SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The most dangerous chess piece is female. Curious, isn’t it? The following position occurred after the 34th move of the game between grandmasters Leonid Stein and Ratmir Kholmov, Moscow 1963. The Black King position is wide open, but is not easy to rupture. For example, 35.Nxh7 works if Black takes the Knight (36.Rh4ch!), but fails to the simple 35…Bg7!.
Kholmov was a great defender of inferior positions, and this allowed him to get away with some really provocative middlegame play. Even Stein was unable to convert large advantages against Kholmov in previous encounters….HOWEVER, today (in this game!) Stein found a clever idea involving his Queen that soon forced Kholmov to throw in the towel. Can you see it? GOOD LUCK!
(November 12,1934 to July 4, 1973)
Leonid Stein is something of an enigma in modern chess history. Born in the Ukraine in 1934, the young Leonid did not show much of anything that might have hinted of the extraordinary chess talent that he would later become world famous for. He was given to drinking and womanizing. Leonid became a master at age 24, even late for those times. But very quickly afterwards Stein swept away all comers. By the end of 1966 he had already won the coveted Soviet Championship 3 times! He was counted amongst the 10 best players in the world…
Stein won many international tournaments. His style of play was bold and dynamic, often willing to take enormous risks. His best games anthology is one of chess’ greatest legacies. I have learned much from the study of these games…
And Stein is also a tragic figure. In the 60’s , while the Soviets dominated the chess world, FIDE rules limited the number of Soviet players who could qualify for the candidates’ matches. Stein was , curiously, often the Soviet player who had to stand down in favour of a less strong grandmaster from the west. His many fans hoped that one day Stein would qualify…and win the world championship!
In the summer of 1973, shortly before the Petropolis Interzonal that he had qualified for, Stein died of a heart attack at the Rossiva Hotel in the center of Moscow . (I remember reading this in the Montreal newspapers at the time!) He was just 38 years old and in his prime. Even the reclusive Bobby Fischer expressed his saddness at this loss. The newspaper accounts of the day pointed to Stein’s excessive smoking and drinking as contributing factors to his early passing…
Taimanov (R) and his wife Nadya (la femme fatale) in 1997. Imagine her a quarter century earlier!
The story that I have been told (from reasonably reliable sources) is that it was not smoking and drinking that contributed to Stein’s demise as much as it was the stunning beauty of the 18 year old daughter of grandmaster Yuri Averbakh–Nadya Averbakh! As the story goes, she once confided that her secret ambition was to seduce each and every Soviet grandmaster…and that she succeeded!
Alas, poor Stein died of a heart attack in bed. La femme fatale: check and mate!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS