Hort stories — part 2

by Vlastimil Hort
1/5/2018 – 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 more... | Photo: André Schulz

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Vlastimil Hort: Stories and Memories

Continued from Part 1

Sometimes the chess clock runs very quickly. But my night in London from December 25th to December 26th, which I spent under a fir tree, was endless and very, very cold.

"Your passport, please!" I was still half asleep and I was freezing terribly. My traces in the snow must have betrayed me. Two imposing bobbies wanted to see my papers. Apparently, they had never seen a Czech passport before. After convincing themselves that I was not a criminal they offered help. I explained my misery. At 0.30 a.m. I was invited to the police car and we drove to the next police station. Finally a warm room! I was offered a pot with warm tea and gradually my spirits returned. The friendly bobbies offered me two blankets and a bed in the cell. Heavenly music for my freezing ears!

But no, the policeman did not bring me to the station, this would have been too much of a happy end. But fortunately I was not caught fare-dodging in a fine red London double-decker bus. And my lucky streak continued. I caught the right train to Hastings.

As a spa Hastings is pretty rundown, and for years the English High Society has been meeting at other places. Today, the famous tournament is basically only kept alive by donations and entry prizes. It is tradition!

Since my Christmas adventure in London I like high fir trees with broad inviting branches. No wonder it was hard for me when we had to say goodbye to the white fir in our garden. And readers will understand that I still love to sing "Oh Christmas tree" with a passion.

The continuation of my story will follow, now, please, "keep smiling" for my anecdotes:

4) Pesos through the window

Capablanca Memorial, Havanna 1970. I was lucky and finished first. The first prize was 20,000 Cuban pesos. For chess players back then an astronomically high sum. The official exchange rate was 1.68 Dollars for 1 Peso. However, there was a small hitch. The exchange rate on the black market was quite different — you had to pay 669 Cuban pesos for the smallest dollar bill. My prize suddenly was reduced to about 300 US dollars. And people who were willing to exchange money on the black market often made closer acquaintance with the police. I tried to solve the problem at the Czechoslovakian embassy. If push came to shove I would have been content with Tuzex crowns (foreign currency certicifictes in the GDR) or at least Czechoslovakian crowns.

But I was heavily disappointed. A chess enthusiast from the embassy told me that all Eastern bloc countries could have paved their roads with Cuban pesos… What now? Economically everything was scarce in Cuba. Everything was limited: cigars, rum, and even the Cuba libre in the hotel. There were no car wheels, stockings or tooth paste. I had two days to spend the "astronomical" sum. Out of pity my chess acquaintance Michael Sanchez obtained a couple of cigarette packs and some crocodile leather. Which I thought would breach custom regulations. I spent the last two evenings in the famous "Tropicana" bar. I had the best table and was very generous. "Bésame, bésame mucho". This song was created in 1944 — my year of birth in Havanna. I love this song.

On the day of departure I took a taxi to the airport. "200 pesos", states the taxi-driver who might have hoped for some US dollars. When getting off the taxi I take the big envelope out of my pocket. The driver was speechless when he saw its content. I want to give him the whole envelope but he is confused and refuses vehemently. This leads to a to-and-fro. I am quicker, turn around, and throw my first prize through the open window to the backseat of the taxi. Then I hurry to "Departures". It was my third chess visit in Havanna.

5) I like Budapest

It reminds me of Prague and it is not far from Prague. In 1973 I was invited to a high-level international tournament in Budapest. I also like Grandmaster Andras Adorjan's book Black is O.K.. A jewel among the opening books. Every line is full of dynamics and dynamite. I also like Adorjan's invention "Rainbow chess". A colourful spectrum, Black is not black, but dark. White is not white, but light. It is suitable for children but also pleases adults. The dark blue bishop and the orange rook have charm and beauty.

Rk. Title Name Country 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Pts.
1 GM Efim P Geller
  ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 10.5
2 GM Anatoly Karpov
½   1 1 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 9.5
3 GM Rafael A Vaganian
½ 0   ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 8.5
4 GM Andras Adorjan
0 0 ½   ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 8.5
5 GM Vlastimil Hort
½ 0 ½ ½   0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 0 1 1 ½ ½ 8.5
6 GM Laszlo Szabo
0 ½ ½ ½ 1   ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 8.5
7 GM Istvan Bilek
½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 8.0
8 GM Vladimir S Antoshin
½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½   1 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1 1 8.0
9 GM Istvan Csom
0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0   ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 7.5
10 GM Zoltan Ribli
½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 7.0
11 GM Victor Ciocaltea
½ ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½   1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 6.5
12 GM Gyula Sax
0 0 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 0   0 ½ 1 ½ 6.0
13 GM Dragoljub Velimirovic
½ ½ ½ 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 1   0 ½ 1 6.0
14 GM Hans Joachim Hecht
0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1   1 0 6.0
15 GM Gyozo Victor Forintos
½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0   ½ 5.5
16 GM Levente Lengyel
0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½   5.5

It was raining and I hurried to the tournament hall, my opponent that day was the magician with Black, A.A. I wanted to use the opportunity to ask him about his "Rainbow chess". Back then the games were usually analysed afterwards. A comfortable analysis room offered a large variety of treats. My opponent had lost but nevertheless was in a good mood and amenable. We forgot our surroundings until suddenly a strange hairy hand came close to the pieces and a flood of Hungarian words reached my ears. I did not understand a single word and I was irritated, to put it mildly. We could not continue our analysis and I was tempted to utter a polite "Kibitz, shut up".

But what is this? A sharp pain goes through my shin. A.A. kicked me under the table and soon after he also kicks my second leg, whispering: "Kadar, Janos Kadar!" When I raised my head I first saw two imposing gorillas. Of course, after that the kibitz was welcome and had, so to speak, carte blanche.

During the tournament we lived like a bee in clover. A fantastic union hotel, a free choice of menu and on top of that a marvellous view on the wonderful blue Danube.

"Kérem szépen"!

I have always been a follower of Kadar's "goulash commumism"! When I returned to the hotel in the evening a small packet was waiting for me at the reception, containing a Barackpálinka (apricot brandy). The sender, our "unknown" kibitz, apparently liked our analysis!

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6) "Hombre, que has hecho"

"Yo voy organisar todo." We shook hands and the simultaneous tour in Spain was agreed upon. After the tournament in Madrid 1973 the Spanish Grandmaster Roman Toran had approached me with this idea. The financial conditions were okay for me, though his were better — but I did not mind.

"There are only two important people you have to make allowances for", Roman asked. "The 'Alcalde' (the mayor) and the 'hombre de tresoro' (the treasurer)."

Obviously I always had to care of the stronger players and sometimes also of the two VIPs. That was okay for me because I saw all the sights of the Iberian peninsula, from Barcelona to Malaga and then again the interior up to Sevilla. The tour practically was a lucky streak. But then it happened. I was not fully focused and mixed up "Tablero dieciséis" (16) and "Tablero diecisiete" (17). 

"Hombre, que has hecho?", (Man, what did you do?) Roman was complaining. The day was ruined. There was no banquet, the notables excused themselves. Roman had to fight hard for his traveling expenses. The very same evening the chess vagabonds moved on in their old Mercedes…

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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