80 years young in 2017

A true Chess Ambassador!

Happy 80th birthday to
Boris Spassky
, the 10th World Chess Champion, holding the crown from 1969 to 1972. 

Appropriately our hero’s surname in reality (Spassky) has 007 letters. His first name (Boris) is an anagram of "orbis", Latin for "globe", and indeed he was going on to be the World Chess Champion.

Boris Spassky giving a simul in 2009 at Zurich, Switzerland. Photo from Wikipedia: Juerg Vollmer / maiak.info

90 years young in 2016

Legendary Mark Taimanov (Russia) celebrating his 90th birthday in February.

A Laudatio for the Legend. Originally written as a Happy Birthday congratulation, Mark Taimanov died later in the same year. Rest in peace, Maestro! 

For previous player portraits, scroll down (Olafsson and Uhlmann turning eighty in 2015, and Hort, turning seventy in 2014).

R.I.P. Mark Taimanov

Mark Evgenievich Taimanov (in Russian: Марк Евгеньевич Тайманов; born 7 February 1926, died 28 November 2016 in Saint Petersburg, after a month and a half of medical treatment), was a leading Soviet and Russian chess player, chess theorist, author, journalist and concert pianist.

Brief survey: IM 1950 (at the inauguration of the FIDE titles), GM 1952. USSR champion 1956. Twice a Candidate for the World Championship, and World Senior Champion in 1993 and in 1994.  

Taimanov was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Jewish parents. His mother, a piano teacher, introduced him to music. His family moved to Saint Petersburg when he was six months old. At eleven years, he played a young violinist in the 1937 Soviet film "Beethoven Concerto". He remarried late in life and became the father of twins at the age of 78.

Mark Taimanov was a top concert pianist in the Soviet Union. With his first wife, Lyubov Bruk, he formed a piano duo (Bruk & Taimanow) some of whose recordings were included in the Philips and Steinway series Great Pianists of the 20th Century. Duet Bruk/Taimanov play Rachmaninoff Suite for Two Piano's no. 1 in G minor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONaCj5rS_2A

Discovered at the age of eight, he became soon a Pupil of the Leningrad chess school (Botvinnik, Korchnoi, Spassky, Sosonko, and others).

He played in 23 USSR Chess Championships from 1948 to 1976 (a record equalled only by Efim Geller), tying for first place twice. In 1952 he lost the play-off match to Mikhail Botvinnik 2½-3½, while four years later, he beat Yuri Averbakh (=2) and Boris Spassky (+2) in a play-off match for the title to become USSR Champion 1956. In addition, Taimanov finished no less than seven times on second or third place (sole or shared), namely in 1949 (3rd-4th), 1954 (2nd-3rd), 1962 (2nd-3rd), december 1965 (3rd), 1966/67 (3rd-5th), december 1967 (3rd-5th), and october 1969 (3rd-5th).

In the period of 1948-1973, Taimanov was also a five times the City Champion of Leningrad (1948, 1950, 1951, 1961 together with Spassky, and again 1973).

In the ‘match of the century’ between the USSR and the Rest of The World at Belgrade in 1970, Mark Taimanov played on board 7, beating his opponent Wolfgang Uhlmann 2.5:1.5 (+2=1-1).

Also four times consecutively European Team Champion with USSR in 1957, 1961, 1965, 1970, as well as four times winning the individual board gold medal, and winning with the USSR team the gold medal at the Chess Olympiad in 1956 (individual board bronze). Gold with the USSR at the 2nd World Student Team Chess Championship in Lyon 1955, Taimanov played on board one.

Taimanov was Senior World Champion in 1993 and 1994, winning the 3rd and 4th World Senior Chess Championships at Bad Wildbad 1993 and Biel 1994 (that event was played during the annual Biel Chess Festival) respectively.

Taimanov participated in the Interzonals in Saltsjobadden in 1952 where he shared the second-third places with Petrosian behind sensational first Alexander Kotov, thus qualifying for the Candidates tournament at Zurich / Neuhausen in 1953, and in Palma de Mallorca in 1970 (Bobby Fischer won), Taimanov finished equal fifth-sixth and became a Candidate again but lost the famous 1971 quarter-final match in Vancouver to Bobby Fischer by a brutal 0-6 (Fischer subsequently won vs. Larsen in his semi-final with the same result, surpassed Petrosian in the final, and beat Spassky).

After this loss to Fischer, the Soviet government was embarrassed, and, as Taimanov later put it in a 2002 interview, found it "unthinkable" that he could have lost the match so badly to an American without a "political explanation". They took away Taimanov's salary, and he was no longer allowed to travel overseas. Later, they "forgave" him, and lifted the sanctions against him.

