IM Michael Schleifer: 1967-2009

IM Michael Schleifer (Canada)
Photo by Mark Dutton.

It is with great sadness that I learned from Neil Sullivan of the death of International Master Michael Schleifer. According to a Canadian chess board, “Chess Talk“, someone placed a call into the Montreal City morgue to verify the story. Morgue officials stated that he had died on November 21, 2009. Schleifer grew up in the Ontario province, the city of Toronto.

According to Daniel Rousseau, “After being held at the morgue for some time, he was transferred to a funeral home in Longueuil (south shore) where he was eventually claimed by his mother. The funeral home would not tell me if he was still held there or had been transferred to Toronto.” While an autopsy has been performed, resulting are pending. Reports have cited his cause of death as either “unknown causes” or a “brain aneurysm”.

Canada has lost a strong player and citizen. Those in the U.S. may not have seen Schleifer much, but he participated in the historic Wilbert Paige Memorial tournament in Harlem, New York held in 2001. This tournament featured 10 of the strongest players of African ancestry. It was there that Schleifer gained the respect of many who had not encountered him previously. A quiet, unpretentious and unassuming person, he played an interesting brand of chess. He played in a number of Canadian Championships and earned the IM title ten years ago. I once asked him about his chess beginnings. This is what he sent.

I started chess at about 9 yrs. After an approximate 3yr lapse I started to play again. Then at about 13 my brother brought me to a tournament and from there I was hooked. At 16 I became a master. Thus, in the early to mid 80’s I was one of my countries top junior players. For me the struggle is the most important aspect of Chess.

Brad Thomson of Canada posted on the Chess Talk board that Schleifer liked the following song and would request it. It is called, “Melissa” by the Allman Brothers. This post is a tribute to Michael Schleifer. May he rest in peace!

IM Michael Schleifer (1967-2009)

IM Michael Schleifer (1967-2009)

63 Comments

  1. Here is a good game from Schleifer playing a future star and Grandmaster, Pascal Charbonneau. Classic battle!

    Here’s one of his best games from the Wilbert Paige against South Africa’s Kenny Solomon. He annotated it for the Wilbert Paige booklet.

  2. If the Canadian Chess Federation has a memorial tournament, someone let me know. The Québec Chess Federation has put up a brief notice. It basically said that Michael Schleifer was an International Master from Québec. It noted that he was originally from Ontario province (Toronto), but had settled in Québec in the late 90s and became an IM at the National Championship in 1999. He had recently taken to poker.

    https://www.fqechecs.qc.ca/index.php?typ=actu&categorie=1&id=2683

  3. International Master Michael Schleifer will certainly be missed. I only knew him for a short time during our participation in the Wilbert Paige memorial tournament. He was a wonderful brother who always seemed to be at peace. I recall the tournament atmosphere was filled with nervous energy and excitement. But Michael maintained a quiet confidence which was seen in each of his games. He smiled often and analyzed deeply. Like Wilbert Paige, it was an honor to have known him, competed against him, and to have shared our love for chess.

  4. In my private conversations and e-mail exchanges with him, he was a very warm person, but also private. We both spent a night at the home of Jerry Bibuld after he had taken a bus from Toronto to New York for the Wilbert Paige. That night we had lengthy discussions about a number of topics. Trying to make sense of his German-sounding surname, I asked him where he was originally from. He told me that he was of Jamaican ancestry, but from Toronto.

    I told him I wanted to visit Canada and had even considered graduate school at University of Toronto long ago. He welcomed me, but I told him I’d have to improve my French upon which he said, “Not really.” He then spoke about his poor command of French as an example. 🙂 I had kept in contact with Schleifer off an on and he once ended his e-mail with… “don’t worry I’m still attacking 😉 “.

  5. Here is a game Schleifer played against Pajak. I remember Jon Pajak playing for the University of Toronto team that won the Pan-Am Intercollegiate in the 80s. They had IM Ilias Kourkounakis and Ian Findlay also playing on that team. Schleifer was still a teen when he played this. Nice game!

  6. Michael often spoke fondly of the chess tournament in Harlem. He said he felt very much at home and that everyone was fantastic. And he would laugh while trying to recreate some of the brotha’ lingo, as he would call it. Give him the bone, or something to that effect, was his favourite. Schlee, as he was known to his friends up here, also said that he played some of his best chess in the Harlem tournament.

    Apart from the Allmans, Michael generally wanted to hear Miles Davis, especially the cool era of the late 50s. I got him heavily into Coltrane as well.

    Thank you for this tribute page.

  7. Just talked to FM Norman “Pete” Rogers and he mentions that he first met Schleifer at a New York Open tournament maybe fifteen years ago. He said Schleifer played well and took a prize in the under-2300 section.

