Bryon Nickoloff

IM Bryon NickoloffWelcome to the official website of Bryon Nickoloff. For those of you who didn’t know Bryon, he was a brilliant chess player, as well as a beloved friend and member of our family. Bryon passed away due to cancer in 2004, at age 48.

We’d like this site to be a tribute to Bryon, and a place where his friends, family, fans and admirers can read about his life, learn more about him, and even share their own stories. If you’d like to share your own personal account of your time spent with Bryon, we’d love to have you submit it so that we can share it with the world on this site. Please send all submissions to our email address posted on the right side bar under “Stories | Games | Pictures“. Thank you.


Bryon Nickoloff was born on June 23, 1956 in Toronto, Canada. The son of Bulgarian emigrants, Bryon did not begin playing chess until age 15, but soon showed a remarkable prowess at the game. Despite the fact that he got a relatively late start compared to most top chess players, he quickly rose in rank; within three years, he was playing at master strength.

Perhaps the first sign of just how good he would become came during his high school years, when Bryon had the chance to play in a simultaneous exhibition against Grandmaster Paul Keres – a player considered by many to be the strongest player never to become World Chess Champion. Bryon defeated Keres, who told Bryon that he could someday become a Grandmaster himself.

In 1978, Bryon began playing internationally for Canada by playing top board on the Canadian team at the U26 Olympiad in Mexico. Later that year, he also had the opportunity to play on the Canadian national team at the 1978 Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires, where he played as the first reserve.

That same year, Bryon moved to Mexico, where he married. With a series of strong finishes in top class Mexican chess tournaments, Bryon secured the International Master title in 1981. By 1982, his FIDE rating had risen to 2470, ranking him among the top 100 players in the world.

Following a divorce, Bryon moved back to Toronto, where he played chess for the University of Toronto. He led his school to the 1982 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, playing board one during the tournament.

Starting in 1986, Bryon rejoined the Canadian national team, playing in five more Olympiads between 1986 and 1998. His overall score in his six Olympiad appearances was a very solid 50.7%, including 21 wins, 27 draws and 20 losses. His best results came in 1988 and 1990; in each tournament, Bryon score four wins, four draws, and just two losses.

While Bryon was one of Canada’s top players, he was never able to win the Canadian Chess Championship despite several strong performances. His closest call came in 1989, when he tied for second place with Leon Piasetski. This result carried additional weight, as the second place finisher would be able to play in the 1990 Interzonal, part of the World Championship Candidate process.

Bryon played a four game tiebreak match with Piasetski to determine who would advance, and needed only to draw the match 2-2 in order to earn his way into the Interzonal, as he held the better tiebreakers from the tournament. Bryon started well, with a win and a draw in the first two games. However, Bryon lost the final two games of the match, and missed out on his chance to play for the World Chess Championship.

However, Bryon did win many major chess tournaments during his career. He won two Canadian Open Chess Championships (in 1992 and 1995), as well as the Canadian Closed Chess Championship of 1995. Other titles won by Bryon include winning the 1985 Motor City Open in Detroit, tying for first at the 1999 Toronto Pan American Open, three victories in the Ontario Championship (1993, 1994 and 2000), and three Toronto City Championships (1978, 1997, 1998).

Bryon’s career also included wins over many prominent Grandmasters. In 1994, he nearly defeated Grandmaster Alexei Shirov – then the 3rd ranked player in the world – using his signature opening, the Arkhangelsk (or Archangel) Ruy Lopez. The game ultimately ended in a draw:

Important Games

Alexei Shirov – Bryon Nickoloff 1/2-1/2
North Bay International Open 1994

In 1999, Bryon was diagnosed with cancer, and was told that he only had a few months to live. Despite the diagnosis, Bryon lives for another five years, continuing to compete at the highest levels of chess even while battling his illness. His final tournament was the 2004 Canadian Open Championship, where he scored 6.5 points in 10 rounds, despite his weakened condition. In his final game, Bryon won with the black pieces over Yevhen Molchanov.

Yevhen Molchanov – Bryon Nickoloff 0-1
2004 Canadian Open Queen’s Pawn Game, Veresov

Rest In Peace Bryon

Bryon was well known for his controversial lifestyle, which was not one for the weak hearted, but he was beloved for his incredible abilities at the chessboard and his open nature, which earned him thousands of friends and admirers around the world. Bryon Nickoloff passed away on August 3, 2004, in a hospital in North Bay, Canada. He was 48.

For more information on Bryon, we highly recommend you visit the Bryon Nickoloff Wiki page where you will find some more interesting facts. If you wish to contact us for more information please email us at the email address posted above. We would be delighted to hear from you.