MIKE McARTHUR, 1955 - 2019

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  • MIKE McARTHUR, 1955 - 2019

    The phone buzzed.

    "Ristorante Italiano!" I would quip, "Buongiorno! Vuoi pasta carbonara?"
    "City Morgue!" Mike would shoot back, "Any....body, home?"

    A witty bon mot, eventually picked up by Larry Bevand:)

    And thus we said hi to each other thrice weekly, for almost fifteen years.
    Now no more, for last Monday, Michael Norman McArthur, most cherished
    of Toronto chess instructors, went to join that great chess game in the sky,
    and now rests pain-free in the arms of his beloved Caissa.

    He had returned from a Christmas trip abroad with a suppurating pain in his
    foot, which spread down his right side. He gamely continued to teach, but I
    urged him to seek medical attention. Three weeks ago, I insisted on driving
    him to Emergency, so he finally took a cab to Toronto Western, and never
    returned. As the pain spread to his abdomen, extensive tests shockingly
    revealed the last stages of a terminal illness, and he was moved to the
    Kensington Hospice, where he sadly succumbed, just three days later.

    Mike was the ultimate chess instructor - gifted, knowledgeable, urbane,
    hard-working and charismatic. In over two decades of refined teaching,
    he nurtured a current grandmaster, international and FIDE masters, and
    innumerable state and provincial champions. Children absolutely loved
    him, and he spoilt them rotten, with endless trophies, medals, candy for their
    hard work. Parents adored him - many wept at news of his untimely demise.

    Mike with Students - Framed.jpg1921180_1526436454249322_1001021071_o.jpg

    For us at Chess 'N Math, Mike was an administrator's dream. Insanely
    punctual, he delivered and administered classy lessons in an inimitable
    style, structured to precision. Personally he was of 2000+ master strength.

    Quiet and reserved, he came alive in our friendship, rich with humor. Every
    Thusday, he would walk into my office, I would glance up and utter wanly,

    "Mike.....I'm hungry!"
    "Hello....Hungry!" he would chortle.

    Then we would indulge my childhood passion from the U.K., for fish 'n chips,
    at Penrose's down the street, where Marilyn knew and served us personally.

    When I first met him, he introduced himself to me as "Mean Mike" a sobriquet
    bestowed on him by an errant pupil, which delighted him no end as it went viral.

    "But" I asked, "What do I, call you?"
    "Anything", he quipped, "Just don't call me.....late for dinner!"
    Just hilarious.

    Mike was a closet non-conformist. He did not approve of The Man, or his designs.

    "You're a lawyer," he pointed out, "Help me get rid of my SIN number, I got no sins!"
    "Funny!", I said dryly, but Mike insisted - no id's, no SIN, no birth-certificate.

    Paradoxically, when I convinced him travel broadens the mind, we had to use all
    The Man's tools above to get him a passport. And thus he even found love abroad:)

    I will miss not just a friend or employee, but a kindred spirit. Above all he was kind
    and guileless - I have no doubt he's taken his place with the righteous, and is even
    now playing a simul with his idol Bobby Fischer. Cut short, his was a life well-lived.
    Go gentle into that chess night, dear friend, every move of yours was a delight.

    Francis Rodrigues, LLB - Regional Director
    Strategy Games & The Chess'n Math Association
    tel: 416-488-5506; 416-486-3395; 647-232-6014 (cell)
    701 Mt. Pleasant Road, Toronto, ON, M4S 2N4

    fax: 416-486-4637; website: www.chess-math.org

  • #2
    It is a great loss to the chess community!

    George and I are deeply saddened by Mike's departure (George is my daughter Karen that Mike liked to call George). It was heartbreaking and a shock to see him rapidly deteriorate in the past couple weeks! Nevertheless, we should be pleased that Caissa was with Mike, it was a quick relief for him from the severe pain.
    Mike was George's chess teacher when she was small, about 20 years ago. Mike had been working with me in our chess programs 4 days a week. The last 3 weeks, the children kept asking "Where is Mean Mike?", "Is Mean Mike coming today?" (Mean Mike was the name he told the children to address him.)
    The photo of Mike with Aman and Shyiam was Mike's favourite photo. Behind the photo are the stories of how Mike helped to develop many young children to become great players. As Francis said, Mike was gifted, knowledgeable, urbane, hard-working and charismatic. To the children, he was a friendly, fun, inspiring and generous teacher. To me, he was a reliable, responsible, dedicated, thoughtful and helpful teacher. - Michael McArthur was the world's best chess teacher & we will all miss him!

    Can't believe it is real!

    Last edited by Corinna Wan; Sunday, 10th March, 2019, 06:30 PM.


    • #3
      Yes, a great loss. Its hard to believe. Good memories of Mike, the good times shared and camaraderie. The last time we met it had been a while but we hugged and slapped each other on the back and reminisced about fellow students. Mike had the ultimate success story as a Canadian coach, a grandmaster student Aman. So many people loved, respected, and admired him and he did what he loved most for most of his life. My heartfelt condolences to friends and family.


      • #4
        Francis - lovely obit.

        Mike used to send a lot of his students to play at Scarborough CC.

        Bob A


        • #5
          Thank you Francis for your wonderful post. My sympathies to everyone whose life was touched by this special man.


