[Home]Favisham, Earnest Arthur

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(1920-57)

Earnest Arthur Favisham has been the subject of conflicting assessments ever since he came to attention with a string of astounding games in the international tournaments in his twenties, shortly followed by the work with which his name is permanently associated, Favisham's Byplays. He single-handedly established a method of playing extremely long tactical sequences of moves, which contrasted markedly with what he derisively called 'ping-pong', where the players merely respond to the position of the moment. His great weakness was over-extending himself with elaborations which taxed even his ability to analyse. He saw it differently, saying, "Winning tells me nothing. Losing is the only way to learn from my opponent." Understanding the game was always more important to him than pot-hunting.

After Byplays, he recorded his increasingly complex explorations in irregularly appearing monographs and articles in the IJMC?, with simple yet obscure titles such as Hop-striles and Pegging out of Place. Even the most senior masters of the tactical game admit to being beyond their depth reading them. Strozza commented that if he had understood Favisham earlier, he would have mastered the game in half the time, but until he became a master, he could not have understood Favisham. The last few years have seen several of his earlier articles yielding their secrets to a more sophisticated generation, and Favisham studies have become an established field. In this writer's opinion, Favisham was a genius before his time, perpetually frustrated by the absence of the analytical tools to develop his theories on a sound basis, an Einstein in the age of Ptolemy. Despite the difficulty of his major work, every player who has ever thought more than six moves ahead owes him an indirect debt.

Born in Britain, in his teens his family moved to Germany, where he first came in contact with the game. Within a few months he had, in his view, exhausted the possibilities of club play, and thereafter played only on the international scene. He ignored the English MC community entirely, regarding them (with some justice, at that time) as hidebound traditionalists more concerned with polite breeding than serious play. He played his last game in the final of the Monte Carlo tournament of 1957, losing to the brilliant [Gabriela Scarlatti]?. He died the following morning of an aneurysm while analysing the game, at the age of 37.

He is variously remembered: "Playing against Favisham was like having my brains sucked out through a drinking straw. It was wonderful." (Gabriela Scarlatti) "Not really one of us." (Mrs. Trellis) "The finest genius never to have won a major tournament." (Rutherford) "A delusional monomaniac whose scribblings would better adorn the walls of Bedlam." (Ruttsborough)

[Rk]


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