Mystery of Peter Winston

One of the biggest mysteries in US Chess History has been the disappearance of Peter Winston. Peter Winston was the most talented young US player if his time. He won the US Junior Championship.

However, in 1977 he played in a FIDE rated tournament at Hunter College High School in New York City. In spite of being one of the highest rated players in the tournament, Peter Winston lost all nine of his games, to finish with a score of 0-9, an unbelievable result for a rated chess master.

Peter Winston left the tournament hall to go home. He never made it home. He completely disappeared. Twenty-five years have passed and nobody has seen or heard from him since.

The presumption is that Peter Winston killed himself. But, how did he die? Why has his dead body never been found?

Bruce Kopet, a schizophrenic chess expert now living in California, insists that Peter Winston is still alive, serving a long prison sentence for computer fraud somewhere. However, since Kopet is obviously a schizophrenic who babbles to himself, his credibility is doubtful.

The name of Peter Winston does not appear on the Social Security Death Index, but that may simply be because he did not have a social security number, or because the fact of his death has never been reported or established.

This may be like the much more famous mystery of: What Ever Happened to Judge Crater? A mystery that will never be solved.

Here is a game I played against Peter Winston when he was only 11 years old:

[Event "Manhattan Chess Club Preliminaries"]
[Site "New York NY"]
[Date "1970.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Sloan,Sam"]
[Black "Winston,Peter"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B90"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h3 Nc6 7.g4 e6 8.Bg2 Be7 9.O-O Qc7 10.Be3 Na5 11.g5 Nd7 12.Qh5 Nb6 13.g6 Nac4 14.gxf7+ Kf8 15.Nce2 e5 16.Nf5 Bxf5 17.Qxf5 Nxe3 18.fxe3 Qxc2 19.Rf2 Qc8 20.Qh5 Qe6 21.Raf1 Nc4 22.Qf3 Nd2 23.Qg3 Nxf1 24.Bxf1 Qg6 25.Kh2 Qxg3+ 26.Kxg3 h5 27.Nc3 Rh6 28.Nd5 Rg6+ 29.Kh2 Bh4 30.Rf5 Rc8 31.Rxh5 Rc2+ 32.Kh1 Bf2 33.Bg2 Rc1+ 34.Kh2 Bg3# 0-1

Sam Sloan

The death or disappearance of Peter Winston created a controversy in chess, because Arpad Elo, the FIDE Ratings Administrator, felt that it was statistically virtually impossible for a rated chess master to lose all of his games and therefore the games must have been thrown. Elo therefore refused to rate the entire tournament, thereby depriving many young players of their new FIDE ratings.

Here is some commentary about this:

Subject: Re: [fide-chess] Re: I am looking for more of my games

>At 09:26 AM 9/3/2002 EDT, daverook wrote: >>Sam: The Peter Winston game will be difficult to recover since Winston vanished in the late 1970's or early 1980's. All of his friends presume him to be dead.

>Yes. This was Winston's next to last tournament. I played black against Winston and used secret analysis prepared by Anatoly Lein. Winston accused Anda, who was my girlfriend and later my wife, of offering to sleep with him in return for throwing the game. Had I won the game after also beating two FIDE rated players, Popik and Hertan, I might have been entitled to a FIDE rating. Winston smashed Lein's idea. I later showed the game to Lein and, as a result, Lein never played his idea over the board.

The next tournament for Winston was at Hunter College High School. It was a FIDE rated 10 player round robin.

From: Bill Goichberg

It was a 10 player round robin futurity. Calvin Blocker and Karl Burger tied for first.

Peter Winston lost all of his games. His last game was against Sunil Weeramantry. After losing that last game, Winston left to go home, but was never seen again. It is presumed that he killed himself in such a way that his body was never found.

From: Bill Goichberg I drove Winston home a number of times during that tournament. He had many favorable positions, but lost them all. His face was puffed up from the effects of drug addiction or its treatment, and he was staying at a drug rehab facility. I think he is probably dead, but if so believe this was drug related and probably not suicide.

