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The World Chess Hall of Fame

I share the same birth year with Bobby Fischer and helping him to became the world champion in Reykjavik 1972 became one of the highlights of my chess life.
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The World Chess Hall of Fame celebrated the 10th anniversary this month in a new location in St. Louis, Missouri. The history of the Hall and portraits of inducted chess players are available on the impressive web site.

When it first opened in Miami in December 2001, I was inducted there together with five great chess players: the unofficial world champion Paul Morphy (1837-1884) and the official ones such as William Steinitz (1836-1900), Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941), José Raúl Capablanca (1888-1942) and Robert James Fischer (1943-2008).


I shared the same birth city, Prague, with Steinitz and as fate would have it, we both ended up in America. "The decision of Lubomir Kavalek not to return home from a foreign tournament in 1968 was the biggest loss ever suffered by the Czechoslovakian chess," wrote Andy Soltis in The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, Ranked. When I landed in the United States, Miami was my first point of entry and the 30-year loop of my American chess career closed in the same Florida city.

I share the same birth year with Bobby Fischer and helping him to became the world champion in Reykjavik 1972 became one of the highlights of my chess life.


Inspired by his achievements, I had a memorable year in 1973 and moved to the world's Top Ten with the official FIDE rating 2625. It would have been the highest rating in Czechoslovakia for the next 20 years and it was the second best rating after Fischer in the United States for the next 16 years.


I shared an unhealthy habit with Lasker: we both smoked during the games. But of all the players in the Hall I was the only one pictured with a cigarette. No Lasker's cigar, no Mikhail Tal's ashtray full of butts. It looked as if a teacher just walked into the room and all smokers managed to hide their cigarettes, but me. But it was a document of our times, that's how we played, often disappearing in clouds of smoke. No smoking is allowed in tournament halls today.

I also learned that Charles Henry Stanley (1819-1901) was nominated to the Hall in 2001. He is considered to be the first U.S. champion, defeating Eugene Rousseau in the match in New Orleans in 1845 with a 19-12 score (+15, -8, =8).


Stanley (left ) was the first to play the move 3...a6 against the Ruy Lopez (Spanish) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5. It was later called "The Morphy Defense." But Stanley also drank heavily and his love of the bottle did him in. He lost his playing strength and the historian Fred Reinfeld called him "Stanley the drunkard." He was left out of the Hall and only six of us made it in the inaugural year.

I expected we would be forever enshrined in the Hall, next to the Miami Zoo, waiting for the visitors: the curious chessplayers and the accidental tourists who might stumble to the wrong side of the fence. But the Hall closed in 2009.

Fortunately, thanks to Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield the Hall was rescued and relocated to St. Louis this year. The Gateway city became the U.S. capital of professional chess. The U.S. championships are played there and the top-rated American Hikaru Nakamura is now living in St. Louis.

The World Chess Hall of Fame is a home to 65 chess players: 16 of them are in the World Hall, including this year's inductee, the first women's chess champion Vera Menchik. Grandmasters Andrew Soltis and Boris Gulko are the latest additions to the 49-player U.S. Hall. Chess artifacts and magnificent chess sets and the exhibition Out of the Box: Artists Play Chess are on display. For his enormous contribution to chess, Rex Sinquefield will be inducted to the Hall on January 29, 2012.


Barbara Kruger's chess set made it to St. Louis from Prague. It was a part of an exhibition in the Center for Contemporary Art DOX under the partnership with the Prague Chess Society.

The Game called "Kavalanche"

During the opening ceremony in Miami in 2001, somebody came up with an interesting idea: the players should have their best games displayed in the Hall. But which games are the best?
Whether you agree or disagree, people always try to tell you what is your best game. "Your game with Gufeld is your best," I was told plainly and firmly. The game was awarded the prize for the most brilliant game at the Student olympiad in Marianske Lazne in 1962. (I also won the brilliancy prize at the Student olympiad in Sinaia in 1965 against another Soviet player, German Khodos.)

For nearly 40 years I did not dare to revisit this game and left it to others. It was published in The World's Greatest Chess Games and analyzed by English grandmaster John Emms. American grandmaster Andrew Soltis ranked it as high as number six in "The Best Games of the 20th century." Larry Evans wrote in his Modern Chess Brilliancies that the game combines unusual theoretical value with a setting unique in the annals of chess history - bishop and pawns slaying two rooks. The world championship candidate Robert Hübner of Germany, a highly regarded analyst among grandmasters, found nothing wrong with it in the Chessbase Magazine.

Even the loser of the game, former Soviet grandmaster Eduard Gufeld, made more money with it, publicizing it in his books and recycling it in chess magazines all over the world. But he had this to say: "It is known that in moments of emotional inspiration people can work miracles and brilliant masterpieces are born, recorded in the scanty lines of chess scoresheets. It seems that my opponent had a moment of inspiration."

