Reports | October 12, 2008 1:21

Hans-Walter, please invite Mr Larsen next year!

Bent LarsenLast week the legendary Bent Larsen played in his first tournament since 2004. Avoiding theory in every game, the famous Dane only played very exotic openings and scored... 0 out of 9. We urge Hans-Walter Schmitt to invite Larsen for his Chess960 tournament in Mainz next year.

It was Hans Ree's column in the Dutch newspaper NRC that brought our attention to the Magistral Internacional of the Argentine chess club Ruibal in Buenos Aires. It's the first tournament in four years in which the now 73-year-old Bent Larsen participated last week.

The six-time Danish Champion and four-time world championship candidate (in 1965, 1968, 1971, and 1977!) won three Interzonal tournaments and many, many other international tournaments. In 1967 he was awarded the first Chess Oscar. Since the early 1970s Larsen has mostly been living in Buenos Aires, with his Argentinian-born wife. From the year 2000 he only played in a few tournaments over there.

Larsen's tournament result of last week is a bit of a sad story, because in this event he managed to "improve" upon his famous 6-0 loss against Fischer in 1971. In the Buenos Aires tournament he lost all of his games - nine this time!

The reason was not his age and certainly not his lack of chess understanding. No, game after game the famous Dane avoided theory with the most ridiculous moves, like 1.g4 with White or 1.e4 a5 with Black. Even when the Argentine player Carlos Garcia Palermo (one of Larsen's opponents in the good old days) offered a draw after seven moves, Larsen refused and lost terribly.

Garcia Palermo-Larsen

In the seventh round the old rivals Garcia Palermo and Larsen met

Here are all games by Larsen played last week in Buenos Aires:
Larsen: why not 1.g4?

Against Ramiro Dos Santos: why not 1.g4?

In his column, Hans Ree writes that he's afraid that Larsen might be very ill. Let's hope for the best for the great Dane.

After he couldn't manage to get Bobby Fischer to Mainz, we're urging Hans-Walter Schmitt, the organizer of the annual Chess Classic, to invite and fly over Bent Larsen to Mainz next year. With Chess960 Larsen should be in his element!?

Update October 12, 0:47

Some of our readers have experienced this article as disrespectful to Mr Larsen. To them I'd like to apologize for an article that could have been written better, and at leat less ambiguous.

Most importantly I'd like to stress that I certainly didn't want to ridicule this great chess player and the word ?¢‚Ǩ?ìridiculous?¢‚Ǩ? for his opening moves in this tournament was perhaps too harsh. I do think that his openings were simply too exotic for this level of play, and that they were of great effect on the negative results of the games.

Furthermore, my suggestion to let Mr Larsen play in Mainz wasn't intended to be offending at all. I am simply under the impression that Mr Larsen is, like Fischer was, fed-up with opening theory and he might enjoy Chess960 much more than classical chess.

Bent Larsen is one of the greatest, most original and most interesting chess players the chess world has ever known and his collection of best games is almost automatically (and widely regarded as) one of the best chess books ever. I would never consider ridiculing one of the icons in chess history.

Peter Doggers


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.


Ark's picture

is this the same insanity that gripped Bobby Fischer in old age?

TheSwede's picture

Thats just really nice. Ridiculing someone who is clearly quite ill and was once one of the most inventive and entertaining chess players. Bent was the onlyone besides Fischer who took up the fight against the russians. This article makes me sich.

Eydun's picture

Yes, this is a strange article. Larsen deserves a more respectful treatment than this article delivers.

Michel's picture

Of course Larsen was a great player. But this site is about actuality, and this is what did happen.

Dejan Bojkov's picture

Bent Larsen is one of the greatest players I have ever seen. His book "50 Memorable Games" is a true encyclopedea of an original chess. I can not stop reading it again and again. Thank you, Mr. Larsen for your wonderful games, and your incredible optimism!

AuDo's picture

That was very bad play from Bent Larsen with 1.g4, 1.b4, 1.e4 d5 and 1.e4 a5. Better to invite Michael Basman. He knows how to play these openings.

Don't be afraid to lose with your better openings, Bent Larsen. Have fun with them, whatever happens.

Michel83's picture

@ Write of the article (Peter?)

