Mikhail Tal. "When Pieces Come Alive", part 2

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2. Tournaments, meetings, memories…


In 1980, at the Tilburg tournament, all players received a questionnaire, and one of the questions was, “What competition do you remember the most?” Not all grandmasters answered immediately – they had to sift through their memories. A chess player’s life is a long succession of tournaments and matches. It was interesting to note that nobody mentioned matches in their answers. There’s nothing strange about that: tournaments are much more interesting!

Don’t think that if a dozen grandmasters gathered in one city, all they do is move chess pieces. I’ve read the short story “Marabou”, and though I like Kuprin, I have to disagree with the writer. I can’t imagine where did he see such boring and mundane people. I’d never met such players. At least, modern tournaments are very different than those described in his story!

If Kuprin would miraculously visit that Tilburg tournament, for instance, he wouldn’t see only heads inclined over the board. He’d see a very interesting pool tournament that was won by Anatoly Karpov and a vocal competition that was organized by Lajos Portisch, an avid singer, and won by the author of this article.

The events in one of non-playing days would just stun the great writer… In that day, twelve grandmasters wore boots and jerseys with FIDE insignia. They have accepted an official challenge from the local soccer veterans’ team. There was a huge billboard at the stadium, and a cameraman was around to film this unusual match. The Dutch players offered us two goal odds, but the proud servants of Kaissa declined.

It may seem incredible, but there were many talented football players among the “marabous”. The Swedish grandmaster Ulf Andersson who played for amateur teams in Stockholm rammed the veterans’ defence. Vlastimil Hort who just recently played for Prague students’ team showed some nice touches at the left wing, and Boris Spassky used his sheer athleticism to dominate in the midfield…

I could tell you a lot about that match. But I fear to veer off the chess theme. So I’ll just add that the match’s result was a sensation. Chess players won 3-2!

One of my friends told me that I’ve played in 133 tournaments and matches since I became a grandmaster. So it was quite difficult for me to answer that question, “What competition do you remember the most?” There was a lot of tournaments that left good memories. Reykjavik, Tallinn, the Star Tournament in Montreal… What to choose? And then it came to me. I took my pencil and, without hesitation, wrote “Portoroz!”

That was my first ever international tournament that played an exceptional role in my life. Even now, I still remember the happy bustle before the departure. My mother was packing shirts, I was packing my thin notebooks with games and theoretical developments. Then Alexander Koblencs dropped by and put the notebooks in his briefcase. “I’ll take care of them,” he says, “you’ll lose them anyway!”

The Portoroz tournament began with nervous debates between players and FIDE representatives. How many players progress into the Candidates’ Tournament? How many players from one country? Two years before the tournament, when FIDE discussed that question, they decided to let top five players progress to the Candidates’ Tournament, and no-one seemed to disagree. Little attention was paid to a completely non-chess paragraph of that decision: only two players from one country can be admitted.

I think the reason of such indifference was simple – the Interzonal was so far away! But when it actually took place, the grandmasters started to worry. There were almost a dozen players that could potentially advance! Even if we’d exclude Fischer (no-one took him seriously then), there were Gligoric, Olafsson, Szabo, Benko, Larsen and the Soviet four among the favourites.

The most difficult situation was for the Soviet players – Bronstein, Petrosian, Averbakh and me.

If only two players from one country can advance, then for which place should we struggle? For instance, you could finish third… But two Soviet players could finish above you, and you won’t be admitted to the Candidates’ Tournament. In this case, a Danish or Icelandic player can advance even if he finished sixth, and you won’t advance despite getting the third prize… So only the second place guaranteed qualification. With top five advancing!

But we couldn’t do much more than make some noise, write a joint protest to FIDE and start playing. Perhaps I was the first one to calm down: I certainly didn’t hope to give battle to Botvinnik! And so the question “At which stage do I fail to qualify?” wasn’t too important for me…

I won’t say I thought that I played weaker than the others. No! And again, no! I must admit that I never had an inferiority complex in my chess playing days. Even when I failed miserably! But I had no Napoleonic plans before that Interzonal either. To say shortly, both seventh and first place wouldn’t surprise me.

