Stuart Rachels proves he’s a chess master after 30 years

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Stuart Rachel
Stuart Rachels rejoins the game of chess after 30 years. Photo via Stuart Rachel

Bham native Stuart Rachels is coming back stronger than ever to the game of chess. After 30 years from stepping away from the game, Stuart competed in Alabama chess tournaments this year and was inducted into the Alabama Chess Hall of Fame last week.

Who is Stuart Rachels?

According to CBS42, in 1981 Stuart Rachels became the youngest chess master at only 11 years old, beating the record of Bobby Fischer. The chess prodigy was encouraged by his father, who helped him join chess tournaments in Birmingham and gave him resources to become a better player.

During his young career, Stuart competed across the nation against grandmasters like Borris Spassky and Garry Kasporav. His achievements include:

  • Five-time Alabama State Champion
  • Inducted into the first class of the Alabama Chess Hall of Fame in 2021
  • International Master
  • 1988 US Junior Champion
  • 1989 US Co-Champion

Playing the game again

Due to the little money, a lot of traveling and not wanting to move to Europe, Stuart decided to step away from the game in 1993. After three decades, he decided to rejoin the game at the2021 Alabama Blitz Championship and the 2021 Alabama Quick Championship.

“For him to resurface after all these years, and for me to finally get to face him in a serious tournament, was a big deal for me. After all, he was Alabama’s strongest player of the 20th century.

Even though he hadn’t played competitive chess for over 25 years, whereas I was the reigning Alabama State Champion, he beat me very badly! I was impressed.”

Scott Varagona, National Chess Master

Where is Stuart Rachels today?

University of Alabama
Stuart now teaches at the University of Alabama. Photo via Jacob Blankenship via Bham Now

The Alabamian moved his roots from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa. Like his father who taught at UAB, Stuart Rachels is now an associate professor at the University of Alabama, teaching philosophy and ethical theory.

During his time away from the game, Stuart published a memoir and chess strategy book, The Best I Saw in Chess. Now that he’s back in the chess community, he plans to continue competing in some tournaments. Stuart doesn’t think he will pursue the grandmaster title again, but who knows where his achievements will bring him.

Are you a fan or player of chess? Tag us @bhamnow to let us know!

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Selah Vetter
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