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Concert-theatrical center Ugra-Classic to revive the old spirits
The organizers of the 39th World Chess Olympiad, set to take place from 20th September to 4th October in Khanty-Mansiysk, Ugra, will try to revive the spirit of the legendary Paris’ “Café de la Régence”, the most important European Centre of chess in the 18th and 19th centuries.
All famous chess masters of the time played in “Café de la Régence”. Among regular visitors of the Cafe were Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Francois-Andre Philidor Danican, Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin. Denis Diderot described the cafe in his book “Le neveu de Rameau”. For many years, the Cafe took pride of the marble chess table, behind which Napoleon played in 1798.
Spokesman of the concert-theatrical center “Ugra-Classic”, Alexander Vovnenko, stated that the programme of the chess club “Café de la Régence” will include chess tournaments, thematic lectures on the historical chess figures and concerts by “Ugra-Classic” soloists.
In addition, the club will be screenings thematic feature films, including “Chess” (1977), “Searching for Bobby Fischer” (1993), “The Luzhin Defence” (2000), musical “Chess” (1984) and the masterpiece “The Seventh Seal” (1957).
Café de la Régence
by Richard Fireman (first published in Chess Life 1989)
Back in those years, it seemed, just about everything was strange; the craziness of Woodstock, the crazierness of Vietnam, and just plain life. It was, I believe, 1970, and I was a college student and A-player invited by my friend Steve Spencer, a rising young master, to come see him play in the U.S. Junior Invitational Championship. The top eight under-21-year-olds in the country were to be slugging it out: Tarjan, Rogoff, DeFotis (Greg), Weinstein (Norman), Matera, Deutsch, Jacobs (the Texan one, I think), and my friend. It was a weekend or a holiday (Christmas?!) or maybe it wasn’t (what were classes in Existentialism worth compared to living it?), so I said sure and came into New York to the old McAlpin Hotel where the tournament was being held.
For a while everything seemed normal (too quiet, I would’ve said if I were cowboy in an old Western movie just before the Indians attacked); the games seemed to be progressing normally – Steve, who was destined to finish last, was trying to hold off the inevitable attack after grabbing a pawn – and aside from tournament director William Goichberg I was the only spectator. Nobody seemed to care whether I was there or not, and I sat quietly by in a nearby chair and read my book and occasionally glanced over at the boards to see what was happening. Time passed…
…and then HE walked into the room, and everything changed.
A tall young (27) man in a sports jacket, carrying some papers under his arm, with an abstracted look and an aura of energy radiating from him you could feel across the room. As though in a movie caught in the projector, everything stopped. Hands with pieces about to descend were poised in mid-air, head-scratchings were suspended, twitchings froze. Then, as though they’d been caught staring at a woman they were attracted to, everyone suddenly resumed their actions as though nothing had happened, and the movie started up once again. It seemed nonchalant (does anything ever seem chalant?!), but it wasn’t. For, miraculously, ten or fifteen minutes later all the games were finished, even though it hadn’t been anywhere close to the time control.
Because everyone wanted to meet Bobby.
He’d been quiet, nodding hello to Goichberg and casually walking about the room, glancing at each of the boards and hardly seeming to study, or even notice, the positions. Then he returned to the corner of the room and just sort of hung around until the inevitable gathering, the flocking to the waterhole.
“Let’s go look at some games,” he said, and heads wordlessly bobbed up and down. Since the room was reserved for use only for the duration of each day’s tournament, we had to go to another room, Goichberg explained. Fischer – he asked us all to call him Bobby – nodded and turned around and started walking, with Bill and the players following. I tagged along, not quite believing it was happening. Hell, this man was a legend. But he seemed as normal as the next guy, at least till then…
So we went into a room and sat down and set up a board and Bobby took one of a bunch of Russian magazines from under his arm and started moving the pieces around, and we stared. At some point he stopped after making a move and, with a slightly puzzled look – as though he were a novice who wasn’t quite comprehending the underlying reasons behind the strategies – said, to no one in particular, “I wonder why he did that?” One of the young masters, naturally eager to impress, offered a plausible explanation: maybe he wanted to do such-and-such and was afraid his opponent would do this-and that, so he first prepared it by playing this move. Fischer shrugged it off: “No, that doesn’t work, because…” and reached out for the pieces…
…and you could barely see what the sequence was, his hands moved so fast. If before when he entered it was like in that old Twilight Zone episode where time is frozen, this was like the Keystone Cops where the action is speeded up to an unnatural, ludicrous extent. Everyone just stared, jaws literally agape, mental tongues hanging. An eternity (well, twenty seconds or so) passed before us. Bobby was long since finished exhibiting that particular variation.
