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Hero of the Month

The Last Action Hero!

I've decided for various reasons that, from May 2001 onwards, the "Hero of the Month" feature will be replaced by a new "Game of the Month" item. Of course, all the heroes who have starred on this site since September 1999 can still be seen at any time in the "Hero of the Month" section, which gets completed now in April 2001 with The Last Action Hero. I hope you won't be too disturbed to discover that the Last Action Hero here is not in fact actor Arnold Schwarzenegger...but instead you're getting yours truly...Mr Mo!! Sincerely though, it's honestly hoped that the passage below may be of some interest, and certainly no arrogance whatsoever is intended on the part of this writer.

I was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on Wednesday 13 June 1962, but it was not until 1973 that, at the age of 11, I was taught the basic rules of chess by my brother, Joe, who's actually 15 months younger! Joe clearly did a good job, as he got me instantly hooked on the game. The following year, I met Paul Fitzpatrick, an excellent teacher at St Saviours High School, Dundee, and his endless enthusiastic help brought rapid results in his many lucky pupils, including myself. I soon won the Dundee Under-15 Chess Championship, and before long I began to meet very strong players such as my friendly rival, Colin McNab. We often faced each other in competitions, and all the time we were meeting people who contributed in important ways to our development. The "complete list" could almost go on forever, but the following people (in alphabetical order of their surnames) really deserve special mention for putting in so much chess-related work from which I benefited: Jim Anderson; David Anderton; Cesar Becx; Alan Borwell; Douglas Bryson; Graham Burgess; Walter & Cecile Cardon; Jim & Jean Chalmers; Murray Chandler; Bob Clapham; Doug Clark; Alec & Alice Collie; Lawrence Cooper; Dave & Isla Cowling; David Cummings; Gordon Davies; Nigel Davies; Carlo & Riet De Cooker; Mary Duffy; Nancy Elder; Neil Farrell; David Findlay; Paul Fitzpatrick; Hugh & Moya Flockhart; Richard Furness; Tony Gavin; Simon Gillam; John & Nancy Glendinning; Jonathan Grant; Hans Groffen; Cies & Caroline Gysen; Alan & Anne Heavens; John Henderson; Donald Holmes; Hugh Holmes; Marc Holsteyn; Ray Keene; Jim King; Paul Lamford; David Lawson; Gerald Lobley; Nelson Lyall; John Nunn; Frank Park; Stephen D Mannion; Stephen R Mannion; Daniel McGinty; Alex McFarlane; Pat Moir; Dries & Lutgard Mols; Hans & Heleen Moors; Family Motwani; Walter Munn; Emma, Jonathan, David & Tanya Parker; Michael, Tracy, Colin & Elaine Payne; Walter & Anne Pearson; Craig & Elaine Pritchett; Terry & Alison Purkins; James Quinn; Jim Quinn; Adam Raoff; David Reid; Stewart Reuben; Keith Rose; Jonathan Rowson; Bill Russell; Tony Saunders; Alan Shaw; David & Sheila Smith; Hazel Steel; Frank Stevenson; Ken Stewart; Erika Sziva; Ron Thompson; Alex & Fiona Thomson; Walter & Mieke Tonoli; Johan Van Mil; Paul, Jaap & Ploon Van Rooijen; Hugo "Boss" Van Steenwinckel; Jan & Hanny Verbrugge; Peter Walsh; Len & Phyllis Weir; Chris White; Donald Wilson; Eric Yeaman; Family Zeng. Sincere apologies to anyone whom I have unintentionally omitted to mention.

Chess-wise, one of my happiest years was 1978, when I won the MacIsaac Tournament (open to all Club Champions in Scotland) followed by becoming the youngest-ever Scottish Men's Champion (at the age of 16), and then going on to win the World Under-17 Championship held in the Dutch town of Sas Van Gent. Still, my level remained fairly static during the years 1980-1984 when I was very busy studying Mathematics and Physics at Dundee University. I was delighted to graduate with 1st Class Honours, and in 1985 I returned to St Saviours High School---this time as a teacher! Things then quickly picked up again in my chess, and 1986 brought my first IM norm at the same time as winning the Scottish Championship, followed by my first GM norm playing for Scotland at the Dubai Olympiad. All the IM title-requirements were completed when I again won the Scottish Championship in 1987, and I achieved a second GM norm at the 1988 Thessaloniki Olympiad. So, two down, and only one to go. That sounds easy enough, but...

I found the final hurdle to be extremely high. Perhaps I felt some pressure when thinking about the elusive third GM norm, and the time-limit for obtaining it. Also, I was rapidly running out of any savings (which I had needed to use for flights, hotel bills, and so on when travelling to numerous foreign tournaments that offered GM norm-opportunities) because it had been necessary to give up my permanent school-teaching job in April 1990 so as to have enough time for competing in big chess events.

