Memories of Greg Knutson

On July 28, 1996, my friend died. To the members of the chess community who did not know former USCF Master Gregory A. Knutson I offer my deepest sympathy. They shall never know the kind soul who brought gentle humor and intellectual challenge into my life. Greg was a man of many talents and a broad range of interests. Most of us are familiar with his chess playing ability, but many are unaware that he was also a 2-dan Amateur (Master) of Go and that it was his true love. Perhaps, it was his lifelong interest in Mathematics which propelled him toward a game in which logic was not the determining factor in mastery, but intuition, passion and unrestricted imagination. Nor are many people aware of the fact that he was an expert at backgammon and bridge.

Greg lived his life the way most dream of living it; a life where one does not limit oneself to the comfortable and familiar, but explores all of the hidden possibilities of existence that fascinates and intrigues us. In his quest for meaning in his life, he left no stone unturned. He was accomplished in Mathematics and was well on his way to a p.h.D in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin; he was a poet and a member of the Poet's Society, and he was a musician and self-taught guitarist. Those of us who knew him have much to be thankful for. His life, knowledge and experiences enriched the lives of many people in Wisconsin.

My passion for the game of chess would not have amounted to much were it not for Greg. I would never have achieved a Master rating in blitz were it not for the constant battles between us for first place in the U.W. blitz tournaments. I remember many times when a single draw would have assured me of sole first place but, more often than not, Greg's perseverance and talent would frustrate my intentions. The lessons I learned in our battles would be invaluable later in my career. Nor were the lessons confined to the game of blitz chess. We played Action chess, regular chess, even Go, and in each I learned something from him which I was able to apply to my own game. His knowledge and expertise revived in me a love for the game I thought had died. He showed me things which helped me to understand the beauty and complexity of the game, which transcended competition and transformed it into art. For that I am eternally grateful.

However, knowledge aside, it is attitude that impressed me the most about Greg. He rarely got upset over his losses to lower rated players. Of all the players I have met, few were as kind to me as Greg. He showed genuine respect for my chess and he constantly gave me encouragement and advice when few people would. He was truly a "gentle/man". That quality will be sorely missed in Wisconsin chess. It is said that the truly great man never dies, but lives on in the memories of friends and family. My memories of him are many, but one I will cherish above all else. I, like Greg, am a self-taught guitarist and I frequently practice in the Memorial Union. One day, I took my guitar to the Union so I could work on a song after a few games of blitz. Those "few games" lasted 6 hours and after a particularly awful game in which I lost almost every piece to a lower rated opponent, I called it quits. I decided not to work on my song, and instead took out my guitar to play a few "standards" before heading home. After my mini-concert was finished, I packed up my guitar and dropped by the table to see how Greg was doing. He looked up at me, and just before he announced "mate" to his opponent, he smiled and said, " Don, you play very well, but your voice needs a lot of work." If one lives on in the memories of friends and family, then Greg will live in ours for a very long time. Goodbye my friend. I will miss you.

------Don Hwang

I am currently working on a project about Greg Knutson. If anyone has games, anecdotes and information about Greg, I would appreciate it if they could send me a copy.

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