Alberto Chueca, FIDE Trainer & International Master

Mikhail Tal, Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, Jose Raul Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine
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Classical chess players

Some funny anecdotes about Mikhail Tal, Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, Jose Raul Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine.

Mikhail Tal

Mikhail Tal: 11 points without playing a single game!

During the Havanna Chess Olympiadย (1966), which was attentively organized by the Cuban government, the chess teams were treated very warmly. On one occasion, when Korchnoi and Mikhail Tal went to watch the spectacle of the famous cabaret Tropicana.

Mikhail Tal noticed a beautiful woman at the next table.

Being as he was, very sensitive to feminine beauty, he didnโ€™t hesitate to pay her a compliment. Suddenly, the partner of beauty returned. He didnโ€™t like the praises by Mikhail Tal at all and broke a bottle on Mikhail Talโ€™s head. Resulting in an emergency visit of the GM into a hospital.

The title was used by Eduardo Pรฉrez in the former magazine called โ€˜Destinoโ€™ to describe the incident. As Petrosian said to his colleagues, โ€œOnly a healthy guy like Mikhail Tal could survive such a bottle on the head.โ€

Mikhail Tal and his assault ratio…

The inborn propensity of our idol Mikhail Tal to sacrifice pieces was a consequence of his aggressive chess playing. Besides his practice, Tal has contributed to a concept on the theory of attack. Although not entirely new, he was the main popularizer to the theory: the assault ratio. It refers to the relationship between attacking and defending pieces.

When his colleagues, including his trainer, put their hands to the heads due to the number of sacrificed pieces in a given position, Tal said calmly:

โ€œBah, they can only take them one by one.โ€

Mikhail Tal, the genius.

Bobby Fischer (with Mikhail Tal)

Bobby Fischer reads the future to Mikhail Tal…

In the big Bled tournament of 1961 gathered the best players of the time: Mikhail Tal, Petrosian, Keres, Geller, Bobby Fischer, Gligoricโ€ฆ

In the opening ceremony, Bobby Fischer wanted to act as a fortune-teller and asked Mikhail Tal for permission to read his hand, which was granted.

โ€œI see in your hand, Misha, that you are a good player, but very soon will be champion a young American masterโ€ฆโ€

This came like a lightning to William Lombardy:
โ€œCongratulations!โ€ Mikhail Tal won the tournament, but Bobby Fischer scored 3 points of 4 against the Soviet players.

The non-negotiable rate in the simultaneous exhibition…

A colleague asked the then young Bobby Fischer (15 years old), what was his rate for the simultaneous exhibition.

“500 dollars”, said Fischer, which was a considerable number at the time.

Greatly missed, his listener, said: โ€œ500 dollars! And have you made many?โ€ โ€œNone so farโ€, clarified the young prodigy.

Boris Spassky

Chess bishops of different colors…

Boris Spassky divorced his wife, Young. The always insidious journalists investigated the possible reasons for the separation. And Boris Spassky gave them an explanation which perfectly summarizes the feelings of both, and it could not be more related to chess: โ€œWe were like chess bishops of different colors!โ€

Through the looking glass…

In 1971, the USSR Championship by teams took place in Rostov-on-Don. During the competition, one of the grandmasters participating in the championship had to assist to the party in which, according to the strict Russian traditions, the one who arrives late has to drink a cup of vodka instantly, as a penalty. The grandmaster, aware of his obligations on the board the next day, wanted to leave early. But the remorse of leaving the reunion and the evident lack of respect for his hosts, made him take justice into his own hands and anticipated the potential penalty with toasts and toasts of self-indictment.

When he arrived at the chess room, he could barely find the chair which, supposedly, should occupy his opponent, none lesser than Boris Spassky. But the GM Krogius clarified to him: โ€œIf you are looking for the world champion, he is a couple of boards above.โ€

Finally, and after the familiar greetings with Boris Spassky (โ€œHi, babushka!โ€ / Hi, grandpa!), our hero saw that on the board the play 1 e4 has already been made, so he responded with 1โ€ฆ Nc6. The game followed like that: 2 f4 b6 3 Nf3 e5 4 fxe5 Nxe5? 5 Nxe5

At that moment, the blacks played 5 โ€ฆ Kxe5?!?, a move that naturally finds an objection by the referee, lying close enough to indicate to the daring player of the black pieces that the movement was not regulated. But the grandmaster exploded: โ€œWhat the fuck is going on here! I have played the Grรผnfeld defense my whole life, but someone refutes it just like that!โ€

Obviously, the hero of our story had suffered a โ€œspecularโ€ mirage: the upside-down image of the flank, as a consequence of his strict respect for the Russian traditionsโ€ฆ

From the book LA FIESTA DEL AJEDREZ, A. Gude

Josรฉ Raรบl Capablanca

Your majesty, Capablanca…

His widow, Olga Capablanca-Clark, shared in an interview how she met the great Cuban champion. It turns out that her sister took her to a reception at the Cuban Embassy, in New York.

Once there, she asked genuinely, โ€œWho is Capablanca?โ€ The answer couldnโ€™t be more explicit, โ€œDonโ€™t worry. When he comes into the room, you will immediately recognize Capablanca.โ€

Olga pointed out to us, โ€œCapablanca didnโ€™t behave like a king – he was a king.โ€

Alexander Alekhine

In a train trip through Central Europe, Alexander Alekhine had the pleasant surprise of having as travel companions in his compartment two beautiful misses. Faithful to his cosmopolitism and refined education started with sympathy a lively conversation, talking to his friends the funny anecdotes about his career and colleagues.

All this with singular kindness and without showing special attention or deference to none of the ladies. At the end of the line, and in the hour of farewells, one of his trip companions told him:
โ€œMr. Alexander Alekhine, you may be a great chess champion, but you donโ€™t have the faintest idea about conquering womenโ€.

“It’s easy to win to Alexander Alekhine…”

The young Mexican master Carlos Torre was playing his first international tournament. The raffle put him in the first round against Alexander Alekhine. Seeing him worried, Dr. Tarrasch, another participant, told him:
โ€œYoung, do you want to know how to defeat Alexander Alekhine and beat, moreover, all the matches?โ€.
In view of the unequivocal confirmation of Torre, he proposed him to take a walk together, without explaining his attractive offer. During the walk, Tarrasch spoke a bit of this, a bit of that and beyond itโ€ฆ

When eager to hear the stunning secret, Torre asked him to talk about it, Tarrasch resolved the mystery: โ€œIt is quite easy. All you have to watch is a very simple rule: do always the best move.โ€

The immortal of Margate…

In the Margate tournament in 1938, Alekhine, then the world champion, defeated the Finnish Eero Bรถรถk in a smart miniature. And, the grandmaster Reuben Fine said, โ€œThe combination, or better, the number of combinations produced are, in my opinion, the most prominent tactical conception in the history of chess.โ€

In the following year, in the Olympics of Buenos Aires, Najdorf said to Alekhine:
โ€œDo you remember when you asked me about your sacrifice against Bรถรถk, I told you it was very interesting? Well, the truth is I didnโ€™t see anything.โ€ Alekhine answered, โ€œSame happened to me. I didnโ€™t see anything.โ€

I hope you like these anecdotes! :)

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