Foreign tournaments always give new and interesting experiences. There was more than enough of that in Portoroz. After the cold Baltic Sea, there I saw the blue and warm Adriatic Sea. And the resort itself was wonderful. I liked the streets with sudden turns and steep slopes, I liked the beaches with colourful umbrellas… I once asked an old newspaper man, what day of the week was today. The elder Yugoslav answered, “It’s a resort, friend Tal, it’s a resort, so there’s always Sunday…”

My first international tournament also gave me many chess acquaintances. Svetozar Gligoric met us – he, together with Aleksandar Matanovic, represented the hosting country. Both were helping to organize the participants’ everyday life, and they looked very concerned. Gligoric was considered a veteran even then, despite being only 35. The repeated Yugoslavian champion played in his first World Championship qualification in 1948. At Portoroz, it was his third Interzonal.

He met me and Koblencs at the hotel’s steps, wearing an elegant light-coloured costume. And I couldn’t help but think that the mysterious grandmaster Centovic, the hero of Zweig’s Schachnovelle, looked like that. Cordially greeting my coach (they already knew each other), Gligoric turned to me. “It’s your first time in Yugoslavia, isn’t it? I bet it won’t be the last one.”

Then he said concernedly, “You’ve got half an hour to change your clothes. And please come to the dance hall right after that.” “And what should we do there?” Koblencs answered in surprise. But Gligoric led us to a bright poster that said:

“Today, in the central hall of Adriatica Hotel, there’ll be a dance party for world’s outstanding chess players.”

“We have nowhere to retreat”, I said to Alexander Naftalievich who wanted to decline. “Or else, we can’t be considered outstanding players!”

Wouldn’t I like to film that evening and watch that footage now! We’d see a fit and neat Yuri Averbakh and a slim and young Tigran Petrosian dancing rock’n’roll, which was in fashion then. And Fridrik Olafsson, the future FIDE President, was then a lean young man who constantly adjusted his fair bushy hair that covered his eyes when he danced twist. But the hero of the night was surely Rodolfo Cardoso from Philippines. The good-looking swarthy youngster (he was 21 years old at the time) charmed both the Yugoslavian girls and female tourists. When all party participants were already tired and retired to their rooms, Rodolfo was still there, defending the honour of “outstanding chess players”.

There were many things written about the Interzonal in Yugoslavian press. They also translated articles from foreign newspapers. In one compilation, I saw the photo of Robert Fischer, and below, there was a text where an Austrian journalist compared him with Mozart, and an Italian one compared him with Paganini… Such flattering comparisons could impress anybody, let alone 15 years old boy who just achieved his first successes. Just a year and a half ago, during the USSR Championship in Moscow, at the last page of the Bulletin dedicated to tournament’s closing, there was a small news story. It was perhaps the first time when Russian readers learned the name of a young American chess player. In this story, it was said that Robert Fischer, the 13 years old U.S. youth champion, finished second in the Eastern States Championship.

But there was an Interzonal tournament at Portoroz, not an Eastern States Championship! How would he play here? We knew that Fischer didn’t waste this year and a half. He played anywhere he could. First, he defeated Rodolfo Cardoso 6-2. The Filipino player finished fifth at the youth world championship, and Fischer didn’t play, so he wanted to see if he could become a champion. After the match, Fischer won all three U.S. titles: first he won the youth championship, then the U.S. Open, and finally the U.S. Championship, ahead of Reshevsky. Such a succession of good results (though not of a very high level) could be overestimated by a young chess player. And now, he gets compared to Paganini… Long story short, I wasn’t too surprised when I heard Fischer’s press conference.

“Do you think you’d be able to finish in top ten?”

“Are you kidding me? I’ll surely finish in top five; I plan to finish second, behind Bronstein”.

“But there are eleven grandmasters in the tournament!”

“I can count.”

Then Robert explained that he had to win only five games and draw all others to achieve his aim. He was a bit vexed that the Yugoslav journalists didn’t understand him right, so he added that there are several so-called “fishes” (an American term for weak players) in the tournament, and he’ll surely defeat them.

“And what if you lose a game?”

“Well, then I’ll have to win six games!”

The interview was met with skeptical smiles from the other participants of the Interzonal, but when Robert started to methodically fulfill his plan, his competitors started to become concerned…

But let’s not jump ahead. And Fischer wasn’t the only player in the Interzonal. The first games already showed that all the players were determined to win. I’ve been playing against De Greiff from Columbia and watching the game between Gligoric and Bronstein. David Ionovich played an interesting novelty, but then thought very long. Four hours passed, but they made only 18 moves. And when only three or four minutes were left, the grandmasters rolled up their sleeves… It certainly didn’t help that the organizers bought some bizarre clocks for the Interzonal, we couldn’t tell how many seconds are there before the flag falls.

