Sir Ian Bright, OBE

In memory of the late Ian Brusby whose actions on and off the board delighted and entertained many.

Some players are born crazy!

Against a backdrop of Soviet dominance, the British chess scene in the 1960s was in the doldrums.
Many sound and robust players fell out of the top ranks of international chess and interest in the royal game began to wane.

An important day in British Sporting History!

On the morning of 30 July 1966, 21 year old ‘jack of all trades’ Ian Bright was 30 minutes into his game with French champion Michel Le Tumelin when upon seeing the strangely dressed Brit pick up his advanced knight and moving it hastily and excitedly onto f2 in exchange for a mere pawn, the Gaulle quickly lost composure and the game.

This single move won the European chess championship and made sure this day would be remembered in British history for ever.

[Event "BEuropean Open Chess Championship, London, July 1966 "] [White "Le Tumelin, Michel"] [Black "Bright, Ian"] [Site "London Embassy Hall"] [Result "0-1"] [Date "July 1966"] 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nc3 a6 4.e3 Nf6 5.Bxc4 e6 6.Nf3 b5 7.Bb3 Bb7 8.0-0 c5 9.Bd2 {Although developing pieces, Le Tumelin’s play is simply too passive. Black is getting a lot of activity without any real challenge.} 9...Nbd7 10.Re1 Bd6 11.dxc5 Nxc5 12.Nd4 0-0 13.Bc2 b4 14.Nce2 Nce4 15.Rc1 Nxf2! {and resigns due to various horrible lines:} (15...Nxf2 16. Kxf2 Ng4+ {and white can choose how to lose the game between the game line of} 17. Kg1 Qh4 18. Nf4 {nothing else is any better} 18...Bxf4 {when white must surrender endless material to keep the wolf from the door or} ) (15...Nxf2 16. Kxf2 Ng4+ 17. Kf1 Qh4 18. Ng3 {leading to a lovely finish:} 18...Bxg2+! 19. Kxg2 Qxh2+ 20. Kf3 Qxg3+ 21. Ke2 Qg2+ 22. Kd3 Ne5)
...and the world falls apart for the down-trodden Frenchman! 1

A very interesting background

Ian Bright was a real extrovert. His mother was a weaver (and responsible for many of his infamous jumpers) and his father was a cobbler.

With little money but many skills, the labourers’ son developed a living around dentistry (practiced sober and inebriated), pottery and weaponry – the Bright shield is well known as a great defensive and attacking resource in many re-enactment communities – originals sell for upwards of £3,000 at auction.

The game in London against Le Tumelin was really the start of his chequered chess career. Before then, he was simply a casual player who played the odd county game.

His chess life mirrored his private life. A passionate and direct man, he did nothing by halves. His apathy for trivial matters like his health or the safety of others was matched on the board by “his blatant disregard for pieces which bordered on the idiotic! ” 2

A black and white career

He made it into the UK team aged 24 and was selected to play in the European Chess Championships in Cardiff in the winter of 1969.

Sadly, this first tournament was not a success. Many of the other nations had trained their stars to play solidly and with a positional focus, to frustrate young Mr Bright.

Nowhere else was this plan brought to fruition than in round five against the Polish player Boniek.

[Event "Wales Interzonal Tournament 1969"] [Site "Cardiff"] [Date "12/03/1969"] [White "Bright, Ian"] [Black "Boniek, Gregorz"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "TQM"] [SetUp "1"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "1971"] [FEN "rnbqkb1r/ppp2ppp/3p1n2/4N3/4P3/8/PPPP1PPP/RNBQKB1R w KQkq - 0 4"] 4. Nxf7!? {this was a typical decision. Not one to be doing with more boring positional lines, Bright denies black castling and gives white a good initiative in development}
Boniek was aware this line would be provocative and some home preparation ensured the Pole was able to maintain a comfortable positional advantage.

These pieces had no idea how suicidal they were about to become!

Aside from this initial set-back, his chess talent and sharp tactical eye developed.
He was a monster in open positions, finding tricks and traps out of thin air.

He was also prone to mischief off the board and caused controversy when he turned up to Eoin McGoyle’s fancy dress party as Jan Berwijk, the boring old Dutch player who accused Bright in De Telegraaf of “gross indecency and poor manners. ”

The episode was resolved peacefully when only three days later, he removed a troubled tooth from the irritable Dutchman whilst under sedation .


Bright’s greatest glory came in 1972 at the UK (Fizz Wiz) Tournament. Bright won the open section with a score of 9/10, only forfeiting a point in round three for turning up late to the venue after a heavy night.

The jewel in the crown was the fabulous destruction of Grahame MacCall of Edinburgh in round 2. A solid player, MacCall simply doesn’t anticipate the danger about to unfold.

[Event "UK (Fizz Wizz) Tournament 1972"] [White "MacCall, Grahame"] [Black "Bright, Ian"] [Site "London Embassy Hall"] [Result "0-1"] [Date "1972"] 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.Bd2 Ne7 6.Nb5 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 0-0 8.c3 Nbc6 9.f4 f6 10.Nf3 Qb6 11.Nd6 fxe5 12.Nxc8 Raxc8 13.fxe5 cxd4 14.cxd4 {after a gritty opening, black is somewhat better from the open lines and the strange decision to exchange knight for bishop. The next move is SCREAMING to be played!} 14...Rxf3! 15.gxf3 Nxd4 16.Kd1 Nxf3 {Whilst not the perfect finish, the way MacCall is left to dangle on the ropes waiting for the killer punch is quite entertaining!} 17.Qe2 Qd4+ 18.Qd3 Qf4 19.Bg2 Nxe5 20.Qd2 Qg4+ 21.Ke1 Rc4 22.Rd1 Nf3+ 23.Bxf3 Qxf3 24.Qf2?? {no doubt just worn out!} Re4+
After the tournament in 1972, Bright took a back-seat from chess, preferring to work on inventions and look after the family businesses. His life was a brief but exciting one and many who met him attended his funeral which was full of good anecdotes and many happy times.


  1. In the tournament programme, the following short comments were given – “16. Kxf2 Ng4+ and white can choose how to lose the game between the game line of 17 Kg1 Qh4 18. Nf4 (nothing else is any better) 18…Bxf4 when white must surrender endless material to keep the wolf from the door or 17. Kf1 Qh4 18. Ng3 leading to a lovely finish: 18…Bxg2+! 19. Kxg2 Qxh2+ 20. Kf3 Qxg3+ 21. Ke2 Qg2+ 22. Kd3 Ne5#” (translated from “Bericht des 1966 London Schachturnier” – Helmut Haller)
  2. Teammate Steven Wood, Dundee Chess Press 1969

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