Former US Champion and “Dean of Chess” Arthur Bisguier, Dies at 87

Arthur Bisguier, around 1981

Hall of Famer, US Champion and Grandmaster Arthur Bernard Bisguer (October 8, 1929- April 5, 2017) died at 87 years old of respiratory failure. In 2005, Arthur Bisguier was recognized by the US Chess Federation as “Dean of American Chess”, in honor of his promotion of and many contributions to the game. Judy Misner of US Chess said, “Art was not only a GM, but was an employee at US Chess (as Grandmaster on Staff) for many years and a friend to many. He will be missed.”

 

Bisguier on the cover of the 1947 Chess Review

Bisguier passed on April 5, midway through the 2017 US Championship, a title that Bisguier himself earned in 1954. He also won two US Junior Championships, three US Opens, a US Senior Open, and represented the United States in five Chess Olympiads. As the New York Times reported, Bisguier’s aggressive style would have likely earned him even more US Championships titles if not for Bobby Fischer. “When Mr. Fischer came along, he was 14 years younger than Mr. Bisguier, but he began to dominate the American chess scene almost immediately….Mr. Bisguier’s one taste of victory against Mr. Fischer came in the first game they ever played (when Fischer was 13). ”

Arthur Bisguier won the third edition of the famous Lone Pine Tournament in 1973, where he scored 6/7 and notched some of his trademark attacking victories.

Bisguier on the 1973 Chess Life & Review cover

He was one of the most active American Grandmasters, playing regularly well into his 80s, and was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame in 1994.

Pete Tamburro wrote in the August 1994 Chess Life Magazine, on the occasion of Bisguier’s induction:

“His meteoric climb to the top culminated with a winning 10-3 score in the 1954 US. Champion­ship, one point ahead of Evans, who had held the title for three years. Kenneth Harkness, writing for Chess Life, assured readers that Bisguier would be a popular titleholder: ‘As friendly as a puppy, Art Bisguier doesn’t have an enemy in the world. If he cannot say something nice about you, Art doesn’t say anything. He bub­bles over with enthusiasm for chess and chess­players. it is no effort for Art to win friends and influence people. It is a natural gift.””

Bisguier, author of the Art of Bisguier, was was known for his attacking style and won a Best Game award for the following miniature:

Arthur Bisguier on the cover of the 1980 Chess Life 

Look for more remembrances of Art Bisguier on this website and in an upcoming issue of Chess Life Magazine.

Comments

  1. I knew Art since the late 1970s. He played chess in the 1940s at the Bronx Chess Club with my teacher, Dr. Joseph Platz. He always asked me how Dr. Platz was doing. You always got directness from Art. I remember watching him going over games at a Nationl Open that he won around 1979 – he was giving endgame lessons to the Gms and Ims who were asking him for his help reviewing their games. He out-analyzed them all! He was a very gifted and good man. American chess has lost a giant.

  2. I remember when Art used to play in the early years of the 4 Rated Games Tonight Thursday Night Action tournaments at the Manhattan Chess Club in Carnegie Hall, and later in the New York State Action Championships in Saratoga Springs. He used to go over players’ games at the New York State Championship for several years, and his game analysis was a very popular feature of the tournament. He also did the same for several of the Kings Island Opens as well, to similar acclaim.

    He was very generous with his time and talents, and was a very likeable person– a great ambassador for the USCF and for Chess.

    He will certainly be missed.

  3. I worked with Art at Chess Life in the early ’80s. He played little serious chess in those days, but his tremendous knack for the game showed when we analyzed together. He once told me “A master may find a good move; a grandmaster can toss a piece in the air, and it will land on the right square.” His pieces spent many decades landing on those right squares, as well illustrated in his lively book The Art of Bisguier.

    As others have written, he was always cordial and quite generous with his time and expertise. He also enjoyed sharing his self-effacing wit. Asked how to pronounce his name, he told the asker “It’s ‘Bisguier’ as in ‘misfire’.”

    Art richly deserved his designation as “Dean of American Chess.” The game has had few champions as personable, and he’ll be widely missed.

  4. We’ve lost one of our last links to the chess scene of the Forties and Fifties. In addition to being a grandmaster and US Champion, Art was a great raconteur and ambassador for chess. When I worked at US Chess in the mid-Eighties, our conversations (sometimes amounting to free lessons) were instrumental in my attaining the Master title. I never could maintain the 2200 rating, but my memories of Art Bisguier and my gratitude remain.

  5. If my information is correct, GM Arthur held the honorary position of Dean of American Chess. If so, who will succeed him?

  6. Arthur was my teammate four years ago at the USATE, his last event outside his local chess club, which was part of my motivation to participate. He still played at or near master level there at age 83 and we won the Senior prize. I enjoyed talking with him between rounds. We played three times back in or around the 1970s (all draws). If we could ask him who should succeed him as “Dean of American Chess”, I can imagine with his great sense of humor he might reply “Dean Ippolito”, as the highest rated “Dean”! Arthur will be missed.

