Kavalek in Huffington: The World Chess Hall of Fame

12/30/2011 – The World Chess Hall of Fame, which was recently relocated from Miami to St. Louis, celebrated its tenth anniversary this month. When it first opened in December 2001, Czech GM Lubos Kavalek was inducted there together with five great chess players, with whom he had a lot in common. He tells us all about it in his latest Huffington Post column.

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The World Chess Hall of Fame

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

The World Chess Hall of Fame celebrated the tenth anniversary this month in a new location in St. Louis, Missouri. The history of the Hall and portraits of inducted chess players are available on the impressive web site.

When it first opened in Miami in December 2001, I was inducted there together with five great chess players: the unofficial world champion Paul Morphy (1837-1884) and the official ones such as William Steinitz (1836-1900), Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941), José Raúl Capablanca (1888-1942) and Robert James Fischer (1943-2008).

I shared the same birth city, Prague, with Steinitz and as fate would have it, we both ended up in America. "The decision of Lubomir Kavalek not to return home from a foreign tournament in 1968 was the biggest loss ever suffered by the Czechoslovakian chess," wrote Andy Soltis in The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, Ranked. When I landed in the United States, Miami was my first point of entry and the 30-year loop of my American chess career closed in the same Florida city.

I share the same birth year with Bobby Fischer and helping him to became the world champion in Reykjavik 1972 became one of the highlight of my chess life.

Inspired by his achievements, I had a memorable year in 1973 and moved to the world's Top Ten with the official FIDE rating 2625. It would have been the highest rating in Czechoslovakia for the next 20 years and it was the second best rating after Fischer in the United States for the next 16 years.

I shared an unhealthy habit with Lasker: we both smoked during the games. But of all the players in the Hall I was the only one pictured with a cigarette. No Lasker's cigar, no Mikhail Tal's ashtray full of butts. It looked as if a teacher just walked into the room and all smokers managed to hide their cigarettes, but me. But it was a document of our times, that's how we played, often disappearing in clouds of smoke. No smoking is allowed in tournament halls today.

I also learned that Charles Henry Stanley (1819-1901) was nominated to the Hall in 2001. He is considered to be the first U.S. champion, defeating Eugene Rousseau in the match in New Orleans in 1845 with a 19-12 score (+15, –8, =8).

Stanley (left ) was the first to play the move 3...a6 against the Ruy Lopez (Spanish) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5. It was later called "The Morphy Defense." But Stanley also drank heavily and his love of the bottle did him in. He lost his playing strength and the historian Fred Reinfeld called him "Stanley the drunkard." He was left out of the Hall and only six of us made it in the inaugural year.

I expected we would be forever enshrined in the Hall, next to the Miami Zoo, waiting for the visitors: the curious chessplayers and the accidental tourists who might stumble to the wrong side of the fence. But the Hall closed in 2009.

Fortunately, thanks to Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield the Hall was rescued and relocated to St. Louis this year. The Gateway city became the U.S. capital of professional chess. The U.S. championships are played there and the top-rated American Hikaru Nakamura is now living in St. Louis.

The World Chess Hall of Fame is a home to 65 chess players: 16 of them are in the World Hall, including this year's inductee, the first women's chess champion Vera Menchik. Grandmasters Andrew Soltis and Boris Gulko are the latest additions to the 49-player U.S. Hall. Chess artifacts and magnificent chess sets and the exhibition Out of the Box: Artists Play Chess are on display. For his enormous contribution to chess, Rex Sinquefield will be inducted to the Hall on January 29, 2012.

Barbara Kruger's chess set made it to St. Louis from Prague. It was a part of an exhibition in the Center for Contemporary Art DOX under the partnership with the Prague Chess Society.

The Game called "Kavalanche"

During the opening ceremony in Miami in 2001, somebody came up with an interesting idea: the players should have their best games displayed in the Hall. But which games are the best? Whether you agree or disagree, people always try to tell you what is your best game. "Your game with Gufeld is your best," I was told plainly and firmly. The game was awarded the prize for the most brilliant game at the Student olympiad in Marianske Lazne in 1962. (I also won the brilliancy prize at the Student olympiad in Sinaia in 1965 against another Soviet player, German Khodos.)

For nearly 40 years I did not dare to revisit this game and left it to others. It was published in The World's Greatest Chess Games and analyzed by English grandmaster John Emms. American grandmaster Andrew Soltis ranked it as high as number six in "The Best Games of the 20th century." Larry Evans wrote in his Modern Chess Brilliancies that the game combines unusual theoretical value with a setting unique in the annals of chess history - bishop and pawns slaying two rooks. The world championship candidate Robert Hübner of Germany, a highly regarded analyst among grandmasters, found nothing wrong with it in the Chessbase Magazine.

Even the loser of the game, former Soviet grandmaster Eduard Gufeld, made more money with it, publicizing it in his books and recycling it in chess magazines all over the world. But he had this to say: "It is known that in moments of emotional inspiration people can work miracles and brilliant masterpieces are born, recorded in the scanty lines of chess scoresheets. It seems that my opponent had a moment of inspiration."

The game turns around a single square e3. Black needs to control that square to push his pawn avalanche forward. To achieve his objective, he is willing to sacrifice two rooks. As the world champion Lasker wrote in his Manual of Chess: "When mind overcomes matter, we are charmed."

Note that in the replay windows below you can click on the notation to follow the game.

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post


The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over one million comments made on the site each month. According to Nielsen NetRatings, the site has around 13 million unique visitors per month (number for March 2010); according to Google Analytics the number is 22 million uniques per month.


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