In Memory of Janis Klovans (1935–2010)

5/12/2011 – Together with Mikhail Tal and Alexei Shirov he is one of the best known chess grandmasters in Latvia. Last October Janis Klovans suddenly passed away, at the age of 75, leaving behind a family and a lot of students who miss him very much. With the help Shirov a memorial tournament was organized, with the best players Latvia had seen in a long time. Pictorial report.

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In Memory of Janis Klovans

By Arturs Neiksans, photos by Rene Olthof

He is probably one of the best known chess grandmasters among Latvians, and those who knew him will probably agree that he was the most beloved for his simplicity and kindness towards everyone. Last October Janis Klovans at age 75 suddenly passed away, leaving behind a family and a lot of students who miss him very much. Just recently, with the help of our chess star Alexei Shirov, a tournament was organized in memory of Janis. It gathered the best players Latvia had seen in years.

Born in 9th April 1935 in the Ruba village of Saldus district, Janis and his family in the early childhood moved to Jelgava and later to Riga. He learned chess only at age 14, being coached by Janis Kruzkops. There he met his friends Mikhail Tal and Aivars Gipslis – one of them soon after became a World Champion (three guesses who!) and the other a well respected grandmaster.


Klovans at the end of the seventies

Janis himself dedicated almost 50 years of his life to coaching the new generations of Latvian chess players. Among his best students I should mention grandmasters Maris Krakops, Inguna Erneste, Laura Rogule, international masters Katrina Skinke, Viktorija Ni and many others, including myself. For Janis being a respected chess coach wasn’t a hindrance to achieving great results individually as well. Most notably he’s known as three times World Senior champion and record nine (!) times Latvian champion – (1954, 1962, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1975, 1979, and 1986). I can hardly imagine anyone beating this feat in decades!


Janis Klovans with his student Katrin Skinke in 2007


Latvian triple victory in Pardibice 2009: Katrina Skinke, Laura Rogule und Viktorija Ni

The memorial blitz tournament (time control: 4 minutes + 3 seconds per move, 14 rounds in total), took place in the Jugla school, which is just 50 meters from Janis’s former home. The tournament, which hopefully will become a tradition, gathered a total of 45 players, among them five grandmasters and six international masters, making it the strongest local tournament in a long time.


A minute of silence for Janis Klovans at the start of the tournament

The field was led by none other than our Alexey Shirov (now playing for Spain) and Daniel Fridman (Germany) who together dominated the tournament and easily secured the first two spots. In third place was a very experienced Latvian, IM Olegs Krivonosovs, who once again proved his reputation of being difficult to beat – just one loss against Fridman and a total of seven draws and six wins.

Janis was always very proud of his students and will remain in the hearts of Latvian chess players forever. Thank you, Janis, for everything – we miss you.

Final top ranking after 14 rounds

Rk. Name FED Rtg
Pts.
 TB1 
 TB2 
 TB3 
1 GM Shirov Aleksey ESP 2706
13.0
97.5
115.5
99.5
2 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2661
12.0
99.5
120.0
84.5
3 IM Krivonosov Oleg LAT 2440
9.5
101.0
120.5
72.5
4 GM Lanka Zigurds LAT 2463
9.0
103.5
123.0
77.5
5 IM Sokolovs Andrejs LAT 2519
9.0
100.5
121.0
71.0
6 M Mustaps Matiss LAT 2256
9.0
97.0
113.0
66.0
7 FM Kantans Toms LAT 2306
8.5
95.5
114.0
68.5
8 MK Volodins Igors LAT 2166
8.5
86.0
99.5
59.0
9 GM Petkevich Juzefs LAT 2383
8.0
102.5
121.5
68.5
10 FM Sveshnikov Vladimir LAT 2379
8.0
96.5
114.0
64.5
11 IM Neiksans Arturs LAT 2503
8.0
92.0
109.5
60.5
12 MK Bernotas Arturs LAT 2087
8.0
89.0
104.0
58.0
13 IM Berzinsh Roland LAT 2439
8.0
89.0
104.0
54.5
14 IM Samolins Vitalijs LAT 2412
8.0
88.5
107.0
58.5
15 M Karklins Imants LAT 2256
8.0
87.0
102.0
60.5


GM Daniel Fridman in front of the Riga Chess School


Alexei Shirov (right) faces Toms Kantans, a student of Klovans, in round two


Shirov said this game against Katrin Skinke was the most interesting in the tournament


In round four Shirov had black against his former trainer Zigurs Lanka. Result: 0-1


In round eight Shirov faced an old friend, IM Andrejs Sokolovs, who was born in the same year and the same town as Alexei, but has never played against him. Andrejs is now the director of a TV station in Novgorod.


Young scientist Egons Lavendelis in round ten, playing against...


Janis ("The Hat") Daudzvardis, who lost that game against Lavendelis


Spectators following one of the top games

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