After the collapse of the Soviet Union
many of their stars settled in other countries. Edward Gufeld, now 66, is a colorful
Russian grandmaster who gives lessons and exhibitions at his chess club in Los
In the bad old days Gufeld was a loyal
spokesman for the USSR in FIDE. He also served as an aide to Anatoly Karpov, the
darling of the Kremlin.
In an interview when Gufeld first arrived
in America, I asked him: "Karpov was widely criticized for playing two title
matches against Viktor Korchnoi while the defector's family was held hostage inside
the Soviet Union. Yet Karpov made no attempt to get them out. As a sportsman, should
Karpov not have insisted that his government release Korchnoi's family before play
"What Karpov could do, I do not
know. But for me it is a surprise that you talk like this," replied Gufeld.
"Why? It's a question of
sportsmanship. Korchnoi's son is beaten in a gulag on the eve of their second match
in Merano to send his father a message -- lose or else! Did you ever discuss this
matter with Karpov?"
"Never. But I do not see what Karpov
did wrong," he said.
Gufeld, who penned over 50 books on
chess, has a seemingly endless stock of anecdotes. One involves a prank that he and
four other Russians played on Bobby Fischer while they all relaxed on the beach at
the 1967 Sousse Interzonal in Tunisia.
Alas, this was the tournament where
Fischer withdrew after a scheduling dispute. He was far in the lead with only four
games to go before becoming the next challenger to Tigran Petrosian. Political
officials, fearful that the brat from Brooklyn would wrest the title, framed
mischievous ploys to stop him from getting to the top. It took Fischer five more
years to become world champion by dethroning Boris Spassky to end the Soviet
domination of chess.
Gufeld wrote: "Geller, Gipslis,
Korchnoi, Stein and I were showing one another various problems when Fischer joined
us. While he studied this rather complicated position (see diagram) I decided to
play a joke on him and told the others to say it was a simple one and that they had
quickly found the solution, which was by no means obvious.
"'Do you want some prompting?'
teased the Russian grandmasters.
"'No, no!' the American shouted in
reply. 'I'll find it myself!'"
"Imagine: a chess genius could not
find a solution that was obvious to everyone around him. There was horror on his
features, horror that his reputation was at that moment being shattered! And when a
minute later he found the solution, his face lit up by a beaming smile of such
infinite happiness that it seemed to me I was looking at Archimedes' face as he
-- By Larry Evans