28 June 2017

Spassky: 'The Dr. Zhivago of Chess'

In a recent post on my main blog, Sports Illustrated 'On the Cover', I showed that a prominent American sports magazine ('SI') once demonstrated a keen interest in chess. Through the series of Kasparov - Karpov clashes in the 1980s, SI had regular, multi-page features on top World Championship events. Here, for example, are the first two pages of a five-page spread on the Korchnoi - Spassky final in the 1976-78 Candidates Matches.


Sports Illustrated, 12 December 1977

The article started,

With the notable exception of Bobby Fischer, who won the world championship from Boris Spassky in 1972 in a memorable Icelandic psychodrama, Soviets have dominated world chess for 30 years. And their reign is not about to end. This week, in the shabby elegance of the Dom Sindikata Theater in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, two Russians, Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi, are meeting for the right to play still another Russian, 26-year-old world champion Anatoly Karpov, for the title.

Spassky is now 40, and his figure, which was trim in Reykjavik, is a bit fleshier, his dark hair longer and more styled. But the same calm green eyes study the board, and the same long artistic fingers are placed along his cheekbones. The world champion from 1969 to 1972, Spassky remains the gentlemanly, dignified, poetic grand master, the Dr. Zhivago of chess.

Across the board sits the volatile, daring Korchnoi, 46, the world's No. 2 grand master. In further contrast to Spassky, the formerly chubby Korchnoi has lost a great deal of weight recently. His brown eyes glitter, his shoulders hunch as he lunges forward to advance a bishop into dangerous territory. Korchnoi seeks the dangerous position -- in life as well as at the chessboard.

That's the sort of colorful sports reporting that is seldom seen outside of the mainstream press. Here is a list of all SI articles on the World Championship that I was able to locate.

  • 1960-04-18: A New Moscow Revolution • 'Mikhail Tal's brilliant and bewildering victories in world championship chess stunned the Russians'
  • 1960-05-30: A Nod for a Title • 'Sports Illustrated's correspondent in Moscow reports on the new world chess champion Mikhail Tal and on the new chess era that opened with a smile'
  • 1961-05-08: The Young Botvinnik • 'An aging champion created a new training technique to recover the fire of youth -- and his title'
  • 1967-11-20: The Further Adventures of Terrible-tempered Bobby • 'Bobby Fischer played like a champion at the international tournament in Tunisia, but he ended by forfeiting his way out of the competition'
  • 1971-08-02: Maybe You Can Win Them All • 'Bobby Fischer has pitched 19 no-hitters in a row'
  • 1971-11-08: Bobby Clears the Board for the Title • 'The young U.S. master, after Tigran Petrosian smashed his 20-game streak, closed strong to earn a shot at the world's chess champion'
  • 1972-07-10 A Sudden Stalemate in Reykjavik • 'The world championship was plunged into check when Bobby Fischer decided that a better game was hide-and-seek'
  • 1972-07-24: Boris in Wonderland • 'Russia's Spassky played Alice to Bobby Fischer's Mad Hatter in Reykjavik last week'
  • 1972-08-14: How to Cook a Russian Goose • 'First, catch a Russian -- and at long last Bobby Fischer apparently has, dominating Boris Spassky so completely...'
  • 1974-01-28: Memo from Moscow: don't get byrned • 'Hot on his world chess championship comeback, Boris Spassky faces a scholarly and unintimidated American'
  • 1974-09-30: A Case of Beauty Before Age • 'Two Russians are meeting to see who will take on Bobby Fischer...'
  • 1977-12-12: Taut Duel for Two Old Comrades • 'They grew up together in Russia and meet again for the right to face the champion, but one is a defector, the other an √©migr√©'
  • 1978-01-30: They Couldn't Zap the Viktor • 'Korchnoi came out of his match with Spassky smiling and ready for world champion Karpov, but in Belgrade he was grimly convinced that the Soviet KGB was bombarding him with rays'
  • 1978-07-31: Back to Drawing Old Board • 'The Soviet champ and a vocal defector drew the first three games of what could be a drawn-out world championship'
  • 1985-02-25: A Dubious Gambit In Moscow • 'Just when chess champion Anatoly Karpov seemed to be weakening, the challenger was abruptly checkmated'
  • 1986-11-13: Beating Back A Game Challenge • 'Anatoly Karpov played valiantly in their Leningrad showdown, but Gary Kasparov outlasted his rival to retain the world chess championship'
  • 1987-12-07: Duel Of Two Minds • 'Opposites Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov battle for the world chess title'
  • 2016-11-12: Chess Pieces of History • 'Board in 1972 battle up for auction'

The reports aren't always perfect. There is sometimes confusion between the concepts of 'game' and 'match' that is irksome to many chess fans, and the 1971 baseball analogy...

