Jeremy Silman (1954-2023)
IM Jeremy Silman, America's chess teacher, passed away on September 21 at age 69. Photo: James F. Perry/Wikimedia, CC.

Jeremy Silman (1954-2023)

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IM Jeremy Silman, the highly respected American chess author, trainer, and player, has passed at the age of 69. His contributions to the world of chess have left an indelible mark, inspiring and educating countless enthusiasts and players worldwide.

Silman died in Los Angeles on Thursday, September 21, after struggling with health for years, U.S. Chess Federation announced. Silman leaves behind his wife, Gwen Feldman.

Playing career

Silman was born in Del Rio, Texas, on August 28, 1954. He began playing chess at the age of 12 when he earned a rating of 1068 from his first tournament. On his website, he humorously noted:  "I should add that I was overrated, since my one victory came from a man that actually grabbed my rook and mated himself. He wanted the game to end so he could make an appointment!"

When he was 16, he reached mid-expert strength. After moving to San Francisco as a 19-year-old, he quickly earned the master title. His IM title came in 1988, when he was 34.

Jeremy Silman faced a young Gata Kamsky in New York Open in 1991. Photo:
Jeremy Silman faced a young Gata Kamsky in the New York Open in 1991. Photo:

Silman described his game against his friend IM Cyrus Lakdawala in Los Angeles in 1989 as his best ever. In an article for in 2012, he wrote: "The following game was played in true Petrosian style (the ninth world champion was known for depriving his opponents of all counterplay, then using space to constrict and ultimately choke his opponents to death)."

Silman won major events such as the U.S. Open (1981), National Open (1990), and American Open (1992), and reached a peak USCF rating of 2593 in 1990 and FIDE rating of 2420 in 1995.

After being a regular at American Opens and several U.S. championships from the 1980s to 2000s, he eventually retired from playing. He couldn't be more clear whether he would return to play again: "Never. I’m fully retired from chess combat. No more for me. Nada. Zip."

Silman with Yasser Seirawan and Judit Polgar, whom he met several times. He described the Polgar sisters as "very nice people lacking the huge chess ego that most players carry around." Photo:

On why he didn't chase the GM title, Silman explained that he "didn't have the talent to pick the title out of thin air" and considered that only complete devotion would be required to accomplish the task.

He added: "I have interests outside of chess and am not willing to put in the necessary energy to accomplish this goal. In fact, it’s hard to get me out of my house! Having me fly to Europe over and over just isn’t going to happen."

Asked what attracted him to a chess career, he joked: "For the money and the women." He explained his joke by mentioning that there are little money and few women in the game. "We are into chess because we love it," he added.

For the money and the women.
—Jeremy Silman

On what chess means to him, he said: "It’s my job. I write about it, I teach it, I lecture about it, and I follow all chess news. Chess is in my blood, and to me it’s an art, battle, and science that can easily lead to psychological armageddon or unmatched joy."

Success with 'How To Reassess Your Chess'

Instead, Silman dedicated himself to writing, coaching, and instructing which made him one of the most acclaimed chess authors of all time. He published a total of 39 books since 1990 with a total sale of over 600,000 copies, according to IM John Donaldson, and some of them became the most popular chess books in history.

'How To Reassess Your Chess' became a true classic and is considered a masterpiece in chess literature.

His most famous work is How To Reassess Your Chess, a real masterpiece. The monumental book which was first released in 1994 and came out with its fourth edition in 2014. Eleven years after its release, the book currently ranks among the 25 most sold chess books on Amazon with a rating of 4.7/5 after more than 1,200 reviews.

How To Reassess Your Chess targets players between 1400 and 2200 and teaches the concept of "imbalances" or differences in every position, a widely used term in chess that Silman is credited as being the source. He recommends a five-fold procedure that players use to plan their play.

In a review in Chess Chow in 1994, GM Joel Benjamin wrote:

Writing a book of instruction is a lot harder than many people think.... Silman rises to that challenge, offering the most comprehensive and logically presented instructional book I have ever seen. He goes beyond presenting examples of bad bishops, weak pawns, open files, etc. Silman teaches the reader to think like a master.

John Hartmann, editor of Chess Life and Chess Life Kids, said he ordered the book based on the review and was not disappointed. The book had a significant impact on a generation of chess improvers. "Silman was the guru we'd been looking for.... Finally, someone understood how amateur players thought," he told 

"With its massively expanded fourth edition, released in 2010, and with its trademark humor, wisdom, and clarity, it still holds pride of place on that short list of instructional books that actually instruct," Hartmann added.

Jeremy Silman with Pal Benko and Ron Gross in the 90's. Photo:
Jeremy Silman with Pal Benko and Ron Gross during the 1999 FIDE World Championship in Las Vegas. Photo:

Silman also reached a large audience through his other books with instructional titles such as The Amateur’s Mind and The Complete Book of Chess Strategy, which is also considered a classic and has sold more than 100,000 copies, according to Donaldson.

Other notable books include endgame manuals such as Silman’s Complete Endgame Course and Essential Chess Endgames Explained Move by Move Volume 1 as well as opening tomes with works on his beloved Accelerated Dragon. He was also a co-author with Pal Benko on Pal Benko: My Life, Games, and Compositions, one of the best chess biographies ever written.

Donaldson: "Two words: Never boring"

U.S. National Team Captain IM John Donaldson was one of Silman's closest friends and told that they first met during a tournament at the University of California at Berkeley in 1981. 