Taimanov leads an active chess life and has played in the tournament circuit for more than 50 years and 80 countries, having won or being equal first amongst others in Liverpool (1st International Student Tournament) 1952 (with Bronstein in the individual tournament held parallel to a small-sized team event where the USSR did not take part), Dresden 1959 (with Geller, ahead of Ivkov and Uhlmann, then Padevsky), Santa Fe 1960 (with Szabo, ahead of Gligoric, followed by Korchnoi), Leningrad (Baltic Nations) 1960, Dortmund 1961 (a Prequel of the Dortmund series today, Taimanov won ahead of Smyslov and Udovcic, followed by Bilek, then Larsen, Trifunovic, Teschner, Pietzsch), Chigorin Memorial at Rostov-on-Don 1961 (ahead of Nezhmetdinov and Tarasov, followed by Polugaevsky), Marianske-Lazne (Marienbad) 1962, Luxembourg 1963, Budapest2 1965 (with Polugaevsky, Szabo, ahead of Krogius, then Janosevic), Copenhagen (100th Anniversary of the Copenhagen Chess Club) 1965 (with Gligoric, Suetin, ahead of Larsen, followed by Hort, then Dückstein), Helsinki 1966, Reykjavik (3rd) 1968 (joint, at its beginning editions, Reykjavik was a closed invitation tournament, later switching the format and becoming the famous Open of today), Asztalos Memorial at Zalaegerszeg (12th) 1969 (clear first , in those days, a very traditional series, played at various venues), Wijk aan Zee (Hoogovens) 1970 (first of two participations, Mark Taimanov winning this prestigious event outright, impressive 1.5 points ahead of Hort, followed by Ivkov, Kavalek, Kurajica, Donner, Benkö, Filip, etc.), Skopje (Solidarnost, 4th) 1970 (with Vasiukov, ahead of Gheorghiu, Marovic, Balashov, Matulovic, Forintos, Gligoric, Matanovic, Browne, Reshevsky, etc.), Bucharest 1973, Albena 1974, Decin (Primat, 5th) 1975, Bucharest 1979, St. Petersburg (White Nights) GM 1998 (with Yudasin, and others). 

In addition, Taimanov finished at the strong and rarely played Alekhine Memorial, Moscow 1956, only half a point behind the joint winners Botvinnik, then reigning World Champion, and Smyslov, then Vice World Champion and Challenger, as third together with Gligoric, ahead of Bronstein, Najdorf, Keres, Pachman, Unzicker, Stahlberg, Szabo, Padevsky, Uhlmann, Ciocaltea, Sliwa, and Golombek (16 players). In 1967, Taimanov was runner-up at the traditional Capablanca Memorial in Havana behind Larsen but above Smyslov, Polugaevsky, Gligoric, Filip, Donner, and others. 

Few players have beaten six undisputed world chess champions in classical games (namely Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, Boris Spassky, and Anatoly Karpov) as Mark Taimanov has. In 1970, he was ranked fourth in the annual Chess Oscar Award (only behind Fischer, Spassky, and Larsen). 

Best world ranking:
th in January 1957 with 2742 (prior to FIDE in historical ELO by SONAS);
th with Smyslov and Stein in January 1971 FIDE list with 2620 ELO (also best FIDE rating).

Mark Taimanov was a regular top fifty player of the world (today regarded as super grandmaster) from the late 1940s to the early 1980s, and a frequent top ten player in the 1950s.

About his playing style, GM Grigory Levenfish said: "Taimanov was characterised with deep understanding of positions, aggressiveness of his ideas and projects and precise calculations."

Mark Taimanov has authored important opening works on the Dutch and Nimzo-Indian Defences, and on the Reti Opening. As an opening theoretician, he left a legacy of openings that bear his name, including a variation in the Benoni, the King's Indian, and most notably the Sicilian, Taimanov Variation (B46) (1.e4 c5 2.f3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4. xd4 c6 5. c3 a6). For deeper insights, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taimanov_Variation.

Taimanov wrote about 20 books, amongst others Zarubezhnye vstrechi (1958), devoted to his traveling, Die Nimzowitsch-Indische Verteidigung (1961), Nimzowitsch-Indisch bis Katalanisch (1979), Slawisch bis Reti-Eröffnungen (1979) and Karpov-Kasparov (1985).

Selected crosstables and chronologies of notable tournament (series):

USSR Chess Championship, chronology year by year

Leningrad City Chess Championship, winner list from (up until 1997)

Interzonal at Saltsjobaden (Stockholm), 1952: Taimanov runner-up

Hastings Chess Congress (then an invitational tournament) 1955/56: Taimanov finished fourth

Alekhine Memorial (a very unregular played strong event) at Moscow  in 1956: Taimanov third

Sata Fé, International invitation tournament, Argentina 1960
(note: www.chess.365.com has a false result of the game Taimanov vs. Gligoric (1-0 is correct))

Dortmund, winner list: Taimanov won 1961 a Prequel at Dortmund

Chigorin Memorial, winner list of the then traditional series: Taimanov won in 1961

Budapest (2) international tournamemt in 1965: Taimanov joint winner

Capablanca Memorial at Havana in 1967: Taimanov runner-up behind Larsen, above Smyslov

Asztalos Memorial, Taimanov won in 1969, winner list of the then traditional series:
https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoria%C5%82_Lajosa_Asztalosa (in polish language)

Wijk aan Zee (Hoogovenstoernooi) 1970: first participation and clear win for Taimanov http://www.tatasteelchess.com/history/tournament/id/33/type/standings

Greatest game:

Karpov vs. Taimanov 0-1, 60th Anniversary of October Revolution, Leningrad 1977, beating the reinging World Champion in style: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1067980. Eventual tournament winner were Oleg Romanishin (on tie-break) in what would be his greatest tournament victory, and Mikhail Tal; Vasily Smyslov finished clear third, Vaganian and Karpov shared fourth / fifth place, followed by Taimanov, 18 players.