  7. Why nifty INTERNATIONAL FIDE CHESS GRANDMASTER Mr. LARRY KAUFMAN yo..surely you jest .. you sprightly feisty survival STILL KICKING wonder kid, no way. IN HONOR OF GRANDMASTER BISGUIER… The one the only JOHN DONALDSON, THE TITANIC DEAN OF AMERICAN CHESS the disgustingly pleasant international chess diplomat/world chess literary wonder who has personally brought THRILLING ALEKHINE,RUBINSTEIN,FISCHER pages to Amazon books reborn… world champion chess TEAM USA 2016 BAKU OLYMPIAD CAPTAIN and UNBELIEVABLE long time director of the Mechanics Institute chess rooms of San Francisco.. the all American good guy/organizational wizard , author of all those astonishing historical caves, those 700 plus and counting, absolutely free- on -Friday world chess treasure TO THE WORLD San Francisco Mechanics Institute snap- crackle cackle- and pop M.I. chess bulletins which the entire world can sign up for today and get rocketed to their e mail box for a lifetime!!!! And oh man…have you, the chess analyst supremo and ever the squinty eyebrowed suspicious chess critic/ referee magnificent ..checked out the ‘THIS IS THE END’ the John Donaldson ‘stinger to remember’ at the end of every Donaldson MI bulletin?.. Oh my (thanks Yasser Seirawan!).. a multi diagram chess challenge from the seven wonders of the chess literary world? Suitable for children and all class readers. Must be seen to be believed..You will be jumping out of your future wheelchair when you reach age 105! .. By the way I know another player who would be a quite astonishing, suitable DEAN OF AMERICAN CHESS … A splendid Dean of American Chess who was honored with a visit by titanic former world chess champion Kasparov in his American chess classroom. Now MR. LARRY KAUFMAN just guess who… “No peeking now!” (Thanks K.R. Smith!)at the top secret Captain Midnight mystery answer card hidden just today in a New Orleans city park 250 year old oak tree..but we provide one merciful hint because it is DEEP mystery.. his last name begins with “K”.. and, no, it is not Korchnoi,Karpov , Kramnik or Kasparov …give up? another hint.. the man is here there and everywhere in chess history. Jude Acers/ New Orleans

  8. As a chess ambassador, GM Bisguier promoted chess in a variety of ways, including simultaneous exhibitions. I grew up in Hudson County, across the river from New York. Bisguier played a simul at the Jersey City “Y” Club on May 17, 1970 — with a time limit of 45 moves in 90 minutes — and scored 7-2 (Club members Ed Allen and Mike Connelly pulled out wins). A year or so later he played two simuls a week apart against Hudson County high schoolers, at St. Peter’s Prep and at Marist High. It was a treat, and a unique opportunity, for me as a high school player to play a GM! I played a French Defense, Bisguier sacked a bishop and mated me in 19 moves. During the following week, I found an improvement to better my game. I played the same line of the French during the second simul, with my new move: Bisguier sacked the same bishop, but one move later, and mated me in 20 moves! I told him how he had beaten me with the same theme a week earlier, despite my improvement. He chuckled and said he hoped I learned the theme this time. And I did!

    • Yes, Frank. That was a fantastic program USCF supported. Arthur drove from high school to high school, giving simuls & pulling out any extra sets from his car trunk. He was the first grandmaster I ever saw and I was at awe! Then he asked where the rest room was. He was human! That gave me hope!

  9. Condolence to the family of GM Arthur Bisquier. The chess world lost a great and very modest chess player.I was one of the lucky chess player that have chatted with the great GM during the 80’s and 90’s . GM Bisquier will always be remember for his great analysis of games and his humors/stories about his tournament experiences and anectodes. I am also lucky to play him some blitz games !!! And analyze different chess opening variations,middle games strategy/tactics and the intricacies of end games. May he rest in peace.

  10. I remember Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier always being cordial at CCA events where he was the guest Grandmaster that would go over the games of the amateurs and pump them up with confidence as he always took the conciliatory approach to make us all better, and really educate us to not make the same mistake(s) over and over again. He was humorous from what I can remember, and did this job with a great deal of pride. I can remember at one of the Scholastic National events in which I served as a tournament director, Arthur was given the job as “The Guardian of the Trophies” so that the kids or their parents would not be tempted to steal any of the trophies.

    Always a humorous person and great educator to many, he will be missed and my sincere condolences to the Bisguier family during this difficult time.

  11. Weren’t Bisguier and the late Walter Shipman high school classmates? Both were outstanding guys in their different ways.

    I was always flattered that Bisguier remembered who I was and was eager to have a conversation.

    • I gave him a ride to the US Open (forget what year it was)at Columbus, Ohio. A real nice guy, as I recall – despite the fact he was crammed into the “shotgun seat” of my Volkswagen! It was my first US Open (of about eleven), and it started me on the path…

      • Mr. Marfia..in one way or another , like Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier, you seem to have given everyone in the whole chess world a delightful ride. “That man seems to be everywhere” said Doris Thackery , incredible US chess policy board member in Ann Arbor, Michigan (June, 1976)..as she was PERSONALLY plopping me on an airplane to New York for my monster ,career saving MEDIA WIPEOUT Long Island “weekend of the tall ships” MID ISLE PLAZA 179 board Guinness Book of world records simultaneous exhibition..WHICH SHE ALONE SAVED .. when the entire US Chess federation refused to help that truly weird, dead- broke- on- the- road Louisiana boy get there. I remember her words quite clearly after all this time. Good winds to you always. Jude Acers/ New Orleans

        • By the way did you know that Doris Thackery ,eternally busy , still managed to draw a marathon simultaneous game with world chess giant Paul Keres? It really happened! “Keres was not too happy!”- Doris Thackery (Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 1976) Jude Acers/ New Orleans

  12. My only contacts with Mr. Bisguier were at 4 simultaneous exhibitions he gave in the Newburgh, NY, area in the 1980’s, but he seemed like a kind, friendly individual, and I just wanted to add my condolences.

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