          • #6
            A great loss to the chess community and the hundreds of kids who were coached by Mike. I remember working with him around GTA and learning how to use humour to explain difficult concepts. When explaining overworked pieces, he would always bring up examples of overworked teachers, scrambling from one class to another without a moment for themselves. When he would show Morphy's Opera-house game, he would show kids the "checkmate" by jumping the rook from d1 over the knight on d7, asking them them to do it, and eventually letting them find a way to get rid of the knight. He taught us the meaning of professionalism by being beyond punctual, always coming 15 minutes before the class began. Above all, always ready to help out. Might there be more people like him in this world.


            • #7
              Chess was good to Mike, and Mike was good to chess! He started teaching for Chess'n Math over 20 years ago and immediately he found his raison d'être...you know, what is important in life is to do what makes you happy. And he had found what made him happy...sharing his knowledge and passion for the game we love...working with kids! I have rarely seen a chess teacher so loved and appreciated by the kids...and a teacher who was involved and passionate in a way one would only hope to have as a teacher. I remember I had some awesome math teachers when I was a kid...it made all the difference.

              This man was generous to a fault...I will miss him...he was one of the anchors of our organization in the early days of the Chess'n Math Association in Toronto..

              He cherished his Chess'n Math jacket and wore it proudly to the very end.

              Thank you Francis for providing such a great obit...it helps to capture all we have lost with the passing of this extraordinary human being!

              Larry Bevand
              Executive Director
              Chess'n Math Association


              • #8
                From when I first met Mike over 19 years ago, he has always been energetic and passionate, with a booming voice.

                Visting him in the Kensington Hospice on the day of his arrival there and seeing him so subdued, was a terrible shock. Nevertheless, he was very happy to see me. He immmediately pulled up a photo of us from when I visited his Queens and Kings School of Chess after I became IM. As Corinna said, Mike took great pride in the accomplishments of Aman and myself. He loved that vintage photo of the three of us (thank you Francis for posting it).

                Without Mike's training, half the success I have achieved would have been unimaginable. He fully dedicated himself to improving my level. In 2002, he travelled with my family to Montreal, and with his help I won my first national championship - the U10 CYCC. Mike instilled in me a great confidence that is still my main strength today.

                He was also very fond of my older brother Nimalan (who was also Mike's student), and twice we had gone camping in Algonquin Park with Mike and his brother Dennis.

                Mike's passing is a huge loss for me personally. My only comfort is that he was well aware of the profound impact he had on my life. RIP Coach.


                • #9
                  Mike the bishop is 3.5 points. " ohh yeah! Silman says 3" he would quickly respond. Our friendly argument continued everytime we met.

                  We cannot repeat enough how generous Mike was.

                  Teaching together at a class in Newmarket: "Did you win the lottery? I would ask (when I saw him give medals to the students every class). "No, he gave me a really good answer" he would say.

                  Final class we were giving out the certificates and Mike opens a gym bag and starts to award most students with brand new books from the Coakley series.

                  His FB page shows many photos of him giving out chocolates and candy to children as he walks the streets in Philipines.

                  Tricks he had many: Kids like it when you remember their name but it is hard when you have many classes each day.

                  "Do you remember my name" a child would ask.

                  "Sure you are Shirley" Mike would say.

                  "No! I am Peter" half laughing the child would correct.

                  "That is what I said. You surely are Peter"

                  We miss you guy.

                  Mike the bishop is 3.5 points. I copied you somewhat: I run a tournament in most of my classes like you did. Yes, I give them medals .


                  • #10
                    A Minute's Silence for Mike McArthur - CMA Parents & Kids paying their respects at today's April 7 OCC Qualifier.


                    • #11

                      There were 540 students participated in 2019 Ontario Chess Challenge on April 14. Seneca Hill Chess had many qualified players and about 45 competed in the tournament. I am so glad to see more than 20 of our students won the top ten trophies.

                      In fact, it is a mixed feeling of happiness and sadness for me. We run our programs in 4 schools. The late NM Michael McArthur had been teaching at all these four schools for many years until mid-February. Almost all these qualified players and trophy winners were once in Mike’s groups while some had been with him for years. Mike would have been so proud of his students!

                      Of course we cannot neglect the merits of all our other teachers, too.
                      Ontario Chess Challenge has been my favourite tournament! Many thanks to the organizer - CMA Toronto and the ‘creator’ (Larry, was that you?) of this prestigious and popular tournament.

                      Seneca Hill Chess


                      • #12
                        It was the last class of the school year for Seneca Hill PS​ the past Thursday. I had bags of trophies, medals, treats and other stuff to bring in the school from my car. I tried and tried and could not manage to take all the stuff. It was a very sad scene for me because Mike would always be there once I opened the trunk!

                        We are announcing a Michael McArthur Memorial Chess Tournament on September 14, 2019. We will start the new school year with Mike although he is not physically here. Details will be published later.


                        • #13
                          A year ago this Friday, Mike McArthur gently left us -
                          and not a day goes by that I don't miss his cheery presence.

                          He left an abiding legacy of erudition and friendship, and every
                          now and then, vignettes surface of his kind and caring nature.

                          Here's one, of mine -
                          A few years ago, in quick succession I got four speeding tickets!
                          Yeah, I know - boggles the imagination!

                          Mike was aghast at hearing of three, but at four he just lost it.
                          He burst into my office and sat me down.

                          "What the hell is going on?" he expostulated.

                          "Well, you know I don't like to be late!" I stuttered.

                          "Would you rather be late Francis......or the late Francis?!" he growled.

                          I haven't had a speeding ticket since.

                          Mike always made a difference. Rest easy up there Mikey!


                          • #14
                            Mike would have turned 65 today:)
                            Gone, but never forgotten.
                            The good die young.

                            Say hi to Eddie van Halen, Mike!