Evgeny Sveshnikov turns sixty

by ChessBase
2/13/2010 – Some chess fans do not even know he is a person (not a place), many may be surprised that he is a contemporary. Evgeny Ellinovich Sveshnikov is best known for the Sicilian opening variation that bears his name. Sveshnikov has had a long and illustrious career. For his 60th birthday the Russian magazine ChessPro has prepared a moving portrait with some incredible historical photographs.

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Evgeny Sveshnikov turns sixty

Evgeny Ellinovich Sveshnikov was born in Cheliabinsk, Russia, on February 11, 1950. At the age of seventeen he played in his first USSR Chess Championship, became an IM at 25 and a GM at 27. Just before that he had been selected as a reserve for the Soviet side participating at the Moscow 1977 European Team Championship. At that event he scored a sensational 80%, winning individual and team gold medals.

On January 10th 1984 Sveshnikov was diagnosed with third stage cancer. On that day he went to a photographer to have the above portrait made – for his children. He survived and has gone on to lead a normal life.

Recovering in the summer of 1985 a strawberry plantation near Vichy in France

Sveshnikov is respected by his peers as a deep and original thinker and a master tactician. He is also one of the most outspoken grandmasters on the circuit. In recent years he has campaigned to protect gamescores, which he believes are the intellectual property of the players and therefore should be subject to copyright laws. He does not advocate handing over such detailed information to future opponents, who can use the information to improve their chances of victory.

Naturally Sveshnikov is, first and foremost, known as a theoretician whose name is permanently linked with the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5. This variation is also known as the Lasker-Pelikan or Cheliabinsk Variation, but "Sveshnikov Variation" is the name that has stuck for this line, which is one of the most popular and fascinating replies to 1.e4.

The Sveshnikov 'proper' continues 6.Ndb5 d6. Right from the beginning, Black is striving for active and dynamic counterplay, and this results in a double-edged struggle for the initiative. During the sixties and seventies of the 20th century Sveshnikov worked out the details of the system with his close friend Grandmaster Gennadi Timoshchenko. Today, it firmly belongs to the repertoire of many outstanding players like Kasparov, Kramnik, Shirov, Leko, Lautier, Radjabov and Khalifman.

Sveshnikov has also been a pioneer in the development of the Advance Variation of the French Defence and of the Alapin Variation of the Sicilian Defence.

The life of the master

The following pictures were kindly provided by the Russian news site ChessPro, which has published a very extensive anniversary portrait to celebrate Evgeny Ellinovich's 60th birthday. The authors of the report are Vladimir Barsky and Maria Fominykh.

The above picture was taken in March 1967 in Sochi, during a session of the All-Russia Chess School of GM Igor Zakharovich Bondarevsky and well-known coach Victor E. Golenishcheva. The 17-year-old Evgeny Sveshnikov is in the second row to the left, in front of him is the 15-year-old Anatoly Karpov.

In 1972 Evgeny graduated and began working as a research engineer at the department of internal combustion engines. "I worked in the laboratory for 10-12 hours a day," he told the ChessPro authors. "Under laboratory conditions, by changing the shape of the combustion chamber and increasing the degree of boost we managed to get 100 horsepower from a single cylinder engine of a tank. At the time the maximum was 45-50 hp. Today, tanks have twelve cylinders and 1200 horsepower. All my life I will remember the saying of my boss, Dr Gennady Borisovich Dragunov: 'The laws of physics are there to be circumvented by other laws.' At the time I decided to become a chess professional, I had almost finished my PhD thesis on the shape of the combustion chamber."

The above slightly blurry picture was taken during the USSR championship in 1973 at the end of a game Tal-Sveshnikov, with the arbiters (on the right Lev Abramov) signalling the audience to be quiet. Mikhail Tal is smiling because he is relieved to have escaped with a draw. In the background on the left is Paul Keres.

A picture from the 1977 USSR Championship in Leningrad between Vassily Smyslov and Evgeny Sveshnikov. In 45 games against World Champions Sveshnikov has an overall score of –1.

