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  1. #1
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    Passing of Neil Davis

    R.I.P Neil Davis (22nd May 1953 - 16th January 2017), chessmaster, blackjack card counter, horse racing expert, stock market guru and my business partner for the last 17 years.

    Neil was a bit like an autistic savant, he would take a while to learn something new but once he got his teeth into it he would pursue it with complete obsession and often become extremely good at it.

    He was an Australian Championship level chessplayer and played many beautiful attacking games before retiring prematurely from the sport. He had his queen sacrifice brilliancy against International Master Robert Jamieson published in the widely read magazine 'Informant', (mainly to annoy Robert), a very Neil thing to do!

    In the 1970s he became one of Australia's best gold stock analysts and made a fair bit of money in the gold boom, enabling him to retire from his stressful secondary teaching job. However, when gold crashed again his fortunes waned and by the late 1990s he was trying to cobble a living together first from card counting at blackjack and then from his new passion, thoroughbred horse racing. His business, Professional Punter Publishing, owned and operated the website Pro-Punter.

    In 2000 when myself and a few other chessplayers founded OZmium Pty Ltd and built the Smartgambler website, we actually had no established monetisation, so I organised a reverse takeover of Neil's business and brought him on board as a director.

    Although OZmium developed Neil's business and started to build cashflow from other sources, the proceeds were insufficient to support 5 shareholders, some of whom had no other income and there were the usual problems of differing levels of motivation, geographical dispersement, etc. One by one the original shareholders sold out until only Neil and myself were left as joint directors and shareholders. Being joined at the hip with Neil was an interesting experience!

    Within a few years OZmium changed its business model and (partly by good luck) had a halcyon period which made Neil into a millionaire, something he was very happy about. The business environment changed for the worse again, but Neil now had a solid base for his share speculation and was extremely knowledgeable and skilful. Using the pseudonym 'Siamese Parrot' he was a prolific poster on the share trading website Hotcopper, particularly enjoying provocative posts and stirring the pot.

    Neil had a tough early life and could be quite a difficult person. He had many faults and burned off lots of friends over the years. You had to make allowances for him and not judge him by normal standards. However, if you could get past some of his personality quirks he had many good qualities including genius, diligence, persistence, a warped sense of humour and an enthusiasm for life. He was like a funny little goblin.

    In 2015 he nearly died when a heart condition went unnoticed and he ended up having open heart surgery just in time. Then after complaining of IBS-like symptoms for some time he finally went and saw a doctor about those. Alas, he was immediately diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer which had already spread to his liver and lungs. I was with him when he got the news. For a long time Neil believed he would beat the cancer and he did in fact make several Lazarus-like recoveries. At one point he weighed only 39 kg, but fought back and the cancers appeared to have responded to treatment.

    Eventually though, Neil's liver stopped functioning and his decline was then very fast. In his final days he couldn't do anything for himself and complained about the total loss of dignity. He said that he no longer wanted to live like that, but in Victoria people have no right to die on their own terms. He tried to will himself to death, but in the end they gave him sufficient painkillers to put him into an unconscious state and he died peacefully in his sleep.

    Neil was a larger than life character and a friend for four decades and his passing will leave a big hole in my life. He asked that there be no funeral, saying that it was just an excuse for people to get together and eat!
    Last edited by Gattaca; 17-01-2017 at 03:32 PM.

  2. #2
    CC Grandmaster Adamski's Avatar
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    Very sad news. I didn't know him but he was clearly a wonderful character and gone far too soon. RIP.
    God exists. Short and to the point.

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  3. #3
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    Thanks for the update on Neil's passing Guy. Unlike Adamski I knew Neil quite well in the 1970s and he was at my 21st birthday party from memory. I haven't seen him for decades but had a strange experience recently when there was a comment posted on my chess blog purporting to come from GM Speelman and mentioning the game of Neil's against me published in Informator. I contacted Speelman who denied all knowledge of the post and so I concluded that it must have come from Neil trying to stir me. Perhaps a somewhat delayed revenge for my numerous digs at him whilst we were both at University.

