South Florida
Chess: Ringside seats at 20th International Chess Festival, Germany
March 23, 2008
By GM Larry Evans
Five-time U.S. chess champion and nationally syndicated chess writer

Chess may be a quiet pocket of beauty in a noisy world, yet few chess events have ideal playing conditions. Masters must learn to cope with distractions when they compete in front of an audience.

To improve his concentration Mikhail Botvinnik trained for title matches with a radio blaring as sparring partners blew smoke at him. But Bobby Fischer stormed out of the Olympiad in 1968 when he couldn’t play in a separate room far from the madding crowd — then he quit chess in frustration for 18 months.

At the 20th International Chess Festival in Dortmund, Germany — a cultural and sporting extravaganza that lasted 10 days and cost nearly $1 million — more than 10,000 fans purchased ringside seats for the main event. World champion Gary Kasparov and nine rivals climbed through ropes each round to perform under spotlights in a boxing arena.

The audience sat in the dark. During lulls, spectators stretched their legs, gazed at exhibits or snacked. Overhead TV monitors and loudspeakers gave blow-by-blow descriptions of the games along with classical and rock music.

Kasparov, then 29, the second oldest contestant in a field of hungry lions, lost twice to Robert Huebner, then 43 (the oldest) and Gata Kamsky, then 18 (the youngest). The crowd smelled blood and stood in line to pack the arena for the crucial last round.

Nobody could catch the leader Vassily Ivanchuk except Kasparov, who finally KO’d Valery Salov after slugging it out in the ring for five hours. Ivanchuk and Kasparov tied for first at 6-3, pursued by Bareev 5½; Anand 5; Kamsky, Salov 4½; Huebner 4; Adams, Shirov 3½; Piket 2½.

Germany’s Huebner, a papyrologist by profession, became famous overnight in his own land with a win over Kasparov in round six. For nine moves they copied Botvinnik-Tal, 6th match game 1960, which continued 10 d5 cxd5 11 cxd5 Nc5 12 Ne1 Bd7 13 Nd3 Nxd3 14 Qxd3 Rfc8. Tal won after the game was moved to a closed room because excited fans wouldn’t keep quiet!

Source: Sun Sentinel

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