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Chess legend Bent Larsen dies at 75

9/10/2010 – The best Danish chess player of all time, Bent Larsen, died yesterday, Thursday September 9th, 2010, after a short illness. He had suffered for a number of years from diabetes, but it is not yet known whether this was the cause of his death. In the latter part of his life Larsen resided in Buenos Aires with his Argentinian wife Marta. He will always be remembered.
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Bent Larsen, 4 March 1935 – 9 September 2010

A picture of Bent Larsen, taken in January 2010 at his home in Martínez, Buenos Aires

A career in chess

Jørgen Bent Larsen was born in Thisted, Denmark, on March 4th, 1935. He was the greatest chess player his country has ever produced, and was among the top ten in the world for fifteen years. He started slowly, but in 1954 at the age of 19 he won the Danish championship, and did it again every time he entered for the next ten years. He also became an International Master in 1954. He played for his country at the Olympiads and in 1956 obtained Gold for his +11 =6 –1 on board one. That earned him the title of International Grandmaster and the suspicion of the Soviet chess functionaries as the first Western player to present a serious challenge to their dominance. He was awarded the first Chess Oscar in 1967.

Larsen went on to win three Interzonal tournaments – 1964 in Amsterdam, where he shared first with two former and one future world champions, 1967 in Sousse and 1976 in Biel. He and Mikhail Tal were the only players to achieve this. In the 1965 Candidates matches he lost in the semi-final to Mikhail Tal, and in 1968 he lost the semi-final to Boris Spassky, who went on to win the title. In 1971 Larsen infamously lost the Candidates semi-final to Bobby Fischer with a devastating 0:6 score. Fischer went on to win the title in 1972. In 1988 Larsen lost a game to Deep Thought, becoming the highest FIDE ranked player (at 2560) and the first Grand Master to be defeated by a computer in tournament play.

Larsen was always an uncompromising, fighting player, and also famous for using unusual openings. He was one of the very few modern grandmasters who regularly played Bird's Opening (1.f4), and the opening move 1.b3 is called the Larsen Opening in his honour.

In the USSR vs Rest of the World match at Belgrade 1970, he played first board for the World side, ahead of Fischer, and scored 2.5/4 against Spassky and Leonid Stein. In the latter part of his life Larsen lived in Buenos Aires with his Argentinian wife Marta. He continued to play occasionally in tournaments – In 1999 he finished 7th out of 10 in the Danish Championship, and he was 4th in the 2002 Najdorf Memorial knock-out in Buenos Aires. His final Elo rating was 2415.

Bent and Laura Larsen in January 2010

In memoriam: pictures from a lifetime in chess

Presented by Edward Winter in Chess Notes

Bent Larsen on the cover of the US chess magazine in 1964

Second Piatigorsky Cup (published in Los Angeles, 1968), page xv

Chess Review, July 1968, page 195

Schweizerische Schachzeitung, November-December 1968

Larsen's book of "50 Selected Games 1948-1969"

Palma de Mallorca, 1969 tournament book

Chess Life & Review, October 1970, front cover

A few copies of this book are still available at the London Chess Center

Also read – big ChessBase report on Larsen's birthday

Chess legend Bent Larsen turns 75
03.03.2010 – An all-time great of chess, Bent Larsen, was born on March 4th, 1935. He is the greatest chess player of Denmark, and the strongest ever Scandinavian (before Magnus Carlsen). As a world top ten GM he beat many legendary world champions and was greatly feared by the Soviet chess hegemony. Today Bent turns 75. We have some remarkable contemporary and historical pictures.

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