Person of day   -  10 NOVEMBER 2020

KEVIN SPRAGGETT

KEVIN SPRAGGETT

The future participant of the Candidates tournaments was born into a large Montreal family (there were seven little Spraggetts in total!) and learned to play chess at the age of 10, only because his younger brother Grant needed a sparring partner. Soon, the playing powers of Kevin and Grant began to differ enormously, though Spraggett junior did become a master of FIDE eventually.

The start of his career did not promise Kevin the laurels of a wunderkind; he could not even pass through the selection rounds of his country, which hardly dominated the sport of chess, for the junior world championship until he was 20. Kevin enrolled in McGill University, where he studied engineering and was the best student of his course.

Everything changed during the Canadian National Championship of 1975, which brought together all the strongest players in the country, including grandmasters Peter Biyiasas and Dawid Janowski. To the surprise of the audience, the student took second place, beating Janowski in a personal contest. Shortly before the end of his degree, Spraggett voluntarily dropped out of university and became a professional chess player.

In 1975 he became an “international master”. Overall, he won the Open Canada Championship eight times and triumphed in closed Championships seven times. A serious improvement in Spraggett’s game occurred after the Soviet master Ivanov emigrated to Canada. Kevin was left behind Ivanon and lost a match to him, but he desperately wanted to win the national leadership and sat down with chess books- victories in the local Opens were no longer enough for him.

In 1985 he finally won the Commonwealth Championship in London, overtaking all the leading Brits, for which he attained the title of grandmaster. Kevin was selected for the inter-zonal championship in Taxco in 1985, where he came fourth, behind Timman, Nogueiras and Tal, leaving Speelman, Alburt, Romanishin and Balashov behind. In that same year, he participated in the candidates’ tournament in Montpellier.

In a new selection round, he split victory with Ivanov and after another match, which finished with the score 2,5:2,5, thanks to superior additional indicators, he went through to the next round to face Garry Kasparov. In the blitz world championship in 1988 he lost to Artur  Jussupow in the 1/8 finals. In the same round of the candidates’ matches, he faced Andrei Sokolov - one of the world’s strongest grandmasters, who just finished playing a super-final candidate’s march with Anatoly Karpov. The Soviet press thought Kevin to be “cannon fodder”, but the Canadian grandmaster survived with a 4:4 in the classis round, and then won by 2,5:1,5 in the rapid tie-breaker! In the quarterfinals, he lost to Jussupow with a minimal score- their match was a bitter struggle. Spraggett also participated in the inter-zonal tournament in Manila in 1990.

Kevin Spraggett took part in 8 Chess Olympiads as a part of the Canadian team, though the country’s strongest player left the country of maple leaves for Portugal in the 1980s.

He continued to demonstrate a great practical strength on a repeated basis - he played in FIDE’s knockout world championships in 1997 and 1999 and he won silver medal at the second board in the Istanbul Olympiad in 2000. He also made great efforts to popularise chess in Portugal, where multiple personal and team tournaments began to be hosted.

Kevin Spraggett is a constant contributor to the Chess Canada Magazine. He maintains a chess blog that won popularity not only due to the tales of the famous grandmaster about the world’s greatest championships, but also due to half-naked models beside the chess boards. The post made after the blitz world championship “Did Magnus say WTF?” broke all records in the English-speaking part of the Internet.