The World’s Oldest Chess Club: Part IV (1975 to the present)

8/20/2009 – This weekend sees the climax of two weeks of celebration for the 200th jubilee of the world's oldest chess club: the Schachgesellschaft Zürich. Kasparov, Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov, Judit Polgar, Topalov and Hug will be participating in simuls and a rapid chess event. Richard Forster and Christian Rohrer retrace the historical development of the club.

Press release

Eleven Chess Champions join the
Jubilee Festivities of the Schachgesellschaft Zürich

Start is this coming weekend, 22/23 August 2009, when no less than eleven chess champions will play at the jubilee festivities of the Schachgesellschaft Zürich. At 200 years, it is the oldest chess club in the world. Legends of the past 50 years such as the current World Champion Anand will be joining both a simultaneous exhibition and a rapid tournament at Zurich Main Station. Main sponsor of the jubilee, Credit Suisse, once again helps the Schachgesellschaft Zürich realise a first-class chess event.

On Saturday, 22 August 2009, 200 amateurs will play against eight champions who have left indelible marks on chess in the past 50 years: Viswanathan Anand, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Viktor Korchnoi, Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Spassky, Ruslan Ponomariov and Veselin Topalov. Each of them will play against 25 amateurs, 200 games altogether, one for every year of the club's history. The event begins at 2 p.m. and is expected to finish around 6.30 p.m.

On Sunday, 23 August 2009, another group of eight champions – Viswanathan Anand, Werner Hug, Anatoly Karpov, Alexander Khalifman, Vladimir Kramnik, Judit Polgar, Ruslan Ponomariov and Veselin Topalov – will play against one another in an attractive rapid chess format. Judit Polgar is the strongest female chess player ever. The event begins at 11.00 am, each of the seven rounds begins on the hour. Ranking announcements and prize awards are expected to take place around 6 p.m.

Matthias Deutschmann, the renowned German cabaret artist and the voice of the "Fritz" chess software, will guide through the events on site. Both the simultaneous exhibition and the rapid tournament are open to visitors without charge. Enthusiasts can also watch all the excitement of both tournaments live on the Internet at Grandmasters Klaus Bischoff, Vlastimil Hort, Lothar Vogt and for some hours also World Champion Boris Spassky will be commenting online on the games. Credit Suisse has organized autograph sessions on both days of the event. At around 4 p.m. some of the chess legends will be available for about an hour to sign autographs.

For further information on the jubilee of the Schachgesellschaft Zürich, please visit


As main sponsor of the jubilee is Credit Suisse, whose 150-year anniversary in 2006, brought Kasparov, Karpov, Korchnoi und Judit Polgar to the "Chess Champions Day" in Zurich. Co-sponsors are Swiss Re, the City of Zürich (which assumed the patronage of the event), the chess software enterprise ChessBase, the Accentus Foundation (Swiss Chess) and the Alois Nagler Foundation in Arbon.

The World’s Oldest Chess Club: Part IV (1975 to the present)

By Dr. Richard Forster & Dr. Christian Rohrer

Whenever the Schachgesellschaft Zürich volunteered to organise the Swiss championship, it was something special. In 1889 it had been a pioneering effort, leading up to the foundation of the national chess federation – one of the oldest in the World. In 1925 it was the backdrop to the first ever FIDE General Assembly. In 1934, in the middle of an economic depression, the Swiss championship in Zurich was ennobled by the participation of World Champions Lasker, Alekhine and Euwe.

When in 1975 the Schachgesellschaft Zürich organised the Swiss Championship for the last time to date, the event finally marked the beginning of regular foreign participation in the tournament for the national crown – an important decision which helped to advance Swiss chess considerably in the following years. Of course, the club’s pride and rich past virtually always demanded the participation of foreign masters and grandmasters. In 1975 the latter did not live up to their reputations. But the triple victory by the young Cuban Guillermo García González and the two local heroes Werner Hug and Dieter Keller was a more than welcome surprise, of course.

Dieter Keller and Werner Hug in the play-off match which took place a couple of
weeks after the tournament. Hug won.

