Nikolay Minev (1931-2017)

Few individuals have had as big an impact on the chess world as International Master Nikolay Minev who died on March 10, 2017, in Seattle, Washington. Minev, who was born on November 8, 1931, in Ruse, Bulgaria, didn’t take chess seriously until he was 15, but made quick progress tying for first in the 1951 Bulgarian Championship. He lost the playoff but would go on to win the title in 1953, 1965 and 1966. Minev further cemented his position as one of the top Bulgarian players of the 1950s and 60s by representing his country in six Olympiads where he often played first board and met the likes of Mikhail Botvinnik, Tigran Petrosian and Bobby Fischer.

[Event "WchT Students 01st"]
[Site "Oslo"]
[Date "1954.04.15"]
[White "Minev, Nikolay N"]
[Black "Kortschnoj, Viktor Lvovich"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B22"]
[Annotator "Doe,John"]
[PlyCount "57"]
[EventDate "1954.04.11"]
[EventType "team-tourn"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "NOR"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2014.11.20"]
[WhiteTeam "Bulgaria"]
[BlackTeam "Soviet Union"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "BUL"]
[BlackTeamCountry "URS"]

1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. d4 cxd4 5. cxd4 Nc6 6. Nf3 e6 7. Nc3 Nxc3 8.
bxc3 d6 9. exd6 Bxd6 10. Bd3 Be7 11. O-O O-O 12. Qe2 Bf6 13. Re1 Qd5 14. Bf4
Rd8 15. Rad1 Bd7 16. Ne5 Be8 17. Qh5 g6 18. Ng4 $1 Be7 19. Qh6 Qh5 (19... Qxa2
20. Re3 $1) (19... f5 {was relatively best} 20. Ne5 Bf8 21. Qh4 Nxe5 22. Bxe5 {
and White has a clear advantage but nothing decisive.}) 20. Qxh5 gxh5 21. Ne5 {
A strong move but even better was the computer idea} (21. Nh6+ $1 Kh8 22. Rb1
Rd7 23. Rb5 h4 24. d5 $1 {with the point that} Rxd5 (24... exd5 25. Bf5) 25.
Rxd5 exd5 {is met by} 26. Rxe7 $1) 21... Rac8 22. Nxc6 Bxc6 23. Re5 Ba4 $2 (
23... Rd5 {had to be played.}) 24. Rc1 $1 Ba3 (24... Rd5 25. Rxd5 exd5 26. Bf5
{with a clear advantage.}) 25. Rb1 Rxc3 26. Re3 Rdc8 $2 (26... Kf8 {had to be
played.}) 27. Rg3+ Kf8 28. Rxb7 {The threat of Bh6+ and Rg8+ is impossible to
meet.} Rc1+ 29. Bf1 1-0[/pgn]

[Event "Lasker Memorial"]
[Site "Berlin East"]
[Date "1962.??.??"]
[White "Minev, Nikolay N"]
[Black "Uhlmann, Wolfgang"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C06"]
[PlyCount "65"]
[EventDate "1962.07.08"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "15"]
[EventCountry "DDR"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1998.11.10"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 Qb6 8. Nf3
cxd4 9. cxd4 f6 10. exf6 Nxf6 11. O-O Bd6 12. Bf4 Bxf4 13. Nxf4 Qxb2 14. Rb1
Qa3 $2 (14... Qxa2) 15. Ng5 Qd6 16. Nfxe6 Bxe6 17. Nxe6 Qxe6 18. Re1 Ne4 19.
Bxe4 dxe4 $2 (19... O-O-O 20. Bf3 Qf7 21. Re6 $1 Qc7 (21... Rhe8 22. Rxc6+ $1
bxc6 23. Bg4+ Kc7 24. Qd2) 22. Qa4 {is much better for White.}) 20. d5 Qe5 21.
dxc6 bxc6 22. Qb3 Qd5 23. Qb4 Kf7 24. Qb7+ Kg6 25. Red1 Qe6 26. Qc7 Rac8 27.
Qg3+ Kh5 28. Rd6 Qg4 29. Qe3 Rhf8 30. Rc1 g6 31. Rc5+ Rf5 32. h3 Qg5 33. g4+
Nikolay Minev playing Mikhail Botvinnik at the 1954 Chess Olympiad in Amsterdam
  Minev received the International Master title in 1960, but was never a professional player. He received his medical degree in 1956 and practiced medicine until 1972 when he was named editor of the Bulgarian national chess magazine Shakmatna Misl, a position he held until 1979 when he took a position as a trainer in Greece. Previous to this move Minev had combined his editorial responsibilities with training Ivan Radulov who became the top Bulgarian player of the 1970s. Minev enjoyed even greater success in Greece, a country which in 1979 had no Grandmasters and few International Masters. He played an important role in the development of future Grandmasters Efstratios Grivas, Vasilios Kotronias and Spyridon Skembris who were the beginning of a chess renaissance in Greece.
Nikolay Minev playing David Bronstein at the 1956 Chess Olympiad in Moscow
Minev and his wife Elena were supposed to return to Bulgaria in 1983, but tired of living under communism they instead defected, ended up settling in the United States after a short stay in Vienna. The chess community in Seattle was the beneficiary of their move and not long after settling in his new homeland Minev was editing the local publication Northwest Chess and writing for Players Chess News and Theory and Analysis. When Yasser Seirawan started Inside Chess in 1988 he turned to his good friend Nikolay Minev to be one of the key contributors for the new magazine. Minev’s column on tactics proved to be particularly popular as he had a knack for writing instructive material that was also entertaining. While Minev could engage the club player he could also appeal to the very strongest. Garry Kasparov gave his highest praise to Minev’s 1980 work on rook and pawn endings Ednotopovni Endtspili, a portion of which was later published as A Practical Guide to Rook End Games. This book served as the basis for the volume on rook and pawn ending in the Encyclopedia of Chess Endings series. Minev was closely involved in the Encyclopedia of Chess Endings project and the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings series, continuing a longtime relationship with Chess Informant. All told he was the author of over thirty books on all aspects of chess.
Nikolay Minev at work in his study. (Photo by Derrick Robinson)
Minev was in in his fifties when he settled in the United States, but that didn’t stop him from tying for first in the 1983 American Open and winning the Oregon Open on three occasions in the 1980s. Minev taught much more than he played after settling in Seattle and among his pupils was two-time Washington State Champion and current Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Nikolay Minev was a person of the highest integrity who will be sorely missed by his many friends around the world. Those wishing to learn more about this remarkable individual may wish to go to the website  which is a worthy tribute by his long-time friend and student Phil McCready.