This game above, Taimanov considers one of two his best games - the other is again a victory with the black pieces, over Anatoly Lutikov, at the USSR championship in Moscow 1969:

Further readings and sources:

Interview 20 Chessville questions with Mark Taimanov:

Interview: http://www.gmsquare.com/interviews/taimanov.html

Interview: http://www.bs-chess.com/latin/lectures/taim.html

Interview from Joel Lautier: http://en.chessbase.com/post/my-life-with-che-and-music

Interview, conversation in russian language: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuIclBganvk

(private picture gallery, in german language, ChessBase)

(portrait in spanish language)

(80th and 90th birthday, congratulations in german language, ChessBase)

(85th birthday, congratulations in english language, ChesBase)

(85th birthday, congratulations in english language)

Player profile and games at Chessgames:

Portrait at CNC – Chess Network Company:

Portrait at Wikipedia:

80 years young in 2015

Fridrik Olafsson (Iceland), Oscar Panno (Argentina) and Wolfgang Uhlmann (Germany) as well as IM and former trainer of Garry Kasparov, Aleksander S. Nikitin (Russia) are all turning eighty years young in Spring, January to March 2015. 

Lächeln Congratulations and Laudatio for the Legends!

Happy birthday to Friðrik Ólafsson

Born 26 January 1935, GM since 1958, Friðrik Ólafsson was the strongest player in Iceland for many decades. He is a lawyer by profession, worked as an attorney, and was president of FIDE from 1978 to 1982. Fridrik Olafsson is certainly one of the strongest amateur players in modern era. In life outside of law and chess, he is married and has two adult daughters.

Fridrik Olafsson beat in classical games amongst others Tartakower (!), Eliskases, Taimanov, Najdorf, Reshevsky, Keres, Geller, Gligoric, Portisch, Hort, Uhlmann, Panno, Miles, Hübner, Timman, Bent Larsen (countless times, www.chessgames.com database has 40 games between the years 1953 and 2003 with an even head-to-head of 15 to 15 and 10 draws, both Larsen and Olafsson were born in 1935), as well as Fischer (twice), Petrosian (twice), Tal (twice), Karpov (Buenos Aires, Clarin) 1980 when Karpov was reigning world champion, and Korchnoi (Amsterdam, IBM) 1976.

Aged seventeen years, he won his first Icelandic Championship (in total, Olafsson is a six times national champion, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1962, and 1969). He is also a multiple Scandinavian champion.
In 1953, Fridrik Olafsson took =3rd in the World Junior Championship (Oscar Panno won the title).

Shortly after this, he completed his studies in Law, he took a post in the Icelandic Ministry of Justice. He continued to be a part-time chess player during the next twenty years, but did not always enjoy the type of success that he might have attained had he been able to devote all of his energies to his studies of the game of chess prior to 1976 when he gave up his government post in order to become a full-time chess player for a brief period until he became president of FIDE in 1978.

By 1956, he was an International Master, and became the first Icelandic Grandmaster: Olafsson was awarded the GM title automatically - together with Fischer - after they qualified in the Interzonal Portoroz 1958 for the Candidates 1959 in Bled / Zagreb / Belgrade (Tal winning, challenging Botvinnik successfully in 1960).

Fridrik Olafsson’s finest results of international note are his win at Hastings Congress 1955–56 (together with Viktor Korchnoi) and his two triumphs of the traditional Hoogovens tournament (today TATA Steel) at Beverwijk in 1959 (clear first ahead of Erich Eliskases), and at Wijk aan Zee in 1976 (together with Ljubomir Ljubojević, ahead of Mikhail Tal as shared third).

Notable results include a third place together with Najdorf ahead of Reshevsky, Gligorić, Benko, and Panno in the strong Piatigorsky Cup, Los Angeles 1963 (Petrosian and Keres won), Olafsson was runner-up with Gligorić, Petrosian and Ivkov, ahead of equal Mecking, Andersson, Hort and Hübner in Wijk aan Zee in 1971 (Korchnoi won), joint second at Las Palmas in 1974 (Ljubojević won), and runner-up with Spassky, ahead of Bronstein and Hort at Tallinn in 1975 (Keres won).

Olafsson won several strong international invitation events at Reykjavik, in 1957 outright (ahead of Benko, Ståhlberg, and Pilnik) plus three times the today well known Reykjavik Open, then played as an Invitational tournament round robin, in 1966 (II. tournament outright), in 1972 (V. tournament joint with Vlastimil Hort and Florin Gheorghiu), and in 1976 (VII. tournament joint with Jan Timman). After a substantial number of years as one of the top non-Soviet players, Olafsson was nominated also as first reserve in the USSR vs. Rest of the World match in 1970 where he played a sole game, losing it to Smyslov. 

He played eight Chess Olympiads between 1952 and 1980. His best score was at Varna in 1962 (+10, = 8), winning the individual Gold medal on board one. In 1955 and 1957, Olafsson played twice a match with Herman Pilnik, winning both. 

Fridrik Olafsson‘s best result in World Chess Championship competition was in the 1958 Interzonal tournament at Portorož, where he finished equal 5th–6th, as said, automatically earning the grandmaster title and qualifying for the 1959 Candidates Tournament (the last stage to determine the challenger to the World Chess Champion). In that quadruple event of eight Candiates, held at Bled, Zagreb and Belgrade, he scored wins against Fischer, Petrosian (beating him in their individual mini-match twice (!!) with one draw and one loss), Keres, Gligorić, and Benko - but however, he finished finally seventh, suffering with his lively style too many losses (three out of four against Tal, winner with meteoric rise in uncompromising vigor, and against Keres, once more arriving on second place).

