Biographies - Mullen

Ian ‘Spike’ Mullen

(b. 13th October 1952 - d. 28th October 2004).

By Alastair F. White

Ian was one of the most tragic figures in the history of the Edinburgh Chess, and Scottish Chess in General. And yet it all started out so promisingly. He was a pupil at Dollar Academy, where he received a good education. And he was good enough at chess to be playing for Scotland in the Glorney Cup in 1968 at the age of 15, scoring 2.5/4 against other European nations. Following this he attended Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. He got the nickname ‘Spike’ after Spike Mullins, a Jazz performer.

I don’t know exactly when, but he lost both parents at an early age - his father died of cancer and his mother also died in tragic circumstances. Ian dropped out of college and had to make the best of things living on benefits without any other external help. Fortunately, he had a wide circle of friends who were always willing to give moral support or provide a welcome flat-sharing arrangement.

I first met him in the early 70s and since we shared a passion for both chess and music we became firm friends. Ian was gentle, clever, and naturally talented, both as a chess player and as a musician. He could play guitar in any style - Folk, Pop, Jazz, Rock or Classical, and occasionally taught guitar to supplement his meagre income. We often attended concerts together. And he played chess in the style of Paul Morphy, combining rapid development with a talent for combination. He won the East of Scotland Championship in 19?? and had a rating of 2200 around that time. I recall taking him to the Scottish in Troon 1980, staying in a caravan along with Geoff Chandler and Alan Norris. We remained close friends until I got married and moved away from Edinburgh in the 1980s. After that I saw less and less of him.

He was also a talented chess author. He co-wrote ‘Master Chess’ along with Danny Kopec, Chris Morrison, Nigel Davies, and Geoff Chandler. His own chapter, on endings, is well-researched, professionally written, and highly informative. He later co-wrote another book ‘Blunders and Brilliancies’ with Moe Moss. This was very well received by the chess world (although a few of the positions were ‘doctored’ and in some cases ‘made up’). He also co-authored the Edinburgh Chess magazine ‘Capital Chess’ (later ‘CapaTal Chess’) first with myself and then with Geoff Chandler.

After Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979, things got more difficult for Ian, as the rules regarding Social Security were tightened up. He moved into the Edinburgh Chess club as caretaker around 1980. He later found some employment with the DHSS of all things, but eventually dropped out of that too. But it was around this time that he met the one and only love of his life, a Norwegian lady chess player by the name of Anniken Omholt-Jensen. They met at a chess tournament in Edinburgh, and Ian surprised me by wooing her and persuading her to move in with him. Anniken was a stunning Nordic blonde, but the Chess Club flat was barely habitable. So after a while they moved out and stayed with another of Ian’s many friends.

Eventually Anniken fell pregnant and went back to Norway where, without Ian’s approval, she had the baby adopted and brought up by foster-parents.His efforts to reconnect with Anniken were rebuffed. After this Ian became increasingly disturbed, showing the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. He refused all offers of help and distanced himself from his former friends. When he unexpectedly killed himself in 2004, he was attending a hostel for mentally disturbed people. Nobody knows for sure what finally pushed him over the edge, but we can only guess.

RIP Spike, you are not forgotten.


Ian David Mullen ('Spike')

Geoff Chandler - originally written for ‘Chandler Cornered’

The 'Spike' nickname came from a jazz musician in the 30's and 40's, Spike Mullen. This was the same Spike that Spike Milligan borrowed.

In July 2004 Spike committed suicide by jumping from the Dean Bridge in Edinburgh.

I waited one year before mentioning anything about on this site. I'm not too sure why. I'm a coward when it comes to these things. At the funeral the person conducting the service said that Ian made a decision and took his own life. This decision left me and his many friends exasperated at the waste of such of wonderful talented person.

Spike was hit with a series of personal tragedies each one capable of putting a person down. He took them on the chin and perhaps his mistake was keeping them bottled up.

I knew Spike for nearly 30 years. Yet I never found out till the day of his funeral that prior to his breakdown his father had died of cancer and his mother was killed in tragic circumstances. Spike's brother was involved in an accident in the 70's and is still in a nursing home with a lawyer who has to make decisions for him.

Spike's very good friend Vaughan Sigouin was killed in a drowning accident in Portugal. Spike took this quite badly.

Then Spike and Annakin split up after living together for a couple of years. He was later to find out Annakin was pregnant with his child. Annakin had her (it was a girl), adopted. And that's not me pointing a finger of blame. Annakin had her own reasons and perhaps felt she was not ready to give a child her full attention.

Spike told me prior to the birth, Annakin's twin sister had passed away. Who knows how anybody is going to cope carrying around this load of emotional baggage. Spike became withdrawn and irrational. Perhaps out of embarrassment he made little effort to contact his friends and chance meetings in the street were worrying and a cause for concern.

I've just read what I typed. If Spike was here he would say "For God's sake Geoff,cheer it up."

Spike was one of the most kind and gentle people you could know. A wry sense of humour, an exceptional guitarist, educated to a high standard and a very good chess player. He co-wrote an excellent book with Mo Moss called 'Blunders and Brilliancies' . it was recently voted one of the best Chess books ever written. Ian's instructive writing shines through. A second edition was planned but sadly Mo passed away. Mo's death was another brick added the load Spike was carrying around.

Thankfully I and a lot of other people can remember the kind, gentle and happy go lucky Spike and dismiss these episodes as part of his illness. I got to know Spike when he and Alastair White were the co- editors of Capital Chess. I later took over the magazine and had the printing press delivered to The Edinburgh Chess Club and stored it in the coffee room. I can remember having just completed an edition and had just stapled half of the run (approx 75 copies) together when Spike appeared and wanted a game put in. A game he lost! This was against Tommy Milligan (I can never recall Tommy being called Spike). I said I'll use it next issue. I can't fill two sides with one game. Spike gave me a game he played against George Weeden. This was a brilliant game. But Spike wanted to 'Stop The Press' with a game he had lost. This was Spike Mullen.

So in typical Chandler fashion I typed up another page including Spike's loss v Tommy Milligan and his win v George Weeden. I added some other games, printed off the page and started stapling. What about the one's you have already stapled?" asked Spike. "To hell with un-stapling that lot." says I. "Your page will become a collectors item." So I sold my mag knowing half of them had a page missing.


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