Donaldson said, "We quickly bonded over a shared interest in the Accelerated Dragon Variation of the Sicilian. He was ever the professional but also always entertaining. It was this unusual combination of skills that I believe made him so successful."

IM John Donaldson and IM Jeremy Silman in Las Vegas, date unknown. Photo:
IM John Donaldson and IM Jeremy Silman during the FIDE World Championship in Las Vegas in 1999. Photo:

Donaldson says that Silman loved cats and his Egyptian Mau, Khu, was the second love of his life behind only his wife, Gwen. They shared a common interest in Asia, and in 2013 they realized a long-held dream to buy property in Japan and live there part-time. Silman also had a passion for Asian films.

"If asked to describe Jeremy in two words it would be: 'never boring.' He had an excellent sense of humor that was ever-present and came through strongly in his writing. He will live on through his books," Donaldson added.

Dedicated instructor, professor, and consultant

Apart from his contributions as an author, Silman was also a dedicated chess instructor who shared his knowledge and passion with students. NM Vanessa West, Events Correspondent, had Silman as her teacher and mentor.

"He was an extraordinary chess teacher and mentor from my teenage years into adulthood. He was boundlessly encouraging of my efforts in chess and writing. He was a one-of-a-kind human being, always ready with an understanding pep talk, a slice of chess wisdom, or a hilarious tale from his unique life," she said.

"I’m infinitely grateful to have known him. He has had an irreplaceable influence on my growth as a chess player, as a writer, and as a person," West added.

Jeremy Silman is also praised for his work as a lecturer. Photo:
Silman is also praised for his work as a lecturer. Photo:

Members of will also be familiar with Silman's work. He wrote a total of 481 articles for us—all the way back to 2009. His most popular article is "The Best Chess Books Ever" from 2017 with almost half a million views. His countless articles were also published in magazines such as Chess Life and New in Chess.

Silman is also known for his role as the professor in a video course with over 24 lectures by The Teaching Company, as part of its "Great Courses" series.

Silman's expertise also extended to the entertainment industry. He served as a chess consultant for prominent TV shows such as Monk, Criminal Minds, Malcolm in the Middle, and HBO’s Arliss. He also created the famous chess scene in the final act of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first movie in the series, even though it didn't appear as Silman had planned it. The scene is described in detail on

Silman intended Harry Potter to do the game justice, avoiding the cliché of checkmate being only one move away from a deep-thinking so-called “expert” and instead telling of a titanic struggle of sacrifice and overcoming odds, ultimately dethroning those in power; in short, a whole allegorical story within a story.

The chess world pays tribute to Jeremy Silman

The chess world has mourned the loss of Silman in the last few days. On Facebook, famous chess coach NM Bruce Pandolfini called Silman "an outstanding teacher, writer, and leading light in chess." In another tribute, GM Maurice Ashley called Silman "brilliant" on X/Twitter and wrote: "His fantastic books were profoundly instructive and were also written with lucidity and flair. RIP Maestro."

IM Cyrus Lakdawala offered a personal story about his friends for 40 years.

“It is with great sadness that I tell you that the great IM Jeremy Silman passed away. He was struggling with his health from the results of a stroke. Jeremy and I were friends for 40 years. Every Summer, he and IM John Donaldson would come to San Diego for lunch at my house and Jeremy and I would offer solutions to the problems of the world, while John Donaldson and IM John Watson listened, with astonished expressions. He lived an incredible life, experiencing both deep lows and dizzying highs. At one time he was actually a homeless man who miraculously transformed his life into the most successful chess writer of all time. His book Reassess Your Chess sold a staggering 350,00 copies and he went from poverty to riches. I’m really going to miss him.”

WGM Jennifer Shahade, two-time U.S. women's champion, wrote on Facebook that she is heartbroken. "Beyond his great books that made so many fall in love with chess, he was a kind and generous man. I remember losing a playoff for the U.S. Women's Championship title, totally dejected. Then Jeremy approached, complimented my creativity/writing, and told me I should write a book. Big brain, bigger heart," she said and added, "Jeremy will never be forgotten."'s CCO IM Danny Rensch also shared his personal tribute to Silman: "I grew up hanging with Jeremy Silman at Southern Cal chess tournaments and then had the pleasure to work with him for many of the early years at He was a brilliant writer and person, and quite frankly, one of the most hilarious people I ever met. RIP Jeremy."

In addition, Ben Johnson, one of the leading chess podcasters, wrote:

Silman with Mikhail Tal at Disneyland in 1988.
Silman with Mikhail Tal at Disneyland in 1988. Photo:

Silman had a special sense of humor. Asked about the most important lesson he had learned in chess, he responded: "Don’t choke the opponent after a loss, and don’t belittle the opponent after you crush him like a bug."

Don't choke the opponent after a loss, and don't belittle the opponent after you crush him like a bug.
—Jeremy Silman

What would Silman give as one piece of advice to a beginner? "Never, ever slap a Hells Angel’s face and kick his motorcycle. I did this once, and it turned out rather badly for me," he joked.

Silman's legacy in the world of chess will endure through his written works, his teachings, and the countless players he influenced and inspired. He leaves behind a chess community grateful for his contributions and deeply saddened by his loss.

(Correction added on 9/25: Silman's total books sales have been corrected to 600,000, not for 'How To Reassess Your Chess' alone)

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