SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Recently, in the Brazilian newspaper Diario do Grande ABC, there was published an interesting article on grandmaster Mecking, one of the original superstars from the 70’s. I have taken the liberty of presenting part of this here. Mecking was once ranked number 3 in the world, while still in his 20’s ! Then he became the victim of a severe and rare disease that forced him to retire from the chess world and fight for his life.
Mecking today; healthy and still playing chess!
When Mecking eventually recovered from his illness, he wrote ”How Jesus saved my Life”
Symbol of chess in Brazil, Henrique da Costa Mecking , ‘Mequinho’
to his many fans, 57 years old, will be one of the principal guests of the 73rd edition of the Jogos Abertos do Interior, in Sao Caetano. The chess star, who once was ranked number 3 in the world, will represent Sao Bernardo.
Brazilian Championship in 1965. Mecking is surrounded by spectators (back of room)
Originally from Santa Cruz do Sul, Mequinho discovered chess very young. He started to play at the age of 5, influenced by his mother, and by age 13 was already champion of Brazil. By the end of the 70’s-at the peak of his career-he discovered that he was a carrier of severe version of miastenia, an incurable disease that attacks the muscles and can leave you with no motor control.
He stopped playing chess completely and fought the hardest battle of his life. Doctors thought that he would die. He succeeded in partially recovering from the disease, and in 2000 he returned to chess competition, on the advice of a divine voice.
Mecking lost a Candidates match with Korchnoi in 1974
Mecking H. – Korchnoi, V
Candidates matches, 1974.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. O-O Qd6 6. d3 f6 7. Be3 Bg4 8. Nbd2 O-O-O
9. Rb1 Ne7 10. b4 g5 11. a4 Ng6 12. b5 cxb5 13. axb5 axb5 14. Rxb5 Qc6 15. Rb2 Bc5 16. Nb3 Bb4 17. Nfd4 exd4 18. Qxg4 Qd7 19. Qxd7 Rxd7 20. Nxd4 Bc3 21. Ra2 Rxd4 22. Ra3 Rb4 23. Rxc3 Re8 24. f3 Kd7 25. Ra1 Rb5 26. Kf2 Kd6 27. Raa3 h5 28. Ra4 c6 29. Rca3 g4 30. Ra5 Ree5 31. Rxb5 Rxb5 32. fxg4 hxg4 33. Kg3 Rb1 34. Bd4 Rc1 35. Rc3 b5 36. Bxf6 b4 37. Rb3 Rf1 38. Bg5 c5 39. c3 bxc3 40. Rxc3 Rd1 41. Be3 c4 [1:0]
Two years later in 1976, he bounced back, winning the prestigious 1976 Interzonal
For a while, Mecking was even more famous than Pele!
”In 1977 when I was in Houston, Texas I learned that what I had considered a mere sore throat was infact a serious life threatening disease. Two years later, I was without even the ability to chew food. My situation was gradually deteriorating, and it was only because of the help of 3 women, who constantly prayed for me, that I was able to recover 99%.”
It was because of this experience that Mequinho became religious. ”Jesus saved my life. But God’s will was such that he did not want me to recover 100%. I still have the occasional crisis, but nothing that is life threatening and in essence I have the disease under control.”
San Antonio 1972; we can see Canadian Duncan Suttles in the top row!
After this experience, Mequinho became a devoted catholic. Born again, three years later he wrote the book ‘How Jesus Saved my Life’ (‘Como Jesus Salvou a Minha Vida’) and he graduated in Theology and Philosophy. En 2000 a devine voice told him to return to the chess world and start playing again. ”When Jesus will have cured me totally I will be as strong a player as before. Today I am a grandmaster, but I fully intend to become one of the very best players in the world. I expect this to happen sometime in the near future.”
If anyone has any doubts of this happening, Mecking points out that just last week he drew a match with the number one ranked Brazilian player, Alexander Fier. ”If I was not in good health I would not have been able to compete with him. I lost the first game, but even so, I had good chances to win the encounter.”
Apart from his unshakeable faith in God, Mequinho believes that two other factors were significant in his recovery: a diet of organic foods and homeopathic medicine.
Before becoming part of the Sao Bernardo team, Mecking demanded that his diet be respected. ”My diet is excellent and rigorous. I have not changed it in the past 30 years, and in this way I do not risk the disease coming back.” Mecking runs 4 kms everyday and regularly practices martial arts.
In the Jogos Abertos, Mequinho’s team (Sao Bernardo) will face the powerful team Americana, composed of the number one brazilian player (Alexandr Fier) as well as the ranked number 2 and 3 players (Rafael Leitao and Gilberto Milos).
Other ‘old timers’ will also be participating. For example, Hugo Hoyama, 40 years of age, who has already participated in 5 olympiads and 6 times in the Pan American Championships.
”Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease characterized by varying degrees of weakness of the skeletal (voluntary) muscles of the body. Myasthenia gravis is most commonly presented with muscle weakness that increases during periods of activity and improves after periods of rest. Muscles that control eye and eyelid movements, facial expression, chewing, talking, and swallowing are often, but not always, involved. The muscles that control breathing and neck and limb movements may also be affected. Myasthenia gravis is caused by a defect in the transmission of nerve impulses to muscles. Normally when impulses travel down the nerve, the nerve endings release a neurotransmitter substance called acetylcholine. In myasthenia gravis, antibodies produced by the body’s own immune system block, alter, or destroy the receptors for acetylcholine. The first noticeable symptoms of myasthenia gravis may be weakness of the eye muscles, difficulty in swallowing, or slurred speech. Symptoms vary in type and severity. Myasthenia gravis is not directly inherited nor is it contagious.”
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS