11 May 2022

A Giant Among GMs

Earlier this week, in Yuri Averbakh, 1922-2022 (chess.com), Peter Doggers reported,
GM Yuri Averbakh, the world’s oldest grandmaster, a trainer, international arbiter, chess composer, endgame theoretician, writer, historian, honorary member of FIDE, and the last living participant of the famous Zurich 1953 Candidates Tournament, has passed away, three months after turning 100. His death has been confirmed by the Russian Chess Federation and FIDE. Averbakh was one of the few strong players who managed to simultaneously reach significant heights in chess theory, literature, journalism, history, and chess politics.

Of the dozen photos of GM Averbakh in my eBay photo archive, this was my favorite. From an eBay auction in February 2012:-

The description informed,

Original Soviet chess press photo. The 26th Championship of USSR in Tbilisi 1959. Grandmasters from left to right: Tigran Petrosian, David Bronstein, Mikhail Tal, Yuri Averbakh.

The photo pictures a former World Championship challenger (Bronstein) and two future World Champions (Tal, Petrosian). GM Averbakh competed in the 1952 Saltsjobaden Interzonal (5-8th/21), the 1953 Zurich Candidates (10th-11th/15), and the 1958 Portoroz Interzonal (7-11th/21) a half point behind the group that qualified for the 1959 Yugoslavia Candidates (all links m-w.com).

Averbakh has figured many times on this blog, as well as on my main blog, e.g. in these related posts:-

Many of the posts on my main blog were related to his contributions to endgame theory. This post is all Averbakh:-

In another post on that blog, Friendly Chess Players (July 2013), I mentioned,

Near the end of the book ['Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes: A Personal Memoir'], GM Averbakh divides great players into six groups. Here are quotes from Averbakh describing each group [...]

Another obituary from this week, Yuri Averbakh, Chess’s First Centenarian Grandmaster, Dies at 100 (nytimes.com), by the NYT's top chess writer, Dylan Loeb McClain, referenced the same categories:-

Though Mr. Averbakh was talented, he said he knew he lacked the necessary qualities to become a world champion. In his autobiography, he wrote that great players fall into six categories: killers, fighters, sportsmen, people who like to play games, artists and explorers. All of the world champions came from the first four groups, he said. He put himself in the sixth category -- that of an explorer.

GM Averbakh was a World Champion chess explorer, possibly the greatest ever. Who else comes close?

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