In the above picture from 1978, Sveshnikov is playing in Cienfuegos, Cuba. In the ChessPro article he recalls that the country was idyllically beautiful, like a scene from the "Bounty" – sand, palm trees, swimming in the sea. "We were warned to look out for sharks in the bay, so one player stood watch while the others swam. I was in the water with the young Artur Yusupov when suddenly I felt a terrible pain. Artur rushed to my assistance and then he started screaming in pain. We had stepped on sea urchins! Artur had 30 spines in his foot – and still had a game to play on that day. We were taken to the hospital for treatment, which consists of disinfecting the wounds with iodine. The spines are left in the foot, where they dissolve after two weeks." In Cienfuegos Sveshnikov took the first place, Yusupov came third. "Second place went to the American Larry Christiansen. At the closing we all received our cash prizes, the Soviet participants in pesos, the Americans in dollars. I suggested to Larry that we exchange his second prize for my first, but he waved his arms and screamed 'No, no, no!' We were able to exchange our pesos at the embassy, but we had to pay a tax to the state, in my case seven thousand dollars. And that in a country where an automobile cost $1,500. So I paid up for five Ladas!"

The above picture is from the opening of the USSR championship in Tiblisi, December 1978. It shows (from left to right): Tamaz Giorgadze, Garry Kasparov, Sergey Makarychev, Oleg Romanishin, Alexander Beliavsky, Yuri Razuvaev, Vitaly Tseshkovsky, Naum Rashkovskii and Evgeny Sveshnikov. 15-year-old Gary Kasparov's debut was very successful: he scored 50%, which nobody expected. "In our game, I was playing white," says Sveshnikov. "I had just sacrificed a pawn, when the hall lights went out. The game was interrupted and I offered Garry a draw, which he took. In 1981 in Frunze, Kasparov was battling with Psakhis for first place. His last white game was against me, and I made an easy draw in 22 moves." Psakhis and Kasparov tied for first with 12.5/17, 2.5 points ahead of the field. Sveshnikov finished equal 10-13th with 8.0 points.

For ten years Evgeny Sveshnikov led the All-Russia Chess School, which has many talented students but too few GM coaches. "It took me several years to acquire the necessary experience for the job. The first steps in the coaching assignments were quite difficult. I began with what I know best – the opening. I was well aware that endgame training was also needed, and in the late eighties I began to teach the endgame as well."

In the picture above is Sveshnikov’s second wife, Lyudmila, and his son Vova. The couple met in Riga in 1985, and still live in the city. In 1985, Sveshnikov split from his first wife. He had wanted to move to Moscow, but was refused a residence permit. He was told that it was because he had the two young daughters, who would then be entited to move to Moscow with him. The police chief told him: "If they both drop dead, you can have a permit". Sveshnikov challenged the decision through the courts, all the way to the Supreme Court, but failed to overtun the decision. His daughters remained in Chelyabinsk with his first wife.

Speaking with Boris Spassky at a dinner. Seated on the left is GM Ron Henley, on the right Anatoly Karpov

Now that he has reached the milestone of 60, Sveshnikov becomes eligible to play in veterans events, including the World Senior Championship. But on this subject, like so many others, the garndmaster has his own opinions: "Why should veterans start at 60? Better at 50. By then, one's results decline sharply, and nobody over 50 is in the world top 100. Why do junior events have seven different age categories, but veterans' chess only one? I think it would be better to have a 50-65 category, and an over-65 category." A man of decided, original opinions.

Read the full article by Vladimir Barsky and Maria Fominykh in ChessPro (Russian language)

Learn the Sveshnikov with contemporary experts

Alexei Shirov: My best games in the Sveshnikov

The Sveshnikov is an opening tailor-made for Alexei Shirov (FIDE World Cup finalist in 2007), who plays it with both white and black and knows the tricks and traps all too well. In more than four hours of video, the genius from Latvia presents his best Sveshnikov games, showing the spectator typical opening plans for both sides, explaining the strategy and tactics in the middlegame and how to convert advantages in the endgame – and all this in a most entertaining way. Video running time: four hours.

Loek van Wely:
The Sveshnikov Variation of the Sicilian

Dutch top grandmaster and six-times national champion Loek van Wely has played the Sveshnikov since 1998. On this DVD he comments on his latest encounters with world-class players like Shirov, Anand, Topalov and Kramnik. As one would expect in the Sveshnikov, the games abound with combinatorial ideas and sacrifices; a feast for all fans of tactics. Van Wely focuses on the main variations 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 Bg5 12.Nc2 and 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 f5. Video playing time: 3 h 43 min

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