Michael Franklin

Many in the English chess community will have been saddened to hear of the death last month of FM Michael Franklin at the age of 92.

The word most often used to describe him was ‘gentleman’: perhaps an old-fashioned concept, but very appropriate for someone who always recorded his games descriptive notation and never used a computer or sent an email. Michael was a man liked and respected by all who knew him: it was an honour and privilege that he was a clubmate of mine at Richmond, for whom he played for almost 60 years.

At his best, in the 1960s, he was at or close to International Master strength, playing in an Olympiad and competing on two occasions in the Hastings Premier.

Michael had a very distinctive approach to chess. He was just a player, having nothing to do with writing, organising or teaching. A player who played simply because he enjoyed the game. He was best known for his espousal of the London System (against the King’s Indian Defence) with White and the O’Kelly Sicilian with Black, preferring unpretentious openings which didn’t require book knowledge. He played fast, often winning from inferior positions in his opponents’ time trouble, was a very sharp tactician and excelled in the ending.

In short, Michael was, in many ways, a typical natural player, but one who was exceptionally talented. It occurs to me that there were ways in which his approach to the game was similar to that promoted by Nigel: play simple unpretentious openings that you understand well in order to reach a middlegame where you know (perhaps better than your opponent) what’s happening and transfer the struggle to later in the game rather than spend a lot of time studying opening theory.

Michael will be much missed, as a player, and, more importantly, as a person.

In this game he uses the London System to defeat a grandmaster.

Here’s a win with Black where he had slightly the worse of the opening, but scored the full point against a strong and solid opponent through some typical tactical opportunism.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website www.minichess.uk, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through www.chessheroes.uk. View all posts by Richard James

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