Olafsson was Petrosian's nemesis. Petrosian who came in third behind Tal and Keres, ahead of Smyslov and Fischer, drew all his four games against Tal and scored one win with three draws against Keres, but was forced to reckon his chances of success as compromised. Petrosian's round 15 game can't have helped his spirits, though it became a highlight for Fridrik Olafsson: Petrosian vs F Olafsson, 1959. Their adjourned game was finished on a balcony overlooking Zagreb's Republic Square, where a giant demonstration board had been erected: "A crowd of... 5,000 assembled to watch. Olafsson won to... great acclamations... When he tried to go back to the hotel... the crowd insisted on carrying him on their shoulders." (Harry Golombek, 4th Candidates' Tournament, 1959- Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade- September 7th - October 29th" Hardinge Simpole, 2009 (First published as BCM Quarterly No.3, 1960))

Olafsson won the Zonal at Berg en Dal (1960a), above amongst others Bent Larsen. He also won the Special Zonal at Mariánské Lázně (1961) which incorporated also players who could not compete at Berg en Dal, among them strong Eastern players as Filip, Uhlmann, and Szabó, all former or future Candidates. In the Interzonal at Stockholm in 1962, Fridrik Olafsson finished moderate on position eleven / twelve out of 23 players. He receded from World Chess Championship contests to devote himself to his profession.

He worked as a lawyer at the Icelandic Ministry of Justice and at the Icelandic Parliament.

In 1978, Friðrik Ólafsson won the election against Svetozar Gligorić and succeeded Max Euwe as President of the international chess governing body FIDE and served for four years in this capacity.

During the tenure he presided over the 1981 Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship match. Since Viktor Korchnoi emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1976, the Soviets were holding Korchnoi's son, Igor and his wife Bella.

Olafsson delayed the planned September 19 start date of the match 1981 in a bid to get the Soviets to release Victor's son and wife. For this attempt, Olafsson drew the wrath of the Soviets, who then backed the FIDE Vice President, Florencio Campomanes for Presidency of FIDE. After losing the election in 1982 at Lucerne in the second ballot with 43:52 against the latter, Olafsson was appointed General Secretary to the Icelandic Parliament Althing.

Fridrik Olafsson continued to play occasionally into the 21st century, winning a rapid match against fellow veteran Bent Larsen in 2003 by a score of 5–3.

Today, he has retired from practicing law and lives in his native country of Iceland which in 1972, hosted the most famous chess match ever held, the World Chess Championship between Boris Spassky and Robert James “Bobby” Fischer. Fridrik Olafsson contributed much to the organiszation of this legendary event. He is awarded honorary citizenship of the City of Reykjavik, an honour bestowed only five times before.

The respected statistician Jeff Sonas (www.chessmetrics.com) ranks Olafsson as the # 13 player of the world in 1958. His best ranking in the FIDE ELO list was the # 14= player in the world in 1969 (unofficial list based on results of the period between January 1966 and Spring 1969), Fridrik Olafsson remained a top fifty player (today regarded as Super Grandmasters) from the mid fifties until the early eighties. His highest ELO rating was 2600 (FIDE), his highest historical ELO 2692 (SONAS).

Olafsson usually played the Sicilian Defence against 1.e4 and the King's Indian Defence and Nimzo-Indian Defence against 1.d4. With White, he usually played the English Opening, but he also played 1.d4, 1.e4 and 1.Nf3 many times.

Happy birthday, good health, many more inspirational games and best wishes for Friðrik Ólafsson!

2015 REYKJAVIK OPEN - Fridrik Olafsson's 80th birthday honorary tournament:












20 Selected Games of Olafsson:

Bodvarsson vs. Olafsson 0-1, Iceland 1947

Olafsson vs. Tartakower 1-0, Hastings 1953/54

Olafsson vs. Pilnik 1-0, Reykjavik 1957

Larsen vs. Olafsson 0-1, Beverwijk Hoogovens 1959

Bent Larsen (*1935, died 2009) vs. Fridrik Olafsson (*1935) lifetime record 15:15, 10 draws

Olafsson vs. Fischer 1-0, Portoroz IZT 1958

Petrosian vs. Olafsson 0-1, Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates 1959

Eliskases vs. Olafsson 0-1, Mar del Plata 1960

Olafsson vs. Stein 1-0, Stockholm IZT 1962

Olafsson vs. Reshevsky 1-0, Los Angeles, First Piatigorsky Cup 1963

Najdorf vs. Olafsson 0-1, Los Angeles, First Piatigorsky Cup 1963

Olafsson vs. Unzicker 1-0, Lugano 1970

Tal vs. Olafsson 0-1, Las Palmas 1975

Olafsson vs. Browne 1-0, Wijk aan Zee Hoogovens 1976

Olafsson vs. Korchnoi 1-0, Amsterdam IBM 1976

Orestes Rodriguez vs. Olafsson 0-1, Las Palmas 1978

Olafsson vs Karpov 1-0, Buenos Aires Clarin 1980

Gligoric vs. Olafsson 0-1, Reykjavik 1995

Rothius vs Olafsson 0-1, Arnhem Euwe Stimulans 2007

Olafsson vs. Valentina Gunina 1-0, Snowdrops vs. Oldhands 2012

Olafsson vs. Navara ½-½, Reykjavik Open 2013

Navara escaped luckily in a draw against his much lower rated / older opponent

Happy birthday to Wolfgang Uhlmann

Wolfgang Uhlmann, born 29 March 1935, GM since 1959, is undoubtedly the most successful player of East Germany ever, expert on the French Defense, former Candidate, 1971 quarter-final against Larsen, chosen as member of the "Rest of the World" team in the match vs. the USSR in 1970, leading player for decades of East Germany, eleven times winner of the national championship of the (then) GDR.

