Boris Spassky 2016 interview, second part

Jun 11, 2016, 2:39 PM |

What more was stolen?

VCR, some clothes. They tore up the wallpapers - perhaps they thought that I was hiding something behind them. Though the saddest loss is the photo archive. The photos were thrown into a bathtub, and someone poured detergent over them. I had five packs of photos, they were all opened. I've managed to restore roughly a half of the photos, and had to throw away all that remained. I was sure that my flat was robbed with KGB's blessing. I told some friends about that, adding, "Now I know I have to go abroad". Soon, I was called up to Lubyanka.

By whom?

A colonel Bobkov. He admonished me, "Why, comrade Spassky, are you suspecting us? We are a reputable organization, we don't rob houses. We were involved with you precisely one time - when we sent our man to Reykjavik to examine the chairs. And you were most probably robbed by your buddy."


Well, there was some henchman. Behaved like a felon. We met in some company...

How did you allow such a man to get so close?

Because I was a fool! I lived alone in Moscow, and this fellow was quite persuasive. Tolya Romashin was perplexed: "How can you keep company with such people?" Some time later, we have accidentally met in Moscow. He asked me, "So, Boris, did they find the burglar?" I laughed. "I was told the burglar was you." He didn't answer. OK, that was another lesson.


Who came up with your nickname "Sahovsky Pushkin"?

The Yugoslavians. For beautiful games. I value art in chess, it's something very sublime to me. Do you remember Evgeny Onegin? "And Lensky, in confusion, captures his own Rook with the pawn..."

Is it true that you know Evgeny Onegin by heart?

Onegin and many more Pushkin's poems. I don't, you know, sit and learn. It's enough to read something once to get a memory imprint. Like Paul Morphy, who knew Louisiana's entire code of laws by heart. People would ask him to recite a random page, and he would answer immediately. His family was amazed. "Why do you even need to play chess? Perform in a circus..."

Are you one of those grandmasters who remember all your games?

No. But if I give a simultaneous display, say, at 35 boards, I can quickly restore any game, from the first move to the last. People used to try and cheat. I would approach them, and they would suddenly say, "Check and mate." "Wait a second, I'll show the entire game." And the cheats were quickly exposed.

Did you ever play with amateurs in planes or trains?

I did. I was just a grandmaster back then, going back from Moscow to Leningrad. A girl sat in my compartment. Then some man entered. "Would you like to play chess?" he asked. "Why not? But I'm warning you, don't hope to win." "We shall see." We set up the board. And I proceeded to utterly demolish him, again and again.

Was the girl impressed with your successes?

Not in the slightest. But the man was completely out of his mind. When we came to Leningrad, he would follow me at the streets for a long time. He exclaimed, "You have enormous chess talent!" I nodded, "Well, you're not the first who tells me that..."

Do you still play chess?

A bit.

With computer?

No, it's more interesting over the board. I set up pieces, remember my old games. I have a compact magnetic chess set. It's handy, they don't fall off. I've also started a huge analytical work. I'm writing about my chess career. I hope to finish it before I die.

And what do you read?

Russian history books. Andrei Fursov and Nikolai Starikov have a very interesting take on many events from our country's life, and their writing is lively. Very fascinating! I'm a staunch monarchist, I've met some Romanovs in Paris.

Do you believe in God?

There are two kinds of chess players - believers and atheists. Alekhine, Larsen, Korchnoi are among the latter... But I'm not as sure about Fischer - he was too ambivalent.

What group do you belong to?

I call myself a "half-believer". Sometimes I'm a firm believer, sometimes I become an atheist. Do you know that joke about two chess players? Apostles Peter and Paul tell them, "Chess is a sin, so you don't get into heaven. But you can choose between socialist and capitalist hell." "Of course we choose socialist hell!" "Why?" "There's always a shortage of either firewood or cauldrons!"


We wished Spassky good health as we went away. Boris Vasilyevich smiled slyly: "Don't worry, boys! I'm keeping up with perimeter defence!"