Monday, July 10, 2006

Billy Colias and the Grand Prix Attack


Colias-Brodie, Illinois 1987
White to play.

Stopping at The Strand on my recent "chess tourist" visit to New York City, I came across the interesting book Billy Colias, Midwest Master by M. L. Rantala, Eric Schiller, and Alan Watson (Chess Enterprises 1996). Born June 3, 1966, Colias passed away suddenly in 1993, having achieved a 2400 USCF rating. The fact that he was a chessplayer and a near-contemporary (I was born in 1965) gave me pause. Looking through the book, I was also intrigued by the immediate cause of death: an accidental mix of alcohol and Tylenol, which put him in a coma from which he never recovered. It is well documented that these two common substances taken together can cause severe damage to some people's liver, and I had read about this danger several years back--though it is not widely known (and, I find, not warned about on the side of the Tylenol in my medicine cabinet). Likely Billy's bout with cancer and the chemotherapy he received some years prior made his liver especially susceptible to damage. But the next time you have one too many, I recommend you remember Billy and choose Aspirin....

As a tribute to Billy, who would have celebrated his 40th birthday last month (and who might have achieved a GM title by now), I have compiled and analyzed most of Billy Colias's games with the Grand Prix Attack against the Sicilian Defense (1.e4 c5 f4 or 1.e4 c5 Nc3 followed by f4), which he played during the peak of its popularity among masters during the late 80s and early 90s. If you are interested, you can find more of his games at or in the book I mention above.


Anonymous Deaconlight said...

Wow I wish I had come across this post sooner! Billy was a great friend and so passionate about chess. When we lived together I remember he would stay up all night playing chess against himself and working on a chess book he hoped to publish. While I tried to sleep I could hear him in the living room pounding the chess pieces as he analyzed the game. He could see so many moves ahead - something I was never able to figure out. I remember putting him on a train in the middle of the night from Greensboro to a chess tournament in DC, wearing a patched up pair of my blue jeans. When he came back, he handed me an AmTrak napkin with the poem "Immortality" that he had written during his trip. I stuck that napkin in one of my journals at the time. The last time I saw Billy was in the summer of 1993 in New York. We stayed in touch a lot more after that. Then one day Elliott Winslow called me to say Billy was in the hospital. He had been sick with a cold and was taking Tylenol and likely mixing that with alcohol. At the time, most people did not know of the cancer Billy had in high school that had taken much of his insides. It was so painful to get the hospital reports and not be able to be there (I was back in North Carolina then). After Billy died it was so frustrating to see posts online that he had tried to kill himself - I KNEW that was not true. Billy had never been happier than he was at that time. It wasn't long after Billy's death that I started noticing the warning labels on Tylenol packaging. Too late for Billy. When I realized he was really gone, I pulled out my journal and found that Amtrak napkin where he had written his poem, "Immortality." I sent a copy to Billy's brother and it was read at Billy's funeral. It's also published in the back of the Midwest Master book. Someday maybe I will go through my journals - which are quite extensive - and tell more about this remarkable guy. - DD

Sun Dec 23, 12:39:00 AM EST  

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