  8. Images from the Wilbert Paige Memorial

    Kobese playing Colding while Nsubuga wrestles Schleifer.

    South Africa’s IM Watu Kobese playing Brooklyn resident Ernest Colding while Uganda’s Grace Nsubuga wrestles IM Michael Schleifer of Canada. Schleifer was losing this game, but capitalized off of a mistake by Nsubuga. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Grace Nsubuga pondering the variation 33.Bd7-f5! Instead he played 33.Bd7-e6?? which immediately lost a pawn to 33...Rae8! 34.d5 Rxd5. FM Ylon Schwartz suggested the move and was standing nearby shaking his head at the missed opportunity. Schwartz is now a big poker star. Wonder if Ylon met

    A disappointed Grace Nsubuga pondering the variation 33.Bd7-f5! Instead he played 33.Bd7-e6?? which immediately lost a pawn to 33…Rae8! 34.d5 Rxd5. FM Ylon Schwartz suggested the move and was standing nearby shaking his head at the missed opportunity. Schwartz is now a big poker star. Wonder if Ylon met “Schlee” at the card table? Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    See Nsubuga-Schleifer!

  9. I met Michael Schleiffer at the Toronto Open in the late nineties where he graciously pointed out to my opponent how he could have beaten me! My opponent was FM Eduardo Teodoro whom I defeated in 24 moves seated at the board next to Schleiffer. He complimented me on my victory and also showed me some things that I had missed.

    I believe he went on to win the tournament and I was impressed with his analysis and the respect that he garnered from his Canadian countrymen. He was over 2500 rated at the time I believe.

    I wish I had gotten to know him better.

    Ed Mark

  10. If you knew Michael from the tourneys he was the calm reserved concentrated type, outside he was such a witty fun loving individual who to me impersonated many aspects of chess itself. Strong willed and brilliant he will have left a lasting impression on me. He was a good friend and he will be missed.

  11. Sad and surprising to hear of his passing. Never met him in person but I definitely was a fan of his style of play which I first saw by reading the book of the Will Paige Memorial Tourney. His ever calm demeanor and the fact that he had Jamaican roots also intrigued me.

  12. Michael’s grandfather was from Germany. His dad, he told me, was of mixed race with a relatively fair complexion. Michael was never quite the same after his dad suddenly passed away, back in the early to mid 90s. He became fatalistic, pessimistic. As has been noted, Michael tended to be quiet and reserved, almost aloof in public. He was a very private person. Michael always stayed at my place in Ottawa, when he was here for chess tournaments. Gradually over the years we became incredibly close. Schlee told me that I was the only person in the world who really knew him. He often said, Brad, you’re my brother. And I find myself devastated by his untimely demise.

  13. You may have more insight as to his challenges in life. I suppose there is a general consensus in Michael’s demeanor. On that evening I spent with him at Jerry Bibuld’s home, he seemed comfortable speaking one-on-one, but didn’t seem comfortable around people he wasn’t familiar with. He also was not into trash-talking. Before the Wilbert Paige, there was a lot of blitz battles going on and the intensity was fierce. Schlee had arrived in Harlem the day the tournament began, missed the opening ceremonies and blitz battles.

    However, I remember GM Maurice Ashley was challenging him in blitz after demolishing a couple of other strong players. Ashley, a total competitor, had fire in his eyes. Schlee was very calm about it. He later told me he played Ashley in a set of games are they were about even. I never verfied this encounter with Ashley, but it would have been interesting to see. I’m not sure why he felt comfortable around me, but I remember him being relatively open during our conversation.

    (Note: I also remember Schleifer invoking Alexander Lesiège’s name as Ashley kept prodding him for a blitz match. He had mentioned that he had battled with strong players before. “When you play against players like Alexander Lesiège… 2600…” Unfortunately, Lesiège retired from competitive play and joins the list of strong North American players who have given up chess… Michael Wilder and Patrick Wolff are two from the U.S. that come to mind.)

  14. Yes, Daaim, Michael was much more comfortable one on one, or in small groups of people he knew. Being an IM in the Canadian chess community brought him many acquaintances, but Michael befriended few. He and IM Tom O’Donnell were very good friends, and Schlee was also quite fond of FM Robert Hamilton. Earlier, Michael was a close friend of the late IM Bryon Nickoloff, also of Toronto.

    Michael told me that he was very impressed with Ashley’s chess, and that the blitz games were about even. Schlee was a lightning fast calculator, and tactics was his strength.

    I loved watching Michael destroy all takers at blitz. And no, he was certainly not a trash-talker. He just played the position, and was always gracious to his victims.

    Schlee was an utterly voracious reader, he simply could not get enough. Biographies and history mostly. He also loved watching older movies. And Michael was incredibly romantic at heart. His only interest in women was for those whom he felt he could truly fall in love with. And he managed to do so twice.