My long wait was finally almost over when, at the 1992 Bern Open in Switzerland, a score of 7/9 gave me joint second place in the tournament, and more importantly the required third GM norm. A few months later at the Manila Olympiad, where it was confirmed that my F.I.D.E. rating had reached the 2500-mark, I was awarded the title of International Grandmaster. The elation I felt helped me to win the Scottish Championship with 8/9 (which equalled my score in 1987)! I also won the Max Euwe Memorial Tournament in Sas Van Gent, where Professor Max Euwe had presented me with the World Under-17 Championship trophy 14 years previously!

Very shortly afterwards, my friend Dr Colin McNab also became a GM, and so happily Scotland got her first two grandmasters in 1992. The celebrations included a Civic Reception in Dundee's City Chambers, and a 26-minute programme entitled "The Grandmasters of Dundee" prepared by Grampian Television. Fittingly, Colin and I went on to become joint winners of the 1993 Centenary Scottish Championship. In my case, it was my fifth full national Championship win, but various circumstances meant that I didn't play in the event again until 1999, when Jonathan Rowson emerged as a most worthy winner---and Scotland's third grandmaster.

"What happened to you between 1993 and 1999!?", you might ask me. Well, lots of things, but here's a short list of the most special or significant times:-

1) Getting married to Jenny Zheng Zeng in Perth, Scotland, on Sunday 2 July 1995.

2) Seeing the birth of my son, Michael Zeng Motwani, on Friday 16 October 1998.

3) Teaching Mathematics and Religious Education at St Columba's High School in Perth from 6 January 1993 to 28 June 1995.

4) Moving to Belgium on 18 October 1995.

5) Winning the 1st Eksakt Masters tournament in Tilburg, Holland, 1996.

6) Writing five chess books: H.O.T. Chess (Batsford 1996); C.O.O.L. Chess (Batsford 1997); S.T.A.R. Chess (GAMBIT 1998); Chess Under The Microscope (Batsford 1998); The Most Instructive Games of the Young Grandmasters (GAMBIT/Everyman 1999).

7) Beginning new work for in 1999!

In the past two years, I have been enjoying chess as much as ever, and that happy feeling has positively influenced my results. For instance, I was very pleased to achieve a bonus GM-norm score when I finished runner-up in the Staffordshire Millennium Grandmaster Tournament. I again reached the GM-norm level when at the Istanbul Olympiad I scored 8.5/13 against opposition including 10 GMs. That brought my personal record playing for Scotland in Olympiads to the following current tally: seven Olympiads from 1986-2000 (I missed the 1998 event when my son was born) with a total of 26 wins, 45 draws and 8 losses from 79 games. This season, I am delighted to have had an unbeaten run in the Belgian Interclubs League (9/12: six wins and six draws) and the Dutch Interclubs League too (so far 6/7: five wins and two draws). My Dutch friend Hans Moors commented that "things are blossoming", and discovered the amusing fact that the 11 letters in A TULIP WOMAN can be rearranged to make PAUL MOTWANI!! Maybe there's a message in there that my good wife really deserves a lot of the credit!

Another love of mine is beautiful chess studies and puzzles. For example, I enjoyed finding how White plays and forces mate in only four moves from the following position which is part of a prize-winning puzzle thought up in 1963 by composer Avenir Popandopulo:

The solution appears at the end of this passage.

I hope you'll also have fun playing through game G3.15 in which I defeated GM Heikki Westerinen with the Vienna Game---probably the best point-scoring opening in my personal repertoire. Still, just for the record, my lucky top thirteen (!) most notable wins to-date generally occurred in other openings as follows:


OPPONENT (surnames in alphabetical order)


Michael Adams



Vienna Game

Michael Adams



Pribyl Pirc

Simen Agdestein




Vladimir Akopian



Ruy Lopez

Nick De Firmian



French Defence

Johann Hjartarson



Pirc Defence

Julian Hodgson



Torre Attack

Miguel Illescas



King's Gambit

Zdenko Kozul



Rossolimo Sicilian

Joel Lautier



Keres System 1 d4 e6 2 c4 Bb4+

Nigel Short



French Defence

Ivan Sokolov



King's Gambit

Sergei Tiviakov



Sicilian 2 c3

Before I get accused of distracting you with any openings not from the wonderful world of 1 e4 e5, I'll just wish you lots of happiness in your own chess, and now...I'll stop here!

Solution to "mate in 4" puzzle:-

Here goes: Here goes: 1 Bf6!! (threatening 2 Nd8#) 1...Bxf6 2 Rg4!! (threatening 3 Bxd7#) 2...Bxg4 3 c4! and Black cannot stop the deadly dual threats of either 4 cxb5# or 4 cxd5#.

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