Andrew Paulson, 1958-2017

Andrew Paulson, 1958-2017

| 29 | Chess Politics

Andrew Paulson, the founder of Agon Limited and the man with a vision for the growth of top-level chess, died Tuesday from cancer. He was 59.

Paulson's death was reported on the web site of the Russian newspaper Kommersant. It was confirmed by current Agon CEO Ilya Merenzon to

Andrew Paulson off the southern coast of Devon, U.K. From Paulson's Facebook page.

Although not overtly involved in chess for the last few years of his life, Paulson's mark on the game is still felt today. A Briton who spent several decades in Russia, in 2012, Paulson was living in London when Agon came into being. The company purchased the rights to future world championship matches and cycles, with an eye to bring more technological breakthroughs to chess broadcasts.

Paulson was a graduate of Yale University and made much of his fortune in the publishing business. Merenzon said he was the co-founder of the Afisha Publishing House in Russia, "one of the most important media companies in the country."

Some of Paulson's many ideas came into being, as reported by ChessVibes in 2013. He expressed pride in Agon's first major event (London Candidates' Tournament 2013), citing innovations like the "immersive experience" of a second screen for the live audience, the new Staunton piece design, and the quality of the broadcasters. Other innovations, like biometric real-time data of the players, have still yet to catch on.


Andrew Paulson during the 2013 Candidates' Tournament. | Photo: Anastazia Karlovich.

In 2013, Paulson was elected president of the English Chess Federation. A few months after that, his ambitions hinted at him running for FIDE president, but that never came to fruition. His tenure atop English chess was short-lived, as he stepped down barely six months into his term.

January 2014 saw a controversial part of Paulson's connection with the chess world. At the end of that month, obtained a document that suggested that Agon was secretly run by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov instead. A contract signed by both the FIDE President and Paulson stated that Ilyumzhinov owned 51% of the shares, but both denied that the contract ever came in effect.

Paulson eventually sold Agon to Merenzon for £1 later that year. According to Paulson, as late as December 2014, he was no longer involved in chess, but Merenzon said then that he was still there on the sidelines advising him. Merenzon repeated that today.

"We’ve been in touch on regular basis, sometimes daily, in the last years, and he's been involved in terms of giving advice and connections," Merenzon told upon the news of his death.

"He was a friend and I learned a huge deal from him."

"Very sad indeed," said GM Robert Fontaine, who worked with Paulson for Agon in 2012 and 2013. "Andrew was a visionary, a smart and generous man. I had the chance to learn so much on his side for a year when I was working for Agon.

"Our first meeting in Paris close to Champs Elysées was in July 2012, a sunny day. There was the same day the arrival of the Tour de France, but all he talked about was chess and his vision now becoming true."

Peter Doggers contributed to this report.

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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