WHEN I PLAYED CHESS AGAINST A GRANDMASTER. I posted here about Magnus Carlson playing chess against two denizens of Washington Square. Kids, I once played chess against Bent Larsen. It was in the early 1970’s when Bobby Fischer was considered the best player in the West and Larsen was considered the second best chess player in the West (that is, excluding Russian players). It was of course in a simultaneous exhibition.

The game may have been in the exhibition described in this squib from the New York Times on November 10, 1972 or in this report from the Village Voice on January 4, 1973. The Voice article describes how Clark Whelton, a Voice staff member, had been one of five opponents who had beaten Larsen in an exhibition in which Larsen had played 85 opponents.

I remember the tables arranged in a U shape and Larsen walking rapidly along the boards. He played the white pieces and his first move on my board was different from each of his first moves on the boards on either side of me. Larsen beat me in about 30 or 40 moves. I thought at the time that I had winning chances, but I realized after the game that he had gotten a winning advantage in the first few moves, and that I should have resigned much earlier than I did. The Voice article says that Larsen averaged only three seconds a move against Whelton. I think he took less than a second for each move against me.

It was a great experience.

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  1. Nick says:

    How frequently were you playing at the time?

    I don’t play nearly as much as I used to, but I suspect there are a number of rapid checkmates that I simply don’t know how to defend against.

    Then again, perhaps the master in that situation is not interested in shorter games, necessarily, but certainty of victory.

  2. Philip says:

    I was playing rather a lot. Fischer-Spassky created a great deal of interest. One of the bar associations promoted a chess tournament, and I lost two to one in the semifinals. (Afterwards I realized that since I had control of the center, I should have switched my attack from one side of the board to the other.

    I was also reading a lot about chess and watching it on TV (your mother used to joke about “Chess Central”, where the commenters would gather on TV.)

    Chess is a very good sport to watch and televises very well.

  3. Philip says:

    It wasn’t a quick checkmate that I fell into. As I recall, Larsen went a pawn up ,and the rest was technique.

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