Edmar Mednis


Edmar (Edmars) John Mednis was born on March 22, 1937 in Riga, Latvia.


He and his family escaped from Latvia in 1944.  They lived in several displaced camps in Germany before coming to the United States in 1950.


In 1949, at the age of 12, his father taught Edmar how to play chess.


In 1950, at the age of 13, Edmar joined the Marshall Chess Club and soon had an expert rating.


In January, 1951, he took 3rd place in the Marshall Junior Championship tournament.


In January, 1951, at the age of 13, he participated in a simul given by master Max Pavey in Brooklyn, along with 7 year old Bobby Fischer.  Mednis drew his game.


In the summer of 1951, Edmar played in the 52nd US Open in Fort Worth and scored 7.4-4.5 and tying 14th-21st.  His first USCF rating was 2137.


In 1954, he won the New York City Interscholastic Championship while a student at Stuyvesant High School.


In 1955 he graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City.


In 1955, at the age of 18, Mednis won the New York State championship with at 8-1, score.


In 1955, he represented the United States and took 2nd in the 3rd World Junior Championship in Antwerp, Belgium, behind grandmaster Boris Spassky, drawing their individual game.  He did not lose a single game and had a 7-2 score.


In December, 1955, Mednis won the U.S. Intercollegiate championship.  He was a freshman at New York University (NYU) majoring in chemical engineering.  He tied with Anthony Saidy, but won on tie-break points.


In April, 1956, he represented the U.S. in the 3rd World Student Team Chess Championship in Uppsala, Sweden.


He was trained as a chemical engineer, and then became a stock market investor.  He became a professional chess player in 1972 at the age of 35.


In 1957, he was nominated by the USCF for the International Master title.  In 1957 his USCF rating was 2444.


In 1962, he tied for 3rd place in the 1961-62 U.S. Chess Championship.


In 1962, he played on the United States Olympiad team in Varna, Bulgaria.  He won 5 games and lost 2.


In 1962, he defeated Bobby Fischer in the 1962-63 U.S. championship in Round 1.    Fischer resigned the adjourned game before the start of Round 4 by telling the referee, Hans Kmoch.


In 1970, he represented the United States in the Men’s Chess Olympiad in Siegen, Germany.


In 1972, he was a commentator for PBS during the 1972 world championship match between Fischer and Spassky.


In 1974, he finished 3rd at Houston and became an International Master.  He missed the grandmaster norm by a half point.  The average FIDE rating was 2454 and he needed a 7.5 score for a GM norm.  He scored 7-4.


In 1978 he tied for 3rd place in the U.S. Chess Championship with Leonid Shamkovich.  Mednis scored 8-6 in a field averaging 2498.  He needed 8.5 for a GM norm.


The top three U.S. players qualified for the Interzonal, so a play-off was needed to determine 3rd place.  Before the play-off, Mednis wanted to be played for playing a match with Shamkovich.  Shamkovich was will to play for free.  The match was scheduled for the Marshall Chess Club.  Shamkovich showed up, but Mednis did not since no one was willing to pay for the match.  Later, Mednis called to say he was sick.  Several more times the match was scheduled, but Mednis continued to call in sick.  The match was finally awarded by default to Shamkovich.


In 1978, at the FIDE Congress in Buenos Aires, the application by Mednis for the grandmaster title was denied.


In 1979, there were two Interzonals, and one of them was in Riga, Latvia, the birthplace of Mednis.  Ed Edmondson, Executive Director of the USCF, appealed for an extra spot for Mednis to play.  This was accepted and an extra place was created for Mednis.  This gave Mednis an opportunity to return to his homeland since leaving after World War II.


In 1979, he played in the Interzonal tournament in Riga, his birthplace.  However, he did poorly and finished near the bottom.


In 1980, he took 4th at New York.


 He became a Grandmaster in 1980 at the age of 43.  It was the Puerto Rico Chess Federation rather than the United States Chess Federation that formerly proposed him for the Grandmaster title.  The USCF did not think Mednis was strong enough with a 2475 Elo rating and refused to sponsor him for the GM title because he had not made any norms.  The standard Grandmaster rating is 2500.  Puerto Rico nominated him after Mednis agreed to give chess lessons to the Puerto Rican chess team.  Although Mednis did not make any GM norms, FIDE later changed its system for calculating norms (for the first time, FIDE used performance ratings instead of norm scores).  Under this new system, Mednis was qualified for the GM title.  He had qualified with two norms, but did not need a third norm because the previous two moves totaled 26 games.  A player needed at least 25 games before a title was considered.


1n 1984, he took 1st at Puerto Rico.


In 2000, he was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame.


He died on February 13, 2002 at the age of 64.  He died suddenly of cardiac arrest during a bout with pneumonia in Woodside, Queens, New York.  He had recently undergone minor surgery.


Mednis was survived by his wife Baiba, his daughter Sari Eskildsen and his son Mariss Mednis.


He wrote 26 chess books and hundreds of chess articles.


He wrote How to Beat Bobby Fischer (1975), How Karpov Wins (1975), How to Beat the Russians (1978), The Modern Defense (1978), Practical Endgame Lessons (1978), Open Games (1980), Practical Rook Endings (1980), How to Play Good Opening Moves (1982), King Power in Chess (1982), From the Opening into the Endgame (1983), From the Middlegame into the Endgame (1987), Questions and Answers in Practical Opening Play (1987), Strategic Themes in the Endgame (1987), How to Defeat a Superior Opponent (1989), Practical Bishop Endings (1990), How to be a Complete Tournament Player (1991), Rate Your Endgame (1992), Strategic Chess (1993), Practical Knight Endings (1993), Advanced Endgame Strategies (1996), Practical Opening Tips (1997), The King in the Endgame (1997), The King in the Opening (1998), Practical Endgame Tips (1998), The King in the Middlegame (1999), Better Endgame Play (2000).


For many years, he wrote a monthly column for Chess Life called “The Practical Endgame,”


His overall score with Bobby Fischer was 1 win, 1 draw, and 5 losses in tournament play, along with two losses in a blitz tournament.