Grandmaster, Priest, Fischer Coach William Lombardy (1937-2017) Dies

Grandmaster William Lombardy died in Martinez, California the morning of October 13, 2017, of a heart attack. He won the World Junior Championship in 1957 with a perfect 11-0 score, shared first in three US Opens and represented the US chess team in numerous team competitions. Lombardy was also an ordained priest and had degrees in Philosophy, Ethics and Educational Psychology.
The August 1960 cover of Chess Review: Jerry Spann, Raymond Weinstein and William Lombardy heading to the world student team championship in Leningrad.
IM John Donaldson told US Chess, "The word legend is over used, but Bill Lombardy really was an American chess legend. The only player to win the World Junior Championship with a perfect score, he led the United States to first place in the 1960 World Student Team Championship. Lombardy won six individual and team medals in seven Olympiads and played a key role in Bobby Fischer's development." Well known for coaching Bobby Fischer during the 1972 World Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland, Lombardy was memorably portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard in the major motion picture "Pawn Sacrifice."
William Lombardy, played by Sarsgaard (left) and Bobby Fischer, played by Tobey Maguire
IM Anthony Saidy, team-mate of Lombardy, recalled to US Chess Bill's jocular nature. During skittles, Bill would say, 'Strong moves!' slyly mocking one's attacking attempts. "Just imagine if Bill had 1) not detoured into the priesthood 2) had a trainer/coach to correct habitual severe time pressure and make him an opening expert and 3) had financial security." In recent years, Lombardy struggled with financial issues, and the New York Times covered his two year long eviction battle in 2016, after which he left New York, ultimately ending up in the Bay Area.  Lombardy was featured in an article by Eric Vigil for US Chess in February of this year, when he visited the Port of Burlington Open.  "I made GM Lombardy a coffee, and he sat down at the fair trade marketplace of The Loft where he proceeded to hold court. Players would go down and chat. GM Lombardy signed whatever was placed in front of him, told stories and answered questions about Bobby Fischer, and went over the games of any player who had guts enough to approach him. Well, once the first player did, then everyone started doing it. Dr. Connie Pieper came up to me while her 11 year old sons, Justin and Eric, were having one of their games analyzed by GM Lombardy. She was amazed and asked, 'Is that really GM Lombardy? Is it the same one that coached the 11-year-old Bobby Fischer and is now explaining my son’s chess game move by move?' I could only look back at her and smile, “'Yes it sure is.'”
William Lombardy was honored at the 2017 US Open in Norfolk, Photo Jim Doyle
Reporting for chess.com, FM Mike Klein points out the many parallels between Lombardy and Fischer, starting with their respective 11-0 sweeps in the US Junior and US Chess Championships: "That 11/11 further aligns him with his compatriot and confidant, Fischer, who several years later would also score the only perfect score (also 11/11) in U.S. Championship history. Lombardy and Fischer both share the middle name "James" and both had the same early teacher, Jack Collins. The duo were also both good in their early years at fantastic offerings of the queen." Play through some of Lombardy's games below (including some queen sacrifices) and look for more updates on this story on US Chess and in Chess Life Magazine, including further memories of Bill from the chess community.
[pgn]

[Event "54th US Open"]
[Site "Milwaukee, WI USA"]
[Date "1953.08.21"]
[White "William James Lombardy"]
[Black "Norman Tweed Whitaker"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D09"]
[PlyCount "139"]
[EventDate "1953.??.??"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. g3 Be6 6. Nbd2 Bb4 7. Qc2 Qd7 8. a3
Bxd2+ 9. Bxd2 O-O-O 10. b4 Bg4 11. Bg2 d3 12. Qxd3 Qe6 13. Qc3 Bxf3 14. Bxf3
Nd4 15. Be3 Qxe5 16. Bxd4 Qxd4 17. Qxd4 Rxd4 18. c5 Ne7 19. Rd1 Rhd8 20. Rxd4
Rxd4 21. O-O Rc4 22. Rd1 a5 23. Rb1 Rc3 24. bxa5 c6 25. a6 bxa6 26. Rb6 Rxc5
27. Rxa6 Kb7 28. Ra4 Kb6 29. Ra8 h5 30. Rf8 Rf5 31. Re8 Ng6 32. Rg8 Ne5 33. Be4
Rf6 34. Rxg7 Nc4 35. a4 Nb2 36. Bc2 Ka5 37. Bb3 c5 38. Bxf7 c4 39. Bxc4 Nxc4
40. Rg5+ Kxa4 41. Rxh5 Kb3 42. Rd5 Nb6 43. Rd1 Kc2 44. Rd8 Nc4 45. Rc8 Kc3 46.
f3 Kd4 47. Kf2 Nd6 48. e3+ Kd5 49. Rc2 Ne4+ 50. Kg2 Ng5 51. Rd2+ Ke6 52. f4 Ne4
53. Rd4 Nc5 54. g4 Kf7 55. h4 Ne6 56. Rc4 Nf8 57. Kg3 Ra6 58. f5 Ra1 59. g5 Re1
60. Rc7+ Kg8 61. Re7 Nh7 62. Kg4 Nf8 63. g6 Rg1+ 64. Kh5 Rf1 65. e4 Rg1 66. Kh6
Rg4 67. h5 Rg1 68. e5 Rg2 69. e6 Rg1 70. Rg7+ 1-0

