World Junior Team Championships Graz 1981
Hardly any time to recover, but what did I need that for? Life goes on and my head never got a rest anyway. Besides, it was of course a huge challenge and also a great honour. I was one of the best 6 juniors in Germany in chess! It was also an opportunity to meet the world’s best players in this age group, to see them, to watch them play, maybe also to analyse them. Maybe one or the other acquaintance was made? To enter the circle of the grandmasters, that had something too. Moreover, Garry Kasparov had even accepted.
Garry Kasparov had already made his breakthrough to the top of the world in 1979, when he won a very well-staffed grandmaster tournament at the age of 16. I replayed all his games, he was obviously a genius, a worthy Fischer successor, at least in my eyes. But now I could see him in the flesh? Watch his games, live and on the spot.
However, in typical chess player fashion, we had to put up at the youth hostel. Well, you get out of the habit of elitist thinking relatively quickly. But at least the Russian delegation was also in this accommodation. Only the United Arab Emirates, which also came last in the end (when will he finally learn to do clean research!), were accommodated in the luxury hotel and had an allowance of $100 per day, according to reports. However, it belongs to the realm of fable that the first player to win a game was given a Mercedes as a gift. The reward was for EVERY win, of course, and you got a Rolls Royce, sure. Unfortunately, my naturalisation application was rejected at the time….
Kasparov was there. He was 18 years old and on his way to great fame. He won his first game in outstanding style against the French top player. I also got to play in the first round. We had to play the Americans. And my opponent? A certain Leonid Bass. Leonid, Leonid, Leonid? That rings a bell! An emigrated Russian, of course. Those who didn’t make the first team in Russia simply emigrated. And there are quite a few. Nasty!
But I achieved a clear winning position. In the computer age, the ability to prove this is easy with chess programmes. When I asked Fritz (currently probably the best chess computer), he judged with +2.84 pawn units. And from +1 onwards one can speak of technical winning positions. But, the excitement, the arrogance, the worry about destroying the opponent, the worry that the game could soon be over or simply chess blindness? The usual blunder, the game was spoiled, shortly afterwards the surrender.
Well, this is certainly not how I had imagined my entry into the German national team. And it probably suggested a not too long career. We were a total of 6 players for 4 boards, so of course I had to take a break.
All in all, the tournament went over 11 rounds. Russia was the lone winner with an over-form Kasparov, who won practically all the games. But the rest of the team was also clearly superior to the rest of the world. I made a total of 7 appearances, with a solid but unremarkable score of 3.5 out of 7, i.e. exactly 50%, average. The only bad thing was that I had to accept another defeat against Austria, against a nominally clearly weaker player, and against Austria at that! That’s really unacceptable, neither in football nor in chess. And another small misfortune happened to me in the game against Israel, when I played with full conviction into a rook ending that I thought I had won, when it came to a break-off, i.e. a hanging game with a continuation the next day. My then omnipresent friend and companion, not only for the duration of this tournament also a roommate, Klaus Bischof, immediately recognised the correct assessment with a glance at the position and thus encouraged his qualification for an early appointment as grandmaster: “Dirkifax, I think the position is a draw.”
There was no need for further analysis, Klausi was right. I soon had to agree to a draw.
Nevertheless, there was indeed a meeting with Kasparov, and it was really remarkable: Kasparov had a hanging game against the Brazilian top player Jaime Sunye-Neto. And he had the advantage. The rest of the match was closely watched. And Kasparov was able to exploit the advantage in an ingenious, profound way with a brilliant combination and take the full point in this game as well. I was allowed to watch the analysis afterwards. And not only that: Kasparov showed me personally in all variations how he would have won if his opponent had made this, that or even such a move. My fingers were flying all over the board. I didn’t let myself notice the inhuman speed, always nodded eagerly and when I understood something, I even dared to pick up a piece myself. Of course, not without Kasparov taking it away from me right away, with his index finger raised and moving back and forth and the words: “No, no, no, this doesn’t work! My move was rubbish, of course, what else. But maybe I didn’t do everything wrong, as was to become apparent a little later.
The game itself, by the way, even became famous and won an award.
But I also had my daily game, one against and with the entire world elite. But that was in football. We played football every morning and whether Russians or Americans, Dutch or English, there was one or the other from all nations. I could even play one-on-one with one or the other grandmaster and didn’t feel quite so inferior. In the castles, which were also frequent, I naturally took on the role of the rook, of course.
Afterwards, we found another way to pass the time with my room neighbour and invested our daily allowance of 10 DM in an absolutely sensible way: Every noon we went to the nearby station cinema. And we were amazed ourselves at how many films, changing daily, we could see there. In order not to run the risk of misquoting titles, here are just a few associations. Most of the titles had the word “Lederhosen” in them, for example “Liebesgrüße aus der Lederhosen”, another title was called something like “Liebe zwischen Tür und Angel”, a third “Schlüssellochreport”, if I remember correctly. But at the station cinema, as you can already tell from this excerpt, the film content is quite sophisticated, but it’s still inexpensive. An ideal combination, in my opinion. The daily allowance was enough for two screenings in a row and one could even afford the obligatory chips (something had to be on one’s own trousers, after all).
While the Russians hurried from victory to victory with iron discipline and precise preparation, parts of the German delegation had a completely different idea of how to approach a World Championship match. But a little general education can’t hurt, can it? In the final round, the first match was between Germany and Russia. The Russians could afford to “save” Kasparov for this match, as they were already the winners. And I was also only a spectator, but I had not asked for a defeat and, for example, insistently demanded an engagement. We lost the fight clearly. But we had already had a first conversation with the “class enemy” the evening before. Klaus and I met the Russian Arthur Jussupow, who later emigrated to Germany, on the stairs of the youth hostel and asked him if he wouldn’t also like a bit of such “education”. Arthur refused. Such a thing was out of the question in Russia, and even more so during a tournament.
In some way, however, he must have passed on the message. Because on the last evening, after the final round, there was a film (this time really demanding, even beautiful, but still such), where suddenly the whole Russian delegation (except Kasparov) appeared! And even from our ranks there was a shy enquiry from a team mate, whether he couldn’t also once…? Of course he could, only Gerd-Peter had to resign himself to the nickname “Porno-Peter”.
The mornings were football, the early afternoons station cinema, the late afternoons a game of chess and the evenings and nights were, of course, reserved exclusively for really intensive preparation, as befits a German national team. In some cases we did this until 3am. Of course, you don’t do that in a dreary youth hostel room, you go out. Unfortunately, there were usually no chessboards in the places we visited. So we had to make do with the taps. And we probably didn’t know the pub we’ll talk about later (chapter “Non-Summer 1980-82”) and therefore dutifully used the whole rest of the night to sober up…
Do you see any reason why I was never allowed to play national team again? A sky-scraping injustice!