The game continued by the principle, “you move here, I move there”… and the effect of the novelty vanished like smoke. This handwork continued for several minutes, the referees watched them intently. Almost everyone stopped their games and gathered around. To everyone’s amazement, they made all the required moves, and nobody blundered. When the adjournment time came, there was a draw on the board. But in the morning, both partners complained that they couldn’t get any sleep without sleep pills.

I showed this example to illustrate just how nervous the games can be in an Interzonal. Portoroz, of course, wasn’t an exception, but it was my first experience of a strict qualifying tournament. I was young and even liked that. After a disappointing mistake against Matanovic in round 4 (I touched a pawn that I didn’t want to move) I had only one thing to do – immediately compensate that defeat with a win in the next round. And so, in the next game I demonstratively directed my pieces towards Miroslav Filip’s kingside. It didn’t give me anything for a long time. My partner defended very well, and then offered a draw, and with a good reason. What should I do? I saw a Bishop sacrifice, but then I could even lose. In chess, it often happens that the only way to win lies on a narrow road over the abyss. Not everyone likes to walk there… I quickly persuaded myself that I had to sacrifice. And it went very well after that. Miroslav was unnerved, made several wrong moves and was crushed by an irresistible attack.

This win helped me to regain confidence. And when I won against Rosseto and Benko, I’ve even started to think, “But what if…” This “if” started to look even more real when I took the whole point against the young Bent Larsen, who played very unstably in Portoroz. After losing to me, Bent devastated Petrosian in the next round, who never lost a game for two thirds of the tournament. And so I overtook him.

At this time, FIDE reacted to the collective letter: the number of qualifying places was increased to six, with only three players from one country (that meant USSR) advancing to the Candidates’ Tournament. I qualified after winning a funny game against Oscar Panno who was of the same age as me. Despite his youth, he was considered one of the stronger players in the tournament. And there was every reason for that.

At the age of 18 he won the youth world championship, and he became a grandmaster when he was 20 years old. Three years before Portoroz, he successfully played in an Interzonal and qualified to the Candidates’ Tournament. And now Panno was close to repeat that feat, but I stopped him. At the move 23, there was an incredible position on the board. Behind my queenside pawns, peacefully standing on the second rank, hid two rogue black pieces – Knight at a1 and Bishop at b1. Those rogues just captured my Rook and Knight… And I started a reckless attack on the kingside. For that, I sacrificed even more material – another Rook and a Bishop. I had only a Queen left, but it drove the Black King for a very dangerous walk… although White had no forced win then. Under time pressure Panno played very calmly, balancing on the edge. But he made a mistake in play-off… I can’t say that this game was integral, it looked more like swinging balance. But still, it was important for place distribution, and the whole audience hall watched it intently. The game ultimately got an award as the most interesting game of the tournament.

In one of the holidays, the town officials organized a very interesting festival that instantly relieved the players’ stress. First, the grandmasters watched the final donkey race in the Adriatic Coast championship. There were 21 donkeys, and this shocked the players… because there were 21 of us in the tournament. And when the donkey number 7 finished first, we started to shake hands with the grandmaster who had number 7, saying that it was a good omen.

And then, one of the organizers approached the chess players. “You all have a good sense of beauty. So I’m asking you to join the jury that will determine the most beautiful woman of this festival.” And we started to work very seriously. This work took us a long time. Quarter-finals, semifinals, final… And so, three stunningly beautiful women made it to the “Candidates’ Tournament”. And the grandmasters’ opinions divided. Only Rodolfo Cardoso applauded all of them with equal enthusiasm. When he was asked to maintain the order and express his official opinion, he said, “I’d choose all three…”

Rodolfo was the hero of another competition that determined a counterpart to “Miss Portoroz” – “Mister Chess”. A charming and sociable young man won overwhelmingly, but after that success, he couldn’t play any good for several rounds: he was celebrating his victory, accompanied by numerous fan girls. Rodolfo’s results suffered, and he fell to the bottom of the table.

Once, during the dinner, Fischer sat beside me and told me confidentially that he would win tomorrow. “And who do you play against?” “I play Cardoso.” I knew he would win, but decided to tease him anyway and asked, “But why are you so sure of win?” “Well, Cardoso is a fish!”