Uhlmann's father taught him the game at the age of eleven at their home in Dresden and he progressed to the title of German Youth Champion in 1951. By 1956 he was an International Master and by 1959, Wolfgang Uhlmann became the first Grandmaster of East Germany.

Wolfgang Uhlmann participated eleven times (again this number) at the Olympiads between 1956 Moscow and 1990 Novi Sad.

At the 1964 chess Olympiad in Tel Aviv, Uhlmann scored 83.3 percent, earning the individual board one gold medal (note: at that time, there was a preliminary at the Olympiads and then final groups based on the previous team results, no swiss system).

Brilliant tournament wins in the 1960s and 1970s: GM Wolfgang Uhlmann is a rare triple (sole or shared) winner at Hastings, in these days always a strong event: Uhlmann won in 1958/59 outright, in 1965/66 (shared with Spassky), and tied for first again (with Bronstein and Hort) at Hastings Chess Congress 1975/76, one point ahead of Korchnoi.

Wolfgang Uhlmann also shared victory (with Polugaevsky) at Sarajevo 1964, tied for first (with Smyslov) at Havana (Capablanca Memorial) 1964, tied for first (with Ivkov, and ahead of World Champion Petrosian - and among others Portisch, Parma, Bronstein, Larsen, Matanovic, Filip, Gligoric, Bisguier) at Zagreb 1965, tied for first (with Bronstein) at Szombathely 'Asztalos Memorial' 1966, and tied for first (with Bronstein) at the East Berlin 'Lasker Memorial' 1968. At Raach 1969, a Zonal tournament, he finished two points clear of the field (which included Lajos Portisch), placed second behind reigning World Champion Karpov at Skopje 1976, finished first at Vrbas 1977, to name the maybe most notable ones.

In 1970, Wolfgang Uhlmann played at Belgrade on board seven for the “Rest of the World” against the USSR, losing his individual mini-match to Mark Taimanov 1.5:2.5.

At the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal of 1970, Wolfgang Uhlmann tied for fifth and sixth place and reached the Candidates Matches held the following year. But his quarter-final match with Bent Larsen in Las Palmas ended in a 5.5:3.5 victory for Larsen, and Uhlmann was not able to come so close again.

Uhlmann is acknowledged as one of the world's leading experts on the French Defence, having refined and improved many of its variations and authored books on the opening to have deployed the French almost exclusively in reply to 1.e4. Wolfgang Uhlmann plus Lev Psakhis (also as author and especially as trainer) are maybe the best French Defense theorists the game has known in the line Botvinnik – Korchnoi – Morozevich.

Despite being a dedicated professional chess player, and undoubtedly the GDR's most successful ever, he has also had a career in accountancy.

The respected statistician Jeff Sonas (www.chessmetrics.com) ranks Uhlmann as the # 17 player of the world in 1971. His best ranking in the FIDE ELO list was the # 15= player in the world in 1967 (unofficial list), Wolfgang Uhlmann remained a top fifty player (today regarded as Super Grandmasters) from the mid / late fifties until the end of the seventies. His highest ELO rating was 2590 (FIDE), his highest historical ELO 2696 (SONAS).

Uhlmann beat four undisputed World Champions, from Fischer in 1960, Botvinnik in 1962, Smyslov in 1973 to Anand in 1990 (plus Khalifman in 1993).

Beating Bobby. That's an exclusive club (Fischer vs. Uhlmann 0-1, Buenos Aires 1960):

Reigning World Champion Botvinnik beaten by Uhlmann at the Olympiad in Varna, Bulgaria in 1962:

The 9th and final Chess Festival by the OHRA in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, was held from July to August in 1990. The following game, played in the B-group, shows how Uhlmann outmanoeuvred his much younger and higher rated opponent Anand, then already ranked as no. 19= of the world and qualifying himself that year for the Candidates: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1018120 

Maybe Wolfgang Uhlmann's best game ever against Larsen at Hastings 72/73, rd. 5, December 1972: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1144389

Uhlmann video-annotated this brilliancy:

(Larsen won the tournament at Hastings half a point ahead of Uhlmann, two and more points back Hartston, Hort, Tukmakov, Browne, Radulov, Westerinen, Smyslov, Barcza, Andersson, Stean, Wade and others).

In recent years, Wolfgang Uhlmann was quite a regular member of the Veterans / Old Hands ad-hoc formation in matches versus a Ladies / Snowdrops team. Especially the game Kashlinskaya-Uhlmann 0-1 was considered the most beautiful of the event in 2012: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1703360 

In the 1. Bundesliga (German Team Championship) 2014/15, after more than six hours of play and struggle (65... Bxe5??), Wolfgang Uhlmann (*1935), playing for Dresden beats Dennes Abel (*1989), playing for Berlin (the match ended 4-4): http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1780039

Wolfgang Uhlmann is by far the oldest player ever to win a game in the Bundesliga. Hats off!

Happy birthday, good health, many more inspirational games and best wishes for Wolfgang Uhlmann!






70 years young in 2014

Vlastimil Hort (Czechoslovakia / Germany), is celebrating his 70th birthday. From all 24 players (including the substitute nominees) of the legendary USSR vs. Rest of the World match, played at Belgrade in 1970, Vlastimil Hort is the youngest one! Hort won "his" individual board no. 4.