The game turns around a single square e3. Black needs to control that square to push his pawn avalanche forward. To achieve his objective, he is willing to sacrifice two rooks. As the world champion Lasker wrote in his Manual of Chess: "When mind overcomes matter, we are charmed."

Gufeld,Eduard - Kavalek,Lubomir
Student Olympiad, Marianske Lazne 1962

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 4.c3 f5!? (The sharp Cordel gambit in the Spanish Opening.) 5.d4 fxe4 6.Ng5?! (Gufeld knew the opening theory well, but he tries a tricky continuation. Instead, either 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.Nxe5 Bd6 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qe2; or 6.Nxe5 Nxe5 7.Qh5+ Nf7 8.Bc4 Qe7 9.dxc5 give white better chances for an advantage.) 6...Bb6 (To hold onto a pawn 6...exd4 7.Nxe4 Bb6 is dangerous after (7...Be7 8.cxd4) 8.Bg5.) 7.d5 (Gufeld naively hoped for 7...Nce7?? 8.Ne6, winning the queen.) 7...e3!


(The pawn steps on the key square of the game, breaks the connection between the bishop on c1 and the knight on g5, and the counterattack begins.)

(After 8.dxc6 black's best is 8...exf2+! 9.Kf1 bxc6 with advantage. But 8...bxc6 is also possible, for example 9.Bxe3 [9.h4 exf2+ 10.Kf1 cxb5 11.Qd5 Nh6 12.Qxa8 c6 13.Ne4 0-0 14.Bg5 b4 threatening to mate with 15...Ba6+. White resigned in Grigorian,K - Dzindzichashvili, Rostov on Don 1969] 9...Bxe3 10.Ne4 Qh4 11.Bd3 Bb6 12.Nbd2 d5 and black was winning in Trapl-Riha, Prague 1962.

A computer move 8.f4 gives black the edge after 8...exf4 9.dxc6 bxc6 10.h4 [10.Bxc6 Qxg5 11.Bxa8 Qh4+ wins.] 10...cxb5 11.Qd5 Qf6 12.Qxa8 Ne7; and 8.Bxe3 Bxe3 9.Ne6 dxe6 10.dxc6 Qxd1+ 11.Kxd1 Ke7 12.fxe3 Nf6 is about equal.)

8...Qh4 9.Qf3 (After 9.dxc6 exf2+ 10.Kf1 dxc6 11.Bd3 Bg4 12.Qc2 Nh6 followed by 0-0, black has excellent compensation for the piece. But white's last move is not without venom, for example after 9...exf2+ 10.Kf1 Nce7? 11.Bg5 the black queen is trapped.)


9...Nf6! (Getting rid of the well traveled knight. Black gets plenty of pawns for the piece. The knight sacrifice also helps to attack the pawn f2. The computers suggested a different way: 9...Nge7 10.dxc6 bxc6 11.g3 Qh6 12.Be2 exf2+ 13.Kd1 Qg6 "Black has three pawns and dangerous play for the piece." - Emms.)

10.Nxf6+ gxf6 11.dxc6 (Too greedy. Instead, 11.Bxe3 Bxe3 12.g3 Qh6 13.fxe3 Ne7 14.0-0 is safer.) 11...exf2+ (White has a dilemma where to go with the king.)

12.Kd1 (After 12.Kf1 dxc6! [12...bxc6?! 13.Be2 d5 14.Be3! with advantage for White.- Gufeld] 13.Be2 [13.Bxc6+ is called "hara-kiri" by Emms because of 13...bxc6 14.Qxc6+ Ke7 15.Qxa8? Qc4 mate.] 13...Rg8 14.Qh5+ Qxh5 15.Bxh5+ Ke7 16.Nd2 Bf5 and now:
A. 17.Nc4 Bd3+ 18.Be2 Bxe2+ 19.Kxe2 Rxg2 with black's edge.
B. 17.Be2 suggested by Emms, but the computers come up with a shocker 17...Rxg2!! 18.Kxg2 Rg8+ 19.Kf3 Bg4+ 20.Ke4 Bxe2 black wins.

Larry Evans writes: "White might try to pick off the bone in his throat on f2, if possible, but 12.Kf1 dxc6 13.Be2 Rg8! 14.Be3 [14.Qh5+ Qxh5 15.Bxh5+ Ke7 16.Nd2 Bh3! 17.Bf3 Rad8 with a bind.]14...Bg4 15.Qxf2 Qxf2+ 16.Kxf2 Bxe2 17.Kxe2 Rxg2+ 18.Kf3 Rxb2 gives Black four pawns for the piece with a continuing initiative.")

12...dxc6 13.Be2 (After 13.Bxc6+ bxc6 14.Qxc6+ Kf7 15.Qxa8 Bg4+ wins.) 13...Be6!


(The threat 14...0-0-0+ forces the queens off the board.) 14.Qh5+ Qxh5 15.Bxh5+ Ke7 16.b3 (White covers the square c4 and at the same time addresses his lack of development.) 16...Bd5 17.Ba3+ Ke6 18.Bg4+ f5 19.Bh3 Rhg8 (The g-pawn falls.)

