GM Gyula Sax, 1951-2014

GM Gyula Sax, 1951-2014

| 15 | Chess Players

Famous Grandmaster Gyula Sax, several times national champion of Hungary and former Candidates Tournament player, died January 25, 2014 of an apparent heart attack. He was 62.

GM Gyula Sax, 1951-2014 (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Sax also was on the winning Olympiad team of the fantastic upset by Hungary in 1978 in Buenos Aires. His team won first place, overcoming the Soviet dominance of the event.

Consider: save this one event, the USSR won 18 consecutive Olympiads from 1952-1990, not counting the boycotted tournament in 1976. Hungary's team gold was the only break in the streak. Sax went an undefeated +5 =7 -0 and won an individual bronze.

"In those days it was believed that there was no doubt that anyone other than the Soviets would win," said GM Susan Polgar. "It made our chess team very popular. They were called the 'Golden Team.'"

The team was led by GM Lajos Portisch. The next three boards of Zoltan Ribli, Sax and Andras Adorjan were all born within a year of each other and called "The Three Musketeers" according to Polgar.

While that remains Hungary's biggest team triumph ever, Sax's Olympiad teams had two other silver medals and only once finished outside the top six. He represented Hungary 10 times, most recently in 2000 when his team finished a respectable fourth. He outperformed his rating in all 10 Olympiad appearances.

The 1978 Team - Lajos Portisch, Gyula Sax (third from left), Zoltan Ribli, Andras Adorjan and Laszlo Vadasz (photo courtesy
In 1980, the team very nearly repeated their Olympiad title in Malta. They went undefeated in matches (standings were by game points) and had the curious distinction of leading the tournament from the first round until the last, yet they still only won silver. The Soviet Union took gold on tiebreaks, by a miniscule margin.

Sax became an IM in 1972 and GM in 1974. His peak rating was 2610 and he often played and won tournaments in Canada. Sax also won the 1987 Interzonal in Subotica, Yugoslavia. He progressed to the match stage where he was beaten by GM Nigel Short.

"He was the first GM who treated me as a fellow chess player when I was nine years old," said Judit Polgar on her Facebook page. "He was ready to analyze positions with me, and shared ideas and by doing so gave me a lot of self-confidence."

GM Peter Leko, longtime Hungarian number one, had similar thoughts. They first met in 1992 in Wijk aan Zee. "When he had time, he would always come over to see my game and tell great stories," Leko said, despite the fact that Sax played in the top section while Leko did not. "It was a wonderful experience and a great first visit to Wijk aan Zee!"

The two were teammates during his final Olympiad. Sax was active up until his death, playing in a tournament in Hungary in November, 2013.

Here he played the quintessential King's Indian Defense plan - abandon the queenside and chuck everything at the white king.

"He was a fantastically energetic attacking player," Judit Polgar said.

"He always had very interesting games," Susan Polgar said. "That's another reason he was so well liked.

"It's a big loss for Hungarian chess. He's had many great successes in chess, but it's nothing compared to how he was as a person."

"It's a big loss for all of us and it definitely comes as a shock to the whole Hungarian chess community," Leko said.

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