    I believe that Michael had a terrible fear of being hurt, because he was capable of such astonishing amounts of love himself.

  15. I’m upset that I could no longer find Schleifer’s profile at FIDE. I informed them of an error in the photo and they have removed the entire profile. I suppose they remove profiles of the deceased?

    I did find out that he became an FM in 1997 and an IM in 1999. I have just received pictures from Mark Dutton and will post soon.

  16. Daaim,

    Thank you for bringing this tragedy to my attention. Although I did not meet the brother in person I met him via his games and he clearly had a lot of passion and personality. When you came to Jamaica the first time (2004 I think) and gave me a copy of the Wilbert Paige memorial booklet I had many enjoyable moments playing over the games and digesting the analyses and Michael’s were very interesting. You spoke of French so I’ll simply say that he had a lot of joie de vivre!

    His contribution to mankind, particularly through chess, will not go unnoticed as history and chess folklore will be kind to him by immortalising him through his games.

    The Jamaican chess community (especially as he is alleged to have Jamaican roots!) extends condolences to his family and friends at this time of bereavement. We will not mourn him by being sad but will celebrate and be happy that, through chess, we were able to be a part of his life.

    Nuff respect!
    Ian Wilkinson
    President
    Jamaica Chess Federation

  17. Ian,

    Good to hear from you. Yes sir… he told me his parents were from Jamaica, but I don’t remember the details. I’m not sure how the Germany-Jamaica-Canada connection was made. I’ll have to look around to see if I wrote any notes. I don’t remember jotting any notes, but I plan to do a “Drum Major” profile of him as part of a record.

  18. Photos of IM Michael Schleifer
    Courtesy of Mark Dutton (Canada)

    IM Michael Schleifer vs. IM Lawrence Day

    IM Michael Schleifer vs. IM Lawrence Day, 2000

    Canadian transplant NM Vincent Tipu plays IM Michael Schleifer (23 April 2000). Tipu moved to Canada with his parents from Atlanta, USA. He was a young talented player with promise, but apparently has found a successful career in engineering. I remember him because I was a graduate student in Atlanta. (Shabazz)

    Canadian transplant NM Vincent Tipu plays IM Michael Schleifer (23 April 2000). Tipu moved to Canada with his parents from Atlanta, USA. He was a young talented player with promise, but apparently has found a successful career in engineering. I remember him because I was a graduate student in Atlanta. (Shabazz)

    IM Michael Schleifer at the banquet of the 2006 Canadian Closed.

    IM Michael Schleifer at the banquet of the 2006 Canadian Closed

    Michael 'Schlee' Schleifer with Mark Dutton of 'Dutton Chess'. Dutton sent these photographs!

    Michael ‘Schlee’ Schleifer with Mark Dutton of ‘Dutton Chess’.
    Dutton sent these photographs!

    Schleifer at the 2007 BGC-Active tournament.

    Schleifer at the 2007 BGC-Active tournament.

  19. As noted above, Michael had a grandfather who was from Germany. He moved to Jamaica and married a Jamaican woman. They had a son who would become Michael’s father. Michael’s mother was Jamaican born, and her and her husband moved to Toronto before Michael was born. Schlee was proud of his Jamaican heritage, though he considered himself, naturally, a Canadian.

  20. I always loved to see Michael Schleiffers games published in the Quebec chess federations magazine. That’s where I came to know him. He played against Quebec’s top players and it was a real treat to see his games. He inspired me to achieve a higher level of chess. Not only did he become one of Canada’s top players but also most probably the strongest african-canadian player of Canadian history.
    I played him once in a tournament (40moves/2 hours) and I had a problem with my clock at time control. I wanted to get the referee but he said just fix it yourself and will continue the game. If I had seen the referee I’m certain I would have been penalised because it was my fault. I’ve seen many players get upset about clock problems, and legitimately so. Michael’s attitude had surprised me. I was embarassed by this clock problem and thought that he had behaved in a kind and friendly way. He was not upset at all. As if he was saying: “It’s the clock of life that’s important. Life goes on. May the game continue.”

  21. I’m remembering a bit more about my encounter with Schleifer. I showed him “The Chess Drum” for the first time. He hadn’t seen the website which I had only started five months prior to the Wilbert Paige Memorial in 2001. He said he liked it, but did not like the picture I had on his profile. It is the picture with him playing IM Lawrence Day. I told him I liked that picture because it shows some intensity. He wasn’t buying it, but it was the only picture I had of him at that point.

    Here is a new “Drum Majors” profile I did on him.

