Kavalek to Short: I am not dead!

2/1/2005 – In a recent Sunday Telegraph column Nigel Short wrote critically of his collaboration with former Czechoslovakian and US Champion, Lubomir Kavalek, who worked with the British GM during his bid for the World Championship title. Now Kavalek has sent us a reply, to which Short has reacted.

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In his Sunday Telegraph column of November 28 Nigel Short wrote: "In 1990 I took the former Czechoslovakian and US Champion, Lubosh Kavalek, as my coach to the Manila Interzonal. The collaboration began well: we had an easy friendship, he structured the work sensibly (despite contributing virtually no original ideas himself) and I appreciated his sage advice. I eventually qualified (with difficulty), but many a big name didn’t. I earned a few thousand dollars for my third place finish with Anand – somewhat less than Kavalek earned for working for me – but I had no grumbles; I had achieved my objective. Over the next two years I retained Kavalek’s services for the Candidates stages of the World Championship.

Gradually though, our relationship became more strained. With each successful match Kavalek’s financial demands increased sharply. In part this reflected the increased workload, but only to a degree. Soon his wage demands were running well into six figures. I was so incensed at what I perceived to be an abuse of the trust that had been the basis for our relationship that I was for sacking him on the spot. To my eternal regret I didn’t. Instead, I succumbed to the usually impeccable counsel of my wife, and signed the contract to retain him, although not without disgust. Later she would acknowledge that keeping him had been an error. As I had argued all along, any good feelings between us had already been destroyed. The postscript was predictable: a year later, after inevitable disagreements, I dismissed Kavalek during my World Championship match with Kasparov. Thenceforth all communication was conducted through Kavalek’s lawyer, but eventually, after some pointless diversions, a commonsense settlement was agreed." [Full Sunday Telegraph article]

To this Lubos Kavalek replies as follows:

Nigel Short recently wrote about our relationship when I was his coach. Essentially, his complaint is about money, but that was a matter of mutual agreement. The largest amount was offered at his suggestion, but never paid in full.

Since his account is highly inaccurate, I would like to correct the facts.

In 1990, I was asked by Short to be his coach at the Manila Interzonal. I agreed and he advanced. His recent claim that I did not contribute any original ideas sounds strange; he certainly did not tell me that at the time. Moreover, it now seems like the fewer ideas I had, the more money he wanted to pay me. Two months after Manila, he asked me to be his coach again, this time for his Candidates match against Jonathan Speelman. I accepted and Short began winning one Candidates match after another. I have been widely credited for his success by many chess experts.

In 1992 in Linares, Short defeated Anatoly Karpov. He only needed to beat Jan Timman to play the world championship match against Garry Kasparov. I suggested that against Kasparov my fee should be a percentage of Short's winnings. Short rejected that idea. Instead, he offered a fixed fee of $125,000 if he won his Candidates final match against Timman.

It was his idea, his proposal, and his amount. It became public after Short disclosed it to Dominic Lawson, who wrote about it in his book. Short also said he would double the amount if he beat Kasparov. It was Short who abused our trust because he never paid in full what he promised to pay when he signed the contract on July 4, 1992 in Brussels.

Why Short decided to change the story and write about it a decade later is not clear. Perhaps he thought that I am dead. Like the late English grandmaster Tony Miles. He came under Short’s attack after he died and could not defend himself.

Lubos Kavalek

Grandmaster Kavalek writes a weekly column for the Washington Post, where we find 200 plus archived articles free of charge. His exciting game against Nigel Short from Prague in 1990 can be accessed in this Washington Post story. Kavalek’s detailed articles about coaching Nigel Short appeared in 1994 in British Chess Magazine (June through November) and in Inside Chess (issues 10-12).

Nigel Short's reaction

A few hours after our publication we receive the following message from Nigel Short:

"Lubos Kavalek either has an exceedingly defective memory or he is parsimonious with the truth. Is he really asking the general public to believe that I, of my own volition, without any instigation or prompting on Kavalek's part, offered to pay him a colossal $250,000, of my own money (and that over a decade ago!), in the event of me defeating Garry Kasparov?? I have a somewhat different recollection of his avaricious demands, and there are a number of people who witnessed my utter shock at the time.

You refer to Kavalek's detailed articles on working with me in both the BCM and Inside Chess. One may wonder what motivated him to publicly divulge as many opening secrets of mine as possible, without my permission, over a period of several months, if not sheer malice."

To which Lubos Kavalek subsequently replied: "Nigel Short’s memory needs to be corrected by written documentation. If he has lost the letter of agreement he signed in Brussels on July 4, 1992, I would be happy to provide him with a copy to refresh his memory. "If I become World Champion, I shall pay you a bonus of another US $125,000," he offered me in the agreement. If he were not satisfied with my coaching after he defeated Anatoly Karpov, he should not have offered me anything. The fact that he did, speaks for itself.

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