    It's sad that he did not appear to have a happy life and it must have been very difficult for him in the last few years. My condolences to you and to Neil's other friends.
    Still searching for Bobby Fischer....
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jammo View Post
    Thanks for the update on Neil's passing Guy. Unlike Adamski I knew Neil quite well in the 1970s and he was at my 21st birthday party from memory. I haven't seen him for decades but had a strange experience recently when there was a comment posted on my chess blog purporting to come from GM Speelman and mentioning the game of Neil's against me published in Informator. I contacted Speelman who denied all knowledge of the post and so I concluded that it must have come from Neil trying to stir me. Perhaps a somewhat delayed revenge for my numerous digs at him whilst we were both at University.

    It's sad that he did not appear to have a happy life and it must have been very difficult for him in the last few years. My condolences to you and to Neil's other friends.
    Davis-Jamieson is a nice game to go through. It also illustrates that Davis was a strong chess-player!

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  5. #5
    CC Candidate Master
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    Thanks, all.
    Robert, Neil never mentioned masquerading as Speelman to me and it's the sort of thing he would have happily gloated about. It could be that it was someone else trying to rile you, other than Neil. But who knows?
    You must have some funny memories about Neil from uni days. I think the two of you are about as opposite as you could get, although maybe not, in that you both loved chess and I think politically you might have been similarly minded.
    You know you have been a strong chessplayer when someone's win against you becomes famous and gets rehashed over and over. They are usually weaker players who got lucky... in your case Neil Davis and in my case Angelo Tsagarakis and Garry Kasparov. :-)

  6. #6
    CC FIDE Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gattaca View Post
    Thanks, all.
    Robert, Neil never mentioned masquerading as Speelman to me and it's the sort of thing he would have happily gloated about. It could be that it was someone else trying to rile you, other than Neil. But who knows?
    You must have some funny memories about Neil from uni days. I think the two of you are about as opposite as you could get, although maybe not, in that you both loved chess and I think politically you might have been similarly minded.
    You know you have been a strong chessplayer when someone's win against you becomes famous and gets rehashed over and over. They are usually weaker players who got lucky... in your case Neil Davis and in my case Angelo Tsagarakis and Garry Kasparov. :-)
    Indeed. I can remember my main reaction to the publication of the game by Informator was amazement that they would publish a game by a total non-entity who just sent it in to them. I thought that they only published games by grandmasters and from top international tournaments.

    Perhaps I can share with you a funny story about Neil that I've just remembered. The Monash University team was travelling on a long train trip to Canberra for the Intervarsity and Neil and I were both in the team. We played a lot of games of 500 (a card game) then tried to get some sleep in our compartment. Also in the compartment sitting opposite Neil was an old lady who talked too much but finally fell asleep. Unfortunately she then started talking in her sleep. At one stage she blurted out "My God you've got a big nose!" Neil's face turned red as the rest of us tried to contain our mirth.
    Still searching for Bobby Fischer....
    and fighting against those humourless bureaucrats who are forever lost in the minutiae.

  7. #7
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    I first met Neil at Box Hill chess club when I was 12 and he was 15. We played in a Box Hill Junior and I won easily. He took up correspondence chess (in those days CC wa very big here, the CCLA having about 2000 members) and improved rapidly. A few years later he was around 2000 strength. When we were in our first Australian championship he won game after playing 1.f4 d5 2.b4 ?! and his opponent, Hanks, did not win a pawn with ...Qd6. Neil beat John Kellner after 1.d4 e5?! by Kellner. Strangely enough, Keller was 0/2, yet almost won the championship. Neil retired from chess in the late 70s, after telling me he knew everything about chess.

    Guy West once wrote a poem called "Waverley versus Mars", in which among the WCC members there was a martian. "God save us, its Neil Davis."
    There was an amusing incident in which someone played 1...a6 against Neil's 1,e4 and won. Neil loudly messed up the pieces.

    In Davis-Smith, Neil smoked a cigar (he was normally a non-smoker) to annoy Smith. Smith responsed by emptying the ash tray in Neil's cup of tea.

    While at Uni, Neil believed he could gain rating points by playing beginners in long matches. He submitted results to the ACF. He ended up drawing one game and losing rating points.

    He was a good friend for a few years. One of the last times I saw him was at his flat for an election party. The only other guest was Guy West. Helen Schumaker was supposed to come but never did. The last time I saw him was at the Box Hill chess club in Canterbury about 6 years ago, he being one of a number of retired chess players who would sometimes drop in.
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