Raymond Keene – Kick Langeweg
75th Swiss championship, Zurich (8), 12 July 1975
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 0–0 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Be7 7. cxd5 exd5 8. b4 c6 9. Ng3 Re8 10. Bd3 Nbd7 11. 0–0 Bd6 12. f3 Nf8 13. Nf5 Bc7 14. g4 Ne6 15. Bb1 g6 16. Ng3 h5 17. gxh5 Nxh5 18. Nxh5 Qg5+ 19. Kh1 Qxh5 20. f4

20…Nxf4! 21. exf4 Bg4 22. Qd3

20…Re1! 23. Kg1. Black wins after 23. Rxe1 Bf3+ 24. Kg1 Qg4+ 25. Kf2 Qg2+ 26. Ke3 Re8+.

23…Bf3 24. Kf2 Rxc1! 25. Rxc1 Qxh2+ 26. Kxf3 Qxf4+ 27. Kg2 Qxc1 28. Ra2 Qh6 29. Re2 Kg7 30. Qf3 Rh8 31. Kf1 Qc1+ 32. Re1 Qg5 33. Nd1 Rh4 34. Nf2 Bg3 35. Re2 Qc1+ 36. Re1 Qg5 37. Re2 Rxd4 38. Nd3 Bd6 39. Rf2 f5 40. Rg2 Qh4

In time trouble Black did not always find the strongest continuation, but the position is still won for him.

41. Qf2 Qxf2+ 42. Kxf2 b6 43. Ke3 c5 44. Nxc5 bxc5 45. Bxf5 Bf4+ 46. Kf3 g5 47. bxc5 Kf6 48. Bd7 Rd3+ 49. Kg4 Rxa3 50. Re2 d4 51. Re6+ Kf7 52. Kf5 Re3 53. Ra6 Re5+ 54. Kg4 Rxc5 55. Rxa7 Kf6 56. Ra6+ Ke5 57. Bf5 Rc3 58. Ra5+ Kf6 59. Rd5 Rg3+ 0:1. [Click to replay]

Click to enlarge

The next major jubilee event came in 1984. The 175th anniversary was celebrated with an invitational tournament, featuring 8 Swiss players and 14 foreigners. The stars of the event were the former World champion Boris Spassky and, of course, Viktor Korchnoi. However, the winner was another grandmaster well-known to Chessbase readers.

John Nunn (right), here in analysis with Boris Spassky, was the
surprise winner of the Zurich jubilee tournament in 1984.

Juan Bellón López – John Nunn
175th anniversary tournament, Zurich (5), 11 September 1984
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. d5 e6 4. c4 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bf4 Bg7 8. Qa4+ Bd7 9. Qb3 Qc7 10. e4 0–0 11. Nd2 Ng4 12. h3 Ne5 13. Be3 Re8 14. Rc1 Na6 15. Nb5 Bxb5 16. Bxb5 Rec8 17. 0–0 Qe7 18. f4 Nd7 19. e5 dxe5 20. d6 Qxd6

21. Qxf7+! Kxf7 22. fxe5+ Kg8 23. exd6 Ne5 24. Ne4 c4 25. Bg5 Nb8 26. Nf6+ Bxf6 27. Bxf6 a6 28. Ba4 Nbd7 29. Rce1 Nc6 30. Bc3 b5 31. Bd1 b4 32. Bg4 bxc3 33. Bxd7 cxb2

34. Be6+? This check turns out to be a terrible blunder. As shown by John Nunn himself, White could win by 34. Bxc8 Rxc8 35. d7 Rd8 (or 35…Rc7) 36. Re6!.

34…Kg7! 35. Bxc4? Now the line 35. Bxc8 Rxc8 36. d7 Rd8 37. Re6 no longer works because after 37…Nd4 White does not have a check on e8. However, 35. d7 should still have drawn. After the second mistake by White Nunn shows no mercy.

35…Nd4 36. Bd3 Rc3 37. Bb1 Rd8 38. Re7+ Kh6 39. d7 Rc1 40. Bd3 Nc2 41. Bxc2 0:1. [Click to replay]

After the time scramble White resigned. He must soon lose his d7 pawn without any hope of capturing the b2 pawn, which leaves him with a lost endgame.

Zurich 1984

1. John Nunn 6.0
2. Viktor Korchnoi 5.5
  Yasser Seirawan 5.5
  Florin Gheorghiu 5.5
  Juan Bellón López 5.5
  Gennadi Sosonko 5.5
  Boris Spassky 5.5
8. Vlastimil Hort 5.0
  Stefan Kindermann 5.0

(etc.; 22 players, 9 rounds)

In 1998 the Schachgesellschaft Zürich commemorated the death, two years previously, of its honorary president Alois Nagler with an Open tournament and a match between the generations: “Chess Legends” vs. “Swiss hopes”. The latter stood no chance despite another hot summer which made all the players suffer.

