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JG Estiot
10 years ago

I was fortunate to have been a chess player at the time in the early 1980s where I met Greg. I had known him through the chess literature long before I actually befriended him in 1983 at the Australian Championships in Sydney. The last time we played he was already an international master well on his way to devote his time to academia. I must say that as a creative person, he stood head and shoulder above the rest. He applied his unique creativity and sheer genius to all walks of life including chess, mathematics, philosophy, daily life and his incredible cheeky sense of humour. It was always a pleasure to see Greg debate another top chess player on the circuit. I remember once being in a pizzeria with a group of chess players debating if losing an arm is negative because of the loss or positive because he are fortunate to have the other arm left. Greg had the unique talent of being able to approach anything from a uniquely Hjorthian direction. It is sad to see him go, even though I have lost touch with him for a number of years now. I am glad he lived with intensity and purpose, with flair and zest, with passion and no limits. He was a true free-spirit of the kind you only meet once in your life time. Thank you Greg for having inspired me like you inspired many others. Jean-Georges Estiot

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Ruth
10 years ago

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PB
10 years ago

Feb 10 Greg Hjorth died last month. I'm not a chess player or a mathematician but friends told me stories and he took some subjects that I took. He was gentle, had time for everybody, and his amused smile was engaging and full of mischief. I cried when I read GR's obit and thought I owed Greg a note. If anyone remembers Greg, has some interest in chess or maths or just in a beautiful, generous man, seek him out.

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10 years ago

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Geoff Hjorth
10 years ago

This is the obituary that appeared in today's Times of London Professor Greg Hjorth Australian prodigy who shone at chess but then switched his focus to mathematics and made far-reaching contributions to set theory Greg Hjorth was one of those gifted individuals who are torn between the abstract beauties of higher mathematics and advanced chess. In Hjorth’s case, after a coruscating start to his chess career, he opted to become a mathematician by profession. He advanced to the point where his close colleague, and fellow Karp prizewinner, Alexander Kechris, described his ideas as “a series of stunning and far-reaching contributions in the field of set theory”. These included the development of striking new concepts, the most celebrated of which is now called Hjorth’s Theory of Turbulence. Over the chessboard, Hjorth was a prodigy who battled on equal terms with such giants of the game as Garry Kasparov, Sammy Reshevsky and England’s Tony Miles, against whom Hjorth won a crucial game in the 1984 British championship. Hjorth was part of the talented generation of Australian juniors that grew up during the 1970s. He represented Australia at the 1982, 1984 and 1986 Chess Olympiads, and was also a three-times winner of the prestigious Australian competition the Doeberl Cup, in 1982, 1985 and 1987. Many regarded him as one of the great future talents of Australian chess, but mathematics became his chief focus, limiting his opportunities for tournament play. Over the past 20 years he entered a handful of events in the US, where he was working, and also played in Melbourne upon his recent return to Australia. In his final outing in such a contest, he scored a clean sweep in seven games against strong opposition. His zenith as a chess champion had come at the Commonwealth Championship at Melbourne in 1983. For all his prodigious brilliance, the 20-year-old Hjorth was regarded as too erratic to compete for high honours, but he went on to share first prize and the title of Commonwealth Chess Champion with the future grandmaster Ian Rogers. Hjorth had this piece of stern advice for young hopefuls: “If the aim is to have fun, then I would suggest trying not to burst into tears when you lose. If the aim is to become a professional, then if you can’t get into the top 100 by the time you are 21, have a good hard rethink.” This pronouncement became highly relevant to his own chess progress, when, at the 1984 Commonwealth Championship in Hong Kong, he signally failed to retain the title he had won so brilliantly the year before. He continued to compete on the international chess scene for the rest of that year. He opted for mathematics, even though Fide, the World Chess Federation, had awarded him the title of International Master that very year. By the close of 1984 most of Hjorth’s chess successes already lay behind him. Gregory Hjorth was born in 1963 in Melbourne. He showed his outstanding abilities from an early age. His interests focused on mathematics, chess, with which mathematical ability is often linked, and philosophy. He was no believer in what he dismissed as the myth of natural genius, and it was hard work and commitment which marked his approach both to mathematics and to chess — which became a passion at 6, when he and his parents, Robert, a neurologist, and Noela, an artist, were living in London. Having learnt the rules, “there was no stopping him,” his father recalled. The family returned to Australia in the early 1970s and Hjorth attended Preshil and St Michael’s schools in Melbourne. So prodigiously talented was he at mathematics that the story was told of him completing an advanced maths exam so quickly that he fell asleep at the desk and had to be woken to prevent his snoring disturbing more tardy examinees. Meanwhile, Hjorth began his rapid ascent of the chess heights, his Silver Medal in the 1979-80 Australian championship, when he was 16, heralding the arrival of a big new talent. For decades Australian chess had been dominated by the éminence grise Cecil Purdy, chess teacher par excellence and the first World Correspondence Chess Champion. Purdy, though, had died during a game in Sydney at the age of 73 in 1979. Australian chess was ready for a fresh injection of young blood. Hjorth’s bachelor’s degree was earned in mathematics and philosophy at the University of Melbourne. This was followed by a PhD at the University of California at Berkeley in 1993, under Professor Hugh Woodin. Hjorth’s thesis was awarded the first Sacks Prize from the Association of Symbolic Logic “for his research in descriptive set theory and its surprising consequences concerning the relationship between set theory and large cardinals”. Hjorth held a post-doctoral position at Berkeley from 1993-95, when he joined the faculty of the Mathematics Department; he became a full professor in 2005. Since 2006 he spent two quarters of each year at the University of Melbourne, on an Australian Research Council professorial fellowship. He received (with Alexander Kechris) the Association of Symbolic Logic’s Karp Prize in 2003, and was Tarski Lecturer at Berkeley from 2009-10. Proof is the essence of mathematics, and mathematical knowledge is the most certain knowledge we have. Thus, to those with a philosophical turn of mind, it is the logical foundations of mathematics that are particularly fascinating. Mathematical logic is closely linked to the subject of set theory. Woodin, Hjorth’s doctoral supervisor, is the acknowledged leader in the interplay between the two. The area continues to be a very active one; Hjorth’s work within it focused on a number of themes, including descriptive set theory (it is difficult to describe very highly infinite sets), and large cardinals (used to measure the size of such sets). Hjorth was a highly productive and creative research mathematician; he wrote more than 60 papers and one book. Dedication to his work and commitment also governed other aspects of his life, including a commitment first to vegetarianism, then veganism, based not on health reasons, but on a refusal to cause suffering to animals. Hjorth’s personal blog was a curiously wistful compilation, warning his PhD students about the career implications of becoming a professional academic mathematician, not to mention the perils of devoting one’s life to career chess. His blog was conspicuously headed by the ominous, Sioux Indian-inspired observation: “Perhaps today is a good day to die.” He and his wife, Beth, separated in 2003 after ten years of marriage. Professor Greg Hjorth, mathematician and International Chess Master, was born on June 14, 1963. He died of a heart attack on January 13, 2011, aged 47

