He beat Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine – and old age

5/30/2005 – GM Andor Lilienthal has played against ten world champions, beating a number of them in the process. At 94 he is in good health, active and cheerful, writing articles for chess magazines and zipping around Budapest in his Toyota Yaris. Slobodan Adzic attended the birthday celebrations of this amazing man.

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He has beaten Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine as well as old age!

By Slobodan Adzic

Can you imagine someone saying to you: “I have beaten Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine”. Actually saying it, in the fifth year of the 21st century? It is hard to believe, but Grandmaster Andor Lilienthal, who on May 5th celebrated his 94 birthday, actually beat the second, third and fourth world champions. He has also beaten numbers six and seven, Botvinnik and Smyslov, as well as players like Tartakower, Najdorf, Bronstein and Taimanov.


Andor Lilienthal with wife Olga at the birthday lunch

I was invited by “Andor Bachy” (Hungarian for “Uncle Andor”) to the family celebration in Buda, the right side of Danube in Budapest. It was his 94th birthday, and on that day he received more than 300 phone calls.


Taking a call from Moscow

Most of them were from Moscow and the Crim, but there were also calls from the Netherlands, Germany, USA, St. Petersburg too. Lilienthal has an apartment in Crim, and every year he spends the summer months near the Black Sea, returning at the end of September.


A call from Pal Benkö, who will come visiting in two days

The legendary grandmaster was especially pleased to hear that Bobby Fischer had recently got the Icelandic citizenship. They are close friends, although sometimes it was not easy at all, he says. Their friendship began in 1992 in Sveti Stefan. Lilienthal and his wife Olga was there for the rematch Fischer vs Spassky. In 1993 Fischer lived in Budapest for over a year. One month was spent in Andor Lilienthal’s apartment. “He was always talking about his invention of random chess, but I told him that it was meaningless, and compared to classical chess it seems to be quite boring. Bobby didn’t like what I said and tried to convince me that the future of chess lies in change.” Lilienthal believes that Fischer is absolutely the best chess player of all times. He says that the proof for this is that the lone autodidact Fischer overcame the entire Russian chess imperium.


Andor and I perusing the latest edition of Sakkfutar


Signing a copy of his book for me


The dedication which I shall always treasure

I am a FIDE master and the editor of “Sakkfutar” (which in Hungarian means “Chess courier”), a chess magazine which in this year is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Right from the beginning Andor Lilienthal sent to me commented games, analysis, stories from tournaments in which he had played sixty or seventy years ago. I have collected more than 150 pages of handwritten material. I could say that this man is one of our most active columnists.


Andor's desk where his chess work is done

Andor Lilienthal, who was born in Moscow on May 5th, 1911, and in 1940 he won (together with Boleslavski) the USSR championship, earning the title of GM in the process. He often said: “You can become a strong chess player only if your life is dedicated to chess!” From 1951 until 1960 he was the trainer of world champion Tigran Petrosian. Michael Botwinik called Lilienthal a “master of tactics”. Andor was Smyslov’s second during his matches for world championship. Their friendship dates back to 1938.


The luncheon, with me on the right

Lilienthal’s birthday lunch was arranged in the restaurant “Trofey” in Budapest. I arrived in the morning at his home and brought him a present: the official shirt from match Kramnik-Leko and Kasparov’s book “My great predecessors I “ (in Russian), because I knew that he was missing this volume. I showed him his win against Capablanca in the book, which will be published in Hungarian in a few weeks. My company “Chess Press” from Szeged is publishing it.


Receiving the official shirt from the Kramnik-Leko match


Going through the calendar of world champions

Andor also looked at a calendar illustrated with 25 photos of male and female world champions. Lilienthal counted carefully and discovered that he had played with a total of ten world champions!


This is how the 94-year-old gets around Budapest


Andor in his Toyota Yaris


In front of his house in Budapest


With Linda and Kasparov's "Great Predecessors"

After lunch we went back to his home. Usually Andor drives his Toyota Yaris in Budapest. Wife Olga (Andor call her “Olechka” and she normally calls him “Papa”) had to pick up the family dog Linda. Until late in the evening the 94-year-old chess legend found enough energy to entertain us and serve Russian cognac from Crim.


His favourite Crimean cognac


A nice cigarette after meals

Olga and Andor plan to celebrate his 95th birthday with 200 guests from all over the world. Lilienthal would like to invite all his chess friends to Budapest.

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