The Kings of Chess come to Romania

6/22/2007 – The country of Romania is celebrating its first top class international tournament for over 50 years. The so-called Kings Tournament, running from 15-27 June, brings together a field of players, most of whom were world class names in the 1970s and 80s. The list includes Andersson, Timman, Portisch, Vaganian, Beliavsky, Chiburdanidze and the legendary Brazilian GM Henrique Mecking.

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Kings of chess come to Rumania

Held in the town of Bazna, in Rumania, the so-called Kings' Tournament is sponsored by Romgaz, the principal Rumanian gas company. Unfortunately, the official website has not updated the results for some of the rounds, but as far as we can tell, the leader after seven rounds was Alexander Khalifman, the former FIDE world champion, with 5.0/7. He was followed at half a point's distance by Armenian chess legend, Rafael Vaganian, who has 4.5/7, whilst at the other end of the table Jan Timman of The Netherlands was propping up the field with 2.0/6. We will complete the games file as the missing encounters become available.


Bazna is a famous spa town in central Transylvania, particularly well-known for its salt. The players are accommodated in the prestigious Hotel Expro, with stunningly scenic views over the surrounding countryside.


The exceptional recreational facilities of the hotel


A view of the surrounding Romanian landscape

Some of the chess kings (and a queen)

Henrique Mecking, born 1952, also known as "Mequinho" in Brazil, was the first Brazilian to reach the rank of grandmaster and is considered possibly the best South American player ever. He was a very strong player at an early age, drawing comparisons to Bobby Fischer, and in 1977 was rated as the third best player in the world, behind Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi. Mecking was a regular participant in FIDE events leading to the World Chess Championship. After unsuccessful attempts to qualify from the Interzonals of Sousse 1967 and Palma de Mallorca 1970, he had his first major triumph in 1973, when he won at the Petrópolis Interzonal (ahead of a very strong field that included such chess luminaries as Paul Keres and David Bronstein). He was subsequently eliminated from the Candidates Quarterfinals by Viktor Korchnoi.


Korchnoi vs Mecking in Augusta 1974

Mecking was a candidate again in 1976, when he won the Manila Interzonal, but again lost in the quarterfinals, this time to Polugaevsky. Illness, believed to be myasthenia gravis, curtailed his participation in the following Candidates process in 1979, and indeed was so severe as to impair his international career through the 1980s. While he was able to recover and to resume his chess career in 1991 with matches against Predrag Nikolic and (in 1992) Yasser Seirawan, followed by intermittent tournament appearances, his chance at the world title had passed and he did not reach the Candidates matches again.

Jan Timman of The Netherlands was amongst the world's elite throughout the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. His 1993 FIDE world championship match with Karpov, in Jakarta, was a classic battle, which finally ended his hopes of becoming world champion. Timman is also famous for his chess writings, which include his role as co-Editor-in-Chief of New in Chess magazine.

Lajos Portisch competed in twelve successive interzonals, five successive Candidates tournaments and twenty consecutive Olympiads. His legendary preparation earned him the nickname of "The Hungarian Botvinnik". He celebrated his 70th birthday on 4 April this year, and has been playing actively once again in recent months.

Alexander Khalifman caused a sensation by winning the 1999 FIDE knockout world championship in Las Vegas. In more recent years, he has turned to chess coaching and has become well-known as the author of the popular opening series, Opening for White according to Kramnik/Anand, and Opening for Black according to Karpov.

Maia Chiburdanidze was Women's World Champion from 1978 to 1991, winning the title from the legendary Nona Gaprindashvili. Still the youngest ever champion, at just 17 she defended the title successfully four times, before losing it to Xie Jun. Chiburdanidze was also only the second-ever woman to earn the full Grandmaster title, after Gaprindashvili herself.

Mihai Suba, for many years one of Rumania's leading grandmasters, who has been resident in the Canary Islands for some time. His 1991 book Dynamic Chess Strategy was a bestseller and contained many fine examples of his favourite opening schemes, such as the Hedgehog and Sicilian Scheveningen.


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