Shelby Lyman Dies at Age 82

A long-time nationally syndicated chess columnist and the face of the Fischer-Spassky match in America, Shelby Lyman died Sunday at age 82.

courtesy subject

The nephew of Harry Lyman, the “dean of New England Chess,” Lyman cut his chess teeth in Boston, where he attended Harvard, before moving to New York and becoming a master.

Lyman’s star turn came in 1972, when America was deep in the grip of Fischer-fever. He led PBS’s coverage of the Fischer-Spassky match, bringing chess to millions of people who, in other circumstances, might never have been exposed to the game. The show became so popular, Lyman told Dylan Loeb McClain in 2008, that it temporarily pushed Sesame Street off the air.

Lyman’s storied career as a chess columnist began immediately after the 1972 match ended. Originally written for New York’s Newsday, it was at its peak syndicated to 82 newspapers, with 45 still carrying the column when Lyman died.

Lyman is survived by his wife, Michele, and a large, loving family.

US Chess invites its members to add their memories of Lyman and the 1972 match to the comments to this page.


  1. My condolences to the Lyman family and his extended families. I first met Shelby in June 1964, when he played in the 4th Central New England Open in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. That tournament was won by IM William Addison. Shelby, who was 27 years old at the time, was one of the runners-up. He was at the tournament in Fitchburg with his uncle, Harry Lyman, who had taught him the game when he was 9 years old. Shelby certainly made his mark in chess, both as a TV chess personality and a longtime chess columnist. It is reported that Shelby’s weekly chess column was published – at its peak – in 82 newspapers worldwide. I believe no other chess columnist has his column appear in so many papers around the world. It must be a record. Rest in peace, Shelbourne “Shelby” Richard Lyman.

  2. Listening to Shelby and Edmar Mednis was fantastic. Still rings clear in my brain almost 50 years later.RIP-you and Edmar brought me much joy

  3. I had just started playing tournament chess in late 1971 while in high school. My chess friend and I were transfixed by every world championship game on Channel 13 in NY. I still remember the teletype ding, followed by “we have a move”. I was lucky enough to meet (and play) him at a simul the following year. Very gracious and down-to-earth person.

  4. I put this on “All Things Chess” Forum the other day:

    “I am sad to announce the news that Chess Master, and Columnist, Shelby Lyman passed away the other day as he was 82. Speaking of 1972, it was then that I first saw Shelby Lyman on PBS during the Fischer Vs. Spassky World Championship match that was occurring at this time, and he would go on to provide live commentary on subsequent World Championship matches. I seem to remember that this was kind of my first exposure to The Royal Game and he provided the viewing audience with interesting stories about the great grandmasters and he will forever be missed.

    RIP Shelby Lyman and thank you for providing a great service to chess!

    Respectfully Submitted,

    David A. Cole, USCF Life Member, Franklin, NJ”

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