  22. Tournament Performances of Schleifer

    2007 Toronto Open Champion
    2003 2nd, Québec Invitational (Québec Champion)
    2002 1st, Eastern Ontario Open Championship
    2001 1st, Eastern Ontario Open Championship
    2001 2nd, Wilbert Paige Memorial, Philadelphia, PA, USA
    2000 1st, Ottawa Open Championship
    2000 1st, Toronto Open Championship
    1999 Pan-Am Open Champion
    1999 Awarded IM title for 2/3 score in 1999 Canadian Championship
    1999 2nd, Canadian Championship; 6/9 (+5 =2 -2)
    1999 1st, Toronto Open Championship
    1997-8 1st, Eastern Ontario Chess Association Grand Prix
    1998 Ottawa Open Champion
    1997 Awarded FIDE Master title
    1997 1st, Eastern Ontario Open Championship
    1997 1st, Ottawa Open Championship
    1997 Ontario Open Champion
    1996 1st, Eastern Ontario Open Championship
    1994 Canadian Active Champion
    1994 1st, Ottawa Open [2] Championship
    1994 1st, Ottawa Open [1] Championship
    1993 Ottawa Open Champion
    1993 Eastern Ontario Open Champion
    1992 1st, Ontario Open Championship
    1992 1st, Toronto Open Championship
    1981-2 Ontario Under-16 Champion; 5/5

    Source: https://web.ncf.ca/bw998/CanadianChess/History/CanadianChessBiographiesS.html#SCHLEIFER

  23. I consider myself having rare fortune. I was the brother-in-law of a man who had immense inner beauty – Michael. I speak for his family in saying thank you so much for these kind words. It helps. We loved Michael dearly. I think of him constantly.

    Michael died suddenly Saturday Nov 21 midday of a ruptured brain aneurysm. We were notified Monday Nov 23 by a phone call to Jackie ( Michael’s sister, my wife) at work from Montreal police. Myself, Jackie, Michael’s mother, and my children Natasha, Maya and Denby , left for Montreal within hours, stopping in Kingston, to arrive at the Montreal morgue Tuesday morning. Michael was cremated Wednesday November 25.
    Michael’s death is still very raw and difficult for us all. Thank you again for your thoughtful memories. Michael was what you saw. To say that we miss him is profound understatement. Paul.

  24. Paul,

    It is a pleasure meeting you here and thank you for the information. It helps us all. As you can see, your brother-in-law made quite an impression in the chess community and was well-respected. I’m sure the family loved him dearly.

    I only had one evening of conversation and 10 days of face-to-face interaction with him (for the Wilbert Paige tournament) and it was quite delightful. He was a calming spirit.

    Our prayers are with the Taylor/Schleifer family.

  25. Daaim,
    I have a copy of the magazine. As soon as I can I will type it out and send it to you. I think it would be a nice addition to this tribute page.

  26. # Name Old Perf New High Results Tot
    1 Schleifer, Michael
    2452 2609 2468 2490 D 2 W 7 W 5 D 4 W 3 4.0
    2 Khassanov, Marat
    2453 2545 2465 2496 D 1 W 13 W 15 D 3 W 7 4.0
    3 Hébert, Jean
    2524 2405 2517 2534 W 17 W 16 W 10 D 2 L 1 3.5
    4 Duong, Thanh Nha
    2383 2309 2379 2383 L 7 W 0 W 9 D 1 W 8 3.5
    5 Soudre, Nicolas
    2130 2239 2150 2183 D 6 W 14 L 1 W 12 W 9 3.5
    6 Bachand-Fleurent, Julien
    1967 2180 2027 2027 D 5 L 17 W 18 W 16 W 14 3.5
    7 Hua, Lefong
    2355 2371 2358 2358 W 4 L 1 W 17 W 10 L 2 3.0
    8 O’Connor, Michael
    1951 2318 1976 1976 D 0 D 0 D 0 W 15 L 4 2.5
    9 Marineau, Remi
    2009 2148 2079 10 W 11 D 15 L 4 W 13 L 5 2.5
    10 Lacroix, Serge
    2185 2107 2171 2206 W 0 W 18 L 3 L 7 D 11 2.5
    11 Carrier, Claude
    2031 1940 2017 2045 L 9 L 12 W 0 W 18 D 10 2.5
    12 Morin, Louis
    1978 2022 1987 2022 L 15 W 11 D 16 L 5 D 13 2.0
    13 Lecomte, Andre
    1942 2007 1947 1947 D 0 L 2 W 14 L 9 D 12 2.0
    14 Langlais, Daniel
    2010 1806 1919 9 W 0 L 5 L 13 W 17 L 6 2.0
    15 Larochelle, Martial
    2253 2015 2235 2282 W 12 D 9 L 2 L 8 L 0 1.5
    16 Cossette, Daniel
    2152 1996 2124 2204 W 18 L 3 D 12 L 6 L 0 1.5
    17 Arsenault, Michel
    1983 1991 1975 2008 L 3 W 6 L 7 L 14 L 0 1.0
    18 Morin, Jean-Pascal
    1987 1684 1916 17 L 16 L 10 L 6 L 11 W 0 1.0

  27. He played this tournament in 1998, in a hot streak of victories and He obtain a TPr of over 2600 !! The only he did come in Val-d’Or, in the northern part of Quebec province …

  28. It was an open championship in Abitibi, the strongest we ever had. It’s about 300 miles north of Montreal. He came here and play against all the tougher opponents and he won this tournament!!

