Eric beyond the many books he authored. He was so much more than that. He helped other people (me included) get started in the publishing business. He organized loads of internationals which enabled many Americans to get title norms (I got two IM norms that way). He was a genuinely important figure in Kasparov’s career before GK moved up the ladder. He was a brilliant man who never fully pursued his great talents in linguistics and music. He took me to my first and only Grateful Dead concert. He was a caring man who did whatever he could to help people and promote chess. Gone too soon; I will miss you, Eric.

    By Bruce Pandolfini: Eric was a man of vast intelligence, experience, and ability, who did much to enrich chess culture and to spread the gospel of our glorious game. He was admired worldwide and had many loyal and passionate fans. His accomplishments were great and his skill set was unrivaled. I can’t think of anyone quite like him. I don’t see anyone taking his place.

    And by the keeper of the rules of chess, Tim Just: Eric was one of my favorite dinner companions of all time. There was no topic he could not expound upon–I will miss him.

    I’m sure there will be some glasses raised to him in London in the coming weeks. Bon voyage, Eric – “such a long long time to be gone, and a short time to be there.”

  6. I have visited Eric’s facebook page, but did not see anything more recent than 2017. What am I doing wrong? Or, do I have to be a “facebook friend” of his to see all these comments? Perhaps it’s a little too late to make a friend request 🙂

    I more or less lost touch with Eric in the last couple of decades, but I can echo the comments that you’ve read above. Around 1979, when the minimum publishable FIDE rating was 2200, Eric organized “Philidor Futurity” tournaments to enable American players to get FIDE ratings, and I played in two of those (I already had the rating, I was just in it for the glory).

    Not long after that, Eric found an opportunity for me to play in Futurity tournaments in Hong Kong! (That’s something Hal Bogner can remember too.) I also, as part of my “grand tour”, played in some tournaments in Europe; Eric didn’t pull any strings for that, but he gave me very helpful advice about all that chess travel.

    In the early 1980’s, when I finally got around to thinking about careers, I remember wondering how Eric was managing a career in chess. In those days, it was hard to conceive of chess professionals who weren’t as strong as Karpov, or at least as strong as Walter Browne. It might be a little easier nowadays. But it seemed to me that it took guts for Eric to make the career decisions that he did. He tried it all: writing, directing, organizing, officiating, teaching. Whatever it took.

    Fast forward to 1998. I played in Eric’s 1998 U.S. Open in Hawaii; my daughter, who was then 7 years old, played chess with other kids in the evenings and got Judit Polgar’s autograph. What a memorable family vacation!

    Thanks to Eric’s sisters for contributing to the comments on this article. I felt more comfortable about making my own contribution, after seeing yours.

  7. I met Eric Schiller in the Golden Knights correspondence tournament of 1971. He was playing in an OTB tournament in Manhattan during our game, so he invited me up there to meet. He was a really nice, outgoing guy. I his games that day, we hung out in between games. I never saw him again, but was really glad to see the success he had in the chess world. Sorry to hear of his passing.

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