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George Eraclides
10 years ago

I just found out about his passing away. I played Greg in a chess tournament in the eighties. I was a mediocre player and he was already an International Master. He was younger than me by about ten years and had the long hair and relaxed attitude of a poet from the Romantic age. On seeing my name he inquired as to whether it was a derivation of the Philosopher Heraclitus and I explained that alas it was not. He was a very gifted young man, already wise for his years. He was without a trace of arrogance given the vast discrepancy in our chess levels. He was completely respectful and played the game (a Catalan - he was White) as though he was opposed by another strong player. He won the game and I marvelled at the harmonious way in which he played. A Hjorth characteristic. I have a backgound in Philosophy and was pleased that his career blossomed into the realms of logic. I was shocked to discover that he passed away at such a young age. A terrible loss. My condolensces to his family, friends and colleagues. I will not forget him. George, February 2011.

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AP
10 years ago

Ah Greg, when i think of you I remember your dry and irreverent humour. It always surprised me and really made me laugh. Hope you had lots of joyeous moments in your life. ~ Andrea Parker Halford

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JC
10 years ago

I went to school with Greg & I can tell you he had a double natutre. I remember Greg - having finished the Applied Maths exam (early) he put his head down and went to sleep. the examiner had to wake him as his snoring was disturbing other students. He would miss every monday of school to play high level chess. Despite missing classes he topped all of us. I also recall a heart rendering punk rendition of "Wild Thing" to the school on the morning of the year 12 muckup day. Even so, I am glad that his aptitude for Mathematics led him away from a career in punk music. His gift to the world is greater for it.

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Neil Davis
11 years ago

As a young Victorian chess player in the 1970s who played in several Victorian Championships and the 1975/1976 Australian Championship I got to know that prodigiously talented group of Victorian youngsters which included Ian Rogers, Guy West, Darryl Johansen and Greg Hjorth. I had the pleasure of catching up with Ian and Darryl at Guy's wedding and was looking forward to catching up with Greg and was disappointed when I found out he was unable to attend. Greg and I "connected" from the very first time we met and talked to each other. I absolutely enjoyed his company. Despite not having met Greg for many years, as our lives went on different paths, my affection for Greg as a wonderful, humane person and friend has remained, which is why this tragedy has hit me very hard. Only last year Guy was telling me a humorous story about Greg, bringing Greg very much to life. I never imagined Greg would be taken from us at such a young age, while still in his prime. It also makes me realise how wrong I was not to have made an active attempt to catch up with Greg. I guess I just assumed that Greg would always be with us so there was plenty of time. It's a regret I'll now have to live with. The memory I will cherish of Greg is this amazing young chess talent - a longish haired, really cool looking young kid, with a cheeky smile, who could have easily passed for a young teen rock star, with all the girls swooning after him. There he was, sitting composed and relaxed at the chess board, as if in total control. It must have been pretty intimidating for chess players of many years' experience, 30 and 40 years his senior, as their positions went from bad to worse against him. Such a kind, intelligent, talented person deserved to live many more years. Life's not fair. It really sucks at times. Rest in peace Greg. I will never forget you. Neil Davis.

