Vlastimil Hort: A strange encounter at night

by Vlastimil Hort
4/11/2020 – In 1970 Vlastimil Hort played several tournaments in Yugoslavia. Between these tournaments he also found time for a simul in the town of Ogulin. But when driving to Ogulin at night he had a strange encounter in the forests that surround the city.

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Meeting a lion

After the "Match of the Century" in Belgrade 1970 and the blitz tournament in Herceg Novi I wanted to play in the tournament in Rovinj-Zagreb. But first I drove to a simul in Ogulin. The Yugoslavs were chess crazy and though the simuls were not easy, they were well paid. My Renault 8 was also satisfied with its work. The number of kilometres we left behind got higher and higher and the engine hummed and hummed.

But I had overestimated myself and my car. It was half past two in the night and I was really tired. Still, I did not want to stop because I wanted to reach my hotel as soon as possible and at all costs. Ogulin was not far away and I had already reached the forests that surround the city. The forests were dark and huge and, sometimes, bears were spotted in them.

I lit a cigarette for myself. It was raining hard. Suddenly, I saw something on the side of the road. I drove very slowly and stopped. Who else was awake but me?

It was no bear but an imposing lion!

"Vlasti, you're hallucinating!" At first I wanted to get out of the car, but then I waited. The lion came out of the bushes and it came closer and closer. Then he turned around and disappeared.

The rain had stopped. I smoked another cigarette, and finally, at four o'clock in the morning, I saw a sign, Ogulin 4 km.

In the hotel the receptionist, also a chess player, was still awake. A comfortable bed was waiting for me...

Late morning breakfast. The coffee was excellent. I opened the paper and what do I see? The lion from last night. A lion escaped from the Circus Sarrasani. It is somewhere in the surrounding woods. Look out!

I had a long breakfast. I knew that the local chess players were already preparing for the event. But I often had to interrupt the simul. Playing on 30 boards in Yugoslavia was a lot. And the lion was always with me. I slept very little in the the night after the simul and the next morning I left Ogulin very early – in the opposite direction!

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer

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Vlastimil Hort was born January 12, 1944, in Kladno, Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s he was one of the world's best players and a World Championship candidate. In 1979 he moved to West Germany where he still lives. Hort is an excellent blindfold player, a prolific author and a popular chess commentator.