  29. MORE GAMES BY SCHLEIFER

    Here are more games from IM Michael Schleifer. His games had such variety that there is never a dull moment. Three games follow…

    Here is one game with the legendary Svetozar Gligoric where he was outplayed.

    Here’s an amazing game with pieces zipping around the board in sheer chaos… you’ll love it!

    Here is a game that Schleifer wins against a young star and future Grandmaster.

  30. Interview with IM Michael Schleifer
    conducted by Brad Thomson

    for Canada’s En Passant magazine (1996)


    Brad Thomson: How did you get your start in chess?

    Michael Schleifer: I think I played my first tournament game when I was about thirteen. I started playing chess when I was about ten or eleven, my brother taught me the moves. I never worked that hard when I started chess, it came naturally. I was playing at Master level about two and a half years after I started chess. That’s when I achieved my first Master rating.

    BT: What sort of studying did you do at first, to allow you to reach the Master level?

    MS: The first book that really got my attention, that I really liked was a book my brother had on Capablanca – the one hundred best games of his career, or something like that. I enjoyed the games very much. I found them beautiful, and different.

    BT: What studying do you do now?

    MS: When I do study, I study the openings.

    BT: What advice would you give to the young kids who want to become good at chess?

    MS: Just study the openings and if they have talent they’ll get good. If they don’t have talent then they won’t. You need to both play and study, but for a young kid playing is more important than studying.

    BT: What effect did moving to Montreal have on your game?

    MS: On my game not much, not really. I don’t think it made me a better player. The experience was good for me. In the future it might help me in my chess, it might not, I can’t say. But for my practical strength right now I can’t say it’s made me better or worse. My rating is higher, but I think it would have happened wherever I went. It was just time to go higher, really.

    BT: What do you do in Montreal other than actually play?

    MS: I teach chess in schools and I give simuls once in a while. That’s about it. Sometimes I like teaching the kids, sometimes it’s a little harder. Teaching kids is much different than you would think.

    BT: Would you care to comment on the political problems that exist between the CFC and the FQE?

    MS: No I would not.

    BT: Do you think it is appropriate for the CFC to have a specific women’s program?

    MS: I think it’s a good idea to have a women’s chess program. Hopefully the idea behind it is to attract more women into chess. If that’s what it does then I think it serves its purpose, and I don’t see any problems with it. If it did not attract any more women into chess then I would have problems with it, but I do think that it serves its purpose.

    BT: How would you compare the level of play between Toronto and Montreal?

    MS: Toronto and Montreal both have good players. What more can I say?

    BT: How would you describe your own playing style?

    MS: That’s a very difficult question – it’s like asking someone how they would describe their own personality. I don’t know. On a different day I play a different thing. Basically I do whatever is necessary to get the full point. I am very interesting in collecting points and whatever is necessary, I’ll try it.

    BT: Sometimes you seem to make unusual, provocative and possibly unsound moves to imbalance a quiet position. Is ths part of your game plan sometimes?

    MS: First of all I would take issue with you saying possibly unsound. But it is true that when I play a chess game I very often unbalance the position. Like I said, I like to play for the full point, and to do that you have to take risks sometimes, and so I am willing to take risks. I don’t have a fear of losing. I don’t like to lose but I do understand that the way I play chess I am going to lose some games. But I win more than I lose.

    BT: You very often show up late for games. Why?

    MS: I wish I knew the answer to this question myself. It is true that I am very often late and all I can say is that I am trying not to be late, because it puts me in a disadvantage and I don’t like to give my opponent any advantage before the first move.

    BT: You do tend to play very quickly though, and often make time control without any trouble.

    MS: That’s true, but it is beside the point. I shouldn’t be late and give my opponent an advantage in the first place. So I am trying to avoid being late.

    BT: I have heard it said that you are a good middlegame player, but that your openings are mediocre and that your endgames are rather weak comparatively. Care to comment?

    MS: I disagree very strongly. But others are entitled to their opinions. I feel that by Canadian standards all parts of my game are on a fairly good level, but I won’t try to argue other people out of their position. If they want to hold this opinion of me, they’re free.

    BT: Well, have you tended to give away points in endgames?