Lächeln Congratulation and Laudatio for the Legend!

Happy birthday to Vlastimil Hort

Vlastimil Hort, born 12 January 1944 in Kladno (the city is part of the Prague metropolitan area), is a Czech-born German Chess Grandmaster still active. IM 1962. GM 1965.

Hort was a top-ten player in the mid-1970s, and a regular top twenty-player from mid-60s to mid-80s. Vlastimil Hort was also a Candidate, 1977 in the quarter-final against Boris Spassky, a match lost after extra-time in extremis. On the Wikipedia site there are some interesting background details. He is characterized as a truly fair sportsman: Hort 

During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Hort was one of the world's strongest and busiest players.

"Vlasti" won near all recurring individual Chess Classics in the sixties, seventies and eighties:

Hort won three times at Hastings (1967/68 1.-4. with Stein, Suetin and Gheorghiu; 1974/75 1. as sole first; 1975/76 1.-3. together with Bronstein and Uhlmann, ahead of Korchnoi, followed by Taimanov, Sigurjonsson, Sosonko, under the players as well Bisguier and a bunch of young brits, chasing for a (next) gm norm including Miles, Stean, Keene, Nunn, Hartston and Bellin), twice at Biel (1981 with Lobron as winner on tie-break; and 1984 declared ex-aequo winner with Hübner), twice at Dortmund (1982 clear first, and 1985 1.-3. with Razuvaev, winner on tie-break, and Kindermann), winning outright Venice 1969, Sombor (Parcetic Memorial) 1970, Gloggnitz (Schlechter Memorial) 1971, Havana (Capablanca Memorial) 1971, Banja Luka 1976, London (Lord John Cup) 1977, Stip 1977, Polanica-Zdrój (Rubinstein Memorial) 1977, and Sarajevo (Bosna) 1980.

Hort was 1./2. equal with Keres, ahead of Shamkovich, Uhlmann, Pachman, Stahlberg, Filip, Fuchs, and among others Kavalek, Jansa, Robatsch, Pomar Salamanca and Pirc at Marianske Lazne 1965 (his first big international cap), 1./2. with Portisch at Kecskemet (Toth Memorial) 1966, 1./2. with Matulovic at Skopje (Turnir solidarnosti) 1969, 1./2. with Andersson, ahead of reigning World Champion Spassky, who finished sole third, Szabo, Romanishin, Pomar, etc. at Gothenburg 1971, 1.-3. with Gheorghiu and Fridrik Olafsson at Reykjavik (5th) 1972 (then a biannual closed invitation tournament, today played as a highly reputated annual Open), 1./2. with Lutikov at Leipzig (DSV) 1973, 1./2. with Sax at Vinkovci 1976, and 1./2. finishing undefeated with +5 as first on tie-break scoring, tied with Sax again at the distinguished and strong IBM-Amsterdam in 1979, one of his finest tournament victories.

At Wijk aan Zee, Vlastimil Hort is four times runner-up!, twice as clear second, twice as shared second; making it six podium finishes out of ten entries at Wijk aan Zee (Hoogovens) between 1968 and 1986. In 1975, Vlastimil Hort surpassed the two soviet players Geller and Furman as well as Timman, Hübner, Gligoric, Browne, and the rest of the field, only half a point missing to clinch winner Portisch who drew his last game against dutch player Kick Langeweg after eight moves meanwhile Hort's game versus Kavalek also ended up in a draw.

Vlastimil Hort won also some of the most prestigious Open at his time, as one of very few Non-US player the U.S. Open Chess Championship in 1974 together with Benko, Lone Pine in 1979 alongside with Gheorghiu, Liberzon, and Gligoric, the inaugural OHRA Invitational Open at Amsterdam in 1982 with Short, and outright in 1987 (that OHRA Invitational Open is indicated as B-group, cause contrary to the year 1982, there was a six-headed round robin section, too), or the inaugural edition of the American Summer at Berline (Open, later labelled Berliner Summer) 1983, beating (ex-)compatriot Ludek Pachman in the last round and achieving 8.5/9 points as clear first of 270 participants! He is also a record five-time (sole or shared) winner of the Brocco-Open in San Bernardino.

Hort was a six times champion of Czechoslovakia between 1969 and 1977, after switching to the german federation during the mid-eighties, twice champion of FRG (Federal Republic of Germany) in the late 1980s and he won the first championship of the reunified Germany in 1991. Hort was Czechoslovak Junior Champion in 1960 and 1962.

In April 1977, Hort put on one of the most amazing exhibitions of simultaneous chess ever performed. He played 550 opponents -- 201 simultaneously -- and lost only 10 games, after thirty hours of play in Iceland. In 1984, he played 663 games in a simultaneous exhibition in thirty-two and a half hours at Porz, West Germany.

At the Chess Olympiad, Hort made 14 appearances between 1960 and 1992 (including three editions for Germany), mostly playing on board one and winning the team silver medal with Czechoslovakia in 1982 at Lucerne.

Vlastimil Hort beat individually his highly reputated opponent Lev Polugaevsky with 2.5 to 1.5 on board four at the USSR vs. Rest of the World match in Belgrade 1970. Hort (born in 1944) was then the youngest starter of all the 24 nominated players.

