Match of the Chess Legends – Portisch vs Spassky

4/12/2007 – This weekend two great names in chess, Lajos Portisch of Hungary and Boris Spassky of Russia, meet in a rapid chess match in the beautiful spa town of Hévíz in Hungary. Both have just completed 70 years, Spassky in January, Portisch last Wednesday. We use this opportunity to belatedly congratulate the new septuagenarian and look back at his illustrious career.

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Match of the Chess Legends

April 2007
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Lajos Portisch vs Boris Spassky, Heviz, Hungary, April 13-15, 2007

The Hungarian Chess Federation is organizing a Match of the Chess Legends, Lajos Portisch vs Boris Spassky in in Heviz, Hungary. The event will take place from April 13-15, 2007, and runs over six rapid chess games (20 minutes + 5 seconds per move).

Heviz (or Hévíz) lies in the west of Hungary and is famous for the Hévíz Spa and the Szent András Hospital, which have provided a "balneological" medical treatment for centuries (probably from Roman times).


The lake and medicinal bath in Hévíz [photo Civertan Grafikai Stúdió]

Close to Hévíz is Keszthely, a small Hungarian town (23,000 inhabitants) located on the western shore of Lake Balaton. It draws visitors with its architectural and cultural heritage as well as its unique atmosphere. The Keszthely Hills, particularly those above Lake Balaton, are covered with vineyards and belong to the Balaton Upland wine region.


Festetics Castle in Keszthely, built 1745 [photo Civertan Grafikai Stúdió]


Lajos Portisch turns 70

Last Wednesday Hungarian grandmaster Portisch Lajos celebrated his 70th birthday (he was born in Zalaegerszeg on April 4th, 1937). Two months earlier his opponent in the Heviz match, Boris Spassky, reached the same milestone. So it will be two close contemporaries who play each other in the Legends match.

In 1955 Portisch became a chess master, earned his International Master title in 1958, then his Grandmaster title in 1961. In the 1960s and 1970s he was one of the strongest players in the world, participating in twelve Interzonals and qualifying for the Candidates matches no less than eight times, twice finishing among the best four. He has become Hungarian champion nine times: in 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1971, 1975, and 1981.


Portisch is an accomplished baritone singer, as you can see here

Portisch played in twenty Olympiads, first in 1956 in Moscow. In 1978 in Buenos Aires, where the Hungarian team sensationally won the gold medal, he took part in all the rounds on board one. The Hungarian team broke the winning series of the Soviet chess players and won the Hamilton-Russel Golden Cup, coming first before the Soviet team, led by Spassky on board one. Lajos Portisch was a member of the Hungarian teams winning the silver medal three times, (1970, 1972, 1980) and the bronze medal twice (1956, 1966). He won 121 games out of 260, played 111 draws and lost only 28 games.

Lajos Portisch has played against the stongest players in the world, and has a plus score against Petrosian, Korchnoi and Larsen (+12!). Here are his results against some famous opponents.

Opponent
score
  in
Boris V Spassky
–8
77 games
Jan H Timman
–6
59 games
Bent Larsen
+12
55 games
Anatoly Karpov
–12
46 games
Viktor Kortchnoi
+1
40 games
Tigran V Petrosian
+1
39 games
Vassily Smyslov
–3
32 games
Mihail Tal
–4
32 games

Two years ago Portisch Lajos spoke about Boris Spassky, the 10th Chess World Champion in an interview: "He was my bugbear for a long time, we are of the same age. He got to the front rank much earlier than me. He started playing chess much earlier, but on the other hand I – luckily – did not live in the Soviet Union, but in Zalaegerszeg. This did not help improve my chess career. Indeed, my first coach, Csuti Antal, lent me a book or two by Maroczy, so I was not brought up on winning variations, on Soviet chess literature. Spassky had already become a GM when I was first able to play against him at the junior world championship. It took me a long time to score my first victory against him. During our match in Mexico both of us won one game. In accordance with the regulations then I qualified with an 'away goal', that is, I won the first game with black, and Boris equalised with a winning with white."

Portisch is still an active player and participated in the Hungarian championship last year, as well as in a number of other tournaments. Recently he gave his colleague, GM Zsuzsa Veröci, a long interview, which is well worth reading – if you happened to speak Hungarian.


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