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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

There are six types of chess players and Fischer was the strongest, says Yuri Averbakh in enchanting biography

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Hi everyone,

Here is a nice review of Yuri Averbakh's biography - Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes’’ (New in Chess, 2011) from The Boston Globe by Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff. 

At 89, Yuri Averbakh is one of the oldest living Grandmasters and a symbol of moderate and studious chess players of world achievement. He has now published an autobiography, “Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes’’ (New in Chess, 2011), and for chess history buffs this memoir is required reading.

Averbakh has been a prominent tournament winner, an accomplished analyst of end games and openings (some of which bear his name), an author, a journalist, a leader in the USSR chess federation, and an adviser and second to world champions and candidates. His biography supplies an interesting picture of Soviet dominance in the world chess scene that was only interrupted by Bobby Fischer.
An hour spent with Averbakh shows why he has been such a survivor and a central figure in Russian chess. He was born in the provincial town of Kaluga of Russian-Jewish parents but moved to Moscow at the age of 3. His interest in chess began at the age of 13 during a time when the Soviet government stressed chess as a symbol of accomplishment. Averbakh’s chess success was gradual - he had to choose between his education and chess - and did not come until his late 20s, at which time he won the Moscow championship. In his 40s he enjoyed further successes, even qualifying for the 1953 Candidates’ Tournament, the winner of which would play Mikhail Botvinnik for the world championship.

Averbakh says he stumbled into journalism by writing a few chess commentaries. He became editor of 64, the leading Soviet chess magazine, and later a second to world champion Tigran Petrosian and a counselor to other great players. What is impressive about Averbakh is his moderate and likable personality, choosing to accommodate rather than engage in strife.

What will be of special interest to Americans is his description of the Soviet attempts to defeat Bobby Fischer. Fischer had always insisted that the Russians via an agreement among Tigran Petrosian, Efim Geller, and Paul Keres fixed the Candidates Tournament at Curacao in 1962. Averbakh denies it, saying only that Petrosian and Geller had been friends for years and naturally would play short draws.

Averbakh concludes that Fischer was the strongest player in the world. Averbakh also provides a philosophical classification of chess players. 

He muses there are six types. 

# First, the killers, those who try to knock out their opponents. Fischer and Alexander Alekhine are in this group. 
#  Second, the fighters: Garry Kasparov and Mikhail Tal. 
#  Third, the sportsmen: Max Euwe and Vasily Smyslov, both gentlemen. 
#  Fourth, the players attracted to any kind of game: Anatoly Karpov and Petrosian. 
Fifth, the artists: Nicolas Rossolimo and Vladimir Simagin. 
# Sixth, the explorers: Aron Nimzowitsch and Reuben Fine. This is a nice way to give a veteran’s view of the personalities of champions in this worldwide game.
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