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Yuri Averbakh publishes his autobiography

At 89, Yuri Averbakh is one of the oldest living Grandmasters and a symbol of moderate and studious chess players of world achievement. He has now published an autobiography, “Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes’’ (New in Chess, 2011), and for chess history buffs this memoir is required reading.

Averbakh has been a prominent tournament winner, an accomplished analyst of end games and openings (some of which bear his name), an author, a journalist, a leader in the USSR chess federation, and an adviser and second to world champions and candidates. His biography supplies an interesting picture of Soviet dominance in the world chess scene that was only interrupted by Bobby Fischer.


An hour spent with Averbakh shows why he has been such a survivor and a central figure in Russian chess. He was born in the provincial town of Kaluga of Russian-Jewish parents but moved to Moscow at the age of 3. His interest in chess began at the age of 13 during a time when the Soviet government stressed chess as a symbol of accomplishment. Averbakh’s chess success was gradual - he had to choose between his education and chess - and did not come until his late 20s, at which time he won the Moscow championship. In his 40s he enjoyed further successes, even qualifying for the 1953 Candidates’ Tournament, the winner of which would play Mikhail Botvinnik for the world championship.

Averbakh says he stumbled into journalism by writing a few chess commentaries. He became editor of 64, the leading Soviet chess magazine, and later a second to world champion Tigran Petrosian and a counselor to other great players. What is impressive about Averbakh is his moderate and likable personality, choosing to accommodate rather than engage in strife.

He elected to adopt Russian as his nationality under Soviet law and even joined the Communist party. He is a matter-of-fact observer of the Communist excesses, and obviously his major interest was in chess not politics.


What will be of special interest to Americans is his description of the Soviet attempts to defeat Bobby Fischer. Fischer had always insisted that the Russians via an agreement among Tigran Petrosian, Efim Geller, and Paul Keres fixed the Candidates Tournament at Curacao in 1962. Averbakh denies it, saying only that Petrosian and Geller had been friends for years and naturally would play short draws.

But that was a tiny bit of a conspiracy, wasn’t it? Petrosian, of course, won that tournament.

Averbakh was also one of Petrosian’s seconds at Buenos Aires, when Petrosian was to face Fischer, who was on his way to play Boris Spassky and had already demolished Mark Taimanov (Averbakh’s son-in-law) and Bent Larsen, but that’s a story for another time.

Brevity: H. Koneru vs. C. Waters (1999) 1.Nf3 Nc6 2.g3 e5 3.d3 f5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Bg2 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 0-0 7.0-0 Qe8 8.a3 Bxd2 9.Bxd2 d6 10.Bc3 Qh5 11.b4 f4 12.b5 Ne7 13.c5 Bh3 14.cxd6 cxd6 15.Rc1 Ng4 16.Qb3+ Kh8 17.Be1 fxg3 18.hxg3 Rxf3 19.Bxf3 Bg2; 0-1.

Winners: Boylston Chess Club Tornado #109 - 1st, Robert Perez 3.5; 2d, Andrew Liu 3.0; 3d-4th, Osemekhian Omoifo and Henry Terrie both 2.5. Boylston CC October Legends of Chess - 1st, Christopher Chase 4.0; 2d Marc Esserman 3-1.

Coming Events: Nov. 5, 17th Boston University Open, 775 Commonwealth Ave., Boston,; Nov. 4-6, 5-6 Eastern Team Championship, Sheraton Hotel, 700 Main St., Stamford, Conn.,; Nov. 3, 10, 17, 24 Boylston CC Thursday Night Swiss, 240 Elm St., Suite B9, Somerville;