Peter Parr and Bobby Cheng at the 2013 Australian Open Prizegiving

Peter Parr and Bobby Cheng
at the 2013 Australian Open
Prizegiving
Photo by E.Renzies

A couple of weeks ago something strange happened. Peter Parr’s chess column did not appear in the Monday issue of the Sydney Morning Herald. The column had been running for 41 years and it was rare indeed for it to miss a week. Perhaps something had happened to Peter? Unfortunately this was the case. The police were called and broke into Peter’s house in Redfern to find that he had passed away a few days before. He was only 66 years of age. A sad end indeed to a life devoted to chess. The police tried hard to contact Peter’s nearest relative, his sister, who lives in New Zealand, but it took them a week as she was on holidays in Queensland. She was planning to visit Peter in Sydney on her way home.

I attended Peter’s funeral in Sydney last Thursday and was pleased to see so many chess players show up to remember Peter. Many of the faces were vaguely familiar but some I had not seen for over 40 years!

Peter was a great one for chess gossip and news so at the funeral I shared a few stories about Peter with the mourners. Here is an expanded version of what I said.

“Good morning everyone.

I’d like to say a few words on behalf of the Australian Chess Community so let me start by passing on our condolences to Peter’s sister Mary and also to Steve Kerr, his friend and business associate for 36 years.

It’s terribly sad to unexpectedly lose a family member and Peter was not only a member of the Parr family but a very significant member of the Australian Chess Family also.

In 2011 we lost John Purdy, also unexpectedly, then Anne Purdy earlier this year, and now Peter.

Not living in Sydney, I didn’t get to meet Peter on a regular basis and know him as well as many in the audience here today, but we did share a common history and at most of the major chess events in my life Peter was there … sometimes as a team captain, sometimes as an arbiter or administrator and sometimes as a player.

Peter loved to gossip and I’m sure that he wouldn’t want to be sent off without a few stories, so let me tell you some of mine.

 

Player
As a player is was very good, without quite making it to the top. I was reading an old volume of the English magazine, “Chess”, the other day and there was a small paragraph on Australian News from 1969. It noted that Peter Parr, son of Frank, had moved to NSW and just tied with Cecil Purdy for first place in the NSW Championship. Peter won the play-off 2.5-0.5. Not a bad result! I also remember at one Olympiad, Peter, as captain, kept reminding the team members that he had in fact defeated at the Australian Olympiad team 2.5 to 1.5 at the Doeberl Cup that year so we should take note of his opinion on chess matters.

 

Team Captain
Peter was Olympiad Captain on six occasions and on the first few of those I was his board one player so we had a close association at those events. My view was that the main role of the Team Captain was to keep his top player supplied with chocolate so I read with interest Peter’s interview with the “closest grandmaster” where he recounted an incident in Haifa when I went out to get some chocolate and was nearly run over by an Israeli tank! I don’t remember the incident but Peter did – he had a great memory for such things which made him very entertaining company.

 

Arbiter
Peter was a great arbiter and ran Doeberl for 21 years plus many national championships. He was undoubtedly the best arbiter in the country. He had the respect of the players and knew the rules well and even served on the FIDE Rules Commission for a number of years. He was firm but not officious. I remember one instance from the 1974 Championships where Max Fuller and I did not wish to offer the other a draw even though it came down to King v King. I had a King on e5 I think with Max’s King on e7. Peter calmly came up to the board and suggested that it may be a good idea if we agreed to a draw. I protested “but I’m ahead on the clock, have more space and the opposition!” Peter however was firm and Max and I shook hands.

 

Chess Shop
Peter of course was at the centre of Australian Chess through running his chess shop for 41 years as well as being editor and publisher of the national magazine for a long period of time.

Like most interstate and overseas chess players who passed through Sydney I made a point of visiting Peter’s shop to catch up on the latest chess gossip and perhaps find a forgotten chess book by rummaging through the chaos that was his chess shop. This was a favourite past-time of mine as I wished to add to my collection of 3000 chess books. Peter of course stirred me by saying that he was the only person in Australia who had more chess books than me and I countered by noting that most of them were probably duplicates. It was great fun.

I heard an amusing story the other day about a young boy, perhaps 13 or 14 years of age, who was browsing in Peter’s Shop for the first time. Another customer, trying to be helpful, told the boy that the children’s section was over in the corner of the shop. Peter quickly pulled up the customer. That little boy, explained Peter, is Laurence Matheson and he is currently playing in the Australian (adult) Championship! Peter knew everyone and and everything that was going on in chess.

 

ACF Commemoration
I think it is fair to say that no-one since Cecil Purdy has lived at the centre of Australian Chess on a day-to-day basis as Peter did. He knew everyone, from grandmasters and FIDE Presidents to the local wood-pushers. He was continually working for the betterment of chess, sometimes as a chess official and sometimes just as a critic. The fact that he was awarded Life Membership of both the ACF and the NSWCA as well as the OAM in 1997 is a testament to his contribution.

I do hope that the ACF will find a suitable way to recognise Peter’s contribution to chess in the near future, perhaps by naming the next Australian Open Championship in his memory.

 

Bequest
One final story … a couple of years ago I was talking to Peter following the death of Lloyd Fell and I asked him if Lloyd had perhaps left something to chess in his will. Peter advised that Lloyd had thought about leaving his house to the NSWCA (as Rudzitis did for the Melbourne Chess Club a couple of decaded ago) but apparently had had a falling out with them recently and so the bequest was never made.

Now I do not know if Peter himself has made a will.
I do not know if Peter has left anything to chess in his will.
But what I do know is that whether or not Peter has remembered Australian chess, Australian chess will always remember Peter Parr.

May he rest in peace.”
-Robert Jamieson

3 Responses to “Peter Parr (1946-2013) R.I.P.”

  1. August 30, 2013 at 3:36 pm, Jason Lyons said:

    Well written Robert, thanks for sharing some stories about Pete. He was always a brilliant storyteller and you’ve done him justice.

    Reply

  2. September 07, 2013 at 6:42 pm, Peter Cotton said:

    So long to Peter. Whether it was the bookstore or the Doeberl Cup, he created a world that others inhabited – and there are few who can say the same.

    Reply

  3. May 30, 2016 at 12:50 pm, Rod Cooney said:

    Wow! Only just found out about Peter’s passing. Playing in the A grade schools championships in 1979-1980, many games were played at Peter’s Chess Centre. Peter would keep sealed moves at an adjournment for the kids playing and was always available for discussions of all things chess. I admired you Peter Parr. I hope you are never forgotten. (You will never be forgotten by me)

    Reply

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