Click to enlarge

Viktor Korchnoi – Yannick Pelletier
Nagler Memorial, Zurich (10), 16 August 1998
1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. e4 Nc6 4. g4

4…h6 5. Bg2 d6 6. h3 g6 7. d3 Bg7 8. Be3 Nd7 9. Qd2 Nf8 10. f4 Ne6 11. Nge2 Ned4 12. Ng3 Bd7 13. Rb1 a6 14. 0–0 e6 15. e5 dxe5 16. Nge4 b6 17. b4

17…cxb4 18. Nd6+ Ke7 19. fxe5 Bxe5 20. Nxf7 bxc3 21. Qf2 Qc7 22. Bxc6 Nxc6 23. Nxh8 Rxh8 24. d4 Nxd4 25. Rbd1

25…Nf3+? Missing 25…Nf5, winning for Black.

26. Qxf3 Bh2+ 27. Kh1 Bc6 28. Rd5 exd5 29. cxd5 Bxd5 30. Qxd5 Rh7

31. Bxh6? Now it is White’s turn to blunder in mutual time trouble. 31. Qg8 Kd6 32. Rd1+ won easily (Pelletier).

31…Bd6 32. Bf8+ Kd7 33. Bxd6 Qxd6 34. Qb7+ Qc7 35. Rd1+ Ke8 36. Qa8+ Ke7 37. Re1+ Kd6 38. Qf8+ Kc6 39. Qf3+ Kd7 40. Qd5+ Qd6 41. Qb7+ Kd8 draw. [Click to replay]

Vasily Smyslov was the oldest participant in the Nagler memorial. Despite
severe trouble with his eyesight, he acquitted himself admirably.

In both the 1998 and the 1999 memorial tournaments Viktor Korchnoi easily achieved the best result of all players. Ten years on, he is still going strong. At 78, he has just won the Swiss championship once more, in Grächen.

The following year Korchnoi was also the star of the slightly smaller tournament commemorating Jules Ehrat. A match between Switzerland and Germany was won by the latter by 26½ points to 23½. As in the preceding game, the veteran demonstrated a highly unusual opening concept:

Christian Gabriel – Viktor Korchnoi
Ehrat Memorial, Zurich (4), 16 August 1999
1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 d4 3. b4 f6 4. e3 e5 5. c5 d3 6. Qb3 e4 7. Nd4 a5 8. Nc3 f5

9. Ne6 Qe7 10. Nxf8 Kxf8 11. b5 Be6 12. Qa4 Nd7 13. Ba3 Nxc5 14. Qd4 b6 15. Na4 Kf7 16. Nxc5 bxc5 17. Bxc5 Qg5

18. g4 Qxg4 19. Qe5 Rc8 20. h3 Qg5 21. Bd4 Nf6 22. Qh2 Rhd8 23. Rg1 Qh4 24. Rc1 Ne8 25. Rc5 g6 26. a4 Rd5 27. Rc6

27…Qd8 28. Bc3 Nd6 29. h4 Bd7 30. h5 g5 31. h6 Bxc6 32. Qh5+ Ke6 0:1. [Click to replay]

Click to enlarge

In 2001 the great Viktor himself celebrated his 70th birthday. William Wirth and the Schachgesellschaft Zürich, for whom Korchnoi had started playing in 1993, invited a couple of famous guests for an unusual birthday party. The rapid tournament culminated in a sensational showdown between Vladimir Kramnik and his great predecessor:

Vladimir Kramnik – Gary Kasparov
Korchnoi anniversary rapid tournament (final game), Zurich, 29 April 2001
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. e3 a6 6. Bxc4 b5 7. Bd3 c5 8. a4 b4 9. Ne4 Nbd7 10. Nxf6+ Nxf6 11. 0–0 Bb7 12. dxc5 Bxc5 13. Qe2 Qd5 14. Rd1 Qh5 15. h3 Rd8 16. Nd4 Qd5 17. Nf3 Ke7 18. e4 Nxe4 19. Be3 Bxe3 20. Qxe3 Qc5 21. Qe1 Nf6 22. Rac1 Qb6 23. Ne5 Rd4

24. Bxa6!? A fantastic conception. It is all the more stunning in that White had an even better option in 24. Nc4.

24…Rxd1 25. Rxd1 Bxa6 26. Qxb4+ Qxb4 27. Nc6+ Kf8 28. Rd8+ Ne8 29. Nxb4 Be2. As was later shown by Kramnik, 29…Bc4 still offered drawing chances.