“Right?” he inquired. Yeah, sure, Bobby, anything you say. Nobody was about to dispute him. Hell, we barely saw what it was he had just shown us. And, except for myself, these were Masters, the cream of the crop of America’s rising young talent, superstars of the future, paralyzed in disbelief by what they had just witnessed. You’d think we’d asked for a daffodil and he’d pulled out the Burning Bush, we were so stunned. It wasn’t just the sheer speed of his action – though that was certainly impressive enough – but the seeming effortlessness of it, the naturalness which he exhibited; it was as though it were as normal as breathing to him, as though it were all simple and straightforward and ofcourse-this-is-what-happens-if-you-do-that, isn’t it obvious? That’s what was so stunning, as though his mind were a computer, as though anything we could have thought of had already been considered and incorporated and analyzed and dismissed, all in one simple algorithm. As though he were just on a whole other level.
I’ve since met and analyzed with a number of grandmasters, and they weren’t even close, so it’s not just the difference in playing strength. Sure, they exhibit a natural feel for the game and understanding beyond that of the rest of us mortals, but they’re still in the same order of things, the same part of the universe: they fumble around with this idea and that, and they’re more likely to come to the right conclusions because of their talent and experience and insight. But they still have to work at it. With Bobby it wasn’t like that. With him it was like he had a key to the door containing the mystery, a special pass. With him it was as simple as going into that room with all the answers, looking for what you wanted, finding it and taking it out. Maybe he had to clear a couple of things off the shelves before he found what he wanted, but he didn’t have to hire the A-team to break down the door.
Well, I’m sure he knew what he would’ve done in that position we’d stopped at, but the move the Russian had made evidently wasn’t it, and even Bobby couldn’t read minds, and nobody else, after his little display, was about to offer any other suggestions, so he sort of shrugged and proceeded with the game. Ten or so moves later – uh oh – he paused again. “Hmmm…,” he hmmmed, and we held our collective breath. You could’ve heard an atom drop. “Why did he do that?”
Aww, come on, Bobby, you’ve gotta be kidding. But he wasn’t. Please, give us a break. But he didn’t. He just sat there and waited, looking, interminably. Finally we had to breathe, but shallowly. And, finally, someone had to say something…
Heads snapped, eyes staring in wonder and admiration at the voluntary sacrifice. What courage. What fortitude. What a jerk. Doesn’t he know there be dragons in those parts?
“Errr, maybe, I don’t know, uh, maybe he wanted to do that?” He sort of half-gestured at a move, then pulled his hand away quickly as though he didn’t really mean it, he had just said it because his mother had made him promise he would do it. He put his hand back into his pocket and stood frozen, neck tensed, awaiting the axe.
It came. “No, no, that wouldn’t work…” and, I swear, I don’t know how it was possible but his hands moved even faster. Swish, swish, chopchop-chop, and the resulting mangled position was something a two-year-old might have gotten into against the Prussian army. “Oh, yeah, right,” mumbled the recalcitrant offerer/offering, “sorry, Bobby.”
“Okay,” came the voice from the Mount, his hands resetting the pieces, and the tension broke, and we all started breathing normally. One of the guys next to the last suggester elbowed him in the ribs and smiled, and we all glanced at each other, grinning. It was okay to be mortal. Hell, it was even fun. Next time Bobby paused the delay wasn’t so great, the fear absent. Sure, the same process ensued, but we expected it to, even wanted it to. It wasn’t competitive, as though we stood a chance of seeing something he didn’t; it was constructive, a learning experience for all of us (most of all, for me, since I was the weakest player); the challenge in it was to see how long your move would last before being proved absolutely worthless, and we all took turns being good-naturedly pummeled.
Bobby expected it, invited it, encouraged us to participate. Go ahead, bob for apples. Eat of the tree of knowledge. We did, and later went to a nearby Japanese restaurant with him and talked of everything but chess – I remember he mentioned he was learning how to drive a car, for instance – and then, smiling, he departed. Who was that masked man…
He had been nothing like the image I’d expected of him, the media depiction of the crazed recluse, the impossible boy wonder who made life impossible for everyone he met. In fact, he’d been downright friendly. Piecing it together later – after the shock wore off – I concluded that he’d probably felt much more comfortable among us, who were not only not of the media but not even his peers, and who looked up to him rather than down or suspiciously; that we made him feel not only admired but, more importantly, welcome.
And that, I felt, was something he rarely felt, and something he appreciated. Perhaps even yearned for. I don’t know; I can’t pretend to really know the man. But if you’re out there, Bobby, and by some chance read this, I want you to know that, yes, you were welcome that day. And that we would welcome you back.
