Monday, September 20, 2010

Bent Larsen - remembered

We note with regret the passing of one of the greats in chess - Bent Larsen. As reported in ICC (Internet Chess Club):

"The six-time Danish Champion and four-time world championship candidate (in 1965, 1968, 1971, and 1977) won three Interzonal tournaments and many, many other international tournaments. His five consecutive first prizes at Havana 1967, Winnipeg 1967, Palma de Mallorca 1967, Sousse 1967 and Monte Carlo 1968 set a record for anyone who was not actually world champion." ... More

Further to the bare facts as reported above, The Guardian's Leonard Barden adds the following warm appraisal:

"Larsen was articulate, gregarious, outspoken and witty, so his passing stimulated an outpouring of reminiscencies and affection." ... More

You will probably know about his 6-0 loss in his match against Fischer - here described in the above ChessClub article, thus:

"However, in an outstanding career with many highs, his most famous low has to have been his 6-0 loss to Fischer in their 1971 Candidates match - the psychological blow from which many believe signaled the beginning of the end for Larsen's ambitions to become world champion; and indeed, it was often said he was never quite the same player after such a demolition job by Fischer."

However, you may not have seen Larsen's personal reaction to the loss - as reported in an interview in his blog,:

"Yes, it was an insufferable match… The organizers chose the wrong time for this match. I was languid with the heat and Fischer was better prepared for such exceptional circumstances... I saw chess pieces through a mist and, thus, my level of playing was not good. It was a nightmare that I will never forget! Fortune didn’t give me a single chance to win over him…" More

This post considers one of his games, as White against which ICC featured as part of its tribute. If you happen to be a member of the ICC you can find this fascinating game here.

Otherwise there is a comprehensive discussion of the game at ChessGames in which the game is described in reverential tones as "Now this is real chess!".

I would liken my chosen game to Mohammed Ali's famous 'Rope a Dope' trick against 'Smokin' Joe Frazier in which he bravely and deliberately stayed on the ropes ... allowing 'Smokin' to punch him repeatedly. Ali knew he was strong enough to withstand the punches and had the idea that his opponent would find the process very tiring. He was right. He won - but who knows how much it affected his health. Ali was a brave man indeed and knew the price he might have to pay. Revealingly, Benjamin uses the same phrase ("price to pay") in the video. Yes, this chess match is a Battle Royal indeed - having something of the raw brutality of a boxing match.

Larsen's own favourite game was apparently the following effort against Efim Geller in 1960, thus:

Another of Larsen's games is fully discussed in this very readable article

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