Ratmir Kholmov passes at 80

by ChessBase
3/17/2006 – He was not well known in the West, but as a dangerous attacking player Ratmir Kholmov was able to embarrass generations of world champions, beating amongst others Keres, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer and Kasparov. He was also known as the "central defender" for his defensive skills. Now he has passed at 80. We bring you his last interview.

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In Memoriam – Ratmir Kholmov (13.05.1925 – 18.02.2006)

By Dagobert Kohlmeyer

It has just become known that the well-known Russian grandmaster Ratmir Kholmov has died. He passed away a month ago, on the 18th of February, but his widow did not inform the chess world or anyone else about her husband’s death until now.

Young Ratmir learnt chess at the age of 12, and at 14 he was already the master of Archangelsk. His native town, in the north of Russia, has the fifth-largest harbour in the world, as he likes to remind his compatriots.

From 1960 to 1970 Ratmir Kholmov was one of the strongest Soviet GMs. He played in no less than 17 Soviet championships, sharing first with Spassky and Stein in 1963. In his best years he was a very interesting player, nicknamed "central defender" by the Soviet chess players. The reason for this: he was an extremely tough opponent for any attacking player to beat.

Kholmov himself was a supremely dangerous attacking player, possessing very sharp tactical skills. The originality of his unexpected ideas and combinations surprised many players, including world champions. But in spite of victories against such players as Keres, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky or even Fischer and Kasparov, Kholmov is not really known to the western people. For political reasons, during Soviet times Kholmov was allowed to participate only in a few tournaments abroad, all of them in Socialist countries.

Kholmov retained his dangerous attacking style in spite of advancing age, as he recently proved, impressively, at the Seniors Team Championship in Dresden. He had played in the same German city exactly fifty years earlier, in 1956. A few years ago he gave his last interview to me (Kohlmeyer).

What did it feel like, in 1956, to be in Germany, so soon after the war?

I had no aversions, I just came to play chess. Dresden reminded me of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). Both cities had been bombed to rubble. We played in the center of the city, but I can't remember when.

What was the result?

Juri Awerbach and I won the event with 12 points each. That was out of 15 games.

Do you remember your German opponents?

Yes, Wolfgang Uhlmann and Reinhart Fuchs. Nobody from West Germany played in the event.

Tell us about your first name? How did you get it?

It's an interesting story. When I was born, shortly after the October Revolution, parents gave their children names like KIM. That was the acronym of "Communist Youth Internationale". My parents were different. They called me Ratmir, which means "brave warrior", and occurs in Pushkin's famous poem "Ruslan and Ludmilla".

What was your profession?

In my youth I was, for a while, a sailor in the merchant marine. That was during the Second World War. We mainly saild the Northern Route.

Since when have you been living in Moscow?

I moved to Moscow in 1967. Since then I play for clubs in the Russian capital.

Would you consider yourself to be a chess professional?

Yes. For many decades I have been earning my living from chess.

What about the State pension?

That is 50 dollars per month. You cannot live on it, so I earn some extra money with chess.

Can you name some of your most memorable games?

In the Capablanca Tournament 1965 in Havanna I ended up fifth, but did not lose a single game. I played a very good game against Bobby Fischer. It was a Ruy Lopez, and I won it with black. Probably my best game was against Paul Keres, at the USSR Championship 1959 in Tbilissi. [Click to replay]

What is special about chess, for you?

The battle, and the many different ways it can be fought.

Have you always been happy with your life as a chess grandmaster?

Yes, although I know that Alexander Alekhine did not share this view. At the end of his career he apparently sighed and said: "If only I had become a politician!" Perhaps he said that because for so many years he was an emigrant.

Did you have a home base, for instance a chess club?

Yes, in Soviet times I played for the Moscow chess club "Spartak", together with Tigran Petrosjan. Today the club no longer exists, and many others have also disappeared.

