The man who saved Fischer-Spassky

5/13/2003 – On May 10th German grandmaster Lothar Schmid turned 75. We congratulate him with a short biography. Lothar is not just a very strong player, who has beaten the likes of Bogoljubov, Keres and Botvinnik. He is also a publisher and owns one of the most remarkable chess collections in the world. But he is most famous as an international chess arbiter who was in charge of many world championship matches. Read all about it here.

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Lothar Schmid turns 75

Lothar Schmid was born on May 10th 1928 in Dresden. His father owned the Karl May Verlag which published the books of an author (Karl May) whose name is known to almost every adult German but is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. May vividly described the American West, which he had never seen, and like no other person he shaped the average German youth's view of the West and the American Indian.

Lothar turned out to be a young man of many talents. He went to Bamberg to study law and, after the death of his father, took over the Karl May publishing house. He also became a strong grandmaster, playing for Germany in eleven Olympiads.


The romantic Author Karl May and his world of American Indians

But Lothar Schmid is most famous as a chess arbiter, the man who has overlooked countless tournaments and matches at the highest level.

In 1971 he was the arbiter at the Fischer-Petrosjan match in Buenos Aires. In the above rare picture you see him checking his watch before starting the game.

Most chess fans know that Lothar Schmid was the arbiter at the match of the century between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavik in 1972 (shown in the picture above). Lothar was deeply involved in the match being successfully concluded. After Fischer had arrived late for game one he missed game two because he insisted in playing in a closed room. Schmid agreed to this condition for game three, but the American chess genius kept adding new conditions. Spassky became terribly angry and the match was on the verge of collapse. In this situation Lothar Schmid grabbed both GMs by the shoulders and forced them into their chairs. "Now play chess!" he shouted. Spassky obediently made the first move and the match could proceed.

Schmid was also the arbiter at world championship matches, like Karpov-Kortschnoj, Bagio 1978, Kasparov-Karpov, London and Leningrad 1986 and many other top events.

In 1992 Fischer and Spassky played a "revenge match" in Yugoslavia. Naturally Lothar Schmid had to be the arbiter.

The owner of the Karl May Verlag is also well-known for another thing: Lothar Schmid has one of the largest and most valuable collections of chess books in the world. He has over 50,000 volumes – booksy, magazines, papers. It is not just the sheer number, but the quality of his collection that is impressive. For instance Schmid owns very rare chess documents that were produced before Gutenberg.

He also owns the first printed chess book by Lucena, which appeared in 1497. It is entitled "Repeticion de amores e arte de axedrez con CL juegos de partido" (Discourse on Love and the Art of Chess with 150 Endings). This book is of great importance to the game because for the first time it presents the old rules ("del viejo") and the new ones which most notably changed the movement of the queen ("de la dama", which is how Lucena referred to the new form of chess).

In an interview with Schach Magazine 64 Lothar Schmid chose three games of which he was particularly proud:

1. In 1949 he played in Bad Pyrmont against world championship challenger Efim Bogoljubov and won in 25 moves, with the black pieces.

2. At the Olympiade in Tel Aviv in 1964 he won a long Ruy Lopez with white against the great Paul Keres.

3. In 1965 he beat ex world champion Mikhail Botvinnik with a King's Indian in Hamburg.

Click here to replay these three games


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