Hort stories: Impressions of a new senior (I)

by Vlastimil Hort
7/24/2018 – The World Senior Team Championships was on Jon Speelman's mind recently, and now it's Vlastimil Hort's turn. Hort was born in 1944 and initially wanted to wait until he reached his eighties before starting to play in senior tournaments. However, friends convinced him to try it earlier and he took part in Radebeul. He enjoyed the time and was happy to meet a lot of old colleagues and friends. | Photos in the report: Karsten Wieland

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A rookie at the World Seniors

"Come on, Vlasty, give it a try and join us!" When I heard these words I listened attentively. Why?  I have known Bodo Schmid since I played and worked as a trainer in Porz. My former teammate is firm but fair. He tried to bring a strong team to the World Senior Team Championships in Radebeul. With Robert Hübner and me as top players. Yes, that would have been fine, and I believe that Germany 1 with a line-up of 1. Hübner 2. Hort 3. Schmid 4. Buchal would have had good chances for a place on the podium. Bodo had cast his net of persuasion very wide. We have known each other for more than 40 years, and Bodo and Robert have known each other even longer. That is our chess triangle. Robert and Vlasty? We played our first two games at the team match CSSR vs West Germany in Bamberg 1968 (result 1:1).

"I do not work anymore and I do have much more time for chess now," Bodo tried to lure me into playing. Should I start playing senior chess a bit earlier than I had planned? I knew that the World Senior Team Championships were played in two groups: 50+ and 65+. However, I had always planned to wait until I reached my eighties before starting there… And of course, I knew that I would not become world champion anymore.

But still! The team Germany 1 was tempting. Real chess mates, the chess past we shared, and maybe a few years of a shared chess future were crucial factors when I thought about the offer.

Germany 1

I knew Stephan Buchal from my time in Germany's premier league, the Bundesliga, and I had also heard about Jürgen Haakert. Only our board four, Ulrich Schulze, was a dark horse for me. In his efforts to win Robert Hübner for Germany 1 Bodo Schmid tried all his powers of persuasion and each and everything. My wife Brigitte would also have been happy to see Robert in Radebeul. The two always have spirited conversations about literature and about everything interesting there is besides chess. In vain, in vain.

"Robert, all three of us respect your stand and your decision. But from what I know about Bodo he will try again and again in the future, after all, you never know... I once heard a stupid remark: "As the eunuchs say — you have to try and try again!" Here I would like to thank Mr. Gerhard Maiwald. Finally, a chess official to my gusto!

The tournament hall

Curious like a cat I arrived at the scene of the crime, the Radisson Blu Hotel in Radebeul. Suddenly, forgotten memories came back again. Who, apart from me, is walking on a stick there? It was Andreas Dückstein with his Ilse. At the Chess Olympiad 1958 in Munich, the several times Austrian champion won against the reigning world champion Mikhail Botvinnik. Dückstein was born August 2nd, 1927 in Budapest and was one of the oldest participants in Radebeul. Still playing with 91 years of age! A chess phenomenon! 

Andreas Dückstein (right)

Back then, his game in the style of a world champion went around the world.


Some time ago I regularly appeared on the German TV show "Schach der Grossmeister" (Grandmaster Chess) and since then I have been well-known on the scene. People still talk to me about this popular show. In Radebeul, too. But no, unfortunately, I cannot explain to seniors known or unknown to me why the series did not continue. I, too, regret that very much.

"A pity, the audience ratings all over Europe were not bad at all, and many chess fans guard videos of the many years in which the show was on like the apple of their eye."

Whatever, the show is gone and we are still here. And tomorrow we will face each other at the board.

My Brigitte is right when she says: "Hic Rhodus, hic salta."

Alexander Münninghoff = Sascha

We now communicate in a mix of Russian, German, and English. Our first meeting is quite a while ago — it was 1961, at the World Junior Championship in The Hague. Back then he was only an enthusiastic spectator. Time, where have you gone? Oddly enough, I still remembered the game Zuidema-Hort from this tournament. I lost and failed to qualify for the finals. Another chess relationship also dates back to this tournament, the one to Dr. Helmut Pfleger.


A World champion's guide to the Petroff

The great popularity of the Petroff Defence at the highest level has attracted general attention as strong players employ this opening with great success and with both colours. Unfortunately, the opinion of the Petroff as a sterile drawish opening seems to be firmly implanted in many minds. The author tries to dispel these myths and examines the most popular lines and provides a large number of ideas that will enable you to play Petroff successfully, with either colour.


I could not really focus on that tournament. My belated puberty and Amsterdam's red-light district definitely help to explain why I came to fall apart.

Germany 1 versus England 1

Mr. Robert Bellin, a likeable opponent. And he is absolutely certain: "Yes, we once played before. In Hastings 1975-76." "No, sorry, Mister Bellin, I cannot at all remember." A Nimzo-Indian he said it was. The game completely vanished from my memory. Like a stone who sank in the deep sea, leaving no traces.


Stewart Reuben, 81 years of age, time really passes quickly. Basically, you are always in time-trouble, your whole life. The last time we met was at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden 2008. His thoughtful hospitality during my performances in England was very pleasant and I still remember it well. He was the one who took me to Wimbledon and who used his mathematical understanding to introduce me to the fine art of playing poker. At that time his mother was still alive, and I had the chance to meet her when I was visiting.

We gave us some time to admire the good old times. "No, Vlasty, I no longer play poker, I grew old and would only lose money." "Yes, Stewart, chess is better, and not a gambling game," I replied. His playing strength in poker — grandmasterly! We probably met first in 1961 in the CSSR, where he was with a student's team. Today, our topics of conversation are: better chess than Brexit! Who will be the next FIDE President? "Does Nigel Short even have the ghost of a chance?," I want to know. Always glad to see you, Stewart!

After the tournament I am standing outside of the Radisson Blu Hotel, waiting for a taxi. Another meeting. We have not seen each other for ages, but before that we played a number of games against each other. One of them at the tournament Polanica Zdroj 1967 and he was difficult to beat. Real German stubbornness. One glance and his Saxonian accent and I know that it is IM Heinz Liebert.


"Heinz, you survived the GDR? I also escaped the red exposure in the CSSR." We quickly agree: health is what really counts. Cheers to that, dear Heinz.

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer



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.


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