Photos by Sean Trani
James Miller, passed away age 57 from cancer this last weekend. James was the only guy that wouldn't cringe to play me when I started showing up at the CCSCSL. He was a great guy, generally a happy disposition, he would play anyone.
James will be missed by Saint Louis Chess Players, especially at the Club where he would show up daily to play. James is the first chess buddy I've known to pass away. Which is weird. Playing chess with someone is such a specific incident. There really is so only so much you can learn about someone just over the board. However it's making the effort to find out a little more about my chess friends and growing those connections that makes me want to play OTB constantly. Without the friendly reception of guys like James I doubt I would have come back at first.
I will miss James' Yogi Bear voice stylings, his common phrases during play. He had a very unorthodox style of play that everyone came to know as "The James Game." He would push some pawns and rearrange his back rank, sometimes castling manually and often times setting up very subtle attacks. If you played an opening line he poke fun of you saying "Oh that's a real move, you played a REAL move." Or the other well remembered line after taking piece or creating a threat, "I thought we were friends, that's not a friendly move."
I found myself on the losing end of those attacks many times. You would think there was no rhyme or reason to the play and take a couple pawns only to realize James was forcing a mate on the back rank. Blitz against James could be a nightmare, he would force you out of opening lines immediately and make you play chess. I'd have to catch myself constantly from thinking too deep into the positions, looking up to the clock to find I'd only 30 seconds left to his 3 minutes or more.
James was a good person. I wish I'd get more time to know him well. He will be missed greatly. He was such a great character he bumped the Topalov v. Annand Coverage off the front page of the CCSCSL site. He had a much greater effect on us than any of those matches ever will.
The photograph pictured above is James v. WGM Jennifer Shahade. James caught former US Women's Champion thinking at multiple stages of play. He was proud that day that he played the James Game and had winning opportunities.
I just searched through my paper notation collection, ransacked a closet, tossed a stack of books and can't find one of our games anywhere that's kind of upsetting. So it goes though.
Anyway. That's all.