Lev Psakhis’s report on the tournament at Troon (Scotland) in 1984, translated from ’64’, and including detailed annotations to his dramatic final-round game v. Craig Pritchett (available to download in .PDF format).
At the Press Centre for the World Chess Championship in Moscow, September 1984. Left to right: Semyon Palatnik, Lev Psakhis, Sergei Dolmatov, Mark Taimanov, Artur Jussupow.
I was 17 years old. I can still remember the sense of excitement that Saturday in July 1984, as my dad drove the car over the bleak Fenwick Moor, as we headed from our home in Lanarkshire to the coastal town of Troon. We were on our way to the Walker Halls, where among the participants in a tournament about to start there was the grandmaster from the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Lev Psakhis.
Psakhis (b. 1958) had already twice shared the title of Soviet Champion – the first time in 1980, with Beliavsky, and then again the following year with Kasparov, both of whom he had defeated in their individual encounters in the respective championships. He was one of the world’s leading players, and as a regular contributor to what was then the undisputed chess-player’s bible, the Yugoslav Chess Informant, his games were familiar to fans of chess the world over.
Why, though, was Psakhis in Scotland?
The Scottish Chess Association was founded in 1884, and a number of events were being held that year to mark the occasion of its centenary. In May, World Champion Anatoly Karpov had visited Glasgow to give a simultaneous display (you can read about it here). The title of Scottish champion was to be decided in an international 10-player round-robin tournament, held in Troon. Psakhis was the star guest.
Later, he would write about the tournament for the Soviet magazine ‘64‘. His article is presented in full below:
A Boom – 100 Years On
The pleasant town of Troon, on the shores of the North Atlantic. A tournament was held there, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Scottish Chess Association. The country is presently experiencing a genuine chess ‘boom’. I played in the top tournament, but alongside us there were playing around 200 amateurs, veterans, juniors etc.
The distance (9 rounds) was short, and any reverse could prove fatal. This determined the particular choice of tactics – to play keenly, but calmly. I would test new opening schemes – with White, 1.c2-c4; with Black, the Dutch Defence.
In the first round I easily defeated the Yugoslav grandmaster Raičević. My opponent, incidentally, astonished everyone, having collected after five rounds only a half-point.
The following day I was very dissatisfied in only making a draw against the Scottish master Condie. But then, admittedly, I understood that the nineteen-year-old is the main hope of Scottish chess. But two points from the next two rounds gave me the leadership.
In the seventh round was my meeting with Pia Cramling. She was playing in a genuine men’s event(!), and played interestingly and originally. In general, Pia sees and calculates a lot, and it was with pleasure that we analysed after the game variations that had remained ‘behind the scenes’. The game was won by me – my greater experience told. With each move she created ever-newer threats; they had to be repelled, but each time I took one of her pawns, and by the adjournment the score was ‘+4’.
My main rival was considered to be the International Master from England, J. Plaskett. Meeting him at the finish, the game was very lively. The position seemed to be winning, but over my 38th move I thought for… 50 minutes. Analysis at the adjournment showed that already there was no win.
A round before the finish, first place was guaranteed, and it was possible to play an ‘open’ game.
Here Psakhis presents his annotations to his final-round game against Craig Pritchett. There are available to download at the link below.
I operated the demonstration board for this game, and remember being enthralled by it. Of course, there were no computer engines to help the spectator work out what was happening in those days…
The final result of the tournament was as follows:
Scotland’s Colin McNab won the title of Scottish Champion, and gained an International Master norm – if my memory serves me correctly, his final one – by winning a tense last-round game against Paul Motwani.
Psakhis ends his article as follows:
In the final days of the visit I gave a simultaneous display with clocks on ten boards, against the strongest juniors of the hospitable Scots. The youngsters played at our 1st-category and candidate master level. Victory – 7:3 – was achieved, not without difficulty.
I was one of participants in the simultaneous display, which took place in Glasgow on 22nd July. I managed to draw my game against Psakhis. The previous evening I had had the chance to play against Leonid Shamkovich in another clock-simul; Shamkovich, however, had got the better of me. Coming after the chance to play against Anatoly Karpov a couple of months earlier, these were heady days indeed for a 17-year-old…
The article by Psakhis appears in ‘64‘ (№. 17, 1984).
The photo of Psakhis at the World Championship in Moscow is by Boris Dolmatovsky, accessed via the Russian Chess Federation Website (www.ruchess.ru).