    MS: Yes, I would say so, but I’ve also lost middlegames that I should have won and I’ve lost openings that I should have won. When I look at my games I feel that I have played some nice endgames, and some nice openings. Of course, I am not a chess god. I’ll never pretend to be so I am sure that I can improve all aspects of my game. But it’s like I have said, throughout the time I have played chess I have heard very conflicting ideas about my own chess and I am used to people saying things about my chess that I disagree with.

    BT: Would you be willing to admit that your middlegame is your strength?

    MS: I think my middlegame is my strength, yes. But I don’t think that’s too surprising. I think it’s the same thing for a lot of players. But I don’t think that I play the openings particularly badly, and I am sure that I play some nice endgames.

    BT: How much better do you think you are capable of getting?

    MS: It depends upon what I put into the game. I have reached the point where I have to work. If I work then I can go farther, and if I don’t work then I probably won’t go farther. It depends upon my discipline and what the future brings. I am prepared, and recently I have made a conscious effort to work harder, and I hope this effort shows up in my future results.

    BT: I once saw you stomp out of a room while crumpling up your scoresheet. Are you still like this after a loss?

    MS: All I can saw about this is that, yes, it’s quite true, I have done this. But it is inappropriate behaviour and you won’t be seeing me do it again. It is inappropriate in my opinion and it shouldn’t happen. The problem is I am very tough on myself. It’s a bit confusing because it might seem like the person who does this action is not very crazy about losing. It’s hard for me to explain, it is not so much the loss, it’s just kicking myself over the mistakes I made. I do get over it very quickly.

    BT: What are your chances at the upcoming Canadian Closed and Zonal?

    MS: I am going there hoping to try to make ten points, and I have to work and keep a clear head and see what happens. This is my major concern.

    BT: Alexandre Lesiège just had an incredible Quebec Closed. How good is he getting?

    MS: Oh, he’s getting very good. He’s very talented. I would wish him my best regards for the future, but I don’t think he needs my wishes. I’m sure he’ll become a Grandmaster, but he’s on his own timetable and I can’t say when.

    BT: What is your opinion of sudden-death time controls?

    MS: I think that they are a necessary evil. They have their good points and their bad points. But they eliminate adjournments where one player who has a superior computer can use it to help him analyze the game. If they can eliminate this then I think they did a good thing. I don’t think Fischer controls are such a bad idea either, I think they are a good idea possibly.

    BT: How much longer do you think Kasparov has left on top?

    MS: I can’t answer this question, I don’t know. I’m not sure. I think there are a lot of people who have the potential to dethrone him. Someone like Kramnik seems to play fairly well against him, and there are other players who are very impressive.

    BT: Do you expect to see Fischer ever again?

    MS: No, and I don’t really want to. I think he’s better in the past.

    BT: Is there anything in particular you would like to discuss?

    MS: No.

    BT: Do you have a favourite game that you have played to this point?

    MS: No. Maybe I should give a nice ending that I played.

    BT: What are your future plans?

    MS: To wake up tomorrow and be alive.

  31. The interview was very pragmatic and helps me to understand him more. The questions were interesting too. I now remember asking him being dubbed as an attacking player. He said with a grin, “People have said so many things about my style.” I remember Stephen Muhammad preparing to play him and stating how difficult he was to prepare for. I suppose because he played every single opening.

    Thanks to Brad Thomson for taking the time to type the interview from the magazine!

  32. Here is a beautifully annotated game from International Master, Michael Schleifer. Some of the variations don’t appear exactly as he wrote them due to sequencing issues when inputting the game into a database. One of of “Schlee’s” friends, Brad Thomson transcribed this gem. I have provided the link to open in a resizable window. Here is Thomson’s introduction:

    This one is from the Ottawa Open of 1993, which Michael won. It appeared in the August 1993 issue of En Passant. I had the pleasure of watching this game as it was played. Michael almost never spent much time annotating his games, but this one is a rare exception. He was very proud of this game, and reading his annotations really gives us insight into Michael, not only as a chess player, but as a man.

    See Kanani – Schleifer!

  33. I have enjoyed very much learning about this brother who I did not
    meet but continue to appreciate more through this page! I wish that
    we could have met. His honesty in his annotations and general interest/passion for chess is very inspiring. I look forward to learning more. Best wishes to his friends and family!

    Kimani A. Stancil

  34. This is another annotated game from the Schleifer library. This was in the October 1995 issue of En Passant and was sent to me by Brad Thomson again. Interesting game with a lot of subplots. If they could simulate a chess game on the screen, this would be a drama, not a slasher movie. This game was against George Levtchouk, a strong player who had beaten a young Nigel Short!

    See Levtchouk – Schleifer!

  35. Here is the Toronto newspaper obituary with a game that Mike beat me in a back and forth top board last-rounder featuring two time scrambles.