[/pgn]
[pgn]

[Event "WchT U26 04th"]
[Site "Reykjavik"]
[Date "1957.07.11"]
[White "William James Lombardy"]
[Black "Pal Benko"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E80"]
[PlyCount "80"]
[EventDate "1957.??.??"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Bg5 c5 7. d5 Nbd7 8. Nge2
a6 9. a4 Re8 10. Qd2 Qa5 11. Ra3 Ne5 12. Nc1 e6 13. f4 Ned7 14. dxe6 fxe6 15.
Bd3 d5 16. e5 d4 17. Ne4 Qxd2+ 18. Nxd2 Ng4 19. O-O Ne3 20. Re1 h6 21. Bf6 Nxf6
22. exf6 Bxf6 23. Bxg6 Rf8 24. Be4 Bd8 25. Raxe3 dxe3 26. Rxe3 Bf6 27. Rg3+ Kf7
28. Nd3 Bd4+ 29. Kf1 Bd7 30. Nf3 Ke7 31. b4 Bc6 32. Bxc6 bxc6 33. Rh3 Bg7 34.
bxc5 Rad8 35. Ke2 a5 36. Nfe5 Bxe5 37. Nxe5 Rxf4 38. Ng6+ Kf6 39. Nxf4 Rd4 40.
Nd3 Rxc4 1-0

[/pgn]
[pgn]

[Event "World Junior Championship"]
[Site "Toronto CAN"]
[Date "1957.08.05"]
[White "Mathias Gerusel"]
[Black "William James Lombardy"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E33"]
[PlyCount "36"]
[EventDate "1957.08.03"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 Nc6 5. Nf3 d5 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. Qxc3 Ne4 8.
Qc2 e5 9. dxe5 Bf5 10. Qa4 O-O 11. Be3 d4 12. Rd1 dxe3 13. Rxd8 exf2+ 14. Kd1
Rfxd8+ 15. Kc1 a6 16. Qb3 Nc5 17. Qc3 Na5 18. e4 Nab3+ 0-1

[/pgn]
[pgn]

[Event "US Championship"]
[Site "New York, NY USA"]
[Date "1972.04.24"]
[White "William James Lombardy"]
[Black "Arthur Feuerstein"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B90"]
[WhiteElo "2520"]
[BlackElo "2395"]
[PlyCount "71"]
[EventDate "1972.04.23"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e6 7. Be2 Bd7 8. O-O
Nc6 9. f4 Qc7 10. Kh1 Be7 11. Qe1 h5 12. Bf3 Ng4 13. Bg1 g5 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15.
Qd2 Qa5 16. e5 dxe5 17. Rad1 Nf6 18. fxg5 Nd5 19. Nxd5 Qxd2 20. Nc7+ Kd8 21.
Nxa8 Qxc2 22. Nb6 e4 23. Rxd7+ Ke8 24. Bd1 Qxb2 25. Bb3 e3 26. Bxe3 Qe2 27. Rf3
Qe1+ 28. Bg1 Bc5 29. Rd1 Qe5 30. Nd7 Qxg5 31. Nf6+ Kf8 32. Bxc5+ Kg7 33. Rg3
Qxg3 34. hxg3 Kxf6 35. Bd4+ e5 36. Rf1+ 1-0

[/pgn]
Also see obituaries on chessbase, chess.com, Kevin Spraggett's blog, and soon in the New York Times. Also find details on a Memorial blitz tournament set for the Marshall Chess Club, November 28. 

Comments

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

He was a true pillar of American Chess-- a man of deep principles and fierce independence-- a pioneer who was never afraid to go his own way even if meant going it alone. Lombardy was instrumental in Fischer's ascendancy to the world championship. Not only as Bobby's teacher as a little boy (when as Fischer said, he suddenly "got good") but as his inspiration during the 1972 match. When Fischer was down 0-2 at the very beginning, it looked like he might not even finish the match. I am convinced that he did continue because of Bill's efforts, going on to win the 3rd game, and the match, brilliantly. If it were not for William Lombardy, I don't believe Fischer would have been World Champion in 1972. Think of how much different everything would be today if it were not for Bill.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If you leave a remembrance here and are willing for us to use it in Chess Life too, please add #ChessLife at the end of your post. Items used in Chess Life are subject to editing.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Please feel free to use my post in Chess Life if you wish. May William rest in Peace.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was shock to hear the passing of the great GM (Father) William J. Lombardy. I met him during the late 70's in the Philippines which I think he played in an International or Invitational Chess Tournament there. I also played some blitz games with him. R.I.P. Fr. Lombardy and condolence to his family.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I like analizy game Mr. Lombardy especialy with prime period chess carere.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What is the Association of Chess Professionals Veterans Stipend? Who are the distinguished players who have been recipients of this award?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

