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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Draw and a Missed Win Versus Chess Grandmaster and Former World Champion Boris Spassky.

I happened to be sorting through a mound of documents that I had retrieved out of my rental storage unit back in Ennis, Texas when I came across a stack of old chess score sheets that I had kept over the years.

Space is at a premium on board the boat so I had little qualms about discarding ancient tax returns and such. Nevertheless I came across one score sheet in particular that got me thinking back to the time when I played against former World Champion Boris Spassky in a simultaneous exhibition.

The result was a draw yet a missed win for me versus the illustrious Grandmaster. The event was held at was then the Holiday Inn Hotel located at Mockingbird and Central Expressway in Dallas... a venue which has since undergone quite a number of both owner and name changes.

Nevertheless this game felt more like a loss than a hard earned draw with the black pieces despite the outcome. I failed to do some hard calculations at a critical moment of the game and did not play the incisive moves to bring the game to an abrupt conclusion.

The score sheet does not reflect the final fifteen or so moves showing white's king stalemated on the a1 square.

Upon the game's conclusion and upon my illustrious opponent signing off on the score sheet I reconstructed the critical position and suggested a decisive continuation for black. Mr. Spassky immediately and graciously responded in his heavily accented English, "Yah, would have won".

Unfortunately, against my better judgement I then blurted out, "Did you sign your name in English or in Russian?".. to which he then stood erect.. leaned forward and with his teeth understandably clenched, emphatically retorted Russian!! and I, still seething and annoyed with myself for having missed a win, collected my score sheet and autographed board and hurried on out of the playing hall.

A number of months later I find myself participating in a premier international event held in New York quietly observing some of highest internationally ranked players in the world gathering at their respective playing tables when there is a sudden hush in the playing hall.

Striding up together towards the cordoned off premier playing section to my surprise are former world champions Vassily Smyslov and Boris Spassky. I seem to recall my eyes widening and my jaw going slack as they approached. I wasn't but perhaps a few feet away when Mr. Spassky ever so briefly seemed to catch sight of me and then does a quick double take and then of all things, winks at me.

I'm quite sure that he didn't remember my previous indiscretion at that very moment.

Mr. Spassky... I do apologize for my confrontational utterance.

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