Kevin O'Connell

by Kevin O'Connell (June 1998)

Chess Consultant

What is a "chess consultant"? Well, it was the best way I could find of describing someone who plays (if only occasionally), coaches, writes about (27 books, hundreds of articles and thousands of newspaper columns) and organizes chess professionally. The majority of my chess time is now taken up with the Intelligent Chess Display system which enables chess fans to watch the games (in the playing hall, press room, via teletext or over the internet) at many of the biggest chess events.

In the Beginning

My father and his family came from Cork City although my grandmother and her family (linking us to Tom MacCurtain) were from Dunmanway. My mother's family is from London.

I learned to play chess at 11 the "Capablanca way" - watching other kids play at school - and within a couple of weeks was the best player in my year. So I went along to the local chess club but was told that I was too young and, even worse, I believed them, stopped playing and did not start again until I was 16. Since then chess has always been at least a large part of my life.


I am the longest-serving delegate in FIDE. Elista will be my 18th FIDE Congress since Lucerne 1977 (I represented Ireland in 1977-1978, 1980-1988, 1990-1992, 1994-1996). Elista will also be my 13th consecutive Olympiad. I was a senior arbiter in 1974, worked on the bulletin in 1976, provided my Intelligent Chess Display system in 1992 and was Chairman of the Appeals Committee in 1996. I have also been President of the West European zone of FIDE (1978-1996), Chairman of FIDE's Computer Committee (1982-1990), Chairman of the FIDE Qualification Commission (1990-1994) and Chairman of FIDE's Titles and Ratings Committee (1994-1998).

Proudest Moments

I completed a Masters degree (MSc) in Sports Science at Essex University in 1997 with two potentially important publications on chess: my dissertation Practical Recommendations to Chess Players from Sports Science and my thesis Reversals in Chess: Right or Wrong. Otherwise, my proudest moments in chess, in chronological order, have been:

  • Seeing my game against Grabinger, Bagneux 1970, published in many French newspapers and magazines. This game was played before my chess style became dull, as was this one.
  • Being guest of honour at the opening of the 1982 Irish Championship in Cork.
  • Being guest of honour at the closing of the 1987 Women's Zonal in Oporto.
  • Reading the following comment about my Intelligent Chess Display in Kasparov's book Child of Change (also published as Unlimited Challenge): "This was the brainchild of David Levy and Kevin O'Connell of Intelligent Chess Software and was revolutionising chess as a spectator sport".
  • Finding a reference to one of my publications in The Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose.
  • Playing chess again, after a gap of 12 years, making an even score against IMs (+5 =3 -5, although the less said about my 0/9 against GMs the better), sharing first place in the Dublin Zonal Weekender with Baburin and Arakhamia and then seeing my name head the list of Irish players in the July 1993 FIDE Rating List.
  • Never having lost a game for Ireland (although I haven't played many).
  • Coaching three players, from the same street where I live in Ipswich, who have represented their country (regrettably not Ireland) in World age-group Championships.
  • Being selected as captain of the women's team for the 1998 Olympiad.

As Chairman of FIDE's titling process I have always done everything proper to facilitate the achievement of titles, and when Alisa Maric needed the full point in the last round of the Hastings Challengers of 1991/2 I gave her a fair chance by not playing too boringly. IM Pablo Glavina, however, was rather generous to me in the Principe de Asturias rapidplay tournament in Spain - he did not want a draw and so he didn't get one!