Korchnoi wins Botvinnik Memorial Veterans
Viktor Korchnoi won the Botvinnik Memorial Veterans rapid tournament in Suzdal-Vladimir Oblast, Russia. The 80-year-old grandmaster finished on 7/9, a full point ahead of Evgeni Vasiukov. The rest of the field included many legends: Lajos Portisch, Borislav Ivkov, Igor Zaitsev, Aleksandar Nikitin, Wolfgang Uhlmann, Oleg Chernikov, Anatoly Bykhovsky and Mark Taimanov.
Michael Botvinnik was born on August 17, 1911. He won the World Championship title three times, and passed away May 5th, 1995, at the age of 84. Two days ago, on August 17th, he would have celebrated his hundredth birthday. For this reason, FIDE declared 2011 the Year of Botvinnik, and several Botvinnik memorial tournaments are taking place this month, including a strong open in St. Petersburg.
However, arguably the most interesting of these Botvinnik memorials was the veterans event held August 15-19 in Suzdal-Vladimir Oblast, Russia, with legendary players from the era of the 6th World Champion. It was a 10-player, single round robin rapid tournament with 25 minutes + 10 seconds increment on the clock.
When we saw this tournament announced for the first time, we were thrilled to see Boris Spassky named as one of the participants. We concluded that he must have recovered enough from his stroke to play again. Unfortunately, in later reports we read that the 10th World Champion had cancelled his participation "due to health reasons". GM Oleg Chernikov took his place in the tournament.
The field of participants included former top players like Lajos Portisch (74), Borislav Ivkov (77), Wolfgang Uhlmann (76) and Mark Taimanov (85), and famous trainers such as Igor Zaitsev (73) and Aleksandar Nikitin (76). The oldest grandmaster in the world, Yuri Averbakh (89), was the arbiter. The prize fund was not bad either: 14,200 Euro.
The legends playing on stage, watched by the great Mikhail Moiseyevich
Despite being one of the oldest participants, Viktor Korchnoi once again proved to be the world's strongest veteran chess player, by far. He maintained the lead throughout the tournament took a clear first place with 7/9, finishing a point ahead of Evgeni Vasiukov.
To the Russian news agency RIA Novosty Korchnoi said:
"Botvinnik was a real fighter. He tried to fight with any colour and against any opponent. And he did find the opportunity to fight and beat world champions, and the strongest grandmasters of the Soviet Union and the West."
"After I emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1977, a judgmental letter against me was signed by 31 Soviet grandmasters, and Botvinnik was the only one who did not do that."
Yuri Averbakh was interviewed as well, by Yuri Vasiliev for Sport Express. Some quotes:
I saw him for the first time in 1935, when the 2nd International Chess Tournament in Moscow was held. I was interested in chess and back then he was the idol for many Moscow boys. He first went to the Young Pioneers Stadium, then to the Palace of Pioneers. And, of course, we were all delighted by Botvinnik. He was an example for us. In 1936, when I was at summer camp, I remember how we ran to listen to the radio when Botvinnik won in Nottingham, his strongest tournament thus far. As a player I grew up almost simultaneously with the successes of Botvinnik.
In the mid 40s, when Botvinnik was going to play a match with Alekhine, he was the strongest chess player, not only in the Soviet Union, but throughout the world. In 1945, at the 14th championship of the USSR, Botvinnik made 4 draws, and won the other 13 games! It was the best result ever, which could never be repeated.
But after Botvinnik became World Champion in 1948, he decided to focus on his doctoral dissertation. For three years he worked - and achieved it. But due to the fact that he spent three years away from the chess board, his huge superiority was gone. He ceased to be above all, and was only first among equals. (More here, in Russian.)
Update: here's a long video in Russian we found at the Russian Chess House website:
Selection of games
Game viewer by ChessTempo
Memories of Botvinnik on the wall
Ivkov vs Korchnoi
Bykhovsky vs Chernikov
Nikitin vs Portisch
Taimanov vs Zaitsev
It was no surprise: Viktor Korchnoi took first prize
Not just an arbiter: Yuri Averbakh (89), the oldest grandmaster in the world
Photos © Marina Romanko for Chess-News
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