BEING a master of one of the world’s most intellectually challenging games is an impressive accolade, and even more so when you have held the title for more than 25 years.
Taunton’s Michael Adams is Britain’s number one chess player and has recently broken into the world top ten, making him the first Brit to do so in more than a decade.
He also holds the title of Grandmaster, which is awarded to players by the world chess organisation FIDE.
Apart from world champion, Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain.
What makes the 42-year-old, originally from Cornwall, such a master of the game?
He said: “Everyone has strengths and weaknesses – sometimes you’ll be very strong in one area of the game, but not in others.
“I think I have a good temperament and a good level of dedication – I put a lot of time into my game and I’m prepared to put quite a lot of work into it.”
Michael, nicknamed ‘The Spider’ by chess great Garry Kasparov because of his “patience and tenacity”, started playing the game at the age of just seven and became hooked immediately.
Endless practice led to him attaining Grandmaster status at 17, making him the youngest in the world at that time.
He said: “When I started playing at about seven I went on to play in a few tournaments.
I then won a few and things went from there.
“My dad taught me the moves, but he wasn’t a big chess player. He became a better player as I began to play more.
“You’ve got to enjoy playing the game – that’s the key thing.”
Michael has been a professional player for over 20 years and believes advances in technology have benefited the ways in which players now practise.
With masses of game databases available, training has become digital, enabling players to improve much faster.
“A lot of the training is computer-based preparation nowadays, and preparing for your opponent,” he said.
“We can reach quite deep into the game now because of the databases available.
Speaking just days before the London Chess Classic Tournament, Michael said playing chess has many benefits.
“People underestimate the benefit of just playing the game – there’s no substitute.”
The tournament works closely with the Chess in Schools and Communities charity, which is campaigning for primary schoolchildren to play chess due to its educational and social benefits for youngsters.
“There are quite a lot of different advantages for children in terms of discipline and concentration,” said Michael.
“I think sometimes children who have difficulty concentrating can find that when they get into a game of chess they get completely lost in it.
“Chess also keeps your brain active, and I think it has been shown that it can be a big help as people get older.”
Michael’s most memorable tournament victory came in Dortmund last August, and with chess players only likely to improve with age he may well be the king of British chess for a long time to come.