Person of day - 8 FEBRUARY 2024
Aivars Gipslis was born on 8th February 1937 in Riga. Later, Gipslis recalled his first steps in his favourite game: “I have played chess since I was 12. My introduction- a relatively late one by modern standards- took place in a session in Riga’s Pioneers’ Palace. After the war, the session was run by Jānis Krūzkops, who made the greatest contribution to Latvian chess at that time, a trainer before whom I bow. I believe that I was lucky in life in this regard!”
In Latvia, there were many strong chess players among Gipslis’ contemporaries and the generation was led by Mikhail Tal. The young players from Riga won the team juniors’ Soviet championship several times. Later, when Tal ascended to the Olympus and stopped taking part in national championships, Aivars became the eight-time champion of Latvia.
In 1957, Gipslis split 1st place in the qualifying rounds for the Soviet championship and played in the final of the USSR for the first time, for which he was awarded the title of sport master. As a member of the Soviet team, he won the student world championships three times. His profession is an engineer-economist.
Gipslis was first sent to a foreign tournament to East Germany in 1963 and the player from Riga immediately fulfilled the norm for an international master, splitting first place with Lev Polugaevsky in the competition. The mid-1960s saw the sporting peak of Aivars, who won bronze medal at the 1966 USSR championship. One of the leaders of Latvia’s chess world split 3rd-5th places with Viktor Korchnoi and Mark Taimanov- a further match-tournament lay ahead. All the participants won 2 points out of 4 and, according to the table of coefficients, Gipslis won bronze and an invitation to the inter-zonal tournament in Sousse.
In 1967, Gipslis split 2nd place at a super-tournament devoted to the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution, in which the world’s strongest chess players took part. Beside Aivars stood Vasily Smyslov and Mikhail Tal and, one point above, Leonid Stein. Alas, Aivars did not perform well in the inter-zonal and he did not fight for a place in the candidates’ matches. Nonetheless, due to his results throughout the year, a new grandmaster emerged in the country.
As a member of the Soviet team, he won the European team championship in 1970. At that moment, Gipslis was one of the Union’s strongest players, but soon the grandmaster made his debut in the journalistic and training fields. He was the main editor of “Sahs” magazine from 1970, which was considered one of the most insightful in the Soviet region. He was the trainer of world champion Nona Gaprindashvili (1966-1979) and the USSR female Olympic team (1972-1984). He became a recognised trainer of the Georgian Soviet Republic in 1972 and a recognised trainer of the USSR in 1976.
Despite his rigorous workload, the celebrated chess player retained considerable playing ability for a long time, winning difficult competitions. He played in the blitz world championship in 1988 and the team world championship in 1993 for Latvia. In the 1990s, he actively played correspondence chess and became a grandmaster of ICCF.
He is the author of an autobiographical book. He developed an imaginative scheme for blacks based on the Paulsen variation of the Sicilian Defence: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.0-0 d6 7.c4 g6.
“The pressure- which young players barely cope with- can become fatal for elderly players. At the start of the year, Aivars Gipslis - a contemporary of Bagyrov - had a heart attack during a match in Berlin and died two months later without ever regaining consciousness. A native of Riga, Latvia’s second player behind Tal for many years, Gipslis regularly achieved success in national championships and international competitions. Like Bagyrov, he became familiar with transfers in Warsaw and Berlin, night buses and the difficulties of open tournaments in his last few years.” (G. Sosonko)
Aivars Gipslis died on 13th April 2000.