    Chess Dec 19 (1814)
    Toronto Star
    Chess
    By Lawrence Day

    With the untimely passing of Michael Schleifer Canada has lost a talented International Master. Born in Toronto in 1967 Schleifer became strong early. He achieved national master rating (2200) at age 16. Beginning in 1986 at Winnipeg he was a regular in the Canadian Championship and FIDE Zonal. His best result was sharing second place with Kevin Spraggett and myself behind Alexandre Lesiege at Brantford 1999. That performance gave Schleifer the IM title. In 2001 he represented Canada at the Wilbert Paige Memorial in Harlem, a tournament that invited the world’s best masters of African ancestry. Schleifer would probably have been favourite if the event had been held ten years earlier, but by 2001 there were many serious young contenders and he finished equal second with South Africa’s Watu Kobese behind Philadelphian Stephen Muhammad. “Schlee” deeply enjoyed that event, especially the opportunity to learn what he wryly termed the “Brotha’ Lingo”. The patter was, and probably still is, the poetic trash-talk used for kibitzing during informal speed chess. Schleifer, calm and concentrated, excelled at blitz. Modest in his aspirations, Schleifer aimed to be among the prize winners rather than win tournaments. In the top sections of 6-round weekend events in Toronto and Montreal he aimed for 4.5-1.5 and achieved more points as often as less. Schleifer died November 21 in Montreal likely of an aneurism.

    This tension-filled game was last round, board one, 1992 Toronto Open:

  36. It’s interesting to know what people remember most about the same event. I had no idea that the banter made that much of an impression on Schlee. Interesting!

    The Wilbert Paige was a history tournament held in a historic place. Of course, neither GM Maurice Ashley, nor Emory Tate played, but it was very competitive.

  37. Everything about the Wilbert Paige Memorial made a big impression upon Michael. As I noted earlier, Schlee said he felt very much at home, and that everyone was fantastic. Remember that Michael was raised in a caucasian environment. He would have been a teenager before large numbers of Jamaicans and others began emmigrating to Canada. And so his visit to Harlem brought him special delight, taught him very much, and connected him with his roots. All of Michael’s close friends, and the woman with whom he fell most deeply in love, were caucasian. And so Schlee’s visit to Harlem was the only time in his life that he had such close connection to so many others that shared his own ancestry. Michael certainly felt some alienation growing up in Canada, but for a few days in Harlem he was just one of the boys, and nothing more. He found this to be incredibly refreshing. And he came away from it a very contented person.

  38. Interesting! Well, he was certainly accepted and respected… no questions… no doubts!

    I hadn’t heard of him until Jerry Bibuld mentioned him as he put together the field for the Wilbert Paige. I looked at his games and I was immediately impressed. He was late getting to New York, but his arrival was greatly anticipated.

    Perhaps the only thing was Ashley’s intent on initiating him “into the club”. That was when Ashley challenged him to a blitz match. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m honored to have shared that time with him.

  39. Sad day for the chess community……I played Schleifer at the Wilbert Paige Memorial…..he won after I made a one move blunder. He wasn’t happy he won that way and he genuinely felt sorry for me…….It was the first time I met such a chess player under the mentioned circumstance – He left a lasting impression on me …because…in the chess world, we seem concerned about winning without much thought about how we do it and the quality of the game.

    Schleifer seemed to like wins he strongly felt he deserved. This seemed quite unusual to me especially that playing chess meant just wanting to win. Perhaps we should worry more about winning since chess involves only pieces and our luck on the chess board does not harm anyone.

    Was Schleifer’s predilection for a great game whether he won or lost his demonstration of his love for chess or his fair personality?

    Those who met him will attest he was one of those rare gentlemen.

  40. If Michael liked someone, he always felt sorry for them when he beat them. And he was quite generous with post-mortems in these cases.

    A local Ottawa master, David Gordon, told me he played Schlee three times, losing all of the games. In one of the post-mortems, where David had the Black side of a Benoni, he said to Michael, don’t I have everything here that a Benoni is supposed to achieve?

    Michael responded, yes, you’re all dressed up but you’ve got nowhere to go.

  41. Dear Daaim,

    I never had an opportunity to met this brother but reading more and more about him reveal some beautiful aspects about his personal character and playing style that I deeply admire and respect.

    My his soul rest in eternal peace………..

  42. Michael saw incredible beauty and love everywhere he looked. But for fear of being hurt, he tended to stay somewhat detached. He had profound love and respect for his parents and siblings, and the loss of his father was very difficult for him. It changed him.

    Michael was not a poltical person, but there were certain prominent figures whom he loved. We used to sit together and watch documentaries on Martin Luther King, Schlee adored him. But he was not impressed with Louis Farakhan, Michael felt him to be dangerous. Schlee had great love and respect for Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

    Michael was not religious, and he had a very difficult time believing in any kind of God. The closest he would come was when I would play great spiritual musicians for him, Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, John Coltrane. Michael would say, I hear God there, he has reached God. I would ask, does that not prove to you that God exists?

