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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 23, 2010

Chess players mourn Grand Master Bent Larsen

By Peter Henner

The chess world was saddened to learn of the death of the Danish Grand Master Bent Larsen, on Sept. 9, at the age of 75.  Although largely forgotten today, GM Larsen was the great Western hope to challenge the Soviet domination of chess in the 1960s.

He was generally regarded as the world's best tournament player in the 1960s and ’70s, and between 1969 and 1972 was consistently ranked third in the world, behind former world champions Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. Larsen competed in four semifinal Candidates Matches to determine a challenger to the world champion, reaching the semifinals three times.

GM Larsen was born in 1935, and after early successes dropped out of civil engineering school to become a chess professional. He became a Grand Master at the age of 21, after his gold-medal performance representing Denmark at the 1956 Chess Olympiad.

In 1970, he successfully demanded the right to play first board for the West in the Soviet Union versus the Rest of the World match. Although he scored 2 1/2 points out of 4 against the Soviet Grand Masters Spassky and Stein, he was trounced by Fischer in the 1971 semifinal Candidates Match.

In 1970, United States Champion Fischer finally was able to settle down enough to compete in the qualifying rounds for the Candidates Matches. After qualifying, he defeated Soviet Grand Master Mark Taimanov in a quarterfinal match by the unheard of shutout score of 6-0, and in the semifinal routed Larsen, by the identical score of 6-0.

Although Larsen was still considered one of the top three players in the world, he never recovered from that defeat, and never reached the same level of play after 1971. Fischer of course, went on to win the final match against Tigran Petrosian (World Champion from 1963 to 1969), and defeated Spassky in the 1972 world championship match in Reykjavík, Iceland.

This week's problem is from the second Piatigorsky Cup tournament played in Santa Monica California in 1966. In the 1960s, world famous cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, together with his wife, sponsored two chess tournaments, and invited the best players in the world to compete.

The second tournament, a double round robin held in 1966, was one of the strongest tournaments held in the 1960s, and was won by Spassky, with Fischer second, Larsen third, and Petrosian sixth. Larsen was tied for the lead at the end of the first round robin, and might well have won the tournament, but he tried to play for wins and lost at least three games where he could easily have obtained a draw.

Local chess news

The Schenectady Chess Club will sponsor its Annual Blitz Championship, game in five minutes, on Thursday, Sept. 23. The strongest players in the Capital District will compete in this tournament, finishing all of their games in five minutes per side, and completing 10 to 15 games in the course of the evening.

The Schenectady club will also sponsor a handicap blitz tournament, with a total time of 10 minutes per game divided unevenly according to rating, so that stronger players will have less time. The Schenectady championship will begin on Oct. 14, and will last until the spring.

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