Hort stories — Part 1

by Vlastimil Hort
1/2/2018 – For decades Vlastimil Hort, born in 1944, was one of the world's best players. He played countless tournaments and matches, where he saw chess history in the making and met many chess legends. No wonder he has lots of short stories to share. Here are some of them. | Photo: André Schulz

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Vlastimil Hort: Stories and Memories

Christmas always brings back memories of my first tournament in Hastings tournament, 1967/68. Travelling to Hastings was an adventure. I crossed half of Europe by train and then took the ship from Calais. It was my first encounter with the high seas, and the huge waves had an easy game with my delicate stomach. The tournament in Hastings — which has a longer tradition than any other tournament in the world — usually started on December 26, and when it began my stomach was empty. Unfortunately, my pockets were also empty. I did not have a single coin to spare. The Czechoslovakian Chess Federation had not given me any foreign currency and customs officials were also more than keen to find illegal foreign currency on you. Thus I carefully guarded the few things that guaranteed survival: the tickets that would bring me to Hastings and back and a small suitcase filled with opening lines and provisions.

Paddington bearA question to the readers: did you ever watch the wonderful "Paddington" movies? The little bear only had a small suitcase and a sandwich with orange jam — I had a sandwich with ham from Prague.

But would I arrive in time for the tournament? Well, in 1066 the French made it to Hastings in time. The white cliffs of Dover! Firm ground under the feet! The ship arrived with a huge delay. I quickly jumped on the last train to London. It was very cold and I was alone in a strange and unknown world. Where and how should I find the right train to Hastings in the British metropolis? The train platform in London quickly became empty and behind me the first gates were closing. But I still had to laugh because this evoked memories of the "Iron Curtain".

The temperature dropped and dropped, the Christmas lights in the warm flats went out one by one, the pubs announced their last calls. Minus 10 degrees – what a Christmas! Warm spot - where are you? All textiles from my small suitcase were called into action. Vlastimil, why did you not take another sweater with you? Cold feet! You have to move otherwise the tournament will be played without you! The next train to Hastings left early next morning, at 5.30 am. By now it was getting dark. I was somewhere near Hyde Park Corner but gradually lost my sense of direction. A stately fir was more than welcome. I ran for cover under its big branches, loudly ranting about the stinginess of the Czechoslovakian Chess Federation which let me travel to England without a single penny. In language courses in Prague people used to tell a silly joke: "What is the best exchange?" Answer: "Foreign exchange."

I was freezing miserably. The chess battle of Hastings 1967/68 will probably be fought without the good soldier Schweik. The last will was also missing…

The story will be continued, now, please, just "keep smiling" for my anecdotes:

1) Zeit, not

E. Lasker

Chess player XY is very proud and is having a celebration in his chess club. After all, he won against World Champion Emanuel Lasker (pictured) in a handicap simul.

People queue to congratulate and he is beaming. "Come on, we are curious, show us the game."

Our hero:

"Basically, it was rather easy! Lasker had the white pieces and opened with 1.d2-d4. I replied 1…d7-d6, Lasker went 2.c2-c4, and now I played the sophisticated 2…d6-d5."

But his admirers wanted to know more. "Come on, what happened then?"

The proud winner answered with a mischievous grin: "Nothing — Lasker thought it was my move and quickly lost on time."

Master Class Vol.5: Emanuel Lasker

The name Emanuel Lasker will always be linked with his incredible 27 years reign on the throne of world chess. In 1894, at the age of 25, he had already won the world title from Wilhelm Steinitz and his record number of years on the throne did not end till 1921 when Lasker had to accept the superiority of Jose Raul Capablanca. But not only had the only German world champion so far seen off all challengers for many years, he had also won the greatest tournaments of his age, sometimes with an enormous lead. The fascinating question is, how did he manage that?

2) Spassky's marriages

A comment by Boris Spassky about his marriages:

"All my marriages later reminded me of an ending with opposite-coloured bishops."

I try to imagine the divorce proceedings. Courtroom. If the judge is a chess player who just lost such an endgame on Sunday, he will know what the marriage was about!

3) Sing back

Grandmaster Lubosh Kavalek remembers:

"Sammy Reshevsky was always a difficult opponent, only his time-trouble was nice. But before he came into time-trouble I had to cope with his loud singing. He had an impressive baritone which carried even to the players on the neighbouring boards and disturbed them."

Kavalek went to consult with Arthur Bisguier, who was the arbiter. "What can I do, the guy sings and sings but I do not want to lodge an official protest?"

The referee immediately knew what to do and had good advice: "It's very simple, Lubos, sing back, sing just back!"

In Lone Pine 1974 I had the same experience when playing against Reshevsky. Thank God, Reshevsky's singing was better than his play in time-trouble.

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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