Best Elo rating: 2620 in 1977 (FIDE), 2725 in 1977 (SONAS chessmetrics)
Best Elo ranking: =6th in January 1977 (FIDE yearly list), 7th in July 1977 (SONAS monthly list)

Famous game:
Wijk aan Zee in the wild seventies: Vlastimil's brilliant win in 1975 against Walter Browne:
Browne vs Hort, 1975 (from www.chessgames.com)

(Sources: Wikipedia, ChessBase, Chessgames, Chesspedia, and DIE SCHACHWOCHE)

Selected Biographies

wrap-up of selected portraits of a few further chess giants from the 20th century, especially long-time successful tournament players not to become World Chess Champion.

The following portraits you also can find on this homepage, mostly as side stories in the different tournament chronicles. These chess career masterpieces are put together here as estimation in a little collection (no particular order) for readers who are looking primarily for player biographies.

Real chess giants, uncrowned but with impressive long-time tournament records (or in the case of Akiba Rubinstein an exceptional annus mirabilis), in the rush of daily liverating & youth mania sometimes in danger of being overlooked; consequently, World Chess Champions are absent here.

Moreover, these portraits and further player profiles you can find in pdf-format under the section http://www.chessdiagonals.ch/402840519, featuring also players who achieved a special cult character or had become national heroes and chess players who worked for Viktor Korchnoi as a second (assistant). The site is being worked on and occasionally up-dated with more biographical information on further monumental players.

Paul Keres

Keres narrowly missed a chance at a world championship match on multiple occasions. He won the 1938 AVRO tournament (on tie-break over Reuben Fine, ahead of Botvinnik, Euwe, Reshevsky, Alekhine, Capablanca, and Flohr) which led to negotiations for a title match against champion Alexander Alekhine, but the match never took place due to World War II. After the war Keres was runner-up in the Candidates' Tournament on four consecutive occasions! That's why he was sometimes nicknamed "Paul the Second", "Eternal Second" and "The Crown Prince of Chess".

Keres, along with Viktor Korchnoi and Alexander Beliavsky, defeated nine undisputed world chess champions — more than anyone else in history.

Keres won top-class tournaments from the mid-1930s into the mid-1970s, a span of 40 years!

Paul Keres, thrice-winner at Hastings Christmas Congresses in 1954/55 (shared with Smyslov), in 1957/58 and in 1964/65 outright, and took Beverwijk in 1964 (co-winner Iivo Nei).

His last major tournament win was Tallinn 1975, ahead of joint Spassky and Fridrik Olafsson, then joint Hort and Bronstein, and Taimanov, just a few months before he died of a heart attack in Helsinki, Finland, at the age of 59 (it is commonly reported that he died on the same date in Vancouver, Canada). His death occurred while returning to his native Estonia from a tournament in Vancouver, which he had won.

The Paul Keres Memorial Tournaments have been held annually mainly in Vancouver and Tallinn ever since.

Over 100,000 people were in attendance at his state funeral in Tallinn, Estonia, where the leaders of Estonia were on guard of honour, and FIDE President Max Euwe, his old friend and rival, was also present.

Keres is the only person best known for playing chess and whose portrait ever is on a banknote. The five kroons (5 krooni) Estonian banknote bore his portrait (kroons are replaced by the euro since 2011).

A statue honouring him can be found on Tõnismägi in Tallinn, and a number of chess clubs and festivals are named after him.

In the year 2000, Keres was elected the Estonian Sportsman of the Century

(Source: Wikipedia)

Akiba Rubinstein and his annus mirabilis in 1912

In chess history there are only a few individuals that stand out really among the rest, Akiba Rubinstein, is one of these player.

In 1912, Rubinstein won five chess tournaments in a row in the same year: San Sebastián (ahead of joint Nimzowitsch and Spielmann in a very strong field), Bad Pistyan (Piešťany), Breslau (DSB Congress) shared with Oldřich Duras, Vilnius (All-Russian Masters), and Warsaw (City Championship 1911/12) at the beginning of this incredible consecutive string! A growing demand for there to be a match between Rubinstein and Lasker emerged.

He was scheduled to play a match with Emanuel Lasker for the World Chess Championship in 1914, but it was cancelled because of the lack of fundraising success and the outbreak of World War I.

Akiba Kiwelowicz Rubinstein (born 1880 – died March 1961) was a Polish chess Grandmaster at the beginning of the 20th century. Rubinstein was Jewish and his family planned for him to become a rabbi. However, in 1903, after finishing fifth in a tournament in Kiev, Rubinstein decided to abandon his rabbinical studies and devote himself entirely to chess. Between 1907 and 1914, Rubinstein established himself as one of the top leading players in the world.

But at St. Petersburg 1914, Rubinstein faced a poor result. The top five played a final and are reported to be given virtually the title of “Grandmaster” (not to mix with the FIDE titles). Rubinstein surprisingly did not qualify for that final (with Lasker, Capablanaca, Alekhine, Marshall and Tarrasch).

At the time when it was common for the reigning world champion to handpick his challengers, Rubinstein was never given a chance to play Lasker for the world chess championship because he was unable to raise enough money to meet Lasker's financial demands. Unfortunately due that bad result at St. Petersburg, the beginning of Rubinstein’s deep psychological problems and the rise of the Cuban chess star Capablanca combined with the break out of World War I was the beginning of the end for Rubinstein title aspirations.

After 1932, Rubinstein who was awarded the official grandmaster title at its inauguration in 1950, never competed in chess tournaments again, all though he was invited to do so. Shortly after his retirement from chess, Akiba checked into a psychiatric clinic. The final years of his life he spent in Belgium with his family until his death in 1961.

