Yuri Averbakh: 100 Not Out!

Yuri Averbakh, courtesy of New in Chess
Yuri Averbakh, courtesy of New in Chess

He was born into a world that flowed along very differently from our own. Kaluga was his city, but don’t reach for that atlas, just follow the River Oka setting your clock to a time when, as Trotsky was to write, Lenin, despite the efforts of his medics, was a hopelessly sick man. Averbakh bore some little German and Jewish blood, grew to be a tall and scholarly man (headmasterly?) but played chess under the banner of hammer and sickle.

Yury (Yuri) Lvovich Averbakh was born one hundred years ago today and, as such, is the oldest holder of the International Grandmaster title ever, that chess title formalised after World War II. Already – he got the title of national master in 1943 – he was looking at chess not so much as life substitute, as a Tal or Fischer might have done, but more as a career from which possibilities would spring, in the manner (say) of his contemporary, Smyslov. He played in Soviet Championships 1948-70, winning the title in Kiev in 1954 and tying for first place at Leningrad, 1956.

5th= in the 1952 Interzonal and, a year later, just failed to finish on 50% in the celebrated Candidates of ’53. He drew a training match with Botvinnik himself in 1957. International success was obviously his too. Averbakh became known for his endgame books but he wrote on all aspects of the game, maybe twenty books flowing from his pen. Wade called him ‘prodding organiser’ and there is no doubt he touched so many areas of the game, as author, arbiter, diplomat, much in the manner of Euwe.

Though he was largely retired, here is a game to enjoy from his last playing years:

Happy Birthday Yury!

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