Article by Richard Fireman (first published in Chess Life 1989)
Poem by Dr. Alfredo Pasin (English version added)
On 1st September 1972, Boris Spassky resigned the adjourned 21st game of his match against Robert Fischer, which meant an overall 12.5-8.5 win for the American Grandmaster, who was then declared 11th World Chess Champion.
On the exactly same date 20 years later, a returning match had started in Sveti Stefan (today in Montenegro) and concluded later in Belgrade. Fischer won that match, 10 wins to 5 losses, with 15 draws.
Remembering this date, Italian poet Dr. Alfredo Pasin wrote beautiful lyrics to honour the great champion. Professor Robert Mundell, Nobel Prize winner and initiator of the Pearl Spring Chess Tournament, commented “It’s a beautiful poem. I’m sure Bobby would have liked it.”
With help from Mr. Adolivio Capece, Italian Chess Federation.
Il giocatore Bobby
Vi prego non relegate me
Bobby, il giocatore di scacchi,
il piu’ grande che il mondo conobbe
al solo ruolo
di pazzo paranoico alienato
fui questa la verità
un genio un artista uno scienziato
vincitore feroce ma cortese
perdente raro cupo ma dignitoso
privo di lusinghe ed inganni
un artista guerriero
che viveva ancora
secondo le leggi dei samurai
in quel gioco più di tutto cercai
bellezza armonia e verità
lo innalzai a vette infinite
ma non trovai mai
quiete e ristoro
alle mie pene di uomo
forse non fu la pazzia
a portarmi via
ma il vento nero e gelido
e della sua malinconia
BOBBY THE CHESS PLAYER
I beseech you, do not confine me,
Bobby, the chess player,
the greatest one the world could ever know
to the only role
of alienated psychic paranoid.
This was indeed the truth:
I was a genius, an artist and a scientist;
a winner ruthless but chivalrous
a rare loser, somber but still stout;
a warrior artist
free from flattery and cheats,
a warrior still living
according to the laws of Samurai.
In that game, what I have sought at most
’twas Beauty, Harmony and Truth:
I raised it to almost boundless heights
but I never encountered
quiet and refreshment.
Maybe it was not Madness
to bring me away
from my human sufferings;
’twas rather the dark and icy wind
and of its melancholy.
prompted after the Chess Olympiad on Cuba
The FBI investigated American chess champion Bobby Fischer in the 1960s after the Cold War icon created a controversy at a tournament in Cuba, where he famously played against Fidel Castro, according to newly disclosed documents.
The FBI dossier, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, shows the bureau’s Mexico City office began probing the one-time chess prodigy after a tumultuous headline-grabbing trip to Havana.
Fischer was a Cold War hero who would ultimately best the Soviets at a game they had dominated, at a time when beating Communists stirred national passions.
Before ascending to take the world crown in an historic 1972 match against Russia’s Boris Spassky, the Brooklyn-reared Fischer traveled the globe to play in chess tournaments.
Trip to Cuba
In 1966, Fischer flew to Havana, leading the U.S. delegation at the 17th Chess Olympiad, a top international competition. It was an era when Washington tightly controlled travel to Communist nations – U.S. officials, in fact, had rejected Fischer’s bid to compete there in a tournament a year earlier.
Once in Cuba, Fischer sparked an international stir when he refused to play against the Soviets because the match would be on a Saturday, conflicting with his religious practices. The Soviets were outraged and protested.
The controversy drew worldwide press coverage, and chess officials intervened. Fischer got his way and the match was rescheduled.
The FBI interviewed several sources it considered reliable about the incident. One unnamed source asserted the American chess team “had attempted to embarrass the Cuban Government in order to prevent any future world championship from being held in Cuba.”
Read the full article. We thank Andy Lehren for sending the link.
years covered 1996 – 2001
In 1996 Zsuzsa Polgar beat Xie Jun at Jaen to become the last World Champion to obtain the title in the last classic match played on the terms in effect since 1953.
The next Candidates Tournament in Groningen 1997, was organized concurrent with the first of the FIDE World Championship Knockout tournaments. Alisa Galliamova and Xie Jun finished 1st and 2nd, seeding them into the final match.
The final match in the Women’s Championship was scheduled to be played in Shenyang. After Galliamova refused to play the entire match in China the win was awarded by default to Xie Jun. The title match would be Polgar – Xie Jun.
By the time FIDE announced the date and venue for the title match, Polgar had given birth to her first child. She considered that the time to recover from childbirth and to prepare for the new match was insufficient. She requested that the match be postponed, FIDE refused, and negotiations broke down.