Many things have changed. What do you think about the new FIDE time controls?

I am at odds. On the one hand it is good for us, the older generation. You don't have to sit there for five hours or longer. That is very tiring. But for the grand game of chess the short time controls are suicide.

Do you have a solution to this problem?

You have to have both, classical chess and rapid chess. People should be able to choose, whether they play long games or in a tournament were the games last half an hour, or just one or two hours.

Chess activity of Ratmir Kholmov

Ratmir Kholmov – Career Highlights

URS-ch sf 1949 10/16 +4 Rank 3
Bucharest 1954 11/17 +5 Rank 3
Dresden 1956 12/15 +9 Rank 2
URS-ch sf 1956 11/18 +4 Rank 4
Przepiorka mem 1957 11/15 +7 Rank 2
URS-ch sf 1958 11.5/15 +8 Rank 1
Asztalos mem 1959 10/13 +7 Rank 1
URS-ch26 1959 12/19 +5 Rank 4
Moscow CCCT 1960 8.5/11 +6 Rank 2
URS-ch29 sf 1961 13/16 +10 Rank 1
Bucharest 1962 11.5/15 +8 Rank 1
Spartak-ch 1962 11/17 +5 Rank 2
Asztalos mem 1962 11/15 +7 Rank 1
URS-ch30 1962 13/19 +7 Rank 4
URS-ch31 1963 12/19 +5 Rank 1
Chigorin mem 1964 10/15 +5 Rank 2
Moscow zt 1964 6/12 +0 Rank 4
Capablanca mem 1965 14.5/21 +8  
Kislovodsk 1966 7/11 +3 Rank 3
Belgrade 1967 6.5/9 +4 Rank 1
October Revolution 50 1967 12/16 +8 Rank 2
Skopje 1967 11.5/17 +6 Rank 4
Capablanca mem 1968 12/14 +10 Rank 1
Toth mem 5th 1975 8.5/13 +4 Rank 2
Moscow 1975 9.5/15 +4 Rank 3
Budapest Tungsram 1976 10.5/15 +6 Rank 2
Timisoara 1977 8/11 +5 Rank 1
Zala Cup 1977 7.5/12 +3 Rank 2
Moscow-ch 1984 8.5/15 +2 Rank 4
Frunze 1989 6/11 +1 Rank 4
Moscow2 1991 8.5/11 +6 Rank 2
St Petersburg Seniors 1995 4.5/7 +2 Rank 1
Moscow GM3 1996 6.5/11 +2 Rank 4
Moscow-1 1997 7.5/11 +4 Rank 2
Orel 1997 5.5/9 +2 Rank 1
Olomouc Mipap Cup 2001 6.5/11 +2 Rank 4

Main Opponents

Evgeni Vasiukov 15/25 +5 25 games
Efim P Geller 11.5/25 -2 25 games
Alexey S Suetin 10.5/24 -3 24 games
Mark E Taimanov 11/22 +0 22 games
Mihail Tal 8.5/22 -5 22 games
Viktor Kortschnoj 10.5/20 +1 20 games
Vladimir A Savon 9/17 +1 17 games
Aivars Gipslis 10.5/16 +5 16 games
Yuri L Averbakh 7.5/16 -1 16 games
Lev Polugaevsky 6.5/16 -3 16 games
Bukhuti Gurgenidze 8.5/15 +2 15 games
David I Bronstein 7.5/15 +0 15 games
Leonid Stein 7/15 -1 15 games
Vladimir S Antoshin 8.5/14 +3 14 games
Laszlo Szabo 8/14 +2 14 games
Igor A Zaitsev 7/14 +0 14 games
Boris V Spassky 5.5/14 -3 14 games
Yuri S Balashov 5.5/13 -2 13 games
Evgeny Sveshnikov 5.5/13 -2 13 games
Vladimir Bagirov 7/12 +2 12 games
Tigran V Petrosian 7/12 +2 12 games

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