Person of day - 26 AUGUST 2020
Alexander Roshal had a tragic childhood: his father Boris was arrested on 27thAugust 1937 and executed a few months later. His mother was sent to Aktyubinsk as a “member of a traitor’s family”. It was there that Alexander learned to play chess. In 1951, he, an eighth-grader, became the champion of that region among adults.
He graduated from the school of the young working class with a silver medal, but he had trouble getting into university because he was the son of an “enemy of the people”. In the end, he managed to get into Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography. Later on, Roshal transferred to the faculty of journalism at Moscow State University. At the same time, he worked as a trainer at the chess club of Moscow’s Pioneers and Schoolchildren’s Palace.
Alexander Roshal’s life was underlined by two interests: chess and journalism. He played in tournaments, he became a master and he worked as a coach. In the 1960s, he was the senior trainer of Moscow’s junior team, where he nurtured around 20 masters, including famous ones like Sergey Makarychev and Mark Dvoretsky.
Eventually, chess journalism took over his life. In 1968, at the initiative of incumbent world champion Tigran Petrosian, the weekly column 64 was launched. Roshal became the acting secretary and stayed in the role until Petrosian was replaced as chief editor by Anatoly Karpov. After the column became a magazine in 1980, Roshal became the deputy chief editor before rising to the top of the publication. At the end of the 1980s, the magazine entered cultural history as the first Soviet media to publish an excerpt of Nabokov’s censored novel, purely for the reason that the author adored chess.
Roshal- a laureate of Soviet and international prizes for journalism- published reports about remarkable grandmasters that piqued the interest of chess fans. Roshal was the press attaché of Soviet delegations in the Karpov-Korchnoi match in Baggio in 1978 and Merano in 1981 as well as other important competitions. He covered matches and tournaments for the most important Soviet media outlets- he was a special correspondent of TASS, Izvestiya, Ogonekand Soviet Union. Having worked with Anatoly Karpov for many years, he devoted two books to him: The Ninth Vertical and Karpov’s Victory in Baggio. He also published other books that have been translated into other languages.
His articles and his books were fascinating to read. He promoted chess and saw his mission to make as many people fall in love with the game as possible. Alexander Roshal died in Moscow in May 2007, when he was still the editor-in-chief of 64 – Chess Review. Until his final days, he worked hard and worried about the publications, which he considered the calling of his life.