Boris Spassky visits 'Boris Spassky'

5/16/2006 – Fifty years ago he won the Junior World Championship in Antwerp, Belgium. The organiser Hendrik Baelen was so impressed that he named a local chess club after him. This weekend, half a century later, Boris Spassky visited the club, held a lecture and gave a simultaneous display that left his opponents gasping for air.

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Boris Spassky visits “Boris Spassky”

By Ignaas Vandemeulebroucke

This weekend former world-champion Boris Spassky was in Belgium, more precisely in Schilde, near Antwerp, for a visit to the club bearing his name. The “Boris Spassky Chess Club of Schilde” was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding this year.

It was not the first time Boris Spassky was in that beautiful green region, about 20 km. from the big city. In fact at his first acquaintance with Belgium, the Belgians and Antwerp took place in 1955, when Boris won the 3th Junior World Championship, and on this occasion made good friends with Hendrik Baelen, the organizer in chief of the championship. Boris always referred to him as his “chess grandfather”.


Marina and Boris Spassky in Schilde

During the weekend-stay in Schilde Boris and Marina Spassky visited the churchyard and the grave of Hendrik Baelen (1899-1977), accompanied by the son and the grandson of the late Belgian autority on chess for youngsters.


Boris Spassky (standing, fourth from right) with the club members

A year after the Junior World Championship Hendrik Baelen decided to rename his young chess club the "Schaakkring Boris Spassky Schilde" (“Boris Spassky Schilde”). That was in 1956 and fifty years later now this small, but enthusiastic and hardworking club, which on many occasions developed some excellent iniatiatives, still exists and, what’s more, is doing well enough indeed.


With club members in Schilde

So Boris Spassky, the grandmaster, came to see how good things were going at “Boris Spassky”, the club. On Saturday in the afternoon he was the guest of honour at the town hall of Schilde, where the lady-mayor opened a modest “academic session”.


Showing the game Spassky-Reschko, Leningrad 1959

After the speech of the BSS president, Boris Spassky took over and presented one of his great games (Spassky-Reschko; Leningrad championship 1959, a Caro Kann) to an audience of Belgian chessplayers. Everyone fell under the spell of the game and the grandmaster who played it.


The start of the simultaneous exhibition in ’s Gravenwezel

“High noon” on the next day Boris Spassky entered the “Dorpshuis” in ’s Gravenwezel – a small and beautiful borough of Schilde with a lovely old name – to face 18 opponents, all but one members of the club, in simultaneous play.


Turning up the heat on his 18 opponents

Boris took a fast start and forced the opposition into a scorching tempo. Most of the competitors gasped for air, but it paid of! When the gunsmoke vanished Boris counted fourteen wins and four draws.


In the end the chess fans from Schilde got four draws

Quite unique in the simultaneous game was the participation of the grandson and two great grandsons of Hendrik Baelen. For them, but also for Boris and for the modest but creative club, it as an historical event.


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