As a player, he preferred offbeat openings such as the Grob, the Blackburne gambit, and the Nimzo-Larsen, and even authored books on those variations. He was sentenced to death in 1970 for strangling his stepmother in a fight about inheritance. While awaiting death, he played thousands of correspondance chess games simultaneously, with the state of Virginia picking up the postage tab.
When the Supreme Court suspended the death penalty and his sentence was commuted to life, he managed to convince the prison to allow him to play tournaments outside prison while under the supervision of a prison guard. This is how, in 1974, he and another chess player overpowered the lonely prison guard and fled. His is a hard to believe Hollywood tale if there ever was one.
Naturally, they were captured and put back in prison, where he continued playing chess and even organized tournaments among the inmates. By playing against a large enough pool of other “rated” players in these tournaments, he was able to achieve an inconceivable rating of 2702 in 1996, making him the second strongest player in America, behind only Kamsky. This rating did not accurately reflect his true strength though. His final correspondence tournament was the U.S. championship, in which he scored 3 wins and 9 losses, dieing before finishing his final game on aug. 4th, 2001.
Below, a collection of his wins with white in uncommon openings: