R.I.P. James "The James Game" Miller - Photos by Sean Trani

Photos by Sean Trani

James Miller, passed away age 57 from cancer this last weekend. James was the only guy that wouldn't cringe to play me when I started showing up at the CCSCSL. He was a great guy, generally a happy disposition, he would play anyone. 

James will be missed by Saint Louis Chess Players, especially at the Club where he would show up daily to play. James is the first chess buddy I've known to pass away. Which is weird. Playing chess with someone is such a specific incident. There really is so only so much you can learn about someone just over the board. However it's making the effort to find out a little more about my chess friends and growing those connections that makes me want to play OTB constantly. Without the friendly reception of guys like James I doubt I would have come back at first. 

I will miss James' Yogi Bear voice stylings, his common phrases during play. He had a very unorthodox style of play that everyone came to know as "The James Game." He would push some pawns and rearrange his back rank, sometimes castling manually and often times setting up very subtle attacks. If you played an opening line he poke fun of you saying "Oh that's a real move, you played a REAL move." Or the other well remembered line after taking piece or creating a threat, "I thought we were friends, that's not a friendly move." 

I found myself on the losing end of those attacks many times. You would think there was no rhyme or reason to the play and take a couple pawns only to realize James was forcing a mate on the back rank. Blitz against James could be a nightmare, he would force you out of opening lines immediately and make you play chess. I'd have to catch myself constantly from thinking too deep into the positions, looking up to the clock to find I'd only 30 seconds left to his 3 minutes or more. 

James was a good person. I wish I'd get more time to know him well. He will be missed greatly. He was such a great character he bumped the Topalov v. Annand Coverage off the front page of the CCSCSL site. He had a much greater effect on us than any of those matches ever will. 

The photograph pictured above is James v. WGM Jennifer Shahade. James caught former US Women's Champion thinking at multiple stages of play. He was proud that day that he played the James Game and had winning opportunities. 

James Miller

I just searched through my paper notation collection, ransacked a closet, tossed a stack of books and can't find one of our games anywhere that's kind of upsetting. So it goes though. 

Anyway. That's all. 


  • 7 years ago


    I'm proud to call you cousin after reading that article Sean.  And it brings to mind the fact that meeting new and wonderful people in life keeps our souls malleable and susceptible to so many wonderful life experiences, memories and lessons.  I sometimes find myself getting upset when I make a game losing mistake or lose a long drawn out battle to a sharper opponent.  Although I will never meet this fellow over a board in the here and now sense, his spirit of simply enjoying yourself with the pieces and the players, no matter whom your playing or the game’s outcome, will endure.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences regarding James.  It's always uplifting to see that the brighter spirits live on.

  • 7 years ago


    You have inspired me James.

    Thank You.

  • 7 years ago


    Nice tribute.

    RIP James

  • 7 years ago


    See you on the other side James, R.I.P

  • 7 years ago


    Thanks everyone for reading and commenting.

    The CCSCSL took out a full page memorial to James in the Saint Louis Post Dispatch. That's a really big measure of respect in my opinion. 

  • 7 years ago


    R.I.P. James

  • 7 years ago


    A fitting tribute, James surely seems to have earned such an effort for people to remember him by. I am moved.

  • 7 years ago


    always sad when chessplayers pass

  • 7 years ago


    sounds like a real character.  the world is much richer for people like that, thanks for sharing part of him with us.

  • 7 years ago


    R.I.P. James

  • 7 years ago


    I remember countless nights playing James at the St.Louis Bread Company on Delmar, his funny jokes and upbeat out look on life always seemed to take the attention away from the game. He was a one of a kind player, and person. He will be sadly missed in the chess community of St.Louis. Rest in peace James, you will always be remembered by so many. Rest in Peace my friend.

  • 7 years ago


    Thanks for sharing this. Now we will all remember him.

  • 7 years ago


    A game of his, please!

  • 7 years ago

    IM dpruess

    nice post, Sean. wish i'd had a chance to meet James.

  • 7 years ago


    "James was the only guy that wouldn't cringe to play me when I started showing up at the CCSCSL."

    Chess players are such elitist jerks. 

  • 7 years ago


    Nice post, Sean...thanks for sharing.

  • 7 years ago


    Peace to a good man, and comfort to his friends and family. Folks like James, well, you have to tip your king to them.

  • 7 years ago


    Didnt know James Miller...

    But after reading this post, i feel obliged to say "PLAY IN HEAVEN, MILLER"

    Raspect for the blogger as well.

    giving thanks for life( even when it ends)

    Ras Bruno

  • 7 years ago


    Thanks for this Sean, he was a great guy.

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