Others were also glad to eat that “fish”. This attitude towards Rodolfo who seemed to give up at playing was shared by David Bronstein, ever-present at Candidates’ Tournaments. In the last round, he had to play against Cardoso, and I suspect that David Ionovich was sure that he’d get the whole point even before the game…

As we learned later, the grandmaster could qualify even if he drew that game. But games in the last round are very similar to navigation in the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. Cardoso played as though his life depended on that win, even though he couldn’t finish higher than 19th. And Bronstein, who never lost in three Interzonals, played inertly, as though he was waiting for Cardoso to prove that he really was a fish.

I remember how David Ionovich absently walked away from the board, took me by the sleeve and asked quietly, “Misha, is that true?” I said nothing, fully understanding his state of mind. And he asked again, “Is that true that I lost to Cardoso?” and then, without waiting for an answer, started towards the door…

In that day, I made a rational draw with Sherwin that guaranteed me first place. Gligoric finished second, Petrosian and Benko tied for third. Last vacancies went to Olafsson and Fischer who strengthened his play during the tournament and fulfilled his promise to the journalists. A fifteen years-old grandmaster! No-one could do that before. Everyone felt that this rookie had a bright future…

Twenty-one years later, during the Riga Interzonal, the Danish grandmaster Larsen, his hair already grizzling, approached me and said, “You know, there’s only two of us left who played in Portoroz! Do you remember how cocky that tournament was? It really stands out among other Interzonals. Three players from it later became world champions. You – in the ’60, Petrosian in the next cycle, Fischer – nine years later…”

Yes, much water has flowed under the bridges since then… In Riga, I met another participant of the “Battle of Portoroz” among the visiting grandmasters – Miroslav Filip, against whom I won a very important game then. I immediately remembered my Bishop sacrifice at h6… Chess players remember such details for a very long time! Miroslav, over fifty years old then, was the arbiter of the Riga Interzonal. But he spent very little time behind the judge’s table. Filip’s tall figure usually appeared near a board with an interesting position. He’d look at the board for much longer than judges usually do. The international grandmaster didn’t give way to the international arbiter yet! All in all, Filip played in the Interzonals four times, twice reached the Candidates’ stage. Not many arbiters have such a record!

Since Portoroz, I managed to play in six Interzonals… This is quite a few, but not a record. The leader is the unbending optimist Bent Larsen, who made his seventh effort to reach the Candidates’ stage in Riga. I must say that he was successful four times. Alas, the sympathetic Danish grandmaster never achieved right to play a World Championship match. And it’s very unlikely that he would fulfill his dream now.

But Larsen was very modest when he named only the future world champions among the Portoroz players with bright future. Six years after his modest debut in Portoroz, Larsen won the Amsterdam Interzonal, and three years later, he brilliantly won at Sousse and qualified for the Candidates’ stage again. In these years, Larsen was deservedly considered the strongest Western chess player. Impressive results gave him the right to movee Fischer to the board two when the World Team’s lineup was determined before the match against USSR.

By the way, Larsen has many friends in our country. His popularity among the Soviet chess lovers is immense. In Moscow, he achieved his first, sensational success. It happened in 1956 at the Chess Olympics, where the Denmark team suddenly made it to the main final. Pitted against the strongest players in the world, the young master from Copenhagen showed amazing play. Very intense, for instance, was his game against Botvinnik, where the world champion saved his half-point with great effort.

Larsen’s success had become the greatest sensation at the Olympiad: he took first place at board one! Ahead of Botvinnik, Gligoric, Szabo, Najdorf. Even then, we could see that the Danish player made very few draws. A grandmaster who won that title in Moscow – that’s quite an achievement for any chess player.

Since then, the Prince of Denmark – he got this nickname from affectionate fans – was (and is!) considered favourite of any tournament, he’s always very interesting both as a chess player and as a human. I can’t remember a time when Larsen gave up his knightly principles. He never showed fear at the board, he always experimented bravely, he was always very far from egoistic rationalism. He had his share of failures – but he never let it show. When he was at his best, he could win several strong tournaments in row.

The history of World Championship is made not only by the champions, but also by those who competed with them. The chess history will surely name Bent Larsen among the extra-class grandmasters, who could really threaten the champions, while in their prime. And not only him. The sporting paths of the “always second” Paul Keres or, say, David Bronstein who was half a point away from becoming a world champion, were equally brilliant.

After the inception of 3-year World Championship cycle, the struggle for the chess crown had become even more sharp and dramatic. New stars lighted up and died out. But they didn’t shine on an empty sky! Such grandmasters as I. Boleslavsky, P. Keres, S. Reshevsky, L. Portisch, E. Geller, S. Gligoric, L. Stein served the art of chess along with the champions… Their sporting fate wasn’t always bright, but everyone of them made the chess world richer and conquered the hearts of chess fans.

