Reports | January 05, 2010 17:43

The newspaper chess column goes extinct

Kavalek ColumnThese are hard times for newspapers, which have been struggling for years with the question how to adapt to the digital era. Almost all of them need to cut costs, and among the victims are the writers of chess columns. Yesterday, after 23 years, Lubosh Kavalek wrote his last column for the Washington Post.

For about a year Kavalek's columns only appeared online; earlier the Washington Post had cut if from their print version to reduce costs. According to the New York Times, a source at the company with knowledge of the situation said that "the decision to discontinue the column altogether was a further cost-cutting move".

Kavalek's column of January 4th, 2010 is a wonderful goodbye to his readers, in which he gives his view on the last decades in chess, and shares a few more anecdotes about Bobby Fischer.

Although I was reporting for Voice of America, I did not hesitate when Bobby asked me to help him with the adjournment of the 13th game. From then on until the end of the match we analyzed together.

Bobby was obsessed with winning and was not happy until he had exhausted all possibilities. This became clear when we analyzed the adjourned position of Game 18. We soon realized that every winning attempt was doomed. The chances tilted to Spassky, but was Boris winning? Bobby's eyes lit up when I suggested a queen maneuver, forcing Spassky to repeat the moves. "Great! We have a draw. Let's go for the win again," and we spent four more hours trying to find something that wasn't there. For a single victory, Bobby would work himself to exhaustion, always giving his all.

Don't miss Kavalek's last column.


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


shane's picture

It seems that the main problem might not be the media which carry the words, it is the words themselves.

We celebrate chess columnists of long standing (e.g. Koltanowski, Barden), but think about several of the people who have held down these sinecures recently, and some relevant alternatives.

The execrable Keene in The Times springs to mind. Keene reels off his drivel year after year when the funny, witty, sharp Nigel Short is no longer employed as a columnist. That's just crazy.

Think similarly about American chess columnists. Dylan McClain holds the sinecure at the New York Times, as a part-time gig. Now he is perfectly worthy, but I doubt that anyone (including FM McClain himself) would maintain that he could hold a candle to Mig Greengard for entertaining, humourous, incisive, novel, charismatic chess news coverage.

Arne Moll's picture

I tend to agree, shane. Many if not most chess journalists have only themselves to blame, refusing to adapt to new media and draw from other sources of information except the usual paths. (In The Netherlands, there are just a few journalists who manage to do this consistently.) There's this strange idea among some journalists that it's still OK to cover ordinary chess news - without any added value - which has already been covered in other media days or even weeks ago.
Of course, there is also a trend in newspaper business to simply cut costs - and I'm sure that was the case with Kavalek - but I'm convinced there's more behind the general trend than just budget.

Dave Bee's picture

It's sad, I suppose, but I'm in no position to complain as I don't read newspaper columns at all now; I get my daily chess news from Chessvibes and Chessbase, and follow big tournaments live on ICC.

In another era, I looked forward eagerly to Harry Golombek's column in The Times. But not now - the internet's taken over. So it might well be that these columns are just not being read.

Kazzak's picture

Newspapers made of pulp are dead media.

But keeping the column alive on the web would have made sense for the WAPO.

Newspapers are irrelevant today. I'm in my early fifties, and belong to the last newspaper buying generation.

Dave Bee's picture

Lol, I did not express myself very well. I am of course well aware that the late Harry Golombek's column ceased around 1990.

Ron's picture

I still love Gert Ligterink's column in the VK - the main reason I buy the paper.

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