Pearly Kings

by Jonathan Speelman
5/16/2021 – Looking at the games from the recent Russian Team Championship, played in Sochi, prompted Jon Speelman to reminisce on a tournament he played nearly four decades ago in the same Russian city near the Black Sea. “In those distant Soviet times, the seven foreigners were put up in the Zhemchuzhina (Pearl) Hotel while the nine Soviets were dispersed among other lesser establishments”. | Photo: John Saunders / John Nunn 60th Birthday Blitz Chess Tournament

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Distant Soviet times

[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

Looking through the ChessBase website, I see that Merijn Van Delft used the game Esipenko v Kobalia this week (as I write) for his Game of the Week. I had also noticed the game at the Russian Team Championship and used it for my weekly column on the English newspaper The Observer, so I was pleased to see that he’d chosen such an excellent game though a tad disappointed not to have the pleasure of demonstrating it here myself.

Predrag NikolicThe team championship was in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi where I played nearly four decades ago in the 16th Mikhail Chigorin Memorial. In those distant Soviet times, the seven foreigners were put up in the Zhemchuzhina (Pearl) Hotel where the tournament was also held while the nine Soviets (and I can’t remember, but this may even have applied to the winner Misha Tal himself) were dispersed among other lesser establishments.

Despite the superior accommodation, the foreigners suffered at the hands of the Soviets, with Predrag Nikolic [pictured] coming second and myself sixth equal, while the rest finished in an ungainly heap at the bottom.

In any case, I thought today that I’d look at some games played in the Zhemchuzhina, starting with a somewhat preposterous one from the recent team championship and then moving back in time to 1982.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Master Class Vol.2: Mihail Tal

On this DVD Dorian Rogozenco, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh and Karsten Müller present the 8. World Chess Champion in video lessons: his openings, his understanding of chess strategy, his artful endgame play, and finally his immortal combinations.


Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.


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