There’s an argument that lasts for a long time: is chess an art? Or maybe just a game? There are many more games, equally interesting and even more spectacular… This argument started a long time ago, but it becomes scholastic at times. And still, when I see a chess player who calculates how many draws he has to make to confirm his rating, I want to ask him a question: is chess an art? Even at the high-ranking tournaments, we can see games played very skillfully and technically, but so boring that it’s too difficult to watch them, let alone adore. At the very least, art has nothing to do with such games.

In my student years, I saw a quote by Karl Marx that could be easily attributed to chess. He wrote that the object of art… creates the public that is able to understand the art and appreciate its beauty.

But if a chess game turns the fans away, can it be considered a work of art? Of course not, it’s just hackwork. But there are games that delight even the most captious connoisseurs. Such games that reached the level of artwork are the real calling card of chess.

And I remember a witty suggestion by the Lvov-based grandmaster Oleg Romanishin: “We should ask all the players to fill the tables before the tournament with the results they desire. If A wants to draw with B, and in B’s prognosis, we see that he wants to draw with A, then A won’t play B. The arbiters will just declare their game drawn without play.”

This suggestion could save a lot of time and resources. And the tournament books could become more concise and interesting. But now, the sporting side of chess is prevailing over the artistic side. “His majesty Result” captured all the key positions: almost every tournament is qualifying, and your score is always counted against your Elo rating. And Elo isn’t considered with the artistic side of chess. They count points and half-points there…

But do we have any solution? Let’s imagine that the arbiters declare after the tournament’s ending, “Grandmaster A scored 12 points, but we award the first prize to Grandmaster B, who scored only 11 points, but his play was much more interesting! And the second place goes to Master C; he’s behind on points even more, but his combinations and attacks were obviously stronger than A’s…”

It’s not hard to image what chaos and enmity could ensue, how the results could become entirely dependent on personal likes and dislikes! “No please,” the chess players themselves would say, “let’s get back to points score.” And they will be right. Chess is, above all, a game, a sport that works by the principle, “You beat him, or he beats you.”

But what can be done to reconcile the artistic and sporting sides of chess – the game is senseless without either of them? A journalist, author of interesting chess books Viktor Vasilyev in his article “Is chess art an art?” («Искусстволишахматноеискусство?») suggested a system of creative coefficients that could accurately determine which player was more creative than others. He refers to the competent opinion of Mikhail Botvinnik, who thought it was possible to create some objective criteria for evaluation of creative devotion of each player.

These criteria could help to determine a winner where his majesty Sport fails. For instance, where several players tie on points. In that case, a competent jury could (also Vasilyev’s suggestion) award the top place to the bravest, most devoted knight of the chess art.

It’s fair and at least interesting. Such measure would obviously decrease the rate of boring draws, make games more interesting to watch and attract new chess lovers to the tournament halls.

But now, it’s just a suggestion, and three components of chess – sport, science and art – aren’t on equal terms. One very strong grandmaster determined the proportion as 50% sport, 30% science and 20% art. Almost like a recipe from pharmacy!

I’d have to argue with the author. There are as many styles and outlooks as there are chess players. One likes to research, other doesn’t like theory and uses his intuition more often, yet another is very rational… So, the “cocktail” should be mixed individually for everyone. For the rationalist, say, the rate might be like that: 70% sport, 20% science and 10% art. And for the players with much fantasy (like Rafael Vaganian or Viktor Kupreichik) the mix would be 20% sport, 10% science and 70% art!

As they say, many men – many minds. And the argument “What chess really is?” will probably last very long.

Chess players don’t think about that at the board. When they make the first move, they think of only one thing: how to win… And how to do that – prosaically or spectacularly – this doesn’t concern anyone at first. A player just plays. But then he comes to a crossroads: to the left, there’s a draw, and to the right, you might lose, but if you risk, there’s an interesting attack with sacrifices and one “quiet”, stunningly brilliant move… Though it’s impossible to calculate this in full, and if your opponent finds a defence, you might as well resign.

The choice depends on player’s character. A rationalist would choose the first way. A fighter with romantic soul will surely chase the blue bird of happiness…

And still, I always remember a passionate, but caustic remark of the grandmaster and chess instructor I. Boleslavsky, addressed to such “hackworkers”. “If a young master thinks of chess as work,” he wrote in an article dedicated to the students’ Olympics, “and finds dominoes more aesthetically pleasing… then there’s no wonder that such players would be considered promising until they retire from chess and concentrate on their favourite game.”