I am not suggesting like other's you were trying to be disrespectful, but you should be more careful with the choice of your words- maybe it is because you are not native english speaker? No offense! But I know from my own english sometimes we are not aware of connotations coming with words:

"No, game after game the famous Dane avoided theory with the most ridiculous moves"

"Ridiculous" is a VERY negative word- to make a comparision if you would have written "Larsen played like an utter fool" or or used the word "stupid" the feeling coming with it would have been the same.
So yeah, far from saying you purposely were disrespectful I am saying to please be more careful with your vocabulary and check twice before you write something.

Michel83's picture

On a different note:

Maybe Larsen doesn't care about his score and has just FUN playing those moves?

Why is somebody who had a great career and maybe just loves the game and doesn't care anymore for results, titles, ELO and all this unimportant crap (no, he didn't take the short draw!) automatically weird? I think this is great.

Ark's picture

But ridiculous is not the same as stupid, in fact it is already a compliment!

The real disrespect probably stems from the last line, fancy chiding Larsen by suggesting that he can do better at FischerRandom with such horrible play? He may be playing dubious openings but that alone should not guarantee a clean sheet, unless he is playing without his skill.

SilasGnom's picture

This was sad to watch. It's not the way one would like to remember Larsen, not me anyway :-(

James's picture

Yes, the poor guy has lost it.

I feel sorry for such a person.

HCL's picture

Maybe he simply lost interest in classic chess as Fischer did.

peter's picture

To some of you I have responded with an update under the article. No offence intended!

Tumme's picture

Peter wrote that the moves were ridicilous, not that Bent was it - quite a differense!

Theo's picture

Can't you guys see that Mr. Larsen is just joking at modern computerbased openingtheory generation?!

He's just having a good laugh :)

Dornbusch Philippe's picture

I should try to play like Bent Larsen, just for fun :)

Webmaster de Chess & Strategy:

David Korn, Seattle's picture

Peter, this note by you is very, very kind. And i detected not one iota of disparagment in the lead article. Your site is not notch, very constructive, and your ethics and morals beyond reproach. And yes, we all love and respect Mr. Larsen too. dk

David Korn, Seattle's picture

sorry.... 'your site is top notch, very constructive...'

Vassilios's picture

There are two possibilities.
Either Larsen is very ill, or he wanted to show in a cynical way his aphorism of modern computer era by losing all his games. This is not Larsen's chess, of course.
I don't think Larsen would be willing to play 960 chess. This game lacks any harmony and despite appearances Larsen was a harmonious player with a classical style. Even in his flank attacks the element of centralisation was an important one and the reason of their success.

arne's picture

Well, I agree 1...a5 and also the ugly 1.g4 are probably really too much of a good thing, but surely the positionally sound 1.b4 and the recently rather popular 3...Qd6 Scandinavian are OK to experiment with. But of course,any exotic opening always requires a very accurate middle game handling, and this is where Larsen was clearly out of form.

Sander van Vucht's picture

Articles on ChessVibes are generally written in an attractive way, bearing a SLIGHT risk that SOME readers might get annoyed some day.
I would'nt advise the editors to assess every word on possible connotations. The result would be just very boring. So Mr.Doggers and colleagues, please continue the way you do!

By the way, I don't see any harm in the lead article ...

Johnathan's picture

I didn't find the article disrespectful in the slightest.

I love seeing the great players from past generations play. Perhaps if he was interested he could play in the youth vs experience tourney. Get Spassky there to!

shane's picture

I would not quibble too much about the word choice, I am much more interested in the chess. And it is not that, e.g. 1. b4 or 1. g4 are unplayable or ridiculous, it is the strategies which Larsen pursued thereafter. In his 1. b4 games he insisted on following with h4. That might invite ridicule, though i don't know why anyone would bother, they are his pieces he can move them where he likes. But the h4 strategy is pretty much objectively rubbish. There are plenty of lines to play with 1. b4 that avoid theory but aren't simply a tempo loss as h4 is.

