While we are taking time to digest Magnus Carlsen’s victorious and relentless erosion of his opponents’ positions at the Tata Steel tournament, there is time to consider a potpourri of events in the chess world. As the world turns, veterans tend to drop away and youngsters appear.
One veteran who had appeared almost indestructible was Viktor Korchnoi, the Grandmaster who almost but never quite became world champion. Ten times he tried and 10 times he failed, often narrowly. One player stood in his way for an entire decade, world champion Anatoly Karpov. Korchnoi played him as the challenger three times in the period 1974-1981 but lost them all.
In 1976, while attending a tournament in Amsterdam, Korchnoi defected from the Soviet Union. In doing so, he left his wife and son back home. Apparently, Soviet authorities were promoting Anatoly Karpov, at Korchnoi’s expense, to be Bobby Fischer’s official challenger in 1975. In addition, authorities barred him from playing outside the Soviet Union from 1974 on. The lone exception was the 1976 tournament in Amsterdam, where he defected.
Most players start to drop away from serious ambitions in chess by the age of 40, but Korchnoi had no such intentions. Recently, however, the Internet reported that Korchnoi, age 81, had suffered a stroke; subsequent reports indicated he had survived. They say he will hang up his chessboard, but we will wait to see.
A contrasting story is the appearance of the latest American prodigy. He is Samuel Sevian of San Francisco. Chess prodigies come and go, but Sevian appears to be one of the finest American prospects for future greatness. Like Caruana and Ray Robson, his career began in Florida, where in Orlando he became the youngest expert in history.
After he moved to the West Coast, he continued his record setting by becoming the youngest National Master in history (9 years, 11 months, 11 days) and last year qualified for a FIDE International Master title. He has just turned 12 years old and has earned his titles, not in arranged matches, but in tournaments against adults. In November, he won the World Youth Championship Under 12 title.
Speaking of prodigies, there are some prospects that Caruana may compete in the US Championship this year. If so, he could be a formidable opponent for Gata Kamsky and Hikaru Nakamura. He has confirmed that he has received an invitation and he has said, on Twitter: “Schedule permitting, I intend to be there.” The US Championship will start on May 2, but sadly, there seems to be a conflict with a FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Lisbon, ending on May 1. His entry would mark repatriation from a long absence in Europe. The 2013 US Championship will be held once again at the St. Louis Chess Club, compliments of the philanthropist Rex Sinquefield.
Brevity: J. Timman vs. P. Ostermeyer (1975) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Bg5 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 h6 6.Bh4 d6 7.e3 Qe7 8.Bd3 e5 9.Ne2 c5 10.f3 Nc6 11.0–0 Kd8 12.f4 Kc7 13.fxe5 dxe5 14.d5 Na5 15.Bxf6 gxf6 16.Ng3 b6 17.Ne4: 1-0
Winners: Boylston January Grand Prix: 1st, Marc Esserman, 4-0; 2d-4th, Andrew Wang, Emanuel Mevs, Mateos Sahakian, 3-1. Portsmouth Open, Open Section: 1st-2d, Alexander Ivanov and David Vigorito, 3.5-.5; Under 1750 section: Tom Laaman, 3.5-.5.
Coming Events: George O’Rourke Memorial, Wachusett ,Feb.13, 20, 27, March 6, 13, McKay Campus School, Room C159, Fitchburg State University, 67 Rindge Road, Fitchburg,
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Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28 240B Elm St., Somerville, www.Boylstonchessclub.org.