Intersection between academia and international chess titles

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Intersection between academia and international chess titles

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Sat Feb 25, 2023 5:06 pm

So I went from this post on another thread to doing a search on Wikipedia for pages in the category "Chess International Masters" with the word "professor" and found the following (some chose to concentrate on their professional careers, rather than their chess):

IM Greg Hjorth (mathematics)
IM Zvonko Vranesic (electrical and computer engineering)
IM Danny Kopec (computer science)
IM Benjamin Martin (mathematics)
IM Stuart Rachels (philosophy)
IM Lajos Asztalos (philosophy and languages) (^^)
IM Edward W. Formanek (mathematics)
IM Fernand Gobet (cognitive science)
IM Christian Seel (economics and game theory)
IM Paul Felix Schmidt (chemistry) (^^)
IM Alisa Marić (culture and media)
IM Fedir Bohatyrchuk (medicine) (^)
IM Johan Barendregt (psychology)
IM Dolfi Drimer (engineering)
IM Srećko Nedeljković (medicine)

(^) - Title awarded by FIDE in 1954 (may have been strong enough for the GM title).
(^^) - Awarded the IM title by FIDE in its inaugural list of 1950.

I am not sure how widely known it is that a New Zealand IM (Benjamin Martin) is a professor at the University of Aberdeen? But maybe those from Scotland will look at me quizzically and say "of course we knew that"? (I am trying to find definite confirmation of the connection) Possibly also of interest is that Johan Barendregt's son (Henk Barendregt) is a professor of mathematics and computer science, and that apparently Johan Barendregt was likely the person assaulted in 1963 by another chess IM Raymond Weinstein (a lucky escape, possibly, as Weinstein went on to kill someone in 1964 and has been institutionalised ever since!).

Moving swiftly on from that, the same search among the Wikipedia pages for grandmasters, gives this list:

GM Kenneth Rogoff (economics)
HGM Elmārs Zemgalis (mathematics) (*)
GM Robert Byrne (philosophy)
GM Jan Michael Sprenger (philosophy of science)
GM Milan Vidmar (electrical engineering) (**)
GM Jonathan Mestel (applied mathematics)
GM Reuben Fine (psychology) (**)
GM Max Euwe (computer science) (**)
GM Jonathan Penrose (psychology)
GM Hou Yifan (education)

(*) - Elmārs Zemgalis was awarded an Honorary Grandmaster title by FIDE in 2003.
(**) - Awarded the GM title by FIDE in its inaugural list of 1950.

Note that this listing (an attempt to identify the intersection between those holding professional positions in academia and also holding the chess titles of IM or GM) does not claim to be complete, as there will be many omissions. An example is the chess IM Vladimir Nikolaevich Smirnov, who is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Sydney and father to the more famous chess player, GM Anton Smirnov. I chose to leave out Efstratios Grivas, as it is not clear what the exact status was of his professorship (which may have been more akin to being a chess trainer). It is also difficult to know how to classify botanist Karl Robatsch, whose career spanned eminent contributions to research on orchids as well as a storied chess history - though I have not been able to identify any formal academic qualification or position. Other omissions from the above, if you consider those with a less orthodox academic career, include Jonathan Rowson, who clearly has all the hallmarks of an academic, but as far as I can tell has never held a formal position in academia, with one of his roles best described in his own words as at the "nexus of academia, journalism and campaigning".

That might be a good place to stop. I am sure others can provide other examples.

(The previous threads on chess-playing academics were: Chess-playing Fellows of Royal Society and the strangely-titled, as it was split from an obituary thread: Past recollection a split topic.)

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Intersection between academia and international chess titles

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Sat Feb 25, 2023 5:40 pm

As an addendum to the above, I can confirm that the Aberdeen professor of mathematics is the same Ben Martin who appears extensively in the archives of New Zealand chess, the clincher being the articles he wrote about his chess exploits in the UK in around 1996 while studying at King's College London: ... 996-08.pdf

"FM Ben Martin has wound up a successful visit to Britain by completing his postgraduate studies and winning an international toumament in Sheffield to gain a third IM norm and earn application for IM."

He played in and wrote reports on the First Sheffield International and the First Imperial College International. Others here may have memories of those events. ... 992-10.pdf

"Ben Martin wrote to say he will be in London for the next three years, studying for his PhD in Maths at King's College. As possibly New Zealand's top player for the past two years, he will be missed on the tournament circuit." (p.109) ... 993-04.pdf

"Ben Martin is now well settled in England, where he is attending King's College in London, and has already lodged his entry for the British Championship [1993], which will be played in Dundee in August." (p.18)

Consulting BritBase for the Championships of 1993: ... iewer.html

We see that Benjamin M. S. Martin (born 1969) came 14th that year, losing to Jonathan Parker and Mark Lyell, while also beating Adam C. Hunt, Aaron Summerscale and Richard Bates! He drew with (among others) Mark Ferguson and Jonathan Levitt.

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