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John Collins, 89; Tutored Top U.S. Chess Players

December 05, 2001

John W. Collins, 89, tutor to America's top chess players including Bobby Fischer, died Sunday in Manhattan of undisclosed causes.

Collins taught chess for almost 70 years, instructing such players as Fischer, William Lombardy and Robert Byrne by playing against them. Injured in an accident at birth, he used a wheelchair and taught in his home.

His physical disabilities limited his education. He learned chess from a neighbor and later founded the Hawthorne Chess Club, which gained a strong reputation in chess circles.

In 1991, the United States Chess Federation named Collins chess teacher of the century and inducted him into its hall of fame. He was ranked No. 17 in the country and was co-editor of the ninth edition of "Modern Chess Openings."

In his book "My Seven Chess Prodigies," Collins said he was uncomfortable with the label "Bobby Fischer's teacher," noting that he had merely "imparted knowledge" to the champion and that Fischer's special ability could not be taught.

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