Elo did refuse to rate the tournament. This event, held December 1977, was the third tournament I organized that Elo refused to FIDE-rate. He gave three reasons for not rating this event:

1. "No director specified." (USCF had failed to indicate the name of the Director on the FIDE rating report, sending Elo a printout saying "No director specified." Elo could have easily asked the USCF office who the director was, if this was important to him.)

2. "No affiliate specified." (The USCF printout likewise erroneously said "No affiliate specified," meaning no USCF affiliate. Here Elo was clearly insincere, as FIDE rules have never recognized "affiliates" other than perhaps national federations, and as USCF sent him the rating report, it was clear who the national federation was).

3. "There is the question of whether the player reported as having lost all his games actually played those games." (We had scoresheets and there were hundreds of witnesses, as the event was held during a large tournament. Elo never asked for the scoresheets or attempted to speak to any witnesses.)

In 1976 I had organized a round robin Futurity at the Manhattan Chess Club. There were very few FIDE rated players in the US then, so to generate enough money for the prize fund, I placed a TLA in Chess Life listing a $400 entry fee for the first four non-FIDE players to enter. Only three players paid the $400, so Jerry Bibuld volunteered to direct the tournament and I became the fourth non-FIDE player to pay $400. I won the tournament with a 7-2 score, a 2530 FIDE performance. Because this performance was 200 points above my highest ever USCF rating, and because I was the organizer, Elo declared the tournament fixed and refused to assign me a FIDE rating, even though players who placed below me did obtain FIDE ratings. Like the Dec 1977 tournament, there were again plenty of witnesses, and Elo never asked for scoresheets.

Elo then refused to rate two futurities I held at the Manhattan CC in Feb 1977. Valvo won one and was deprived of his first FIDE rating, as were Boris Baczynskyj, Joel Benjamin and Asa Hoffmann. Benjamin scored 4-5 and Chess Life said he was "at age 12 the youngest player in the world ever to qualify for a FIDE rating!" In the other Futurity, players deprived by Elo of initial FIDE ratings were Tim Taylor, Robert Gruchacz, Jay Bonin, Robert Wachtel and Ervin Middleton. Elo gave as the reason for not rating these events that he "was protesting" the 1976 Futurity that I won.

Elo never gave any advance warning that these events might not be rated. He never said that he was investigating, never asked for scoresheeets or witnesses, etc. The FIDE list on which players expected to be simply came out, and surprise- those names were not included. Only after USCF complained to Elo did we then hear his reasons.

I've never been to any Olympiad other than Haifa 1976. USCF's FIDE Delegate, Ed Edmondson, was the one who introduced the motion to order Elo to issue the players the ratings they had earned, which passed.

Elo retired much later. After Edmondson's motion passed, the next FIDE list came out and incredibly, the players were still not there! Elo was still "protesting." FIDE President Max Euwe then arranged a meeting of the three E's (Euwe, Edmondson, Elo) in Wisconsin to review each disputed rating.

There were also some others involved who were not in my Futurities whose ratings were too low, such as Milan Vukcevich and Jack Peters. Elo followed a practice of giving US players the lower of their initial FIDE performance or their USCF rating, but FIDE rules required him to assign their first FIDE performance. Elo's practice was not only illegal, but also discriminated against the US, as he didn't have ratings for most countries, so most or all non-US players were spared this "lower of the two" treatment and simply got their FIDE performance rating.

Euwe, Edmondson and Elo reviewed each case separately, and Euwe then rendered his decision on each. In most cases he ordered Elo to follow the rules, though Edmondson told me that in a few cases he let Elo assign a rating that was a bit too low, apparently letting him "win" a little out of respect for his role in creating the FIDE rating system. After this Elo finally complied and issued the ratings as told to by Euwe.

I don't think any of the Dec 1977 games were published, nor was the crosstable. The site was Hunter Campus School, and Bibuld wasn't involved.

The crosstable and some games from the one Bibuld directed were published. Results were: Goichberg 7, Zuckerman 6.5, L D Evans 5.5, Ghizdavu & Hook 5, L Levy & J Berry 4, Moskow 3, C Barnes & S Bernstein 2.5. Eight games appear in the Dec 1976 Chess Life, page 663.

Bill Goichberg

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