John Nunn: 20 Questions

What is your earliest memory of playing chess?

Being told by my father not to allow e4, Bc4, Qh5 and Qxf7 mate.

What is your most memorable game?

Beliavsky–Nunn, Wijk aan Zee 1985.


Alexander Beliavsky
© Mark Rabkin

What was your worst defeat?

Nunn–Lemachko, Lugano 1984.

Which living player do you most admire?

I admire Kasparov for the strength of his moves.

How do you relax?

Computer games.

What/who is your favourite band/composer?


What is your favourite record?

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

What is your greatest weakness?


What is your greatest strength?


What is your most unappealing habit?


Which book would you take to a desert island?

How to Build a Boat.

How would you characterise your chess-playing style?

A leading player once described me in print as ‘perhaps the world’s leading coffee-house player’. I wouldn’t argue with that.

Nunn on University Challenge

John Nunn on University Challenge
21 December 2015

What is your favourite television programme?


Against which player do you have the worst results?

I have never beaten Kasparov or Hübner, and I also have a lousy score against Timman.

© Mark Huba

Jan Timman
© Mark Huba

Which meal do you most like to eat and could you cook it yourself?

Smoked salmon, steak and chocolate ice cream (with chocolate sauce), although not all together. I could cook the salmon and ice cream.

What do you consider to be your most important contribution to opening theory?

Persuading the world that the Marshall Gambit is playable.

What was your most embarrassing moment at the chessboard?

Losing to Lemachko at Lugano 1984, the day after I had commented to a journalist that I had never lost to a woman in a tournament game.

Do you own a chess computer, and can you envisage ever losing to a machine in a competitive game?

I have various PC software playing programs, but not a dedicated machine. Yes.

John Nunn in 2010

the world’s leading coffee-house player?
(photo: Brittle heaven~commonswiki)

Who is the chess writer you most enjoy reading, and why?

Hans Ree. Commonsense and humour.

In which particular tournament do you most like to compete?

The Amber tournaments in Monaco.

Who is the most irritating opponent you have faced?

Any German player who eats a sausage at the board.

Who is the most courteous person you have played?

Most strong players are courteous.

Are there any other sports/activities at which you excel?


First published in Kingpin 23 (Autumn 1994)



  1. Stonley Eyres says:

    “Any German player who eats a sausage at the board.”
    Fortunately FIDE is on the case! Annex 56 (Abu Dhabi) of the Rules Commission, the Nikrow proposal in Section 3.1 would ban food from the playing table and handshakes. The Medical Commission found the first was not in their domain, however inappropriate they find it personally. No final decision has been taken by Rules. In Annex 39, the Medical Commission decided that players with severe allergies should inform the arbiters. If were a *non*-German player eating a sausage, possibly the PC police would be appalled at the cultural appropriation.

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