Donald Macfarlane, the man who beat Vishwanathan Anand and Michael Adams

There is a chess player who has  beaten the likes of Vishwanathan Anand and Michael Adams and he is right here in South Africa.  Anand, one of the best chess players in the history of the game, the man who won the World Chess Championship more times and in more different formats than anyone else. Who beat him in a game? Michael Adams was a mainstay in the World’s very top Grandmasters in the past few decades and has recently been a second to current World Chess Champion  Magnus Carlsen. Who is that man from Africa who beat both these chess giants over the board?That man is Donald Macfarlane.

International Master David Gluckman recently posted in the SA Chess Players Group on Facebook: For those with long chess memories … South Africa’s best ever junior player is 50! Western Province Closed champion at age 13, South African Closed champion at age 17, 3 times SA High Schools’ champion aside from victories over the Super Grand masters Former World Chess Champion Vishwanathan Anand and British Grand master Michael “Mickey” Adams.

The McFarlane Clan

Mark Rubery, a great source of information on chess then weighed in with some fascinating details on the encounters between MacFarlane and the Super Grand Masters. He added: Here is a chess trivia question for you: Which South African born chess player has beaten a World Champion? Clue: He was the youngest South African Closed Champion at 17. The answer is the 1983 SA Closed Champion Donald MacFarlane who defeated a promising 16 year old from India in the following game.

Anand,V (2385) – MacFarlane,D [D42]
Lloyds Bank op London, 1985
1.e4 c6 2.c4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nf3 Be7 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Bd3 Nc6 9.0-0 0-0 10.Re1 Nf6 11.a3 b6 12.Bg5 Bb7 13.Bc2 Re8 14.Qd3 g6 15.Rad1 Nd5 16.Nxd5 Qxd5 17.Bb3 Qa5 18.d5 Bxg5 19.dxc6 Ba6 20.Bc4 Bxc4 21.Qxc4 Bf6 22.Re2 Red8 23.Rxd8+ Rxd8 24.c7 Rc8 (Not 24…Rd1+ 25 Re1 Rxe1+ 26 Nxe1 Qxe1+ 27 Qf1 win-ning) 25.Rc2 Qd5 26.Qxd5 exd5 27.Kf1 Kf8 (And Black is already better as his bishop will dominate the knight) 28.Ke2 Ke7 29.Kd3 Kd7 30.Nd2 Rxc7 31.Rxc7+ Kxc7 32.b3 Kd6 33.Nf1 b5 34.Ne3 Bb2 35.Nc2 a5 36.f3 Ke5 37.g3 g5 38.a4 bxa4 39.bxa4 Kd6 40.Ne3 Kc5 41.Kc2 Bd4 42.Nf5 Bg1 43.h3 Kb4 44.Nd6 f6 45.Ne8 Bd4 46.Kd3 Ba1 47.Nc7 Kxa4 48.Nxd5 Kb3 49.Ne3 a4 0-1

The next year the South African defeated the 15 year old Michael Adams convincingly and then in Fischeresque fashion left competitive chess, never to return.

MacFarlane,D (2360) – Adams,M (2295) [A22]
Oakham YM Oakham (6), 1986
1.c4 e5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nge2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3 6.Nxc3 Re8 7.Be2 e4 8.d3 exd3 9.Bxd3 Nc6 10.b3 d6 11.0-0 Ne5 12.Bc2 Ng6 13.Bb2 c6 14.Qd4 c5 15.Qd2 Ng4 16.Rad1 Be6 17.Qxd6 Qg5 18.Qg3 Qh5 19.Nd5 Rac8 20.h3 Nh6 21.Nf4 Qh4 22.Qxh4 Nxh4 23.Nxe6 Rxe6 24.Rd7 Rb6 25.Rfd1 Ng6 26.Rd8+ Rxd8 27.Rxd8+ Nf8 28.Be5! 1-0

One can’t help wondering how far Ian MacFarlane would have gone with his chess. That’s a question whose answer we will never know. One thing for sure is he left the scene at the very top of his game, just like the legend Bobby Fischer. Donald MacFarlane is surely a legend himself! Happy Belated Birthday.

Credit for information and pictures:  Mark Rubery, David Gluckman


  1. He was our best player at the time. I once was lucky to draw against him during the SA Schools Tournament in 1982. In 1982 I needed a draw against him to win a trip to NY. However, he had other plans. He went to MY to win the competition and a scholarship to Australia.

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