Michael's picture

As far as I know, Larsen still writes fairly lucid articles for the German magazine "Kaissiber", so he can't be that ill, at least not mentally. It's more likely that it was just a joke. I noticed that Larsen was highly eager to push his rook pawns, which is widely regarded as his trademark. Only here he did it in all kinds of situations, even when it didn't even make the faintest sense. I guess it was meant as some sort of parody in what Larsen might have considered the last tournament in his career. Whether such jokes are tasteful or not is another question.

me's picture

Larsen just wanted to check if his younger opponents know how to play chess instead of just memorising opening lines. He painfully discovered that they CAN play chess afterall.

Ark's picture

he's not ill? then FIDE needs to conduct an investigation into such blatant sandbagging

flowerkraut's picture

?¢‚Ǩ?Men kann man i det hele taget tale om en stil? Man spiller vel ikke alle sine partier i samma stil? ... Jeg m?ɬ• vel karakteriseres som en aggressiv spiller, da jeg ikke kan kan lide at spille remis!?¢‚Ǩ?

These words were written by Bent Larsen himself! Let?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s imagine Moro plays openings like these with success! How many ?¢‚Ǩ?ìoh?¢‚Ǩ?, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìah?¢‚Ǩ?, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìyep?¢‚Ǩ?, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìbrilliant?¢‚Ǩ? and ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI told you?¢‚Ǩ? we all would have listened to? But since July 2001 Larsen plays only 11 serious and rated games! And everybody who is involved with today?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s tournament-chess knows what this means to an 73-year old man! Larsen always was one of my chess-heroes and he always will be. No matter how successful he plays today. Also today he is still stronger than 99% of all chessvibes-visitores and by no means mentally ill as his Kaissiber-columns proves.

Eydun's picture

Peter, credit to you for the additional note to the article.

As I see it, Bent Larsen did not lose these games in the opening, but in the middle game phase. Which implies that he would not have scored any points, even if he had chosen other first moves.

Eiae's picture

I don't understand you people. Larsen always played exotic openings and he always was uncompromizing and never was upset by losing. In fact, I think he would find a fast draw much more humiliating. He also has an ironic approach to the game and I bet he had great fun playing these games, which is what its really about, right?

Getting offended on Larsen's behalf for Peter's article is really pathetic, in my oppinion. I am sure Larsen did not find anything detrimental about it.

By the way, Larsen played a match this summer, if I remember correctly, so he has not been totally off chess before this tournament.

Bas's picture

Fischer thinks/inteded bad things but played good moves.
Larssen intents good things but plays nad moves.

I think all respect this and respect that is bull#$. He was a great player but in this tournement he made himself rediculous. Its even not a act of courage as he would loose on normal opening theory too (apparantly he even himself thinks so)

And yes yes. Bent Larssen was an awsome player in the past and still 100000 times better as me.

Tumme's picture

Come on Eydun, Qd6-Scandinavian is okay but the follow up with Rg8, Na6 etc was
i) a part of Larsen's opening strategy
ii) completely inplayable

He didn't lost his games because of opening theory, but because of opening strategy.

It's at least quite clear that he didn't lose his games because he is a weak player. It was because he experimented too much. The reason for this is unknown to us.

SDX's picture

Horrible. Self destruction in optima forma. Manhandling the Grob in such a awkward way. The punishment fit the crime.

Yet, in the game against Dos Santos he had a winning position. Just 25 Bxd8 Rxd8 26. Qg5 and a few solid moves would suffice methinks.

Louis Morin's picture

In 1969, Larsen won the Busum tournament, while the legendary Fritz Saemisch (then 73-year old) scored 0/15, losing all his games on time (throughout his career Saemisch was famous for his numerous zeitnots). After his victory, young Larsen (34-year old) sympatized with Saemisch and wrote an article on him. Thirty-nine years later, we have a similar story. This time, Larsen is 73-year old and loses all his games, playing crazy openings (throughout his career Larsen was famous for his risky opening play). Except for those who can believe in such an incredible coincidence, it seems obvious that Larsen chose to lose all his games in a ludicrous manner to render a last tribute to his old friend Saemisch.

peter's picture

Aha, thank you Louis, that shines a whole new light on the story!

flowerkraut's picture

Very nice! I like Luis idea! But maybe Larsen was only trying to make same concepts from Kaissibers Reader work. Anyway, I am looking forward to read Bent?Ǭ¥s article about this tournament (if there will be any).

Blauer hansen mister idiot's picture

RIP Bent Larsen..

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