Neil Carr: A Natural


Neil Carr, who has died suddenly at only 47, was one of the most gifted chess players to emerge from the English chess explosion of the late seventies and early eighties. A child prodigy, he won the British Under-11 Championship in 1978 and lifted the Under-16 trophy in his thirteenth year. He could have filled his mantelpiece by turning professional but at 21 chose instead to pursue a career in business and devote himself to family life. Tournament chess would take a back seat for another 23 years although he continued to represent his county, Essex, and clubs Central YMCA, East Ham, Ilford, Barking, and latterly Writtle.

Shortly before gaining his FIDE Master title in 1985, he caused a sensation by crushing Anatoly Karpov in a simultaneous display. Hounding Karpov’s king across the board from g1 to b1, Neil inflicted on the then World Champion one of his most humiliating defeats. And he made it look effortless. As chess columnist Harry Woolverton noted in the Ilford Recorder:

‘Fifteen-year-old Neil Carr played chess of a very high order in this game which was judged to be the best in Karpov’s recent display and received an award.

The World Champion was severely punished for greedily grabbing the pawns.’

The game is typical of Neil’s dynamic tactical approach. ‘Vigorous counterattack was a hallmark of his style,’ says friend and clubmate Andrew Martin. ‘He was energetic, aggressive and original.’

The King’s Indian and the Pirc were the mainstays of his defensive repertoire. With White, the Smith-Morra Gambit fitted him like an iron-fisted glove. It took him on some startling adventures that inspired an entertaining little book. EPSON MFP image

Anatoly Karpov – Neil Carr

Simultaneous display

London, 1984

(Notes by Neil Carr in the Ilford Recorder)


   1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Be2 O-O 6 O-O Bg4 7 Be3 Nc6 8 Qd2 e5 9 d5 Ne7 10 Rad1 b5!?

As played by Azmaiparashvili against Karpov, a game Karpov lost.

karpov-carr...10   11 a3 a5

11…Bd7 has been recommended here.

   12 Bxb5 Bxf3 13 gxf3 Nh5 14 Rfe1 f5 15 Qe2 f4 16 Bd2 g5 17 Qf1 Rf6 18 Qh3 Rh6

karpov-carr...18   19 Qd7?

I think 19 Bd7 is better as it holds back Black’s dangerous pawn.

   19…Qf8 20 Qxc7 Rc8 21 Qxa5 Nf6

karpov-carr...21   22 Kf1?

And now White is lost. 22 Bf1 followed by h3 is a better defence although I am sure the well-placed Black pieces mean that Black has more than enough compensation for the pawns.

   22…g4 23 Ke2

If 23 fxg4 f3! 24 Bxh6 Nxg4! and White is going to get mated.


analysis position after 24…Nxg4!

   23…gxf3+ 24 Kd3 Rxh2

karpov-carr...24   25 Qb6

If 25 Rf1 Rxc3+ 26 Bxc3 Nxe4! 27 Kxe4 Rh3! and again White is mated.


analysis position after 27…Rh3!

 25…Ng4 26 Rf1 Rb8 

karpov-carr-before27   27 Qxd6

If 27 Qa7 Ra8 28 Qb6 Nc8 29 Qb7 Ra7 and Black wins.

   27…Nxf2+ 28 Rxf2 Rxf2 29 a4 Rg2 30 Kc4 Rg6 31 Qd7 

karpov-carr31   31…Nc8 32 Kb3 Nd6 33 Rh1 f2 34 Rf1 Rb7 

karpov-carr...34   35 Qh3

If 35 Qc6 Nxe4 and wins.

   35…Nxb5 36 axb5

karpov-carr...36   36…Rxb5+ 37 Ka2

37 Nxb5 Rg3+.

   37…Ra6+ 38 Kb1 Rxb2+ karpov-carr...38   0-1

It’s mate after 39 Kxb2 Qa3+.


Neil’s notes are brief and matter of fact, as if nothing very remarkable has taken place – typical of an easy-going nature that belied self-assurance and great determination.

He was a cheery, kind and positive person with an earthy sense of humour; and his chess reflected his character. Neil Carr was a natural.


photo: Jean Lane


Andrew Martin’s moving tribute to Neil in the British Chess Magazine:



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