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Turin, 2006, Chess Olympiad

May 27, 2019
Looking for a chess book in my bookshelves recently, I stumbled across another book which took me back to May/June 2006 when I captained the England men’s team for the second time.
During one of the rounds, an old man- I later learned he had just turned 95- came in to the big sports hall where the matches were in play, put his walking stick on the ground, and sat down in a spare seat near where England were playing, and watched the games.
Andors Lillienthal Turin 2006

Turin, 4th June 2006

I had no idea who he was. Just an old, well dressed man, clearly with some knowledge of chess, to be allowed into the playing venue rather than in the spectators’ area. I didn’t give him much thought.
Some time later, as was my habit, I got up to go and get my players coffee, tea or water. I  knew what each player wanted, and as the tournament went on, when.
I decided to ask the old man if he wanted a drink. Coffee? His eyes lit up with a smile, I saw a sparkle in his eyes at this small offer of kindness. And he thanked me when I handed him his coffee. Good, strong, Italian coffee.
A few hours later, I did the same, and, after bringing him his drink, I gestured if I could sit down next to him. Did he speak English? ‘not well’. Did I speak Russian? Hungarian? Spanish? No, to all of these. Maybe French?: un peu.  So he said he would try English: he spoke it very well.  We chatted, speaking softly, for a while, exchanging pleasantries.
Maybe because of his walking difficulties, he sat watching our match for five or six hours, until the last game ended. Clearly, he knew his chess.
Later still, as the games started to finish, first the World Champion Vishy Anand, and a previous one, Vladimir Kramnik, saw the old man, came over, shook his hand, and exchanged a few words. I realised he was someone important.
Who was he?
I found someone to ask. The old man was Andre Lilienthal, one of the very top players in the 1930s, one who might have been World Champion had it not been for the disruption of the chess world during what would have been his prime years, World War Two.
In the 1970s, Bobby Fischer, one of the candidates for best chess player ever, said that Andre Lilienthal was one of only three chess players worthy of carrying his coffin. (an odd criteria, but it is a way of showing how eminent he was).
I sneaked off to the tournament bookstall to try to find a suitable book, and as luck would have it, I was able to buy a Russian edition of his best games collection.
I took it to him, his eyes lit up and shone again, and he autographed the book for me.
Andre came to the Olympiad most days, and he normally came to where England were playing, and sat with us. And each day I got him coffee and we chatted. His English was very good indeed.
He died in 2010 aged 99. Andre Lilienthal, May 5th 1911 to May 8th 2010
His page on Wikipedia has a photo of him in Turin, sitting watching the England match.
The book, which being in Russian (I think, or some other slavic language) I have never read, is one of my treasures.
What was Andre Lilienthal’s most famous move?
I will give the answer tomorrow.

From → Chess

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