After the contract deadline passed, FIDE declared that the title match would be played between Xie Jun and Alisa Galliamova. The forfeited Candidates match was to be resurrected as a title match! The 1999 match, with a venue split between Kazan and Shenyang, was won by Xie Jun.
A year later, at New Delhi 2000, Xie Jun defended her title by winning the first Women’s Championship played with the knockout format. She beat her compatriot Qin Kanying in the final match of the six rounds event. The Chinese dominance was reconfirmed when Zhu Chen beat Alexandra Kosteniuk in the final match of the Moscow 2001 knockout event.
Mikhail Tal’s signature – by Alan Benson
The 1959 Candidates Tournament by Gligoric and Ragosin. “Kandidatenturnier für Schachweltmeisterschaft” — Bled, Zagreb, Beograd 6 September – 31 Oktober 1959. / First Printing: Jugoslawischer Schachverband Beograd 1960.
This chess book features all eight participants having signed (one of the oldest in terms of how long I’ve actually had this book within my collection). We have lost three so far in: former WCC IGM Mikhail Tal, former WCC IGM Tigran Petrosian, and the late and great IGM Paul Keres…
When I first started off and finally entered a chess club (other than my local Junior High or High School), I went straight to the “YMCA Chess Club” in Oakland, CA. It didn’t take me very long to make my next step over to the well known and one of the oldest chess clubs in this country the “Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club”, located at 57 Post Street (4th floor) in San Francisco.
The 1959 Candidates Tournament by Gligoric and Ragosin
The big chess chat at the time was of course Fischer and that Tal had just lost return match to Botvinnik. I don’t remember just how I acquired this book. Either it was one of my early purchases from the British Chess Magazine, or perhaps I purchased it through my late chess friend and book dealer IM Imre Köing.
In any event here are the stories and what I remember about each one and how the signatures were obtained (Cassia was very kind and she gave me a great memory enough to play ten games of chess while blindfolded). Mainly from the great “Piatigorsky Cup” Chess Tournament held in Los Angeles, California 1963 (given here in order of the final tournament standings at the ’59 Candidates Tourney):
Mikhail Tal mug
1) Mikhail Tal (Riga Interzonal 1979):
This was the one signature which eluded me for the longest time… As, Tal rarely played here in the USA (like once!). It was rumored that he would make an appearance at the 1979 Lone Pine Chess Tournament. I held my breath thinking that this may be my one and only chance. But, in the end he didn’t show up… [sigh]
A rare stroke of Cassia’s luck occurred later that year. My good friend IGM James Tarjan was scheduled to play at the Riga Interzonal in late 1979 where Misha would also be playing (of course he won the tournament). I asked Jim for a return of favors. He said, “Sure!” As, I proudly handed him the ’59 Candidates chess book and asked him to please get Tal’s signature for me. He returned a few weeks later with the book signed by Tal.
A full decade plus later Tal played right here in San Francisco at the Pan Pacific Chess Tournament. Btw: I did ask Tal when meeting him for the first time if he
remembered signing the book that Jim had brought him years before. He told me that he didn’t remember.
Fortunately, I had many more such opportunities to meet Tal (at the Pan Pacific and the Blitz tournament here as I furiously wrote down of every blitz game that I possibly could held at MICC and I even wrote a special article on the event for “Blitz Chess” titled ‘A Night of Blitz Magic!’). Also, on the celebrated Bay boat cruise excursion where Tal and I shared Black Russian Sobranie cigarettes (still have that box, btw, which I gave to my good friend Lawrence Totaro), and drinks (Black Russians of course). Then later at the special social occasion held at the Bursch party right here in Berkeley, CA.
Mikhail Tal in San Francisco
Then even more wonderful chess stories to tell about Tal (his other signatures to my chess books and all the memorabilia that I saved – his flag, his nameplate, his cigarettes, and the ProChess set that he used at that tournament). I was the logistics coordinator and organizer and made darn sure that Tal used only one chess set (#5) for the last five rounds… When the chess tournament was finally over I took that chess set directly home!
To be continued….
by Brian Roche
The article was originally published in “Chess Life” Magazine during 80′s. I think the new generation of players will find it interesting and surprisingly modern.
It’s basically a translation of The Art of War by Sun
Tzu (500 B.C.), geared for chess players.
Each new position should be assessed quickly in terms of: 1. Development, 2. Mobility, 3. Material superiority, 4. Tempo and 5. Space.
Strategy consists of shaping some advantage in terms of these five points. Whichever side wins more “points” in these areas will probably win the game.
The Art of Deceit
When able, seem to be unable.
