Richard Guy (1916-2020)

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  • Richard Guy (1916-2020)

    Richard Guy (1916-2020)

    April 28, 2020

    Obituary from the Calgary Herald, March 11, 2020

    Richard Kenneth Guy

    September 30, 1916 - March 9, 2020

    Richard Guy was born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England. As a child he attended Warwick School where he was a bit of a prodigy. He studied mathematics at Cambridge University, graduating in 1938.

    Richard married Nancy Louise Thirian in 1939 and together they had three children, Elizabeth Anne, Michael and Peter.

    During the war Richard served with the Royal Air Force forecasting weather on the north Atlantic.

    After a brief time teaching at Goldsmiths' College in London, Richard, Louise and the children went to Singapore in 1950, where he taught math at the University of Malaya for ten years. He then moved on to the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

    In 1965, when he and his wife were almost fifty years of age, he came to Canada where he taught math at the University of Calgary, retiring in 1982. In 1991 the U of C awarded Richard an honorary doctorate. Richard continued to work at his office as Professor Emeritus until only a few weeks ago. During his career he authored or co-authored about a dozen books on mathematics and over 300 scholarly articles.

    Richard was a devoted mountaineer and cross-country skier and a supporter of all causes related to peace and the environment. He was an honorary member of both the Alpine Club of Canada and the Calgary Mountain Club.

    An inspiration to all his friends and colleagues, Richard will be missed by many.

    Plans for a memorial celebration will be made by his friends in the Alpine Club of Canada and the University of Calgary Mathematics Department.

    Donations in Richard's honour can be made to his favourite charities: the Alberta Wilderness Association, The Alpine Club of Canada and the University of Calgary Lecture Series or Scholarship Endowment.

    (Wikipedia) Chess Problems - From 1947 to 1951 Guy was the endings editor for British Chess Magazine. He is known for almost 200 endgame studies. Along with Hugh Blandford and John Roycroft, he is one of the inventors of the GBR code (Guy–Blandford–Roycroft code), a system of representing the position of chess pieces on a chessboard. Publications including EG use it to classify endgame types and to index endgame studies.

    There is a book of his studies:

    Richard Guy’s chess endgame studies (presented by John Roycroft)

    Prime Actions, Helsinki (1996)

    (WK - I remember once very much wanting a copy and was about to write to Richard and ask if he had an extra one around he wanted to sell, when a copy came on to the market and I was able to buy it – from a bookseller in Finland, as I recall.)

    Here is one of his studies, composed in 1938


    White to move (White wins in 17 moves after 1.h7

    1.h7 g2 2.h8=Q e2 3.Qh3 e1=N+ 4.Ke3 1-0

    This one was composed in 1944. Beautiful simplicity


    White to play and draw

    Black is going to capture the pawn on h2. If you can reply with Kf2 you’ll draw, but if you have to reply with Kf3 you’ll lose.

    1. Kc8? loses to 1… Kc6! but instead the paradoxical 1. Ka8! Kc6 2. Ka7! Kd5 3. Kb6! Ke4 4. Kc5! Kf3 5. Kd4! Kg2 6. Ke3! Kxh2 7. Kf2! draws.


    From the English Chess Forum:

    Sad that he's gone, in spite of his great age. In fact I wasn't aware that he was a chess buff; it was through mathematics that I knew him. When I took this hobby up more seriously he was already in his 90's, yet gave great encouragement to a complete amateur. I was working on the prime density of quadratic polynomials at the time, and he sent me, not only advice, but copies of other people's publications. He also steered me towards the interest in factorization which is my current one. I put to him the widespread belief that mathematics (and chess too, perhaps?) is an activity for younger people, after a while you're past your best. He refuted that trenchantly. I know that he was a Brit who migrated to Canada, associated with the University of Calgary for many years. His best known strictly mathematical book was Unsolved Problems in Number Theory which went through at least three editions but he also collaborated on Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays, about games with, like chess, a mathematical dimension.

    Steve Williams


    One of the great mathematicians of our era was John Conway. From The Times (of London)

    John Horton Conway, mathematician, was born on December 26, 1937. He died of complications from Covid-19 on April 11, 2020, aged 82.

    He was a friend and colleague of Richard Guy.

