Chess rivalry is psychological, sometimes intellectual
By Errol Tiwari October 25, 2009 in Features, Sunday

Rivalries in sport are usually riveting; between individuals, and sometimes, between countries. In boxing, there was Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier, and for years in cricket, there was the West Indies vs Australia. For Guyana, I can think of no greater, and passionate rivalry, than Guyana vs Suriname in football.

Chess also has its great rivalries. The game represents a psychological, and, some argue, an intellectual struggle over the board. No words are exchanged during actual competition. The mind does all the thinking, and all the talking. Whatever your mind tells you to do, you do it with clarity and precision over the chess board with your pieces. No words are necessary.

But although there are no exchanges verbally, or physically, the heated rivalries in chess are comparable to other disciplines in sport. We feel the same contempt for our opponents, and in the words of Bobby Fischer, we “like to see ‘em squirm”. In a number of instances, players refuse to shake each other’s hands before play begins, prompting FIDE ( World Chess Federation ) to implement a new rule making it compulsory for players to shake hands before the start of a game in competition.

Alekhine vs Capablanca, Fischer vs Spassky, and Karpov vs Kasparov were some of the legendary rivalries in chess. As the saying goes, there was no love lost among these players when they competed for supremacy against each other. These were the titans of chess. Capablanca was so sure of himself that he said chess came as naturally as breathing to him.

His mind operated at a level of synthesis that took in everything over the board as naturally as breathing. From 1916 to 1924 he did not lose a single game. He was known, and feared, as the “Cuban Chess Machine”. No one could touch him.

In 1927, when Capablanca was at his peak, and considered invulnerable, he gave Dr Alexander Alekhine, a lawyer from Russia, a crack at his world championship title. And here Capablanca met his Waterloo. Suddenly, what should have been an effortless victory, turned out to be a murderously exhausting struggle featured by draw after draw. Capablanca found himself fighting for his life. Chess, it seemed, was not as easy as breathing any longer. He lost the title to Alekhine and was never granted a return match. In those days there was no governing body that could demand that the world champion defend his title. The champion picked his challenger. It was nine years after the 1927 match that the two rivals came face to face with each other in a tournament. Capablanca won.

Here is the full article.

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