When close, seem to be far off.
If opponent is seeking an advantage, entice them toward it.
If opponent is in disorder, attack.
If opponent is strong, prepare your defense.
Attack undefended, unprepared areas.
Never attack fortresses.
Develop in unexpected ways (i.e. change move order)
Make moves as quickly as possible. “I have heard of foolish haste, but I have yet to see a case of cleverly dragging on hostilities.”
Learn to assess positions quickly and use clock time only when you need it.
“It is best to keep one’s own side intact; to crush the opponent’s position is only second best. The highest excellence is to subdue the attacker without fighting at all.”
Types of Attack
1. Attacking opponent’s strategy
2. Attacking a menacing combination
3. Attacking individual pieces
4. Attacking a strong point
Of these four, the first is the most effective, the fourth is the least. Resort to attacking a strong point only when there is no other choice. Do not attack until pieces are aligned (supporting each other) and ready (developed). Similarly, do not retreat from a good position. Always ask what each piece (on both sides) is “doing.”
Make your own position invincible, then look for opponent’s vulnerable spots. You can always fortify your position; you cannot guarantee an opponent’s vulnerability. “The battle of the expert is seldom an exceptional victory. The expert only enters battles that are already won!.”
Practice playing with and without an advantage. Understand both perspectives. Practice offensive and defensive play, according to circumstances.
Use surprise and straightforward operations. “When used in combination, they provide inexhaustible possibilities.”
One must always adapt to changing circumstances, “There are no fixed strategic advantages or invariable positions.”
Strong and Weak Points
Attack areas where the opponent must hasten to defend.
“Against the expert of attack, the opponent does not know where to defend. Against the expert of defense, the opponent doesn’t know where to attack.”
“To be prepared everywhere is to be weak everywhere. One is weak while making preparations; strong while forcing the opponent to prepare.”
Strive for a “formless” position. A winning position more often arises from “no-form” than from an obvious strategy.
Out and out attack is always difficult and dangerous. Try luring your opponent into easy gains (gambits), thereby anticipating the position.
It is a great advantage to secure and fortify squares that are precisely important points in your opponent’s strategy.
“Do not depend on your opponent not attacking; depend rather on having a position that can’t be attacked.”
It is when your opponent is not attacking or changing position that you must be cautious.
Material inferiority is not necessarily a disadvantage. Advance carefully, consolidate pieces and anticipate attacks.
Always look at the advantage and disadvantages of every move (on both sides).
Try to use opponent’s pieces and position to your advantage.
“Command of a position involves wisdom, integrity, humanity, courage and discipline.”
The time machine of Chessdom brings you to the past edition of Mtel Masters. It followed the tradition of the first Mtel. It was sponsored by the Bulgarian mobile operator Mtel and played at Grand Hotel Sofia.
Mtel Masters 2006 had very exciting players in the lineup. The French young hope Ettiene Bacrot came with high optimism for the event. The solid Peter Svidler was a big threat for every participant. However, it was Gata Kamsky who brought the big interest and the nice surprise. In the third round he defeated Vishy Anand and took pole position. In the fourth round his advantage grew even more when he dismantled Svidler in only 24 moves. Gata Kamsky already had 3,5 points, half a point more than Anand and 2 more than Topalov, with a performance of more than 3000!
Round 5 was the one where back and forths for the players started and Mtel 2006 turned into pure excitement. Veselin Topalov managed to defeat Kamsky after a 42 moves thriller. Chess fans started talking about another spectacular comeback of Topalov, but just a round after opinions changed after Peter Svidler beated Topalov with black and Kamsky won against Ponomariov. Kamsky’s performance was close to 3000 again and the USA and the whole world were applauding his fantastic games. However, it was getting more and more interesting every round. In R7 Topalov won against Anand with black in an unbalanced rook against knight and bishop game. Now everybody was confused. Right after the midpoint of the tournament the first three players were just 1,5 away and anything could happen to the end. After round 8 the difference came to only 1 point (Kamsky 5,5, Anand 4,5, Topalov 4,5).
The beginning of the end
In round 9 Gata Kamsky had whites against Veselin Topalov. A win was giving Kamsky the first place, a draw meant big chances for first, and a loss was favoring Topalov as the future title holder. In a dinamic Najdorf, Topalov played a strong novelty 14. … e5 and soon launched a strong attack on whites. After several precise moves black lost the game.
Veselin Topalov wins
In Round 10 Topalov did not make a mistake and secured first by defeating Bacrot. Fantastic second win in a row by Topalov. Yet, Kamsky scored a 2800+ performance and showed his ambition to come back in the top 10 of the world.