Fridrik Olafsson: the creative genius of a septuagenarian

by ChessBase
1/16/2008 – In his hayday he beat Tartakower, Larsen, Fischer, Petrosian, Keres, Tal, Karpov, Korchnoi and contemporaries like Timman and Seirawan. Last August Fridrik Olafsson played Dutch prodigy Vincent Rothuis, whom he spotted 55 years, and surprised everyone with a novelty on move – three! Our lecturer Dennis Monokroussos looks at this amazing game.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

I suspect few contemporary players have heard of Fridrik Olafsson, and that's a pity. Born in 1935, he was the strongest player in Iceland for many years. He's a grandmaster, a former Candidate with wins over Tartakower (!), Larsen (countless times), Fischer (twice), Petrosian (twice), Keres, Tal (twice), Karpov (when he was world champion), Korchnoi and contemporaries like Timman and Seirawan. He was also FIDE President (after Euwe, before Campomanes), and at one time he even worked as an attorney.

That's an impressive resume, but rather than choose a game from one of the obvious candidates listed above, I've picked something really out of the ordinary. Last August, Olafsson played a game against Dutch prodigy Vincent Rothuis in a tournament in Arnhem, and it was amazing. Already after five or six moves the position was just about unbelievable, and the game remained strange pretty much throughout. It's not a perfect game, but considering how irregular things were, on balance Olafsson's effort can be considered a success. And all the more so when you consider that he spotted his opponent 55 years, and yet he was the better tactician and improviser on this occasion.

While the players at Wijk aan Zee are using their free day to find novelties on move 30 to engineer more efficient draws, we'll see a game that's pure creativity from White's third move (a novelty in an already uncommon position) on. Olafsson may not be the player he once was, but he can still play some great chess, and I think you'll enjoy what you'll see, if you join us tonight – Wednesday night – at 9 p.m. ET. The shows are free, so I hope to see you there!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Thursday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).

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Dennis Monokroussos is 41, lives in South Bend, IN, where he teaches chess and occasionally works as an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University-South Bend.

At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S. and has reached a peak rating of 2434 USCF, but several long breaks from tournament play have made him rusty. He is now resuming tournament chess in earnest, hoping to reach new heights.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for ten years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.

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