Chess champion Dan Mayers passed away at his home in Sun Valley on Thursday, Jan. 2. He was 91.
Dan (known locally as ‘Thunderbunny’) grew up in New York City, raised by his father, Lewis, who was a lawyer, and his mother, May, a physician. Early in his life he devoted himself to chess, and won the New York City High School Championship in 1939.
In 1953, Dan played against 9-year-old Bobby Fischer at the Brooklyn Chess Club, and won. It was the earliest recorded game of Fischer, who went on to become the world chess champion.
After graduation, with a degree in geology from the University of Arizona in 1944, Dan was drafted into the Army, and was assigned to work at the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. While there he developed an interest in magic.
After studying at Harvard, Dan set off on what would become a lifetime of traveling. During a business trip to Europe, he met his future wife, Barbara, and they moved to Mexico, where their first children, Vanda and Randell, were born.
In 1958, they moved to England, and it was there that Dan embarked on creating a unique wilderness garden called Lorien, with a vast collection of azaleas and rhododendrons from around the world. Gayle and Darrel were born in Sussex.
Apart from chess, Dan had many other interests and passions. He was successful as a distributor of emeralds and amethysts from Africa. He was also an aficionado of the Japanese shakuhachi flute, and became the president of the International Shakuhachi Society.
After Barbara passed away, he moved to spend his final years in Sun Valley, but continued playing chess to the end of his life. In 1996, he won the British Senior Championship, and in 2004, he won the U.S. Senior Championship. Just days before he passed away, he was competing in the North American Open at Bally’s Casino and Resort in Las Vegas.
He is survived by his four children, Vanda Gerhart, Randell Mayers, Gayle Schumacher and Darrel Mayers, and 10 grandchildren.
A funeral service will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 10, at Wood River Chapel, 403 N. Main St. in Hailey, Idaho.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Sierra Club or the Idaho Chess Association.
Friends may leave a condolence and light a candle at www.woodriverchpael.com.