30. f3 h5 31. b3 Rh6 32. Kf2 Rg6 33. Kxe2 Rxg2+ 34. Kd3 Rg3 35. a5 Rxf3+ 36. Kc4 1:0. [Click to replay]

Eight years later we arrive at the present. In its 200-year history, the Schachgesellschaft Zürich has seen almost all the most famous players, including the World champions Lasker, Alekhine, Euwe, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik. But the story is not finished yet. The next glorious chapter in the club’s annals will be written on 22 and 23 August, when Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Gary Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Alexander Khalifman, Ruslan Ponomariov, Veselin Topalov, Viswanathan Anand, Viktor Korchnoi, Judit Polgar and Werner Hug will perform in spectacular rapid and simultaneous exhibitions in celebration of the club’s 200th anniversary.

The Schachgesellschaft Zürich is celebrating its 200th anniversary with another spectacular event in August 2009, featuring Anand, Kasparov, Korchnoi and many other chess legends. Its two centuries of colourful history are vividly recounted in a handsome jubilee book just released:

Richard Forster: Schachgesellschaft Zürich 1809 bis 2009. Eine helvetische Schachgeschichte in zwei Jahrhunderten mit einem Personen- und Turnierlexikon. 576 pages, with over 300 illustrations and more than 500 diagrams, games and fragments (in German). Ordering details and an excerpt are available at

Previous ChessBase articles

Zurich: A chance to meet the World Champions
02.04.2009 – They will all be there, for the 200th jubilee of the oldest chess club in the world: the Schachgesellschaft Zürich. The festivities, which include a Jubilee Open, will see Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov and Topalov playing a Champions Rapid. They are joined by Garry Kasparov for a Champions Simul against 200 opponents. One could be you, if you solve a Jubilee Quiz.

The World’s Oldest Chess Club: Part I (1809–1914)
24.06.2009 – In August there will be a spectacular event celebrating the 200th jubilee of the oldest chess club in the world: the Schachgesellschaft Zürich, which was founded in 1809. Attendees include Kasparov, Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov and Topalov. To prepare you for the jubilee Richard Forster and Christian Rohrer retrace the historical development of the club.

The World’s Oldest Chess Club: Part II (1914–1945)
14.07.2009 – In August there will be a spectacular event celebrating the 200th jubilee of the oldest chess club in the world: the Schachgesellschaft Zürich, which was founded in 1809. Attendees include Kasparov, Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov and Topalov. To prepare you for the jubilee Richard Forster and Christian Rohrer retrace the historical development of the club.

The World’s Oldest Chess Club: Part III (1945–1961)
07.08.2009 – Sunday, 9 August 2009, heralds the start of the events around the 200-year anniversary of the Schachgesellschaft Zürich, the oldest chess club in the world. Attendees on the final weekend (August 22-23) include Kasparov, Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov and Topalov. Richard Forster and Christian Rohrer retrace the historical development of the Schachgesellschaft.

Zurich Jubilee 2009 Open under way – Pein on Giri
12.08.2009 – There are 45 GMs, 48 IMs in the Master Tournament, staged to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the world's oldest chess club. After three rounds 12 GMs had a perfect score, after four the number had dropped to two. One game in particular delighted IM Malcolm Pein of the London Chess Center, who sent us his thoughts on the moves of a 15-year-old grandmaster.

Zurich Jubilee 2009: twelve GMs in the lead
13.08.2009 – There's a veritable log jam at the top of the crosstable after six rounds of play – twelve players with 5.0/6 points, followed by nineteen in hot pursuit, with 4.5 points. On top of the table with the best tiebreak score is (who else?) Alexander Morozevich. Best female player so far is (who else?) Hou Yifan. The event is full of interesting players and faces.

Zurich Jubilee 2009: Areshchenko and Avrukh victorious
16.08.2009 It was bear hugs in the final round: GMs Alexander Areshchenko Boris Avrukh had the black pieces but squeezed the life out of top contenders GMs Yuriy Kuzubov (30 moves in a Meran) and Alexander Morozevich (55 moves in a QGA) to take equal first at this strong event. We bring you more picture portraits by Georg Kradolfer of interesting players and faces in our final report.

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