Person of day - 29 NOVEMBER 2023
Lev Psakhis was born in Tver but grew up in Krasnoyarsk, where his parents moved when he was at school. As a young man, he studied in the school of Botvinnik, but was soon expelled for an early sacrifice of his knight on f7 in a Russian Defence, which the Patriarch regarded as “chess hooliganism”. In Krasnoyarsk, Psakhis enrolled at university but never graduated, since he became a professional chess player.
In 1979, as the champion of RSFSR, Lev won the Union’s tournament of young masters, and he became the USSR champion (along with Beliavsky) one year later. To many, this came as a surprise. But Psakhis quickly proved that the sceptics were mistaken. In 1981, he won another national tournament, this time with Kasparov. Winning the national championship in consecutive years is a feat few Soviet chess players managed to perform.
The 1980s were Psakhis’ best years. As a member of the Soviet juniors’ team, he became the world champion twice (in 1981 and 1983) and was the European champion in 1983 as part of the men’s team. In 1982, he competed in the inter-zonal tournament in Las Palmas, but could not break into the top eight candidates. However, he won multiple international tournaments with ease. On his count are victories in Sarajevo, Cienfuegos, Yerevan, Szirak, Troon and prizes in other competitions. In 1987, Psakhis won the Soviet tempo-tournament, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution. In 1989, the grandmaster moved to Israel.
Lev Psakhis’ playing style, performed in an inventive and attacking manner, always appealed to supporters. His matches inevitably attracted the attention of amateurs and were often named as some of the greatest in different tournaments. Gradually, the grandmaster transitioned to a training role, which he maintained for many years. In 1992, he began to work with the Polgar sisters, and later worked with Emil Sutovsky. In addition, he worked with other well-known chess players and trained the Indian national team. The recent successes of Indian chess players are largely associated with his name.