Enrico Paoli: 13.01.1908 – 15.12.2005

12/16/2005 – He was the strongest active (!) nonagenarian in the world, who won his last Italian championship title at the age of 60 and once beat Kotov with black. Enrico Paoli, GM honoris causa, was the initiator and organiser of the famous Reggio Emilia tournament. This week he passed away less than a month before his 98th birthday. In memoriam.

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Enrico Paoli (13.01.1908 – 15.12.2005)

Memorial by Adolivio Capece

Enrico Paoli was born in Trieste on January 13, 1908. He learned chess when he was nine years old, thanks to a regular customer at the dairy run by his mother. At 18 he earned a licence as a ship captain and went to sea for seven years, working for Lloyd of Trieste. In the meantime he studied at University and he got the degree in business administration.


Enrico Paoli (left) at a recent tournament

Thanks to his journeys he became fluent in a number of languages (7-8). For this reason, when he was Arbiter in the Olympiads in Nice (France, 1974) people started calling him “the Paolyglot”!

Paoli started playing chess tournaments only when about 26; he was second in the national tournament in Merano in 1937, third in Milano in 1938 (where he became Italian champion ) and third in the Italian Championship in 1939 and 1943.

After the second world war, Paoli took up residence in Reggio Emilia, for two reasons: Trieste was no longer Italian and he was searching for a job allowing him to play chess. In Reggio Emilia he found work as teacher in the primary school.

In 1950 he played the international tournament in Venice and he won a famous game against GM Kotov, earning the brilliance prize for that effort! The game created a great sensation: it was not easy at that time to defeat a soviet grandmaster!

Kotov,Alexander - Paoli,Enrico [D46]
Venice Venice (6), 1950
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e3 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 Be7 7.0-0 0-0 8.b3 b6 9.Bb2 Bb7 10.Qe2 Rc8 11.Rfd1 Qc7 12.Rac1 Qb8 13.e4 dxe4 14.Nxe4 Nxe4 15.Qxe4 g6 16.Qg4 Bf6 17.Rc2 Rcd8 18.Bc1 c5 19.Bh6 Rfe8 20.Be4 Bxe4 21.Qxe4 cxd4

Black is already clearly better, and now Kotov in incautious move, ignoring the weakness of his back rank: 22.Nxd4? Nc5 23.Qg4 Bxd4 24.Rxd4 Qe5 25.Rd1 [25.Be3 Rxd4 26.Qxd4 Qxd4 27.Bxd4 Rd8 28.Rd2 Ne4 29.Rd3 e5 30.f3 Nc5 31.Bxc5 Rxd3 and Black is an exchange up.] 25...Qe4 26.h3 Qxc2 27.Rxd8 Rxd8 28.Qg5 Rd1+ 29.Kh2 Qxf2 30.Qe7 Qg1+ 31.Kg3 Rd3+ 0-1. [Click to replay]

In 1951 he surprising won the international tournament in Vienna, a point and a half (!) in front of Beni and Grunfeld. In the same year he won his first Italian Championship; he went on to win it again in 1957 and in 1968 – the last time when he was sixty years old!

In 1958 Paoli started with the organization of the international great tournament “Torneo di Capodanno” in Reggio Emilia, which from then on was (and is) regularly staged every year. The biggest edition was 1991-92, when the participants included Kasparov, Karpov, Anand, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Polugaevski, etc. It was billed as the Meeting of Living World Champions (apart from Kasparov and Karpov, there were also Botvinnik, Tal, Spassky and Smyslov present). The next edition of Reggio Emilia will be number 48 and will run from December 29 2005 to January 6 2006.

Paoli become International Master in 1951 and International Arbiter in 1964. In 1969 in Vrsac he missed the Grandmaster title by only half point. But at least Fide gave him the title honoris causa in 1996.

Paoli was also very keen on endgames and studies; his compositions are well known and he won 176 prizes (first, second or third) in contests organized all over the world.


The nonagenarian chess master: Enrico Paoli

Last but not least, we have to remember is intense activity as columnist and writer. He wrote many books, and almost all the current Italian chess players have worked with them. Paoli was a contributor of the magazine “L’Italia Scacchistica” since 1950. He took care of chess not only from the technical point of view, but also regarding art, literature and poetry.

Enrico Paoli was also a great supporter of the Chess Olympiads in Turin next year (May 20 – June 4) and obviously one of the main Open tournament that will be organized during the event will be dedicated to him.

He was married; his wife died some years ago, after almost 70 year of marriage. He had a daughter, Livia, who assisted him in the last month when in hospital. Paoli died serenely, in the night.

Adolivio Capece is the director of Italia Scacchistica review



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