Facing The 1985 USSR Champion and a Bat
Batman and bats. Photo: Edtadeo/DevianArt.

Facing The 1985 USSR Champion and a Bat


GM Mikhail Gurevich (@GurevichMikhail) is a chess legend. Born on February 22, 1959 (62 years old) in Kharkiv, USSR (now Ukraine territory), and later naturalized Belgian, this GM have great achievements in his curriculum.  For example, he placed first at the Reggio Emilia chess tournament in 1989, ahead of GM Viswanathan Anand and GM Vassily Ivanchuk, and he won the Belgium Championship 2001 with a perfect score of 9/9. He peaked top 5 in the world rankings at some point. He is also a French Opening model player, so if you´re studying the French or want to learn this opening, I highly recommend taking a look into his games.

Besides all that, the achievement that impressed me the most after being ranked number 5 in the world, is his victory in the 1985 USSR Championship.

During this Championship, GM Gurevich wasn´t a GM yet and surprised everyone scoring 11 points out of 19.  Two players also reached the same score, GM Viktor Gravikov, and GM Alexander Chernin, so, according to the rules, they had a play-off to determine the champion.

To add to the drama, all the games played between the three Soviet masters in the play-off ended in a draw. So, Mikhail Gurevich was awarded the title, as he had the best tiebreaker coefficients. 

GM Mikhail Gurevich. Photo: Eric Schiller.

The reason I was so impressed is that the USSR Championship is regarded as one the most difficult and prestigious national championships of all time.

To give you an idea of the caliber of the difficulty of this tournament, other notable players who took part and won include: ex-World Champions Alexander Alekhine (1920), Mikhail Botvinnik (1931, 1933, 1939, 1944, 1945, 1952), Vassily Smyslov (1949), Mikhail Tal (1957, 1958, 1972, 1974, 1978), Tigran Petrosian (1959, 1961, 1969), Boris Spassky (1961), Anatoly Karpov (1976, 1988), and Garry Kasparov (1981, 1988).

Well, this is all very understandable when we see that many traditional chess countries used to be part of the Soviet Republic and still are ranked on the top 10 countries by FIDE lists, such as Russia (ranked 1st), Ukraine (ranked 5th), Armenia (ranked 6th), and Azerbaijan (ranked 7th).

A Soviet Chess Championship playing hall. Photo: Public Domain.

I had some encounters with GM Mikhail Gurevich, here on  We played 10 games, with the overall score is +5, -3, =2 in the GM´s favor.

But, in the last of these encounters, during the game, in a balanced position, a bat entered my room and frightened me. The bat flew all over the place, and I quickly offered a draw while I looked out for some object to try to expel it off the room. The draw offer was obviously declined, as there was no reason for my stronger opponent to accept it.

Flying bat. Photo: Rudmer Zwerver/

I ended up grabbing a broom that I usually use to sweep my room and pointed it at the bat. Fortunately, we didn´t need to prolong the struggle, as the bat probably thought a chess player’s blood wasn´t worth it and left (maybe he just wanted to deliver a game challenge, but saw he was late and didn´t want to wait for my game with GM Gurevich to end).

Well, I came back to the game and played on. However, I was still overwhelmed with what had just happened, so I played my remaining moves in a state of shock.

This is the position where the bat came into my room. I had 1:58 minutes in the clock, while GM Gurevich had 1:44. said I had 1:22 minutes when I made my move, so, I spent 36 seconds dealing with the bat instead of the GM, which is much less than what I recall from my memories. Probably I was so overwhelmed by the bat that in my mind those 36 seconds seemed like an eternity.

Well, it was a 3|0 blitz game, with a lot of mistakes from both sides and mutual time trouble. However, besides being shocked and losing a winning position, I still find this “bat” situation very funny. Imagine playing a chess legend, a situation where you want to concentrate and give your best, and, suddenly, out of nowhere, a bat enters your room and freaks you out.

I just wanted to share this fun experience with you. I hope you enjoyed it.

A special thanks to @Copernicus9 for the usual assistance.