    Conway’s contributions to the mathematical canon include innumerable games. He is perhaps most famous for inventing the Game of Life in the late 1960s. The Scientific American columnist Martin Gardner called it “Conway’s most famous brainchild.” This is not Life the family board game, but Life the cellular automaton. A cellular automaton is a little machine with groups of cells that evolve from iteration to iteration in discrete rather than continuous time—in seconds, say, each tick of the clock advances the next iteration, and over time, behaving a bit like a transformer or a shape-shifter, the cells evolve into something, anything, everything else. Life is played on a grid, like tic-tac-toe, where its proliferating cells resemble skittering microorganisms viewed under a microscope.

    (WK - I can remember studying at the University of Manchester and one chemistry professor shut himself in his office and spent all his time exploring The Game of Life.)

    Conway seemed to love all games but gave little time to chess. Of invented games:

    Many of these games went into the book Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays, by Conway and two co-authors, Elwyn Berlekamp, a mathematician at the University of California, Berkeley, and Richard Guy, a mathematician at the University of Calgary.

    The book took 15 years to write, in part because Conway and Guy were prone to silliness, punning back and forth and wasting Berlekamp’s time — Berlekamp called them “a couple of goons.” In the end and against all odds the book became a bestseller (the color printing and unusual typefaces increased the production costs so much that the advertising budget decreased to nothing). It was a self-help book, of sorts, on how to win at games. The authors spilled out a cornucopia of theories, along with many new games to match the theoretical purposes. According to Conway:

    We would invent a new game in the morning with the intention of it serving as an application of a theory. And then after half an hour’s investigation, it would prove to be stupid. So we’d invent another game. There are 10 half-hours in the working day, roughly speaking, so we invented 10 games a day. We’d analyze them and sift them, and let’s say one in 10 of them was good enough to make the book.

    They amassed a surfeit of games without names and names without games.


    There are only two games by Richard Guy extant it seems. This one is from 1946

    Nottingham – B2, 1946
    Nottingham, ENG
    Crown, Gordon Thomas – Guy, Richard Kenneth
    D15 QGD Slav Accepted

    1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bf5 5.Qb3 Qb6 6.cxd5 Qxb3 7.axb3 Nxd5 8.Nd2 e6 9.e4 Nxc3 10.bxc3 Bg6 11.Nc4 Bxe4 12.Nb6 axb6 13.Rxa8 Bd6 14.Ba3 Kd7 15.Bxd6 Kxd6 16.f3 Bg6 17.Kd2 Rd8 18.Be2 Kc7 19.Ke3 Bc2 20.b4 b5 21.Bd1 Bg6 22.Bb3 e5 23.Rd1 exd4+ 24.Rxd4 Re8+ 25.Kf2 Re7 26.Ra2 Nd7 27.Re2 Rxe2+ 28.Kxe2 b6 29.Rd2 Ne5 30.Ra2 c5 31.Bc2 f5 32.Ra7+ Kd6 33.Rxg7 cxb4 34.cxb4 Nc6 35.Bd3 Nxb4 36.Bxb5 Nd5 37.Kd2 Kc5 38.Bd3 Nf4 39.Bxf5 Bxf5 40.Rg5 Nxg2 41.Rxf5+ Kc4 42.Rg5 1-0


    (born Jun-20-1929, died Nov-17-1947, 18 years old) United Kingdom

    Gordon Thomas Crown was born on the 20th of June 1929 in Liverpool, England. He learnt to play chess aged nine and soon became strong enough to win the Lancashire Junior Championship three times running. He was 2nd at the British Boys Championship in 1946 and in the Hastings Congress of 1946-47 he won 1st place in the Premier Reserve section. In 1947 he won 3rd prize in the British Championship and in September of that year he played 4th board for Britain in the Britain vs USSR match against Alexander Kotov whom he defeated in one of the two games they played (he lost the other one). Crown, who was a diabetic, was rushed to hospital in November of that year suffering from peritonitis; however, complications set in and he died during an operation to save his life. His tragic, premature death (at the age of 18) was a great loss to British chess and the chess world.

  • #2
    Richard Guy (1916-2020)

    August 1, 2020

    A tribute to Richard Guy by John Beasley, also a former endgame study columnist of BCM, can be found here:

    When there click on Orthodox Chess and then on Endgames. There will be three pages of Richard Guy studies.