SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Washington Post Discontinues Chess Column
JANUARY 4, 2010, 8:44 PM http://gambit.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/washington-post-discontinues-chess-column/
By DYLAN LOEB MCCLAIN
The Washington Post has ended its chess column written by Lubomir Kavalek. The final column, which was published Jan. 4, noted that Kavalek covered chess for the newspaper for 23 years. Kavalek said in a telephone interview that the column began in 1995 and that before that he had written about chess events, beginning with the 1986 world championship match between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov.
The column appeared on the Post’s Web site. It had once also appeared in print, but had been cut back last year to just the Web as part of the newspaper’s efforts to reduce costs. A source at the company with knowledge of the situation said that the decision to discontinue the column altogether was a further cost-cutting move.
Kavalek was not altogether surprised by the decision. After the column was moved to the Web, “it looked like the writing was on the wall,” he said.
Grandmaster Kavalek is of the same generation as Bobby Fischer.
He noted that he was not the only one who has lost his position. Kavalek said, “I was told that they have lost a lot of talented people lately. It has been painful for them.” He added wryly, “So I am in good company.”
Kavalek is a grandmaster and former two-time United States champion. He reached his peak ranking of No. 10 in the world in 1974. Born in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, in 1943, he grew up under Communism and defected to the west after the failed 1968 revolution. He settled in the United States in 1970. He went on to represent his new country in seven Chess Olympiads, often as the team’s top player.
He decided to become a professional chess player in the 1970’s while enrolled at George Washington University. One day, he said, “One of my professors said if you are No. 1 or No. 2 in the country in something, you just do it.”
Kavalek’s final column touches on several topics, including the recent rise to No. 1 in the world of Magnus Carlsen, the 19-year-old from Norway. Some years ago, Kavalek dubbed Carlsen the “Mozart of Chess,” a nickname that has stuck, but which Kavalek points out may not be exactly accurate because Carlsen was considerably older (13) than Mozart (5) when he was anointed a prodigy.
Most of Kavalek’s last column is spent reminiscing about his relationship with Bobby Fischer. Kavalek wrote that during the 1972 world championship match between Fischer and Boris Spassky, he and Fischer became friends. Kavalek, who was working as a reporter for Voice of America, began helping Fischer analyze adjourned positions, beginning with the 13th game — which Fischer won rather memorably.
Kavalek said that working with Fischer taught him how to be a better player. Before, he had the talent, but he lacked discipline. He said, “The seriousness of the work was missing.”
Kavalek said that he had no immediate plans about what to do. “Right now I am just taking it easy,” he said.
EDITOR’S COMMENTS: Kavalek’s chess column was great! One of the best chess columns in the English language, with a world wide readership. It is sad to see him go, but I suppose it is just one more indication that the global village is ‘smartening up’ and beginning to realize that the chess world is much smaller than anyone had ever thought. Being an old game (with a history of thousands of years) , chess has not been able to adapt to the new technologies. Anything that can’t find a niche on TV is quickly being pushed to the back of the bus.