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Robin Hill
11 years ago

The words I hear so often in describing Greg are kind and caring. I fully agree. He was very sensitive to suffering, or to any injustice inflicted on others. This was most noticeable to friends. But his compassion extended to all living creatures. He went to great lengths to hide his exceptional intellectual abilities. I remember playing an inter-club game of chess against him when he was 14 (and I was 27). I lost, but thought I was winning. Greg shared his understanding of the position with me, but with such reserve and gentleness that I did not realize until analyzing the game later that I had been completely outplayed positionally. We lost touch when he went to the States, but we resumed our friendship shortly before he accepted a Professorial Fellow position at the University of Melbourne. He was truly special. What an enormous loss, not only to his family and friends, but also to mathematics and chess.

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Elliott Renzies
11 years ago

The first time I saw Greg Hjorth, was back in the early ‘80s during the Australian Open Chess Tournament held in Paddington PCYC, Sydney. He was just a kid; yet everyone seemed to talk about him, his great potential and future as one of Australia’s greatest players if not the greatest ever. Some years later I saw him again one Wednesday at the Melbourne Chess Club, then in Peel Street, North Melbourne. He was there for a postponed game. I remember him donning an army jacket and a beret. Maybe, he had already decided that professional chess wasn’t for him and that his academic career was priority No. 1. He left for the US sometime later. Professor Greg Hjorth, obliged to my request for an interview for the Chess Chat Forum. As a tribute to a great personality who left us so early, I present the link for that interview that sheds light to some of the finest traits of a fine man. http://chesschat.org/showthread.php?p=283182#post283182 RIP Greg

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f7
11 years ago

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David
11 years ago

Greg made an impression on me, and I only met him once. I was a teenager from Rockhampton. Greg was lured to a tournament in Townsville. We played a hard-fought, honourable draw. His T-Shirt said something like: "Hjorth of Cjorth". I liked the cut of his jib. He really brought something to that tournament simply by his presence.

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David
11 years ago

Greg made an impression on me, and I only met him once. I was a teenager from Rockhampton. Greg was lured to a tournament in Townsville. We played a hard-fought, honourable draw. His T-Shirt said something like: "Hjorth of Cjorth". I liked the cut of his jib. He really brought something to that tournament simply by his presence.

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Aldo
11 years ago

I remember seeing Greg at UCLA logic colloquia in the early 2000's -- he was always kind, unassuming, but with a bit of an ironic smile. I really enjoyed talking to him, although we were not close. A great loss not only for his family but for mathematical logic as well.

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The Black Onyx
11 years ago

"The point of a song is not the end of the song, but you cannot understand the point until you have seen the end. In the same, way the point of a life is not its end, but you must see the end to understand the point. " G.Horth

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Steve
11 years ago

A truly decent, kind, patient and intelligent man taken from this earth far too soon. Generous of spirit, I remember Greg playing chess with me. A champion humble enough to play against a curious hack, and still gracious enough to ask if I would like to play again. Coming from a family where "the men are good looking and the children are above average" - Greg you are admired as an exceptional person and will be sadly missed and always remembered by all who knew you.

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tzy
11 years ago

I really couldn't believe that Greg has passed away... Just three days before he was reported to have passed away, I had just heard from him... I agree with all who know him as a very supportive person to the people around him, although I have only had e-mail correspondences with him and heard him lecture once. It's truly sad to lose an intelligent man with modesty! Thanks, Greg, for being supportive these past two months!

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Gareth
11 years ago

Although we only caught up now and again, he always made me feel like a best friend. A clever and caring man. I'll miss you mate.

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Nigel R
11 years ago

I played Greg a quite a few times when he used to hang about at the Melbourne Chess Club in the early 80s. He usually had a book in his hand when he wasn't playing. He always squashed me, but was nice and polite about it. My condolences to his friends and family.

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Peter Hall
11 years ago

I remember Greg as a remarkably thoughtful colleague with particularly high standards and ideals. Whenever he commented on an issue his remarks were the result of considering different sides of several different arguments. He was gentle, kind, understanding, careful, thorough and modest. It is so hard to appreciate that he is not with us now.

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Felisa
11 years ago

I remember Greg full of life, happy in his beloved city, supportive to the people around him, and understanding. I remember the spark in his eyes, the honest smile and the intelligent eyes. As often with truly outstanding people, he was also very modest: few that saw him enjoy a evening at the pub with friends, or casually walking in the street could guess the national and international prestige that he enjoyed in his field of mathematics. He will be truly missed and impossible to forget.

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hjorth
11 years ago