Australia Chess: RIP MAX FULLER 1945-2013
Australia's first chess professional, Max Fuller, developed from a gangly teenager who would rarely be seen at Canterbury Boys High School without a chessboard under his arm to Australia's No.1 in a few years.
His bohemian and peripatetic lifestyle - winning tournaments from Malta to Honiara - confounded many in Australia who believed chess could not be a ''real'' job, but also inspired a generation of Australians to try their luck on the international circuit.
Maxwell Leonard Fuller was born on January 28, 1945, and brought up in Sydney by his mother and a disliked step-father, after his father died.
As a teenager, every Saturday he could be found at the Hyde Park chess set, taking on all-comers all day, and by the time he left school at 16, he was determined to become a professional player. He even taught himself Dutch so he could read the premier theoretical journal of the time, Max Euwe's Chess Archives.
His mother's death in 1962 made Fuller more determined to leave home and he used his small inheritance to travel to the World Junior Championship in Yugoslavia in 1963 and a year later to the Chess Olympiad in Tel Aviv.Prizes in Australian tournaments at the time were negligible, so when Fuller returned to Sydney he combined studying and playing chess with proofreading for the Herald. He was called up for the army during the Vietnam War but was rejected for being far below the minimum weight for his height.
His first big break came at the end of 1968 when he was invited to the traditional Hastings Grandmaster tournament in England. He soon understood the gap between himself and the world elite and said the five ''draws'' he scrounged in his eleven games were the most difficult of his life and left him exhausted.
He raised his level and, two years later, finished second in the British Championship, a feat he repeated five years later.
Soon after his first Australian Championship title in 1972, Fuller had a career-defining stroke of bad luck. At a World Championship qualifier in Hong Kong he tied for second place with two others, but only one could be given the ''international master'' title and a place in the elite Inter-zonal tournament. A play-off match could not separate the three so a drawing of lots was organised. Fuller won the toss for the right to draw first but then picked the wrong envelope. After many near-misses, Fuller never became an international master but he earned a World Chess Federation master title.
Despite being based in England for long periods, Fuller won every title worth winning in Australia - the Australian Open, NSW Championship and Doeberl Cup thrice each - and earned a gold medal for Australia at the 1974 Asian Teams Championship.
Fuller also coached a number of junior players, helped form the NSW Junior League and became a minor TV celebrity in 1972 as part of the ABC's team of commentators for the Bobby Fischer v Boris Spassky world title match.
Throughout the 1970s, Fuller enjoyed a fierce rivalry with the rising star from Melbourne, Robert Jamieson, who soon usurped Fuller's position as Australia's No.1. Jamieson was a more conventional wage earner and was dismissive of Fuller's poverty and nomadic lifestyle. Nonetheless, Fuller represented Australia at nine Chess Olympiads, the last in 1990, eight years after Jamieson had retired from Olympic duty. Although living on the breadline for much of his life - seemingly surviving on chess, cigarettes, alcohol and little else - Fuller was always generous. After a tournament victory, he would use much of his winnings to shout dinner for his many friends.
In the early 1980s, Fuller abandoned life as a chess professional and turned to proofreading as a full-time job. Even as a part-time player he earned Olympic selection in 1990 and tied for the NSW title in 2005.
Fuller never married, and leaves no survivors.
From Alexandra Kosteniuk's
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