Happy birthday - Vlastimil Jansa turns 80!

by Eduard Frey
11/27/2022 – Today, the Czech Grandmaster Vlastimil Jansa celebrates his 80th birthday. For many years, Jansa was one of the best Czechoslovak players, and he took part in ten chess Olympiads and was Czechoslovak national champion three times. In his youth, he was also part of the national junior team of Czechoslovakia - the football team. In 2018, he became senior world champion. Eduard Frey congratulates. | Photo: Jansa at the World Senior Championship 2022 in Assisi | Photo: Tournament page

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Happy birthday Vlastimil Jansa!

Jansa is now arguably the strongest avtive octogenarian chess player of the world, frequently engaged in international contests.

Jansa was a three times silver medallist at the 2005, 2006 and 2010 World Senior Championships, plus a further silver medal in 2016 in the Category 65+ (the Seniors now splitted into two categories 50+ and 65+). Then, in 2018, edging out Yuri Balashov on tie-break, Vlastimil Jansa won the Gold medal at the World Senior Championship 65+ at age of 76!

His biggest tournament triumph happened undoubtedly in 1974 at the traditional world elite IBM-Amsterdam tournament, where Jansa co-won together with Borislav Ivkov, best on tie-break, and Vladimir Tukmakov (16 players incl. top seeded Geller, Ribli, Csom, Planinc, Velimirovic, young Timman, or Donner). In that year, 1974, Jansa became a Grandmaster by FIDE (there were less than 150 living chess grandmasters then; today, there are far more than 1’500 all over this planet).

Vlastimil Jansa participated in ten Chess Olympiads between 1964 and 1986 and won a team silver behind the Soviet Union in Lucerne 1982 with Czechoslavakia (Vlastimil Hort played on board one, Jan Smejkal on board two, Lubomir Ftacnik on board three, Jansa on board four). Playing Captain in Malta 1980, Non-playing Captain in Novi Sad 1990.

He is a three times national Czechoslovak Champion, winning the title in 1964, 1974, and 1984.

Jansa pictured 22 July 1974 in Amsterdam at the famous IBM tournament, which he co-won that year. Photo: Anefo, Rob C. Croes

Jansa won the international tournaments of Novy Smokovec (Tatransky Cup) 1971 (shared), Madonna di Campiglio 1973 (ahead of joint runners-up Ivkov and Forintos; followed by Lengyel, Tatai, Torre), IBM-Amsterdam-B 1973 (clear first ahead of Romanishin, Hecht, Keene, Torre, Sosonko), IBM-Amsterdam-A 1974 (together with Ivkov, best on tie-break, and Tukmakov, surpassing Geller, Ribli, Csom, Timman, Donner), Sombor (7th Ivan Parcetic Memorial) 1976 (shared with Benkö, and Vlatko Kovacevic), Cirella di Diamante, Italy 1976/77 (incl. also Bellon Lopez, Lengyel, Stean, or Tatai), Vrnjačka Banja 1981, Trnava (Réti Memorial) 1982, Prague Zonal 1985 (shared with Pinter, best tie-break, and Suba, surpassing Adorjan, Csom, Ftacnik, or Gheorghiu who all did not advance. Jansa qualified for the Interzonal in Biel 1985), Borgarnes (closed) 1985 (shared with Curt Hansen), first or equal first at the Gausdal Open Festivals in Norway multiple times in the mid-1980s, first or equal first in Luxembourg at several chess events in the 1990s, Badenweiler Open 1990 (shared, Kupreichik best on tie-break), Münster (closed, 12 players) 1992, Hamburg Schachfestival, 1st Wichern Open 1992 winning outright, Cattolica Open 1993 (shared), among others.

Peak FIDE ranking as no. 36= in 1975 (one list), together with Helmut Pfleger, Lothar Schmid, Florin Gheorghiu, Yuri Balashov, Ratmir Kholmov, with a peak rating of 2540 Elo the same year.

When he was a youngster, Jansa played soccer and was good enough to be a representative on the National youth squad. He served as a sports soldier in the army. In chess, he became the youth champion of Prague, his native city, at fourteen, and was mainly trained by Emil Richter (a strong IM, highly respected by Pachman and Foltys). Richter was the chess mentor to Vlastimil Jansa. Later, Jansa himself became a chess coach. Of his own students, the Czech Republic's strongest player of today, David Navara is the best known.

Working as a chess coach: Jansa with young David Navara. Photo via K. Rošková, Twitter: Milan Vihnár (@m_vihnar) / Twitter

Jansa has also been the national coach of Luxembourg and Fiona Steil-Antoni paid tribute to him.

As an author, Jansa is especially known for The Best Move (written with Vlastimil Hort in 1980). The Best Move is a collection of very hard chess problems based on actual grandmaster games. The reader is asked who has the advantage and why. Points are awarded not only for getting the answer right but for seeing deeply into the position. These problems are based primarily on the games of chess grandmasters Hort and Jansa. The book was a few years later translated into German with some changes in the diagrams.

Vlastimil Jansa took the Gold medal at the FIDE World Senior Chess Championship 65+ held Bled in 2018, proudly presenting a huge trophy (right to him: Nona Gaprindashvili). Photo: Organiser, Tadej Sakelšek

Another impression from Amsterdam, the IBM tournament series was one of the most prestigious ones during the 1960s and 1970s: Jansa facing young Jan Timman. Photo: Anefo, Rob C. Croes, 24 July 1974

In classical chess games, Jansa has beaten several luminaries of the then dominating Soviet Union such as Tal, Korchnoi, Geller, Polugaevsky, Vaganian, or Kholmov.

Famous games









Eduard Frey was born in spring 1967, is an economist (lic. et mag. rer, pol.) and works as a coach in human resources. He learned the game as a child from his father. Chess is a hobby without rating. He has been a frequent visitor to the Biel Chess Festival since 1976, as well as to Lucerne (1982 Olympiad, and the 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997 World Team Championships), and to the international tournaments in Zurich or the Lugano Open series. Frey spoke with many top players; he knew Viktor Korchnoi, Wolfgang Uhlmann and Mark Taimanov more closely.