Grandmaster William Lombardy Passes Away at 79


[Editor's Note: Mike Klein has since updated his insightful piece and has included thoughts from many in the chess community including Bruce Pandolfini.]

Grandmaster William Lombardy has passed away at the age of 79. According to Mike Klein, reporting for, Lombardy had only recently moved to Caifornia, staying with friend Ralph Palmieri in the East Bay (east of San Francisco). According to Klein's source, Lombardy "collapsed and died" Friday, October 13 in Martinez, CA.

Lombardy was depicted in the 2014 movie Pawn Sacrifice, his character portrayed by Illinois-native Peter Sarsgaard (the priest serving as Fischer's coach during the legendary match with Boris Spassky). 

The GM, who eventually left the clergy, was bitter that he did not receive royalties for the use of his likeness in the movie.

Within the last year, Lombardy had made an extended appearance in Illinois -- and neighboring Iowa. He signed autographs in the skittles room at the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago's December 17, 2016 tournament at DeLaSalle Institute.

A fundraising tournament was held in his honor January 21 in Palatine.

The GM graciously provided a short lecture at the January 28, 2017 Port of Burlington tournament in Iowa where he espoused the benefit of learning to play blindfold chess.

Lombardy wrote or co-authored nine chess books, most in the 1970's. His Understanding Chess: My System, My Games, My Life was published by Russell Enterprises in 2011.

As a youth player himself, Lombardy was a significant force. He won the 1954 New York State Championship and tied for first at the 1956 Canadian Open. In 1957, at the age of 19, he became the first American to win the World Junior Championships, going 11-0 in Toronto, and receiving the International Master title. He became an International Grandmaster in 1960.

According to Cold War Chess, the Toronto accomplishment was "the first time an individual world title had been won by an American since the distant days of Paul Morphy" (in the 1800's).

Mr. Lombardy grew up in the Bronx burough of New York City. He died less than nine weeks shy of his 80th birthday.