Henrique Mecking

Edward Winter

The March 1982 Jaque contains some optimistic news on the health of Henrique Costa Mecking. The great Brazilian player is, apparently, now recovering well from a paralysis that had left him completely dumb. He takes extensive exercise and has written a book ‘How Jesus Christ Saved My Life’. He plans a return to chess, says Jaque.


As mentioned in C.N. 214, there is a brief chapter on Mecking in Los niños prodigio del ajedrez by Pablo Morán (Barcelona, 1973).

Can a reader provide an authoritative source for Mecking’s birth-date? Various chess reference books give 2 February 1952, but page 1 of Henrique Mecking Latin Chess Genius by Stephen Gordon (Davenport, 1993) affirms that they are wrong and that he ‘was born in the small Brazilian town of Santa Cruz, in the Rio Grande do Sul state, on 23 January 1952’.


About half a dozen readers have quoted secondary sources on whether Mecking’s birth-date was 2 February 1952 or 23 January 1952. Flavio Patricio Doro (Cotia, Brazil) points out that the latter date has been given by Mecking’s nephew, Sandro Tavares, at a Brazilian website.

We still hope to find documentary evidence that puts the matter beyond doubt.


Referring to the attempts in C.N.s 3344 and 3357 (see page 297 of Chess Facts and Fables) to establish whether Mecking’s birth-date was 23 January or 2 February 1952, Christian Sánchez (Rosario, Argentina) writes:

‘Page 9 of Mecking’s book O Encontro do Século Fischer x Spassky (São Paulo, 1973) gives his birth-date as 23 January 1952 and place of birth as Santa Cruz do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul. It would be logical to suppose that this biographical introduction, although in the third person, was written by him or, at least, approved by him.’



In an interview on page 42 of the January 2013 BCM Mecking states categorically that he was born on 23 January 1952.


Leo Mano (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) submits an inscription by Henrique Mecking in his 1981 book Como Jesus Cristo Salvou a Minha Vida (‘How Jesus Christ Saved My Life’):




From Nigel Short (Athens):

‘I qualified as an International Master at Hastings, 1979-80 at the age of 14 (I was born on 1 June 1965), and my title was ratified by FIDE at its Congress in Malta at the end of 1980. Before that time, had anyone obtained the IM title at a younger age?

The recipients of the IM title at FIDE’s Congress in Venice (October 1967) included Henrique Mecking, who was born in early 1952. At which event did he qualify for the IM title?’


Christian Sánchez (Rosario, Argentina) writes:

‘According to Henrique Mecking – see page 9 of his book O Encontro do Século Fischer x Spassky (São Paulo, 1973) – he obtained the title of International Master at the age of 15, breaking two records: the youngest player to win a continental championship and the youngest International Master ever (bettering Bobby Fischer).

He seems to be referring to the play-off of the 1966 South American Zonal Tournament. Four players (Mecking, Oscar Panno, Julio Bolbochán and Alberto Foguelman) shared first place in that event (held in Termas de Río Hondo, in the province of Santiago del Estero, Argentina), but only three could qualify for the Interzonal in Sousse. The play-off, held in Buenos Aires, was won by Mecking; qualification brought him the title of International Master, at the age of just over 15 years.’

We note that according to page 116 of the April 1967 BCM the play-off event was held from 25 January to 4 February 1967.



A small monograph is Mecking Futuro del ajedrez by Juan Miguel Canosa Más and Héctor Silva Nazzari (Montevideo, 1967):


From our collection:




This photograph comes from page 107 of The Children’s Book of Chess by Ted Nottingham and Bob Wade (London, 1978 and New York, 1979), which had the caption ‘Mecking at Hastings, England’.

His opponent was not named, but we identify him as Moshe Czerniak. At the Hastings tournament on 5 January 1967, Mecking won their game (playing Black), as reported on pages 39-40 of the February 1967 BCM.

(11042, 11043)

From a set of photographs of William Hartston provided by Olimpiu G. Urcan (Singapore):


Hastings, 1966, with, among others Frank Rhoden and Henrique Mecking (Keystone Archive)

Mr Urcan has provided two further photographs, which we reproduce courtesy of the Hulton and Keystone Archives:



Latest update: 27 November 2023.

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