Not everyone has the right to speak in such tone. But Boleslavsky had that right! Everyone who knew this great man remembers that his kindness never stopped him from becoming very unpleasant when it came to defence of the chess art.

I know of many things that prove Boleslavsky wonderful, touching kindness. Once, during the USSR Championship semifinal in Riga, I adjourned a bad position against Bukhuti Gurgenidze. That was the last round game, and it had an important impact on the place determination. In case of draw or me winning (the latter was impossible) Boleslavsky progressed to the final ahead of the Georgian master. If Gurgenidze won, he’d overtake the grandmaster.

Adjourning the game and forgetting about the situation completely, Gurgenidze went straight to Isaak Efremovich’s room… Knowing that he was willing to help any player with analysis, Bukhuti Ivanovich asked Boleslavsky to find a winning plan. The grandmaster did it gladly and very thoroughly. And… couldn’t qualify into the final, for the first time in many years.

I can remember another story. Having overwhelming time deficit and a difficult position, Keres offered Boleslavsky a draw, just on the off-chance. He suddenly agreed. Then people started to ask him why he did that. Isaak Efremovich just laughed:

“If Keres offers a draw in such position, then he really needs it.”

Nevertheless, Boleslavsky played very aggressively. Even in his first USSR Championship he won the audience with brave combinational play. I, for one, never managed to defeat him…

He became world-famous when he won against the American grandmaster R. Fine in the radio match between USSR and USA in autumn 1945. The young Boleslavsky, who was bound to lose to the candidate for world championship, if we believed the world’s sport press, disproved the predictions with a brilliant defence in the first game and an equally brilliant attack in the second one. Boleslavsky’s peak was in the 1950 Candidates’ Tournament, when the grandmaster from Minsk tied for first with Bronstein.

All grandmasters and masters who knew Boleslavsky called him “the chess academician”. Indeed, he had his own developments in almost every opening. There were enough Boleslavsky’s novelties for everyone! He never hid them, he gladly showed them at his lectures and printed in chess magazines. He never liked to keep his home preparations in secret, as opposed to many other players, even those who never invented anything worthy in chess. His openheartedness showed even in such small details as the manner of recording games… Usually he took a school pencil and an eraser to the game, wrote down each move in full algebraic notation, with almost childish calligraphic writing, and if he changed his decision, he’d erase the record accurately. The chess players usually don’t like when partner sees their next move before it’s made, so they hide it under a pen or another game sheet… But Boleslavsky, who didn’t like such stratagems, openly wrote down his moves.

With such character, it’s hard to become a successful chess player, but Boleslavsky didn’t strive for success. But he gladly gifted everyone with his talent and knowledge. He’d helped Bronstein, Smyslov and Petrosian during seven World Championship matches!

I was always stunned by his phenomenal memory. During the Olympics in Golden Sands, when I prepared for the next game, Isaak Efremovich came into my room. The Soviet team coach looked at the position and said immediately, “Bronstein played Ra7 there.” I was just improvising, so I looked at the grandmaster, puzzled.

“Don’t look at me like that, this position occurred in the game Bronstein – Najdorf!”

Then Boleslavsky, seemingly deciding that our argument became too prolonged (he was always very laconic), went out and, a minute later, brought me a book about the Zurich Candidates’ Tournament… Yes, the position was the same!

I must add that he knew dozens of poems by heart and once read Mtsyri to Belorussian woman chess team. And he especially liked Alexander Blok and Sasha Cherny. “For the beauty of their language”, as he used to say.

I met him for the last time in Moscow, at Alekhine Memorial. Isaak Efremovich already looked very ill. Nodding towards a demonstration board, he said, “Look, Misha, what an ugly move! Even if it was the strongest move, I wouldn’t have made it!”

Ones like clarity in chess, others like logic. Boleslavsky liked beauty.

Games mentioned

Bronstein vs. Gligoric

Matanovic vs. Tal

Tal vs. Filip

Rossetto vs. Tal

Tal vs. Benko

Tal vs. Larsen

Larsen vs. Petrosian

Tal vs. Panno

Fischer vs. Cardoso

Cardoso vs. Bronstein

Larsen vs. Botvinnik

Keres vs. Boleslavsky

Fine vs. Boleslavsky

Boleslavsky vs. Fine

Bronstein vs. Najdorf (Boleslavsky pointed out Bronstein's 15th move)