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BENT LARSEN

Person of day - 04.03.2019

BENT LARSEN

The exceptional master and candidate for the world championship was born and raised in Denmark. He learned to play at the age of 7 and his first teacher a partner was a friend from school.

At the age of 12, Larsen began to study chess literature on his own. He was influenced by a certain book about the King’s Gambit- “mighty in debut, like a hurricane before which no one can survive!” Larsen achieved success quickly: he consecutively became the champion of his club, city, province and, when 19, Denmark.

His chess development was hindered by military service- he regarded this time as the most pointless in his life. But in 1956, playing for Denmark at the first board, Larsen demonstrated the best performance at the Olympiad in Moscow and he was awarded the title of grandmaster.

In 1964, Larsen became a candidate for the world championship for the first time after splitting 1st-4th places at the inter-zonal tournament in Amsterdam. During that cycle, he qualified for the semi-final of the candidates’ matches, where he lost to Tal in a close contest (4,5:5,5)

In 1966, Larsen won an international tournament in Le Havre, overtaking Soviet grandmaster Polugaevsky and Krogius by 2 points, leaving them to split 2nd-3rd places. Aside from Fischer, he was the only Western grandmaster to compete against the Soviet chess machine in the 1960s and 1970s with success. However, he never became “professional” according to his country’s criteria- he trained on his own and he considered his greatest assistant to be his wife, Lizzy. He spent a lot of time writing articles and reporting on tournaments- Bent was a fantastic journalist and he worked with ten European media companies.

1967 was a spectacular year for Larsen. He won three large tournaments consecutively, in Havana, Winnipeg and Palma de Mallorca. His success at the inter-zonal tournament in Sousse made Larsen one of the main contenders for the world championship. In that same year, he became the first winner of the chess “Oscar”. 

Larsen won more than 40 international tournaments, including very prestigious ones, and on 1970 he agreed to lead the world team in the Match of the Century against the USSR. Fischer conceded the first board to him, but the candidates’ match one year later decisively showed who was the first chess player of the West- the American grandmaster won 6:0.

A true fighter at the board, Larsen avoided draws and was occasionally excessively optimistic and over-confident. These qualities won him the admiration and respect of the public but they prevented him from achieving even greater success. However, when asked what stopped him from becoming world champion, Larsen replied: “Only the existence of 5-6 chess players in this world who play better than I”.

On 9th September 2010, Larsen died in Buenos Aires, where he spent the last few years of his life. 

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