20.Nd2 Bxg2 21.Bxg2 Rxg2 22.Rf1!
(White needs to block the f-pawn and has no time to go after the bishop: 22.Nc4 Rg1+ 23.Ke2 Rag8 24.Nxb6 R8g2 25.Rf1 axb6 26.Bf8 Rxh1 27.Rxh1 Rg1 and black wins.
Other moves are also not good. Black wins either after 22.Ke2? f1Q+ 23.Kxf1 Rxd2; or after
22.Nf3? Rd8+ 23.Ke2 f1Q+ 24.Kxf1 Rf2+ 25.Ke1 Rxf3.)

22...Rd8 (Preparing the first rook sacrifice to preserve the control of the square e3.) 23.Ke2



("This dramatic way of stopping 24.Nc4 elevates the game towards immortality," writes Soltis. Emms points out that the central pawn operation starting with 23...e4 also promises returns, for example:

A. 24.Nc4 f4 25.Nxb6 f3+ 26.Ke3 Kf5! [This intermezzo, which threatens 27...Rd3 mate, is very
important.] 27.Rad1 Rxd1 28.Rxd1 Rg1 29.Kxf2 Rxd1 30.Nc4 Ra1 and this endgame is winning for black.

B. 24.Rad1 Rd3! [threatening 25...Re3 mate] 25.Nc4 Rg1 26.Rd2 [Or 26.Rc1 f4 27.Nxb6 f3+ 28.Kxf2 Rg2+ 29.Ke1 Re2# is an attractive mate.] 26...f4 27.Nxb6 f3+ 28.Kxf2 Rg2+ 29.Ke1 Rdxd2 and black wins.)

24.Kxd2 e4 (Robert Hübner analyzed the game from this position in the Chessbase Magazine in 1995.) 25.Bf8 (Threatening to stop the black pawns with 26.Bh6 and 27.Be3. This defense is also recommended by computers.) 25...f4 26.b4 (Threatening to eliminate the black bishop with 27.Bc5, allowing white to win the control of the squares on the e-file. "After 26.Bh6 Kf5 27.Bxf4 Kxf4 28.Ke2 Rxh2 and white cannot play 29.Rh1 because of 29...f1Q+ wins," writes Hübner.)

26...Rg5 (Black wants to chase the white king away from his pawns with 26...Rd5+. It looks like black wins in the variation 26...e3+ 27.Kd3 f3 28.c4 e2 29.c5 Rg1 30.Rxg1 fxg1Q 31.Rxg1 f2 but white has a nice trick known from Ladislav Prokes's studies: 32.Rg6+!! hxg6 33.Kxe2 and white wins. But 26...Kf5! is more to the point, for example 27.Bc5 e3+ 28.Kd3 Bxc5! 29.bxc5 Rg7 30.Rad1 Rd7+ 31.Ke2 Ke4!! and black wins.) 27.Bc5 ("Here I heaved a sight of relief," wrote Gufeld. But it was short-lived.)


27...Rxc5!! (The second rook is sacrificed to preserve the bishop that controls the square e3.) 28.bxc5 Bxc5 29.Rab1 f3!

30.Rb4 ("Trying to pacify the rampaging bishop." - Gufeld. After 30.Rxb7 Hübner suggests 30...Kf5 31.Rb8 e3+ 32.Kd3 e2 33.Rbb1 Kf4 34.Ra1 e1Q 35.Raxe1 fxe1Q 36.Rxe1 f2 37.Rb1 Kf3 38.Rd1 Bd6 39.h3 Be5 40.Rb1 Kg2 41.Ke2 Bxc3 42.Rf1 Be1 and white will run out of moves.) 30...Kf5 (The bishop did not even bat an eyelid towards the fawning Rook." - Gufeld)

31.Rd4 (White desperately tries to distract the bishop, but it is too late. After 31.Rxb7 Hübner gives 31...Kg4 32.Rb8 e3+ 33.Kd3 e2 34.Rbb1 Kh3 and black wins.
After 31.Rxe4 Kxe4 32.Rh1 Be3+ 33.Kc2 Bf4 34.h3 Ke3 35.Kd1 Be5 black prevails.) 31...Bxd4 32.cxd4 Kf4


(The king takes over the control of the square e3. The pawns cannot be stopped now: 33.Rxf2 e3+ wins.) White resigned.

Note that in the replay windows below you can click either on the arrows under the diagram or on the notation to follow the game.

Books by the latest Hall of Fame Inductees:
Soltis is a prolific writer. His latest book is The Unites States Chess Championship, 1845-2011, published by Mc Farland @ Company. It is an updated version of his early work. Gulko recently wrote Lessons with a Grandmaster , published by Everyman Chess. It is based on his games and a dialog with Dr. Joel R. Sneed.

To all those who read and supported the column, and wrote their comments - many thanks and
Happy New Year!