Maybe You Can Win Them All • 'Bobby Fischer has pitched 19 no-hitters in a row'

...is clearly an exaggeration. Even with those nitpicks, I'll gladly accept a slightly flawed report that promotes chess to a non-chess readership. For some reason, the World Championship reports stopped after the 1980s. Was it because of a changing perception of chess as a sport, because of the political turmoil in the chess world, or because of something else? I would really like to know.

21 June 2017

Early Women's World Champions

The blog post originally scheduled for today has been postponed due to extreme heat. As a filler post, but fully deserving in its own right, here are photos of the first six Women's World Champions.


Top row: Vera Menchik, Ludmila Rudenko, Elisaveta Bykova (Elizaveta Bikova)
Bottom row: Olga Rubtsova, Nona Gaprindashvili, Maia Chiburdanidze

For more about the events in which they won their titles, see my index page World Chess Championship for Women. The photos were in a set that included the male world champions, Steinitz through Kasparov (although Capablanca is missing from the set I'm looking at), thereby dating their publication to no earlier than the mid-1980s. The description of the set said,

From the U.S.S.R. Ideal for framing and display in chess clubs and chess study rooms.

I'll be back in a week with the regularly scheduled post.

14 June 2017

World Championship, Oslo 2018

From newsinenglish.no:-
'Norway’s World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen was disappointed when he was told, right after tying another match at the Norway Chess tournament now underway in Stavanger, that he won’t be able to defend his title on home turf next year. Oslo has been dumped as a potential host city for the next World Chess Championship, with its arranger and the Norwegian government arguing over the reason why.'

From facebook.com/theworldchess/videos:-


2017-06-09: Video by Ilya Merenzon, World Chess CEO, regarding the statement of why the Match is not happening in Oslo in 2018.

From translate.googleusercontent.com -> chess-news.ru:-

From chess.com/article KajaMSnare

'Right now the culture differences are too massive. Norwegian bureaucracy and fastidiousness versus FIDE's and Agon's strictly-business approach and suspicious hesitation to show transparency. Stuck in the middle: Magnus Carlsen's dream of winning the World Chess Championship title where it all started. The dream of gathering the entire nation around chess -- because it would. Nothing could match the intense pressure, success, eventual lifting of the trophy, and singing the national anthem together with 100.000 Norwegians, showing him how proud he makes them.'

For more about Kaja Snare on this blog, see Carlsen - Karjakin, the Second Week (November 2016); on my main blog, see World Championship Closing Ceremony (December 2016).

07 June 2017

Zonal Qualifiers C01-C12 : Archive.org

Continuing with my previous post, Zonal Qualifiers C01-C16 : Archive.org, I noted the first steps for documenting the interzonal qualification process in C01-C12:-
I downloaded the three [GMG] pages from Archive.org and combined the ten different regional tables into a single table. I then split that table into cycles covering C01 through C16.

The tables for each cycle contain data about individual players plus info about the qualification process. For example, the data on the 20 players in the first Interzonal is shown here:-


C01 IZ Qualifiers

This should match my corresponding page on the 1948 Saltsjobaden Interzonal Tournament. Info about the qualification process for that same cycle is collected here:-

  • 'Hilversum Zonal 1947 gathered the champions of the various European FIDE member nations together. O'Kelly de Galway of Belgium came 1st, but must have declined to play at Saltsjobaden. Trifunovic and Pachman shared second. Szabo came in a tie for fifth. Pirc, Gligoric and Tartakover were not invited to Hilversum, but were nominated by ballot by the FIDE directors to play in the Interzonal.'
  • 'Isaac Kashdan came in second at the U.S. ch. of 1946. Reshevsky the winner was seeded into the 1948 World ch. at The Hague/Moscow, and Kashdan qualified to play at Saltsjobaden IZ 1948. Arnold Denker was selected by FIDE ballot, but apparently both Kashdan and Denker declined to play. Israel Horowitz seems to have been offered a place as well as a replacement, but must have declined as well.'
  • 'Najdorf and Stahlberg shared first and Erich Eliskases came third in a strong tournament at Mar Del Plata in 1947. Eliskases must have declined to play.'
  • 'All Soviet players were selected based on their results in ballots submitted by the FIDE directors. Boleslavsky came second at the 15th USSR ch. 1947, and Bondarevsky shared 3rd.'

This complements my corresponding page on the Zonals 1948-1951 (C01). In the 'C01-C16 : Archive.org' post, I also noted:-

There is some overlap in cycles C13-C16. I'll decide how to handle that when I come back to the subject.

For example, the first of my pages on those cycles is Zonal Qualifiers 1984-1987 (C13). Although I haven't decided how to handle the 'overlap', the C13 page shows the sort of thing I'm aiming at for C01-C12.