John Rety (1930-2010)

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John Saunders
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John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by John Saunders » Wed Feb 10, 2010 5:00 pm

I've just learnt the sad news that John Rety has died of a heart attack. His d.o.b. was 8 December 1930 (source, an old Grading List); I don't have his definitive d.o.d. but one of the links below seems to point to 3 February 2010. He was a chessplayer of around 1900-2000 strength (he played for Camden, and in recent years took part in Paignton, Hastings and senior individual/team competitions). He was evidently well-known as an anarchist radical poet and magazine editor, and there have been a number of obits published online already. He was Hungarian but was sent by his family to be educated in the UK in 1947 (from his own mouth in a video interview available on Youtube).

Some links that might usefully be explored for obituary purposes: ... john-rety/ ... 09_03.html (where they call him a "grandmaster"(!)) ... -has-died/ (can perhaps deduce that he died 3 Feb 2010 from this article)

and John Rety being interviewed on video... ... re=related ("Good evening, anarchists, everywhere..." ... re=related

... and reading poetry...

I didn't know him personally but he was obviously a bit of a character.
Personal Twitter @johnchess / Personal Website / Britbase

Simon Brown
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by Simon Brown » Wed Feb 10, 2010 7:51 pm

John played for Hampstead in the 80s. A lovely man and always willing to step in and play, and generally played better than his grading which was about 130 I think. Had no idea about his other activities!

John Hickman
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by John Hickman » Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:59 pm

I only knew John through playing him at Hastings and Paignton. Sad news indeed. RIP.

James Pratt
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by James Pratt » Wed Feb 10, 2010 9:43 pm

John Rety (1930-2010) a free spirit, translator of Flesch's book on Planning ("we sneaked it out in secret"), poet - he lazily gave all rights to Foyles -, writer for 'The Morning Star', leading voice at Speakers Corner, anarchist (like David Hooper), idealist even in old age. He loved chess but enjoyed life more and political activity most. RIP you old bugger.

Sean Hewitt

Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by Sean Hewitt » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:55 pm

I only met John once when he played at the last Uxbridge weekend congress. He hadn't bothered to book a room and, on finding the hotel full, managed to get them to find him somewhere else to stay. He then invited himself along for a Thai Curry and, after all that, managed to get a complete stranger from the restaurant to give him a lift the 10 miles to his new hotel.

A character indeed. RIP John.

andrew martin

Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by andrew martin » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:19 pm

I knew John since the mid-1970's as he used to frequent the London Central YMCA Buffet periodically, where nightly blitz was played until the early hours. He enjoyed the cameraderie and the odd assortment of characters that collected there. He was always very volatile, but overall his geniality and humanity shone through,so it was very difficult to be angry with him, even if the pieces ended up in your lap after a cheapo!

John and I became firm friends and ran a series of training sessions at the Torriano Meeting House in Camden which weren't particularly well attended, but those who came all had a wonderful time and a small,thriving chess community was established them,mainly thanks to him.

I will miss him, a real character of London Chess and underneath the fiery exterior, a highy intelligent and loving man.

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Gerard Killoran
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by Gerard Killoran » Thu Feb 11, 2010 4:43 pm

Sad news.

I started playing competitive chess in the 1970s University of London team that included two members who looked to old and scruffy (yes that bad) to be students. They were John Rety and Mike Gordeni (whatever happened to him?). We doubted their credentials as students but were appreciative of their fearless style of chess.

I last saw John at a community festival in Hackney where he was hustling all comers for charity. Sadly, I didn't find out about his parallel lives as an anarchist and poet until much later.

Farewell to one of the last coffee-house chess players.

Simon Spivack
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by Simon Spivack » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:06 pm

Yes, I remember a match at the students' union in Malet Street in which John Rety played against Islington. London University and its colleges have always welcomed non-students to play for as far back as I can recall. I have never seen this as a problem.

Mike Gordini later became London University Bridge champion. I knew Mike fairly well in the mid-seventies as he played in a team I captained for Islington in the Middlesex League. A very sociable fellow. His grade was somewhere in the 150s, however, he always played much better against stronger opponents, so I put him above players with a slightly higher grade.

I have the vague recollection that Mike became a professional gambler for a casino. He was certainly good enough.

The last time I saw him was in the early nineties when he popped into a match at Imperial College.

Keith Arkell
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by Keith Arkell » Thu Feb 11, 2010 10:05 pm

This is very sad,and particularly poignant for me.

For decades I didn't know John at all,except for overhearing occasional disputes during his chess games.
All of a sudden though,in recent months, I found myself getting to know him quite well.I dined and drank with him on numerous occasions at events in Coulsdon and Paignton,and very quickly found myself really liking him.
I quickly learned that John was a very caring person.He spoke with joy about the hostel he was running.It was also obvious that John was a highly intelligent man,and there was a deeply perceptive glint in his eyes.
My condolences to John's partner Susan,who I briefly met at Coulsdon in August.

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:20 am

Was David Hooper really an anarchist? I didn't get that impression when I spoke to him...
"Kevin was the arbiter and was very patient. " Nick Grey

John Moore
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by John Moore » Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:31 pm

A great guy - a really sad loss. Was he really 80 - in which case he always appeared much younger than his years.

Simon Spivack
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by Simon Spivack » Sat Mar 06, 2010 11:34 am

Another tribute can be found in the Slow Lane column by Harry Eyres in today's Financial Times. It can be found on the back page of the Life and Arts section. Very warm and moving, I commend it.

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Gerard Killoran
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by Gerard Killoran » Sat Mar 20, 2010 3:41 pm

An obituary of John Rety in The Guardian. ... y-obituary

Unfortunately they write, 'he found time to indulge his passion for chess and become a grandmaster.' I hope the rest of the article is more accurate.

Scott Freeman
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Re: John Rety (1930-2010)

Post by Scott Freeman » Sat Mar 20, 2010 5:37 pm

The press are terrible like that. In fact from my investigations some years ago, I believe that another "innacurate" story written by the Croydon Advertiser may well have been the start of the infamous Croydon High dispute back in 1997. The effects of that rumble on today.

And I also recall a wonderful article written by a bloke at the same paper a few years later when the writer (who claimed he was about a 130-140 strength player) quoted me as saying that, "Jessie Gilbert had beaten me in about 3 moves....." Now OK, I accept I am not the best player in the world, but I think if I had lost that quickly (which in reality I would not have), I would not have had any doubts as to how many moves it happened in!

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