Mark Taimanov celebrates 90th birthday

by ChessBase
2/7/2016 – As a child Mark Taimanov was a film star and later he was one of the best chessplayers of his time. He was also a celebrated concert pianist, giving concerts all over the world. With his fourth wife he founded and runs a chess school in St. Petersburg. Today, 7th February 2016, Taimanov celebrates his 90th birthday. Dagobert Kohlmeyer talked to the multi-talent.

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Forever young: Mark Taimanov celebrates 90th birthday

By Dagobert Kohlmeyer

Mark Taimanov with his wife Nadja and Garry Kasparov in Zurich 2011

Mark Taimanov is a living legend and when he celebrates his 90th birthday on Sunday many guests will come to St. Petersburg to congratulate him. In the course of his long career Taimanov met all the great chessplayers of his time and a number of historical personalities such as Winston Churchill, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro. The author of this article often had the luck to meet the grandmaster and each meeting was a great pleasure. On the occasion of his 90th birthday I congratulated the world's second oldest grandmaster (only Yuri Averbakh is older) by telephone and used the chance to ask some questions about this career and his life.

Mark Taimanov

Hello Mark. How are you and your family?

We are all looking forward to Sunday, and I hope I will get rid of a slight cold by then.

How does old age feel?

In a song of my friend Leonid Sorin (a well-known Russian writer - D.K.) there's the following line: „Do you know what is so sad about old age? Not that you get older but that everyone around you is so young." However, my days are sweetened by my two children Mascha and Dima.

The Taimanov family

Where do you celebrate the jubilee?

In my chess school in St. Petersburg. We expect about 60 guests.

When did you found your chess academy?

About two years ago. It is right in the center of town, close to Nevsky Prospect and tries to help young talents. We have about 80 students.

Are there any outstanding talents among them?

That is still difficult to say at the moment because we teach very young players between the ages of five to twelve. The future will show how good and successful they will be.

Who supports the project?

We have patrons and sponsors and the chess federation, of course, also helps. I am the president of the school and my wife Nadeshda is director of the school. The students pay a little fee for their lessons.

Despite your age you are still traveling a lot. For example, every year you come to Dresden to take part in the meeting of grandmasters who are 75 or older. Will you also come this year?

I hope this nice tradition last. After all, it is not a tough tournament but a friendly meeting with dear grandmaster colleagues such as Fridrik Olafsson, Wolfgang Uhlmann, and others. I always like to see the old companions again to indulge in memories and reminiscences.

Mark Taimanov, Boris Spassky, and Evgni Vasiukov in Dresden

Your friendship to Wolfgang Uhlmann, who lives in Dresden, goes way back...

Mark Taimanov in 1970

Yes, we have been friends for more than half a century. 60 years, actually. We have played many games against each other. I particularly remember our duel at the "Match of the Century", when the Soviet Union was playing against the "Rest of the World" 1970 in Beograd. I defeated Wolfgang 2.5-1.5.

One of your victims at the chessboard was Anatoly Karpov. Do you like to show this game to your students?

Well, they all have computers and databases. And after all, it is not the only fine game I won.

Karpov – Taimanov, Leningrad 25.06.1977


You had many successes in your career. Which are the most important?

I was two-time USSR Champion and I was part of the Soviet team that won gold at he Chess Olympiad 1956. In 1971 I played a spectacular candidates match against Bobby Fischer. Even though I lost this duel because of some very unfavorable circumstances it was nevertheless one of the greatest experiences of my chess career and it will always remain part of chess history. Becoming World Senior Champion in 1994 in Switzerland was a late gratification for me.

Happy birthday, Mark! I wish you a wonderful birthday party and all the best! Many happy returns!

The sixth game of the match between Bobby Fischer and Mark Taimanov, Vancouver 1971

In his 90 years on this earth Taimanov has seen a lot. Here are some episodes from his long career.

Stalin and Churchill

The very first permission to travel abroad as a chess professional that was granted to Taimanov was signed by Stalin himself. „The generalissimo demanded only one thing from us: victory. David Bronstein and I then shared clear first at the tournament in Liverpool. Otherwise we would not have dared to return home", remembers Taimanov today.

July 1954 the grandmaster and piano player gave a concert in London and met Winston Churchill. In his autobiography Taimanov describes this encounter. „It was in the House of Commons. During a break I met the English Premier at the bar. Sir Churchill wanted to know something about chess, and I asked him, what he was smoking and drinking. He replied: 'Cigars from Havana and Cognac from Armenia.'“

Mark Taimanov enjoys life

The world class piano duo

Mark Taimanov was not only a very good chessplayer but also a celebrated concert pianist. Together with his first wife Ljubow Bruk he formed a famous piano duo and gave concerts all over the world. Their interpretation of Mozart's concert for two pianos and synphony orchestra was legendary. In 1998 the renowned record company Philips published a double CD with recordings of the Bruk & Taimanov duo as part of the series "The greatest piano players of the 20th century", something Taimanov still sees a particular honor. After the separation from his first wife Taimanov continued his career as a solo pianist.

"Love keeps young!"

Mark Taimanov has always been a ladies' man and now is married for the fourth time. „Love keeps young“, the grandmaster told me. His wife Nadeshda is 35 years younger and twelve years ago they had twins. „Maria and Dmitri mean everything to me“, the grandmaster says.

Maria, Nadeshda, and Mark Taimanov

Mark Taimanov is simply "forever young"!

See also The age of love - Mark Taimanov at 80, a richly illustrated report about Mark Taimanov's career.

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