    Michael would respond, for him maybe, but not for me.

  43. Seemed like Schlee was drawn to people whose views were consistent with his ideals… natural. M.L. King described a world that he was already a part of… Louis Farrakhan spoke to issues that he was still attempting to understand (as you mentioned earlier). It would have been interesting to hear his views on Malcolm X. Politics are very complicated in this country and in the 60s even M.L. King was a reviled man… called a “communist” in a time when that was tantamount to being labeled a traitor.

    However, it became popular for the U.S. government to deal with King given that he was the preferred alternative to the “Black Power” movement that represented an aggressive stance against white oppression. This type of pride has a long history going back a century with Pan-Africanists like Sylvester Williams, E.W. Blyden, Marcus Garvey (pictured right) and later Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and George Padmore. (See article on “Pan-Africanism and Chess“)

    If he was not familiar with the history, he would have felt people like Marcus Garvey, the Nation of Islam, SNCC and the Black Panther Party were “dangerous.” This was the typical characterization given to the world and all have more aggressive tactics. Anything that represented independent thinking was considered dangerous.

    I don’t remember having this conversation with Schlee, but I no doubt would have spent hours explaining to him the long history of the Black struggle in the Diaspora.

  44. I asked Michael about Malcolm X, but he was not familiar enough with the history of the man to offer a response. Schlee would never fake an answer, if he did not know, he would tell you so. I do remember him saying he understood why the African-American athletes took to the Olympic podium and raised their fists, but he was not sure if this did the cause they were fighting for more harm than good.

    Michael was quite aware of the plight of his brothers and sisters in America, and tried very hard to comprehend the situation. But having grown up in a non-racist caucasian environment, this was at times difficult for him.

    Schlee felt apart from his people in this sense, and as noted, this is one reason why his trip to the Paige Memorial was so delightful for him.

  45. Brad,

    Do you have his mother’s contact information?

    BTW, I may come up there in Toronto and play in a tournament. I told Schlee I would. Is there going to be a memorial at some point?

  46. Great stuff Daaim!
    I do not have contact information for the Schleifer’s. Michael has friends in Toronto, Ottawa/Gatineau, Quebec City and Montreal who would all be honoured to welcome you, I am sure.

    I recently kept an important promise to Michael myself. 🙂
    That’s Warren Haynes on the guitar, sweetness just like Schlee.

  47. I have found another video of “Melissa” with a live performance by the Allman Brothers. I like this one better. Who is the guy on the lead guitar? My maternal grandfather played the drums for Chuck Berry.

  48. I knew Michael, back from when I lived in Montreal, in the mid 90’s.
    We both used to teach for Chess ‘N’ Math. He had a fabulously quirky sense of humour, and a big wry smile. I remember watching him beat Alex at a tournament in Laval, and watching him beat up on experts and masters alike at blitz. I think it was commonly known
    that he was if not the strongest, then at least one of the strongest blitz players in the country. I think at one point he was top 5 on the CFC ratings list.

    RIP Mike, see ya on the flip side.

  49. Michael came up to North Bay, Ontario, to play in several tournaments that Carsten Jorgensen and I had organized in the 90s and I can testify to his aloof character. Frankly, to me he came across as a snob.
    This is a lesson learned the hard way…you shouldn’t be so quick write people off.
    I wish I had known about his interest in jazz. He would’ve fit in well then with me and a jazz and chess loving friend I had in those days.

  50. I can’t say that I knew Michael Schliefer, but I have met his brother Carl several times at chess tournaments and once played him at a Labor Day Open in Toronto when they were held at the Bay/Wellesley government buildings. He is a very civil, likable guy – an older brother I believe. Probably still lives in Toronto area, but might, like myself, be no longer active in chess except for Internet play.

    Has anyone had contact with his brother for memories or anecdotes that would be interesting?

  51. Michael was a good friend. I wish I knew what sadness filled his heart and that I could have helped him, but he probably was behond that…
    He was one one the very few Free Spirits that you meet in your life.
    I will remember him and he will be missed.

  52. Eric, there was a certain sadness in Michael’s heart, this is true. He felt things very intensely, and gradually over time adopted a very fatalistic, pessimistic attitude. Schlee was in my opinion highly intelligent, and he loved our metaphysical conversation where I would explain to him my understanding of the idealist thinkers such as Plato and Hegel. When I played Duane Allman or John Coltrane for him he admitted that he saw God in their music, but concluded that while God did exist for these musicians, there was no God for himself. Michael was very empathic, he felt the emotions of others, and the collective emotional state of the planet at all times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button