When I was 12, I started taking lessons from Jack Collins. Bill would come to Jack's place for special events or when Jack staged team events with the Collins Kids playing kids from West Point Academy, Iceland or at the U.S. Amateur. Bill became friends with my parents often sharing his ideas about how to bring up a strong chess player. My first draw against a grandmaster came about when another Collins Kid, Sal Matera and Bill gave a tandem simul at the Marshall Chess Club. It was an inspiration for me to achieve such a result against my childhood idol. I didn't meet too many grandmasters in those days! Bill was also very devoted to Jack Collins. When one of Jack's students who was already master strength left for a different coach, Bill was shocked. I heard that he was at times a difficult man, but we always had the best relations, and I will always remember him as the first grandmaster who gave me real chess advice. In this he was a true champion!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was introduced to William Lombardy by a mutual friend, Jim Buff, 52 years ago. In 2009, William was first board on our team in Parsippany at the World & USATE. It was an enhancement to the usual experience there with the esprit de corp of the chess community. He said he wanted to live another three years in order to write three books. He was a great player and a principled and purposeful man. Perhaps, having goals helps to keep us going. #ChessLife

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

He inspired my son at the US Open held in Madison in 2013 and we still talk about those moments with him. He told Des, "Read...read lot's of books-you don't need school." We bought his book, bought his lunch, and would never forget.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

William Lombardy - a genius of his chess generation. Mentor and second to Bobby Fischer is a qualification that stands on its own merits.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] In memory of one of the greatest legends of American chess, William Lombardy (1937-2017), the Marshall Chess Club plans a FIDE Rated Memorial Blitz. Find details below. […]

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

As a kid, I remember studying his great book "modern opening traps" and that was the book that got me hooked on chess. His comments and narration made reading the book fun and interesting. I credit GM Lombardy for introducing me to a life-long hobby. 41years later and I'm still enjoying this wonderful game. RIP GM Lombardy and may God forever keep you in His loving care.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I know Bill since I m 9 yrs old - Bill well then was Fr.Lombardy - I grew up blocks from him - I was also an Alter Boy when he said Mass. We grew up in the Bronx N.Y.C.Years have gone by n I move to the city - 12 Stuyvesant Oval - I check the register in my building and Bill was on the 6 th floor - 6B - I was in 11D - I knock on his door n we started where we left off - we talked about Chess - we went to restaurants lots - Polish which he spoke Polish - Russian which he spoke Russian - he loved this Restaurant in Hoboken , N.J. Arthur's we either walked to 6 th ave or took the bus - n then the Path we talked of Chess on the way - but not at the restaurant. It was $12 bucks for a 12 oz steak string beans n unlimited coleslaw. Bill loved it - he had mine n what ever they brought over - one thing Bill loved to eat n I liked taking him out. I am a photographer - n at times I would take bill out when I shot parties - I had a shoot for a cigar company n they gave me a box - I got Bill a box also - I took Bill to charity shoots which he loved - free drinks n food. One was a fund Raiser for 911 - Bill Volunteered - he played chess for I think it was $500 a game. They Loved Bill - he was given a box of cigars n I gave him a box - it was at a Cigar Bar in the upper east side - Bill did tell me - that he beat Bobby Fisher twice the morning he was to play Russia - He said Bobby wasn't ready for the match. Bill was also alumi from Cardinal Hayes High School - which I was also - So the 3 of us went to the reunion - Billy , my Ex Wife {wife then} and myself - it was great - Bill and I spent lots of time together - I was with him when he had his hip replaced - I we only talked Chess - we played only when I was younger - he told me he was playing this big game and he got all his pawns on the other side making them all queens so he had 9 Queens. Bill was also a Theologian so we talked about Religion - I will dig out out some pics of Bill. He also spoke lots about his son Raymond - he was name after a Priest - Fr. Raymond Foster - who was a really Cool Cool Priest - he would let Bill go to his matches n play - bur there were lots of cool things about Fr. Foster. Raymond (his son) if your reading this this your Dad LOVED sooo Sooo much - he spoke of you lots = like he just saw you - all his books he wrote - he wrote in your honor - Raymond if you want to talk to me - I m at 917-330-1327 I am living in Arizona - thats a NYC phone number - I was trying to Call Bill - I wanted him to come out here - but his phone didn't work - I have been here 10 yrs this May 16. Well I will end this. I will look for my pics of Bill - Peace _joe

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The greatest gentleman the chess world has had. Yes, Fischer needed him to make it to the top.

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