Historical Ratings from Chessmetrics are placing Rubinstein between mid-1912 and mid-1914 as world no. 1

(Source: Wikipedia)

László Szabó

László Szabó (*1917 - 1998), born in Budapest, he was tutored by Géza Maróczy, both becoming international grandmaster of chess in 1950, at its title inauguration by FIDE, as first hungarian chess players ever.

László Szabó was a three times consecutive Candidate during the 1950s, at Budapest in 1950, at Zürich / Neuhausen in 1953 and equal third at Amsterdam in 1956 (with the four soviet players Spassky, Petrosian, Bronstein, and Geller; behind runner-up Keres and winner Smyslov).

Szabó represented Hungary at 11 Chess Olympiads, playing first board on five occasions and delivering many medal-winning performances, plus the unofficial Chess Olympiad at Munich in 1936, winning Gold both for Hungary as team and individual board prize, and Szabó was eight times national Hungarian Champion between 1935 and 1967/68.

He won top-class tournaments from the mid-1930s into the mid-1970s, a stretch of 40 years, winning Hastings four times and maintaining the longest winning span at Hastings, incredible thirty-five years from 1938/39 to 1973/74.

László Szabó burst onto the international chess scene in 1935, at the age of 18, winning his first Hungarian Championships, an international tournament in Tatatóváros 1935, and subsequently was selected to represent his country at the 1935 Warsaw Olympiad.

His finest results are the mentioned four Hastings Congresses 1938/39, 1947/48, 1949/50 (all three outright), 1973/74 (shared, best on tie-break), and amongst others Vienna (Schlechter Memorial) 1947 outright, Budapest 1948 (clear first with 1.5 points ahead of Gligoric), Venice 1949 (clear first ahead of the european elite players Rossolimo, Prins, Gligoric, Golombek, Barcza, Foltys, Paoli, Kottnauer, Tartakower, etc.), Santa Fé 1960 (joint with Taimanov, ahead of Gligoric, Korchnoi, and Rossolimo), Zagreb 1964 outright, Budapest 1965 (with Taimanov and Polgaevsky). And more was to come:

László Szabó's fourth Hastings tournament victory at age of 55+, was by no mean a nine-day wonder, he also won in the mid-1970s days at Sarajevo, Bosna in 1972 (ahead of Tigran Petrosian!, followed by Paul Keres, Vlastimil Hort, and Vlastimil Jansa as joint third), at Hilversum, 2nd AVRO in 1973 (shared with Efim Geller, ahead of Ljubojevic, Andersson, Sax, Ivkov, Polugaevsky, and Timman), at Dortmund in 1974 (declared winner on tie-break valuation above Ciocâltea), at Helsinki in 1975 (joint winner with Hort and Westerinen), at Kapfenberg in 1976 (ahead of Stean); and Szabó was sole Sub-Champion at Beverwijk (Hoogovens) in 1966.

He was also clear second in the Interzonal at Saltsjöbaden (Stockholm, Sweden) in 1948 with 20 participants, László Szabó held the lead during rounds 7-17, and co-leading after the penultimate round, but in the last round he unexpectedly lost to Erik Lundin who nevertheless placed clear last of the Interzonal, whereas eventual winner David Bronstein defeated Savielly Tartakower, thus Bronstein won the tournament, unbeaten one point ahead of Szabó. The only game Erik Lundin (IM 1950 and Honorary GM 1983) won at all in Saltsjöbaden's Interzonal in 1948, stopped Szabó from co-winning with Bronstein. Of course both players advanced to the following Candidate’s tournament at Budapest in 1950, finally decided in a play-off match between Boleslavsky and Bronstein, the latter winning again and becoming Challenger of Champion Mikhail Botvinnik in 1951, this World Chess Championship was tied 12:12, the reigning king retaining the title (no play-off).

Remember, Szabó was already active at highest level before WW II, his first win at Hastings in 1938/39 was achieved ahead of Max Euwe, Salo Landau and Vasja Pirc, his last win at Hastings in 1973/74, as shared first with the best tie-break score (co-winners were Mikhail Tal, Jan Timman and Gennadi Kuzmin; this guy was reigning runner-up at the super strong USSR Championship in 1973, together with – alphabetically – Karpov, Korchnoi, Petrosian, and Polugaevsky).

Szabó was the leading player in Hungary for a quarter of a century (eventually being succeeded by Lajos Portisch in the early to mid 1960s), always a lively player at chess events, his style full of underappreciated brilliance though his performance sometimes erratic, Szabó was a longtime player in the range of the top twenty to top ten in the world, and at the peak of his powers best-ranked by chessmetrics (historical ELO) on position 6 in the 1940s.

His family donated Szabó's entire chess library and his papers to the Cleveland Public Library John G. White Chess and Checkers Collection. The John G. White Collection of Chess and Checkers is the largest chess library in the world.

(Source: Wikipedia and DIE SCHACHWOCHE)
I watched Szabó at the international Max Blau Memorial at Bern in 1987 (Campora and Geller won, ahead of swiss student Giancarlo Franzoni, making his final IM norm, followed by Cebalo, Unzicker, young (then) IM Danny King, today esteemed presenter, and septuagenarian Szabó on seventh place, twelve players in a cozy little generation mix.

Picture of László Szabó: http://www.chessdiagonals.ch/402840520 (with identical text).

Alexander Beliavsky